You have to feel just a teeny bit sorry for Penny Wong. She has done her best to be as un-lesbian as possible and now look what happens.
Her line has always been that her sexuality, like her ethnicity, is irrelevant — she wants to be judged on her ability.
Fair enough. Except that the government of which she’s a member is quite happy to embrace racial multiculturalism while simultaneously promoting ‘separate but equal’ apartheid-style laws for gay relationships.
There’s a simple test which exposes the extent of her collusion in this system of legislated inequality. Substitute her race for her sexuality in her comments and see what happens. “Openly Asian government minister says she agrees with her party’s opposition to interracial marriage. Or, “Australia’s only Asian cabinet minister said she was proud of what the party had achieved in recognising the value and importance of interracial relationships. But she respected Labor’s view of marriage as an between two people of the same race.”
She said there was “a cultural, religious and historical view around [marriage] which we have to respect.” If she expressed such views, the Asian community would rightly blow her out of the water. But the gay community is expected to join her in kow-towing to the prejudices of her party colleagues.
The spin doctors were out in force. “She has no choice,” they said, “She must follow party policy.”
Indeed. However she could have said, “I am bound by loyalty to my party and my government to support this policy, so I do, but I don’t have to like it, and in fact I’m working my butt off to persuade my colleagues to drop it and join the 21st century.”
She might even have made a decent joke of it. But she chose instead to be true to her own “culture, history and traditions” as an Asian woman, and submit to higher authority.
“Why do you attack one of our own who has done so much for us behind the scenes?” cry her apologists.
Because it was only behind the scenes. And because every time she publicly backs a policy that condemns her, and us, to second class citizenship, while remaining a member of the government, she assumes the role of the prison trusty, accepting extra privileges to help keep her fellow prisoners in line.
Worse, every time Labor’s tame house-lesbian allows herself to be wheeled out to state that she goes along with the status quo, she demeans and diminishes herself.
Which is why I feel a little bit sorry for Penny Wong this week. But not much.