Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Asexual Awareness Week: Is asexual awareness still needed?

Asexuality flag in shape of heart
Image: iSock

In June 2013, I started my blogging journey with Asexuality In A Sexual World. In it, I explored what it meant to be asexual and attitudes towards asexuality, particularly in the media.

While it’s not the first time asexuality was talked or written about (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network started up in 2001), it was still a fairly new in the mainstream. The media just started to talk about and interview people who were asexual, like Jo Qualmann. Some attitudes towards were just plain wrong, presumptuous and, frankly, quite narky. (I remember exploding on my blog after the segment on The Project).

 

Five years later, I feel asexuality has become more visible in the mainstream. More media outlets are doing interviews and publishing articles on asexuality and how it affects individuals. Just recently, women’s site, SheSaid published an article about a woman who identified as asexual and how it affected her religious upbringing and her marriage.

I think that’s something that has changed over the last five years; more media outlets are hearing from non – aromantic asexual people and the complexities that often arises. In the beginning, very few media outlets explored how asexuality affected romantic relationships.

 

I’ve also noticed that there are many LGBTQ+ spaces, at least online, are becoming more inclusive and welcoming to asexual/ ace – spec people. When I first started learning and writing about asexuality, I realised that there was a disconnect, even a bit of hostility between LGBTQ+ groups and asexual people. I remember doing a post in my first blog asking people’s opinion about asexual people being apart of the LGBTQ+ community, and I got somw comments from people not feeling like a part of the LGBTQ community (unless they were allies). Now, the acronym itself has often being extended to include asexual people; (LGBTQIA+).

Where to from here? 

I’m amazed and pleased at how asexuality visibility has come since 2013. However, there are two areas where I think there can be improvement: entertainment and education.

Needless to say, there is a lack of mainstream shows and movies that have asexual characters or where sexual/ romantic relationships aren’t at the forefront. Last year, Netflix’s Riverdale, let asexual fans down when Jughead came out as asexual, only to enter a straight relationship. A similar thing happened on Neighbours  earlier this year, when Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor) suggested that Jack (Andrew Morley) was asexual when he was resisting Paige Smith (Olympia Valance). Paige an$ Jack were mutually attracted to each other. Asexuality hasn’t been mentioned, let alone explored, since.

A more important area where I think asexuality has been absent is education, especially in Personal Development Health and Physical Education (PDHPE). Asexuality, or romantic orientation or relationships without sex was never spoken about when I was at school. The program, Safe Schools did have resources that mentioned asexuality and did distinguish romantic and sexual orientation, but, due to political controversies, the program has been scrapped by most of the States and Territories and the Federal Government has ended its fundin* of the program. I doubt whether the Coalition or Labor will replace it with another LGBTQ+ support program or curriculum anytime soon.

I think asexual awareness has come a long way and there are many individuals; ace and non – ace that should be commended.

 

 

 

Question to asexual/ ace – spec readers: where do ypu think improvements can be made? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Categories
LGBTQ rights

The bigotry against the trans/ gender non – binary community should stop

 

Public toilet signs: female, male, disabled
Image: iStock

Bigotry against the trans/ gender non – binary community always gets under my skin and I feel like I have to respond.

The latest I’ve seen is a retweet from a journalist/ commentator that, frankly, I’m starting to lose respect for. Here is what the journalist/ commentator retweeted:

https://twitter.com/boodleoops/status/1053317526749396995

I read in another tweet that this ‘poll’ is extremely biased and is deliberately aimed at hard – line anti – trans conservatives, so it’s safe to assume that it isn’t representative of the population.

The problem with the question

The question of the ‘poll’ itself is problematic. “Should everyone who identifies as female have access to women – only spaces?”. The question conveys the idea that cis – men will simply identify as women to enter women’s spaces, including public toilets. A few years ago, conservative politicians and journalists spread paranoia about the safety of women and girls if transwomen used women’s facilities. In 2015, Vox pointed out  that there had been no reports of sexual misconduct by men pretending to be women in public toilets.  Mic Network also confirmed  this myth

Now, people are panicking that becoming transgender is a fashion. Transgender people don’t just ‘decide’ to become transgender out of the blue. According to the American Psychological Association, while people may experience their gender identity at various stages of life, many trans people know that they are ‘different’ from early childhood.

And let get this one thing clear: professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists don’t just throw hormones people willy nilly. Junkee wrote a really good article that  not only debunked the “gender whisperer’ hysteria stoked by the Daily Telegraph, but also called out and debunked the idea that transgender identity and hormonal and surgical treatment is done on a whim.

Dr. Elizabeth Riley, who was interviewed for the article, condemned how she was misrepresented. She claimed that her role was to help teachers identify children who may be trans, but also said that the process in identifying trans students is a lot more complicated than what the Daily Telegraph insinuated.

When talking about the diagnostic process in helping trans people she told Junkee: 

The parents will usually come and see me, and I’ll recommend that they go to Westmead Children’s Clinic and see a psychiatrist for a full diagnosis. And it’s only if the child is 100% [certain] and [their status is] clear that we even go down this path (gender reaffirming treatment).

(Emphasis mine).

So, the myth that parents are often left in the dark about a child’s transgender/ gender dysphoria status is debunked. So is the idea that people identify transgender willy nilly or because it’s ‘fashionable’.

The dark side of the trans and public spaces paranoia

I must admit, I’ve made the mistake of thinking the trans/ gender non – conforming community should step away from the public bathroom/ change room debate. Then I remember how dangerous this ‘debate’ has actually become, particularly in the US.

In August, Achille Public Schools were closed for two days after a twelve year – old trans girl was threatened with violence and mutilation via a Facebook group by a number of parents. This was sparked when they found out that she was given permission to use a female toilet. Where was the “protect the children” brigade? Anyone want to advocate for the safety of this TWELVE YEAR – OLD who was threatened with violence and MUTILATION? Anyone?

So, while there is NO evidence that cis – male perverts use women’s bathrooms to assault and harass young girls and women and yet a twelve – year old child has been dehumanised (some referred to her as a “thing”), threatened with physical violence and mutilation, people want to focus on the non – existent threat of male perverts accessing women’s spaces in order to harass women and young girls. (Before anyone screams at me that there are articles that suggest that men have gone to women’s bathrooms to harass women and girls, those cases have been debunked.

The role of the media

I am getting sick of columnists and presenters in the mainstream media misrepresenting LGBTQ+ issues. This is why I believe independent media is so important. I do applaud Junkee for putting the “gender whisperer’ hysteria to rest. I encourage more Australian independent outlets to the same and I encourage Australians to read articles from independent outlets to get other perspectives.

 

I want to emphasise some points (unfortunately, I feel I have to). Trans people don’t choose to be trans. It’s not a fashion. It’s not simple, either the cause or the diagnosis process. And… THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT MEN ARE ‘IDENTIFYING’ AS TRANSGENDER TO HARASS AND ASSAULT WOMEN AND GIRLS. The media needs to STOP spreading this.

Categories
Media

Magazine ‘Cosmopolitan Australia’ is stopping production at the end of year

Collage of fou4 issues of Cosmopolitan Australia
Four issues of a revolution in women’s media about to come to an end

After forty – five years, Cosmopolitan Australia is set to close it’s doors. CEO of  Bauer Media, Paul Dykzeul released a statement confirming the closure, stating “commercial viability is no longer stable for magazines”.

This is the third magazine that Bauer Media has stopped producing, with Dolly having stopped the production of it’s paper magazine in 2016 and Cleo also ended print editions the same year.

What’s going on?

I’ve written before how I find it disheartening that women’s media is slowly collapsing. Not only have I felt it as a consumer on and off for fiften years, but it has also made me wonder about the future as a female content creator.

Frankly, I find the reasoning questionable. Newscorp, Fairfax and other media outlets around the world have been able to transfer their content online and create a paid subscription service. I’ve also seen a number of Cosmopolitan companies producing apps for women with a small subscription fee (you can also buy single editions of different magazines from around the world).

So, why couldn’t Cosmopolitan Australia, Cleo and Dolly just go digital and have subscribers pay a fee per month?

Now I get it. I think paid subscription services, especially for independent, little  – known media companies is risky and, frankly, I don’t think it’s always viable. But, for newspapers and magazines like Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and Cosmopolitan, Dolly and Cleo; products that have been consumed and trusted for decades, why can’t they transfer to digital and remain in business?

Is women’s media just not profitable?

When Cosmopolitan started by author of Sex and the Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown, it was revolutionary. The idea that women didn’t have to be married to own their sexuality. However, Gurley Brown was accused of spreading the message that women needed a man and playing down sexual harassment.

Yet, her product worked. For generations, women were informed and entertained by articles that thousands, if not millions of women could relate to. Also, Cosmopolitan evolved, and they were instrumental in campaigning for same – sex marriage last year.

They have explored same – sex relationships and fluid sexuality.  However, I have asked whether they’re approach helped or hindered campaign towards LGBTQ+ rights.

img_0102

Has women’s media hit a dead – end?

Is it possible that women’s media is just not needed anymore? Are women just sick of reading the same relationship advice, same old sex advice, etc? Over the years, I know I have been. While I do appreciate some of what magazines like Cosmopolitan Australia, Cleo and Dolly have done for me and countless other women, it got to the point, where, frankly, they were monotonous. It was the same old, same old: same relationship advice, same fashion advice, same… advertisements. Like Cleo before it, Cosmopolitan Australia ended up lacking on high – quality articles that made me a fan of them in the first place.

 

So, where does it leave women’s media, regardless of it’s format? Personally, I want high – quality articles and commentary. I want to read about people’s first – hand experiences and things they’ve overcome. I want commentary that is well written and offers a strong argument for or against an issue (or a fair, well – written piece featuring both sides of an argument).

I want media that doesn’t make women feel like they need more to be enough, (which, ironically, was the business model that made Cosmopolitan a successful brand for nearly fifty years).

I want health to be promoted, rather than the debate on size, not the dangerous extremes. I want articles that focus on exercises that most people can do without too much trouble. And recipes that are easy and stuff that most people would actually eat. I also want LGBTQ+ and people of colour represented without being a gimmick.

 

The end of an era in women’s media is coming. But surely women’s media itself doesn’t have to. Maybe the format… and content of women’s media in the future will just have to evolve.

Have you been reading Cosmopolitan (Australian or otherwise)? What did you get out of it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
Opinion/Commentary Politics

Should private schools be able to discriminate against a staff member or student for being LGBTQ?

From top: Christian cross in circle, bottom right, school students taking exams, bottom left, LGBTQ pride flag
All images are from Canva

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been spooked and vowed not to extend anti – discrimination exemptions to allow private schools to expel and discriminate against LGBTQ+ students. Instead, he’s promised to scrap the existing exemptions written into laws, including New South Wales’ Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

I think there are two reasons why Prime Minister Morrison reacted the way he did. First, last week, Sydney Morning Herald wrote an article about leaked information regarding private schools being given permission to expel LGBTQ+ students. Morrison initially lashed out on The Bolt Report, slamming the article as “false” and a “smear”. Also, a by – election in Wentworth, New South Wales will happen on the 20th of October and the result will determine whether the Coalition can hold a majority in the House of Representatives (a.k.a the Upper House).

When I first heard about this in the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review, I was really worried. I don’t think children should be discriminated against for being LGBTQ+ and, as I’ve written before, I think that LGBTQ+ students should be supported by school staff openly. The self – hatred is hard enough without the fear of being expelled or the confirmation that teachers and other staff think you deserve to be treated differently because of it.

In the past, I have also written that teachers and other school staff should be educated on how to support LGBTQ+ students, and be aware of students who may be questioning their sexuality (or gender identity) or who are bi, pan or asexual. Teachers and other staff should be aware that sexuality may not be able to be labelled and that’s OK. This is why I initially supported Safe Schools and was disappointed when it was politicised and ultimately scrapped in New South Wales and will eventually be de-funded by most States and Territories across the country.

 

Next push: no discrimination against LGBTQ+ staff

According to The Guardian Australia, Labor has now vowed to push for protections for LGBTQ+ teachers by making it unlawful to fire or not employ a teacher or staff member due to their sexuality, gender identity or relationship status. While I’m not against the proposal, this is political opportunism. In fact, it was the Labor Government who sided with groups like the Australian Christian Lobby and made it legal for private schools to be able to sack or not hire staff because of one’s sexuality, gender identity or relationshi status clashing with a school’s religious values. The Coalition are split, with Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg welcoming moves to eliminate discrimination of LGBTQ+ teachers in private schools, while former Prime Minister and Member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, being against it, warning of “unintended consequences” (oh please, not this again).

It’s ideal that no one would be discriminated against. But, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the government stuck with the mantra of ‘religious freedom’ and continued to allow private schools to be exempt from anti – discrimination legislation in the name of religious freedom.

Even if the loopholes are closed, will that end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in education?

To me, the issues of discrimination and inclusion goes beyond mere employment. How will LGBTQ+ staff be treated by their employees and employers? Would a married lesbian, for example, be able to freely talk about her weekend away with her wife to other staff or would she be compelled to keep quiet about it, with her relationship being treated as a dirty little secret? How would it affect events like staff Christmas parties? Will she be able to bring her spouse and not be made to feel uncomfortable? All I’m saying, is that being paranoid that you’re not accepted is bad enough and it’s a fear that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I also think it’s a fear that can’t be merely legislated away.

Tell me what you think. Should a private school be able to discriminate against a staff member or student based on religious beliefs?

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Kayla Kendrigan not the only case of violence against people with a disability

Content warning: this post mentions torture and may be triggering and upsetting for some readers. 

Kayla Kendrigan, 19, who is intellectually disabled, was kidnapped, tortured and almost murdered when she was thrown off Windsor Bridge while tied up. She feared that she would die, but miraculously survived.

Four of her former ‘friends’ received multiple charges including kidnapping and attempted murder.

The tip of the iceberg

It’s good that parts of the mainstream media have been reporting on this. Unfortunately, according to the Australian Institute for Family Studies, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey  of Disability, Ageing and Carers has failed to collect and display data on abuse against people with disabilities. States and Territory surveys have also failed to collect data that properly reports the issue. However, the attack against Kendrigan is far from an isolated incident.

Earlier this year on ABC’s series You Can’t Ask That: Sexual Abuse Survivors, it was pointed out that more than 70% of women with physical disabilities and over 90% of women with intellectual disabilities are victims of sexual violence.

Woman with Downs Syndrome
People with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence image: iStock

According to World Health Organisation, studies suggest that children with disabilities are nearly four times more likely to be victims of  physical violence and more than twice more likely to be sexually assaulted than able – bodied peers.

Adults with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to experience violence. People with mental conditions experience violence almost five times (4.6) higher than the general population.

 

Tackling the problem

It’s obvious, at least to me, that things need to change. Not only does there need to be a condemnation of violence against people with disabilities, but discrimination needs to be condemned completely. Croner-i offers these tips for employers:

  • Avoid asking job applicants for information about their disability or health (in Australia, people with a disability usually have no legal requirement to do so)
  • Be aware of unfavourable treatment of a person with a disability or their actions (i.e. needing medication, sick days, etc) are often unlawful (certain modifications are also protected under Australia’s Disability Discrimination  Act 1992
  • Be prepared to make relevant and reasonable adjustments to help employees with disabilities
  • Be proactive in considerations in assisting employees with a disability or medical condition.
  • Consider whether there’s a need to reallocate responsibilities that go beyond a person’s ability
  • Avoid negative assumptions about people with disabilities
  • Avoid fitness, qualifications and other requirements unless they are essential for the job
  • Any job advertisements should make no mention or implication, that the job is not suitable for disabled people
  • Make sure that any health screening is properly justified
  • Employers should make sure that people with disabilities have equal opportunities for promotions, pay rises, etc.
  • Provide guidance for managers to be aware of generalised assumptions and prejudices when dealing with job applications
  • Make sure equal opportunity policy is devised and implemented and clearly states that discrimination and harassment of people with disabilities will not be tolerated.
  • Make sure managers and recruiters are knowledgeable of policies and procedures regarding equal opportunity and making reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.
  • Be aware of the country’s or state’s legal definition of disability
  • Make sure that no person with a disability is victimised if they make a complaint alleging discrimination or harassment
  • Take all complaints seriously and make sure that they are investigated and dealt with thoroughly
  • Make sure that any redundancies guidelines are followed carefully and don’t have adverse negative impacts on employees with disabilities.
  • Make sure that any data collecting regarding an employee’s disability or medical condition is only done with their full knowledge and written consent.
  • Use any data collected solely for the purpose of workplace adjustments and monitoring
  • Take necessary steps to prevent unfair treatment of employee by other staff.

This is so important. Not only does unemployment affect a person’s sense of self and overall morale, employment is an an area where too many people with disabilities face rejection and stigma.  This isn’t to condemn employers for violence, but such actions further entrench false beliefs about people with a disability, which in turn only exacerbates rates of mistreatment.

Violence against people with a disability or mental health condition needs to be reported on and addressed by society. Good on Mamamia, A Current Affair, and Channel Seven for reporting Kayla Kendrigan’s ideal and highlighting this. But a lot more needs to be done to help people with disabilities.

If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For emergencies, call 000. 

As always people from other countries are free to drop numbers of helplines or emergency contacts in the comment section below.