Last month Emma Alberici came under fire on Twitter for a personal anecdote she used as her opening question in an interview with Mathias Corman on ABCs Lateline.
‘A friend of my daughter’s a 15 year old boy came out as gay last week to his parents and was kicked out of home. Now whilst you and your colleagues are bickering in your party room aren’t you concerned about the message you send to young vulnerable gay Australians that they don’t deserve the same treatment as other Australians and that when they are older and they fall in love they won’t be treated as equals with heterosexuals?’
This prompted Daily Mail columnist Caroline Marcus to suggest that Alberici had ‘breathlessly accosted’ Corman and that media advocates for gay marriage will dissuade allegedly pro gay marriage voters such as Marcus to vote no. Marcus is the same presenter who went to Nauru and implied that refugees were living it up in the concentration camp, sorry detention, because they had taxpayer funded TVs. Alberici responded in kind on Twitter:
‘”Says she’ll vote NO to prove a point WTF?” Not very intellectually robust to say people who argue for equality are ‘pushing’ you to vote otherwise, but do explain how I misread that.’
‘What the fuck?’ isn’t a strange response to someone who essentially stated that she’d happily convert to a being a bigot if it will piss off advocates who are at odds with her readership. Nevertheless Alberci’s tweet attracted a bizarre backlash that saw her labelled a bully by professional homophobe, misogynist and ex Prime Minister Tony Abbott:
‘I see the usual suspects are having a go at Caroline Marcus,” he wrote. “Good on her for resisting the bullies.’
If you scan Alberici’s Twitter feed, you’ll see a number of other people have backed Marcus’s stance. Conservative automatons like Chris Kenny and Miranda Devine have chipped in with the standard right wing groupthink, which prompted the Australian to run a whole column on Alberici’s alleged ‘bullying’. But the reality is Alberici is on record defending queer kids from bullying, and unlike professional right wing hate merchants a la Tony Abbott, these are the Australians who need defending. On Twitter Harley Dennett summed it up succinctly:
‘I was a homeless gay teenager (decades ago). At time I couldn’t imagined a TV host would ever care about kids like me. Thanks @albericie’
Once, media figures didn’t come to the defence of gay people. We were pariahs on the fringe, non-human and disposable. Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘respectful debate’ has revealed that there are Australians who still hold these views. This is particularly damaging to teenagers whose identity is still forming, and that’s why Alberici’s question is important.
Unlike right wing politicians and pundits, gay teenagers are vulnerable. As a 15 year old I was subjected to relentless physical violence at the hands of my father. I was regularly punished for not being masculine enough, for being too emotional and for not conforming to my parent’s concept of how a straight male was supposed to act. Outside this charged home environment were continual threats from ‘angry young men’ that didn’t need an excuse to punch you in the head. As a teen I received punches from strangers I didn’t see coming, for no apparent reason other than I looked like an easy target. My head was cut open when someone threw a can at me. My own brother threatened to kill me because ‘homosexuals’ were ‘repulsive’.
At the time, being gay in Tasmania was illegal. Though it was evidently not safe to come out, one of my friends did so at 15. His father beat the living shit out of him then kicked him out of home. One of his teachers took him in and then proceeded to statutorily rape the boy on a regular basis. This later led to self-loathing behaviours including but not limited to going back into the closet, engaging in a long term relationship with a woman and subsequently having to come out all over again.
Those who are anti gay marriage and anti safe schools are effectively condoning the violence we, as gay people, experience. By normalising antipathy toward gay people, the right is saying that all LGBTQ deserve to be subjected violence, because we do not have the same status as straights. As such they send the message that they as straight people are entitled to promote and commit acts of physical and emotional violence because they hold a higher position in Australian society.
It didn’t take long for the ‘respectful debate’ about gay marriage that Malcolm Turnbull promised to degenerate into a circus, complete with animals. Members of the right are actively exploiting this non-binding sham plebiscite to vilify LGBTQ and their children. The fundamental intrusion of straight people discussing the value our relationships as if it’s within their purview to do so is damaging to the queer psyche, and further puts gay youth at risk. We don’t have an ‘agenda’ beyond wanting to safely coexist equally with straight people. That Marcus would choose to vote ‘noi’ because she’s annoyed that people are campaigning for us to have this basic human right is an indictment of her values, or lack thereof.
See the suggestion that Mathias Corman, the Liberal Party and the Australian Christian right are victims of bullying is an absurd Trumpian inversion. It switches actual LGBTQ victims with the perpetrators, namely straight people who enable physical and emotional violence to be inflicted on members of our community. Mathias Corman is a grown man and part of a group intent on implementing an insidious discriminatory policy. When Emma Alberici asks him how he would respond to a 15 year old boy who is now homeless and at risk she is not bullying him, she is holding him to account for policies that facilitate hatred. As a journalist that is her job.
Apparently the Australian Government allowed Caroline Marcus to get married.