Events over the last couple of weeks have made two things clear: first, that homophobia is alive and well in Australian society; and second, that those attitudes are on the decline, and that most Australians support equality for all, regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
A case in point is the recent series of public statements made by Margaret Court, former tennis great and now senior pastor at Perth’s Victory Life Centre. In her latest interview, Court attempted to draw rather extraordinary connections between being gay and sexual abuse as a child. The Catholic Church has distanced itself from her views, just as Tennis Australia did earlier in the month.
Court claims to be stunned by the level of opposition to her comments.
“Minorities,” she said, “are now making it harder for the majority.”
That is precisely where she has missed the mark. While Court and those who support her have stood still, Australia has grown around them. She is the minority these days. Support for marriage equality stood at 38 percent in 2004. Today, the figure is around 62 percent and rising.
For Court, these changes represent a decline in moral standards. She claims Australia is a “blessed nation under a biblical constitution”.
I am not sure which Australia she is reminiscing about, but in my country there is a separation of church and state. My Australia welcomes people of all faiths and none, and celebrates the richness that diversity brings.
Margaret Court is entitled to her views, and if hers were harmless we could be content to let her have them and be done with it — but they are not. Same-sex attracted youth have depression rates four times the national average — not because of their sexuality, but because of the shame and isolation which results from living in a society which does not accept them for who they are.
In a sports-obsessed society like ours, which places such weight on the words and deeds of our heroes on the field, we need to be particularly vigilant in combating homophobia in the sporting arena. The rainbow protest at the Australian Open has left the country in no doubt about which side of the net most of us stand.
If you want to take a stand against homophobia, come join the GLRL in the march to equality. We’ll be having a Volunteer Information Night on Wednesday, February 1 at 6.30pm, 186 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe. We look forward to seeing you there!
BY JUSTIN KOONIN, NSW GLRL