b) Gay Australia
This article was published in MCV and SX News on 27.7.10.
Sometimes people stand for much more than they realise.
I was reminded of this twice in recent weeks.
The first time was the broadcast of an episode of Compass featuring Michael Kirby and his partner of 40 years Jan van Floten.
The second was last week’s episode of Australian Story in which Shelley Argent gave a parent’s perspective on the joys and problems experienced by LGBT people and their families.
Both broadcasts evoked an outpouring of support. Michael Kirby was flooded with letters from people inspired and encouraged by his story. According to sources in the ABC, it’s switch “went into meltdown” after Shelley’s story was aired.
This shows how dramatically Australia has changed.
Ten years ago the same broadcasts would have evoked at best a polarised response with enthusiastic, mostly gay supporters on one side, and angry, mostly Christian antagonists on the other.
Now the public response is almost entirely positive and the people responding are as likely to be heterosexual as homosexual.
But what was also notable about the response was its intensity. So many people I speak to – gay and straight – say they were emotionally overwhelmed by Michael and Shelley’s stories, to the point of tears.
One reason for such a strong response is the widening chasm between the growing acceptance of gay people among ordinary Australians and the callous disregard our national leaders and opinion-makers still have to their gay fellow citizens.
Michael and Shelley’s stories remind ordinary Australians that as much as they have changed their leaders have not, and that for gay Australians and their families each day is still a struggle for justice and recognition.
But another reason is that among ordinary Australians there is a stronger desire than ever before to create real change.
In Michael and Shelley they see want they want to be – people who say “enough” and set out to make things better.
Michael Kirby and Shelley Argent aren’t just spokespeople for LGBT Australians and their families.
They are spokespeople for a nation that desperately wants to fulfil its promise of equality for all.
They are Australia’s true leaders at a time when our actual leaders do nothing but follow.
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