There seems to have been a change in the same-sex weather lately. When Channel Seven News reported the marriage of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi it was as the feel-good fluff piece at the end of the program usually reserved for patriotic volunteers or animal rescue stories. It was reported without mention of lesbians or politics. It was treated like any other marriage, even perhaps with a more congratulatory tone than the usual salacious gossip-mongering that surrounds celebrity news.
The same is true of the media’s coverage of gay Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham. The Sydney Morning Herald declared him an out-and-out champion and a man of firsts, while Seven’s Olympic coverage took time to interview his partner Lachlan.
In the mainstream media, Mitcham has been widely congratulated not only for his outstanding gold medal performance, but for his bravery in being the only out gay male athlete at the Games.
For some reason, the popular media, which often feeds on homophobia, is beginning to treat lesbians and gay men with respect. Granted this is not always the case. We only have to remember the furore surrounding a proposition to use the term parent in schools rather than mother and father that one paper decried as a radical part of the gay agenda, or some of the comments that were made about recognising lesbian parents earlier this year.
And yet when it comes to the individual stories of lesbians and gay men, the media have been largely supportive.
Perhaps there’s an important message in this. Large-scale legislative reform can seem scary to many, especially when it comes to formal recognition of our relationships and families.
But it is the personal connections that we make with others in the wider community that help most in breaking down these prejudiced views.
It is the responsibility of all of us, in whatever capacity we are able, to extend connections with the wider community and, in doing so, provide a human face for the need for equality.