“Wait, what!?” I hear you say, “They’re not even talking about marriage. They’re only talking about protecting children!”
The elephant in the room of course, that I want to deal with quickly, is that they’ve already lost the marriage equality debate. As Nick Greiner wrote so eloquently, and reported in The Guardian:
“The deliberate conflating of issues only happens when people know they cannot win an argument on its merits,” Greiner has written in the Australian. “Conflation should be called out for what it is, a debating device.”
The “no” campaign doesn’t talk about marriage equality (or “same sex marriage”, as they insist on referring to it when they do occasionally mention it), because it’s a lost cause. The majority of Australians support it. They want to make Australians not support it by confusing it with another issue entirely: children.
So let’s talk about children. Let’s talk about the arguments used by the “no” campaign, and let’s label those arguments for what they are: child abuse.
Now, there’s many different kinds of child abuse. There’s child sexual abuse, as we’ve seen covered in excruciatingly thorough and soul-harrowing detail via the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse of children. I’m not saying the “no” campaign is promoting child sexual abuse, of course. (After all, to do that they’d have to acknowledge that child sexual abuse even happens, and surprisingly so many members of the “no” coalition were silent on that matter, despite seemingly only ever wanting to think about the children, during the Royal Commission. It appeared to any outsider that the thought of child abuse in a religious setting just hit a little too close to home for them.)
I’m not talking about physical child abuse, prevalent in so many domestic violence situations, either. They’re not running around promoting that people beat their children. They also, by and large, seem to not be members of that growing band of new-wave child abusers, the anti-vaxxers, who delight in creating situations that recklessly endanger the lives of children and others.
No, the “no” campaign is not promoting any of those forms of child abuse. But the form they are promoting is horribly insidious, and has for decades been wreaking generational harm on children, on men, and by extension, our entire society. The “no” campaign in fact isn’t just unwittingly pursuing that avenue of child abuse, they’re continuing to promote toxic societal behaviours.
If you watch the tortured logical fallacies and meandering dumpster diving into conflated rubbish biliously spouted daily by the ACL and their allies, seemingly the most destructive thing in the world at the moment is the safe schools programme, and this “gender fluidity” term they throw about all the time. “Gender fluidity!” is shouted and bandied about with the same McCarthyesque “reds under the beds!” fervour that’s been used for decades – for centuries in fact – whenever a group needs to manufacture an enemy so as to hide the simple truth that they, are, in fact, the real enemy themselves.
Aside: Safe Schools is a programme designed to teach children to accept that other children, that other people, might be different from them, and designed to teach children that if they feel different from others, they shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves. That’s a bad thing, according to the “no” campaign.
So much of the “no” campaign championed by the loons in the ACL and the supposed “Coalition for Marriage” is summed up in their histrionic reaction to the mere possibility that a boy might have been told it’s OK to wear a dress.
A dress. Not a gimp suit, or a splatterproof garment covered in human blood and excrement, but a dress. A piece of clothing that might be more commonly worn by women, who comprise more than 50% of the global human population.
Forget even that the entire premise – that a school-boy was told at school by a teacher that it was OK to wear a dress – is a lie. That the “Coalition for Marriage” would confect this argument in the first place is demonstrative of their pitiable foulness.
And it is pitiable. Or it would be, if it didn’t itself create so many problems in society.
What are they saying and doing in this argument? It’s simple: they’re acting on a toxic determination to reinforce traditional stereotypes of masculinity. There’s a lot said about masculinity, but I think there’s one simple truth about it: there’s nothing unhealthy with masculinity when it comes from within, as a form of self-awareness. You can be a masculine forklift driver, a masculine office worker, a masculine athlete, a masculine dad, a masculine gay man, and yes, a masculine damn drag queen. Masculinity in its truest, healthiest sense is a comfort in ones own skin. True, healthy masculinity is knowing who you are regardless of anyone else around you.
But the ACL, the Coalition for Marriage, and all those politicians running around screaming “gender fluidity” as if there’s an inbound nuclear missile don’t believe in that form of masculinity. They believe in an externally imposed masculinity. This is how boys act. These are the emotions boys and men are allowed to feel. Anything else? Not masculine. Shameful.
This is the same argument and the same approach that tells us real men don’t cry. Men have to “act like men”, and that means bottling up anything that’s not seen as a valid emotion. Australian society in particular has taken that quaint British notion of “stiff upper lip” and wrapped a feral masculinity around it, denying men the option to feel any emotion outside the norm.
They’re not promoting masculinity or gender ‘norms’, they’re promoting monsters. Unwittingly, of course, because this is the way it always has been. It’s the way they grew up, so they want to make it the way future generations of boys and young men grow up. It’s a self-perpetuating abuse cycle with all of society being the victim.
The Incredible Hulk is meant to be a superhero, and maybe on the big screen and in comics he is. But our society is full of rage monsters like the Hulk, who snap when they get angry, all created by this toxic external imposition of masculinity. Only when they snap, they don’t save the world, they destroy a little piece of the world around them.
I’d posit that almost every male who grew up in Australia had some form of this toxicity imposed on them as they growing up. Every Australian man I know, gay, straight or other has been affected by it in some way. The lucky ones are the ones who escape its parasitic control, who strike out on their own as emotionally healthy men who have at their disposal the awesome power of a full spectrum of emotions. Love, grief, sadness, happiness, and yes, anger too, and everything in between. Anger, after all, can be a healthy emotion when it’s channelled appropriately, and balanced by the rest of the spectrum. A psychologist once suggested to me to consider emotions as being kids in the back of the car, and you’re the driver. It’s OK to acknowledge the kids, it’s OK to let the kids out. What’s not OK is letting the kids drive. And that’s what happens with the masculinity espoused and promoted by the “no” campaign. It denies growing boys and men their emotional spectrum, and unhealthily creates situations where emotions explode out.
That emotional explosion isn’t just domestic violence – though boy oh boy, that’s got to be a leading cause of domestic violence. Just look at the archetypal portrayal of domestic violence: a man comes home from the pub shit-faced drunk and he starts beating his wife. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and that’s exactly what’s happening – men are forced by this toxic externalised vision of masculinity to never express their emotions, and when that goes wrong, the consequences can be appalling. That’s not, in any way, to excuse domestic violence, but if it’s going to be solved and stopped, the psychological driving factors of it must be addressed and reversed, something that will require generational change.
Generational change won’t come if the vision of rigid masculinity that the Coalition for Marriage idolise continues unchecked and unchallenged.
It doesn’t just drive anger though. Look at the hideous suicide rates and figures in Australia. Suicide is the primary cause of death for people aged 15-44. 33.9% of deaths for people 15-24 in 2015 was by suicide, and the suicide rate for men is three times higher than women.
Suicide is even higher in the LGBTI community. It’s estimated to range anywhere from 6x the norm (for gay men) to 10x the norm (for trans men and women). And there should be nothing normal about any of that. You’d probably be hard pressed to find a member of the LGBTI community in their mid-20s or higher who hasn’t been exposed to suicide in the community.
Again, this imposition of what people should and should not feel, or how they should or should not behave, externally imposed with a rigid requirement for conformity coming from some idealised vision of what the 50s, or ‘simpler times’ were like.
“Simpler times”, when child abuse in families, whatever the type, was covered up. “Simpler times”, when men would just go out and quietly shoot themselves in a paddock. “Simpler times”, when women would run into doors on a weekly basis and everyone would nod in agreement, reinforcing the lie.
It doesn’t matter that the histrionic bleatings of the “Coalition for Marriage” and all their allies in the first ad of the marriage equality campaign is premised on something that never happened. What matters is that their attitude of lock-step definition of masculinity to be imposed on all boys and men still gets air-time.
Marriage equality isn’t even important in comparison to their argument. If their argument wins, society loses for another generation. Boys will go out and kill themselves for being different. Men with repressed emotions will beat their girlfriends, wives, and yes, boyfriends too.
All because someone is afraid a boy might wear a dress.