Seen and Heard


In an opinion article published last week, Andrew M Potts described as "bizarre" my claim that self-appointed activists, on the extreme fringe of the wider community, have hijacked the "gay marriage" debate to manufacture a false sense of grassroots support. He then cited, apparently against my contention, the findings of two surveys set-up, paid for, administered and disseminated by "gay marriage" lobby groups.

Potts is, of course, the "lead columnist at the Sydney Star Observer", a gay rights publication with an avowed "gay marriage" agenda.

His article cannot, therefore, rebut my Herald Sun piece; rather it reinforces (if not performs) the main claims. Here was a vocal and prolific advocate for "gay marriage" attempting to silence an alternative view. Potts was, in fact, so exercised by my Herald Sun article that he published the same rebuttal, twice, in two days! He also repeatedly commented on his own articles, sometimes challenging the readers who called his claims into question.

How’s that for letting other people have a say?

More seriously, Potts misrepresented my views on the plight of transsexual individuals, using a blog comment relating the details of administrative procedures barring "paedophiles, transsexuals and others with serious mental disorders" from the Catholic priesthood to prove that I am "a man who believes that transsexuals suffer serious mental disorders". The two statements are not about the same thing.

I made this point clear to Potts when he emailed me last week, to no avail. My actual statements on transsexuals are, as one would imagine, less about stigma, and denigration, and more about the need for understanding – and, indeed great love.

They accord, in broad terms, with the views held by experts (not to mention pioneers) in the field; including the former head of the gender reassignment surgery project at Johns Hopkins in the United States. Any other views attributed to me are pure invention.

A selection of Potts’s more silly mischaracterisations. I would not have readers, or anyone else, "believe that… Australian gay men are commitment-phobic, poly-amorous serial shaggers". Indeed, I’ve regularly argued quite the opposite, whether defending same sex attracted seminarians from narrow interpretations of Vatican documents or arguing for the beauty, truth and goodness in serious, intimate, life-long male-male bonds.

In the same vein, the idea that I target "gay marriage" and related issues because of some perverse desire for notoriety is simply untrue. The first mainstream article I had published was actually a pro Brokeback Mountain opinion editorial in The Australian and the second was an opinion editorial in the same paper decrying homophobia.

Additionally, of the interviews, essays, reviews and features I have contributed to publications like Meanjin, DNA Magazine, The Australian, the Herald Sun and Policy, many did not even mention "gay marriage". To be frank, I am quite tired of the issue. So is the rest of the community.

In an earlier version of his piece, Potts called me a "Catholic robot", and made other disparaging remarks about my faith. He has implied that any religious believer must, necessarily, only hold certain views because she acts like an automaton, or blindly assents to injustice. This claim is as offensive to religious believers of any persuasion as it is untrue about me.

DREADNOUGHT, my blog, was actually started as a way to interrogate Catholic teaching on human sexuality. I was as surprised as anyone else to find myself re-converted by the very documents I’d previously found (albeit via secondhand reports) so offensive.

I learned then, as I hope Potts knows now, that it pays to actually read your interlocutors’ work. This sort of thing goes beyond mere courtesy. It challenges us to see our opponents on any issue as human beings, worthy of respect, honesty and fair treatment.

While it is true that I have referred to myself as a "homo-con", I would not do so now. This is not because I am trying to be covert about my political views, but rather because my ideas cannot, I’ve found (and readers have lamented), be easily categorised by any single designation. I remain open-minded about politics, and I attempt to evaluate ideas on their merits.

Finally, Potts’s interpretation of the findings of the Private Lives report is not convincing. The report is online for anyone to read.

All of this information was made available to Potts before and during the drafting of his article. It was also offered to him again after he had a similar article published elsewhere. While I am disappointed that he ignored these facts, I am not surprised.

Anyone who dares to challenge the homoactivist hegemony is, too often, subjected to similar sorts of lop-sided attack.

Sometimes the baiting, name-calling, and misrepresentations get totally out of hand. Comments elsewhere have suggested that I might be HIV positive (I am not), someone who has experienced child sex abuse at the hands of a priest and enjoyed that abuse (I have not been abused, and the suggestion is highly offensive/insensitive), and/or that I have regularly been seen at sex-on-site venues, picking up male prostitutes (again, untrue).

A comment on Potts’s piece on this site even suggested that people like me were "self-hating gay homophobes [who]should be seen and not heard". The reader’s next suggestion, that anyone with opposing views might prefer "the closet", betrays an intolerance and closed-mindedness that too often characterises the pro "gay marriage" stance.

Certainly it is – to counter Potts’s most earnest claim – difficult to argue that people who oppose "gay marriage" are somehow rare, obscure types, devoted to arcane ideas, when the biggest newspaper in the country (plus two radio programs, numerous blogs, a tri-continental magazine, various websites) picked up the story. If I were as isolated and opposed as Potts claims, I’d never get a hearing. I wouldn’t deserve one.

In truth, pro "gay marriage" advocates know all this, and it makes them wild. They should learn a bit of humility. For too long they have ignored the community they claim to represent and serve.

For this reason, and because I am sincerely convinced by the arguments I present, I will continue to offer my writing and ideas – not to achieve any momentary personal boost, but to ensure that the real concerns of same-sex attracted Australians are heard, and beyond that, to contribute whatever I can to the building up of a more humane, enlightened polity.

That sort of sentiment is, of course, intelligible to most people.

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