Australia has many subcultures. It has a surfing subculture and subcultures devoted to various sports. There are also youth and music subcultures -” goths, emos, punks, and ferals. And while mainstream Australia may disagree with some aspects of these subcultures, it knows of their existence, tolerates them, and knows how these subcultures network and where they can be found.

But while a majority of rapes and murders in this country are committed by heterosexuals, neither we, nor Paul Sheehan nor The Sydney Morning Herald would claim there was a subculture of rapists or murderers within the heterosexual community.

How then, when the vast majority of sexual offences against children are committed by men who identify as heterosexual, even when their victims are male, can the claim of a subculture of pedophilia among gays stand?

The Herald says we should not be offended because Sheehan made clear we weren’t all rock spiders. For me the inference that we tolerate a nest of spiders in our midst, however small, is offence enough.

It could be argued that within our community there are subcultures of drug use or promiscuous sex -” a significant minority engage in both. On the whole we tolerate them, and most of us have a fair idea where either could be found.

In comparison the number of pedophiles who identify as gay is utterly miniscule, they are not known to us, we find them abhorrent and they are roundly condemned.

Long before the article in question went to print, Sheehan made clear his visceral dislike for our community -” though his knowledge of us seems limited.

Our crime seems to be that the lavender mafia defended lawyer John Marsden, whom Sheehan loathed. Marsden himself claimed the opposite, saying the gay community deserted him despite his eventual exoneration in relation to claims he’d had sex with underage youths, with this publication singled out for special mention.

The slur against us in this latest article was a casual cruelty -” a throwaway line. We featured merely as part of a line-up of straw men supposedly representing the forces of political correctness in this country.

The ruling by the Australian Press Council in this case was probably inevitable as the Herald published a range of letters opposing Sheehan’s claim.

But Sheehan’s own ersatz apology verged on the sarcastic -” he’s sorry for our misunderstanding -” and his claim of a pedophile subculture in our midst remains un-retracted.

What also remains is the question of why an august publication like the Herald employs a man like Sheehan other than to generate controversy and volume for the letters page.

Sheehan might also consider that, if he cannot deal properly with such a serious subject in an article of 930 words in length, he should not deal with it at all.

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