Gays in the AFL: don’t out them, recruit them

May 27, 2010

The AFL Players Association spoke out against homophobia in sport.  Then the Western Bulldog’s Jason Akermanis made a contentious statement that gay sportsmen should not come out because it wouldn’t be safe for them.  Thus ensued a lot of discussion in the mainstream and GLBT media regarding gay men and sport (start here).

It’s been said that the first person to come out will be in the media spotlight and there will be a lot of money to be made out of the story.  Indeed.

At the same time as all of this speculation and discussion, we have in our midst two gay / gay friendly rugby teams – the Sydney Convicts and Melbourne Chargers.  The relevance of this is that it shows gay men can play sport and they can play “a man’s game”.

I contend by corollary that if some gay men can play rugby, one form of football, then some gay men can also play any other form of football, such as soccer or AFL football.  The rules, skills and equipment differ, but overall they’re still games of strategy, discipline, teamwork, brute force and man on man.

Based on the commonality of rugby and AFL football, I can envisage a situation where there would be some talented gay men in the community who could be recruited into a program to develop their skills sufficiently to bring them to a junior or senior competition level.  Admittedly I am fairly naive on the politics and dealings of the footy world but in its simplicity it makes sense to me.

Rather than out the closeted gay men in AFL, the easier path would be to recruit gay men into existing AFL clubs.  This would have the bonus of helping make the environment comfortable enough for closeted players to consider coming out.  Bring the best men in to play the game, and make the game a friendlier and safer place for all.  Everyone’s a winner.


Sydney’s Jewish community adopts anti-homophobia/anti-transphobia policy

May 26, 2010

Hot on the heels of the Victorian Jewish community calling for respect for same-sex attracted Jews, the NSW Jewish community has passed a history-making anti-homophobia/anti-transphobia policy, as reported by J-wire:

The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies has voted overwhelmingly to implement an anti-homophobia/anti-transphobia policy.

This is fantastic news for the Jewish GLBT community as the NSWJBD finally recognises that there is a demographic within the Jewish community that needs more support.

Congratulations to everyone who supported this history-making policy change, and most especially the dedicated team lead by Roy Freeman from Dayenu.

It is long overdue for the entire Jewish community to understand that same-sex attraction and gender-identity variation is normal and valid, just like being left-handed.  There is no room for intolerance of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or who simply do not conform to heterosexual or conventional male/female stereotypes.  The Jewish community must move with the times and learn that these are normal, acceptable human behaviours.  The cost of not doing this will continue to be counted in human lives.


Israel’s national GLBT association receives award from President Shimon Peres

May 24, 2010

Israel’s national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) association, the Agudah, has received an award for volunteerism by the President of Israel Shimon Peres.  That’s quite an achievement.  Read the story in Hebrew here or a translated version here.


Respecting Gay Jews must lead to unconditional acceptance

May 20, 2010

This week’s edition of Southern Star covers the revised policy of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) that asks for the Victorian Jewish community to respect gay people (read my blog on that here).  This came about as a result of action by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society and people from the Bund movement.  Read their motion put to the JCCV in the October 2009 JCCV plenum meeting here.

This call for respect is definitely a good start.  However the downside of simply not saying bad things about gay people is that potentially no one says anything.  As an example, some people previously only said degrading things about gay people because they feel our homosexual ‘lifestyles’ are an abomination in the eyes of their religion.  Now these people may reluctantly feel an obligation to abide by the JCCV’s request to respect gay people, possibly because the organisation they are a member of is in turn a member of the JCCV, and so bite their tongue and don’t use degrading language to describe us.

So you then have the situation where people are not saying bad things about gay people, which is good, but they’re then not actually saying anything, which is bad, because it makes the issue of intolerance of homosexuality invisible.

The next step that the JCCV must take is to make the issue of intolerance of homosexuality visible.  It claims it’s serious about addressing mental health issues in gay people in the Jewish community because it has set up a reference group to investigate these issues.  It would be good to see some sort of public statement about what this reference group is actually doing, as it’s now 6 months down the track since it was established and there has been no public statement or any form of transparency on its operation.

It would also be good if the JCCV started acknowledging that these mental health issues and the alarmingly high suicidal behaviour didn’t just affect ‘GLBT Jews’ but actually affected the entire community.  I say this because the people who are most at risk are those who have same-sex attractions or gender identity issues but don’t or can’t identify their feelings outwardly and so are not visible as GLBT in the community.  They are “in the closet” and may be in denial of their sexuality or gender identity and in fear of anyone finding out.

These people are someone’s children, siblings or parents.  They’re someone’s friends or business partners.  They’re part of a community that supposedly cares about its people.  Supposedly.

Yes, respect is good, but it’s not enough.  Tolerance is only part of the way there.  Acceptance is the ultimate goal and it must be unconditional.

Michael.


Israel shames the Australian Jewish community by speaking out against homophobia

May 18, 2010

On the International Day Against Homophobia, May 17 2010, Israel’s Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, said there is no room for homophobia, according to the Really Israel blog.

”There is no place for homophobia. Differences are not a cause for concern. Differences are part of the fabric of our society”

The Australian Jewish community has remained silent for too long on homophobia.  Whilst there are increasing numbers of young people in the community who are living openly as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, there is no mainstream support for same-sex attracted people and still no statement that intolerance of homosexuality is unacceptable.

Orthodox Judaism and other fundamentalist or extreme Jewish sects consider homosexuality incompatible with religious lifestyle.  This intolerance has been proven to put same-sex attracted people, comprising about 10% of the population, at serious risk of suffering mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or self-harm, potentially leading to suicide.

What is needed are more leaders like Gideon Sa’ar, Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu to declare that homophobia in the (Jewish) community is unacceptable and that our society must completely respect and accept people who are same-sex attracted, as they do anyone else.

The Australian Jewish community must take example from Israel on this important matter and speak out immediately against deeply rooted ignorance, hate and intolerance of homosexuality.  Education is the key to success, and ultimately we’ll all be better off for it.


Sir Ian McKellan, Same-sex marriage and Equal Love

May 15, 2010

At the Equal Love Rally today, Sir Ian McKellan was one of many speakers to condemn the discrimination against same-sex couples by the Australian Government.

Either you have equality or your don’t.  There’s no partial equality.

View my photos from the day on Picasa and Facebook.

Michael.


A small success – the Victorian Jewish community calls for respect for GLBT people

May 14, 2010

Today I feel a little happier than I have been for a long time.  People are listening and are now acting.  It’s not for lack of trying on my part, I can assure you.

To see overwhelming support for the words (in the JCCV media release of 06 May 2010 – see below):

This council … calls for abstention from any public or private conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, revulsion, vilification or severe ridicule of, another person or group on the ground of their identity (including race, religion, colour, disability, sexual orientation, gender and national origin) or views of that other person or group.”

is something I never imagined I would see.

Let this be an example for other communities around Victoria, Australia and the world.  There is no room for hate or intolerance in our society.

Homosexual, bisexual and transgender women and men are people like everyone else and have the same needs and desires as everyone else.  We need unconditional love and acceptance, not intolerance, hate and exclusion.

There is plenty more work that needs to be done in this area, but this is a good start.

Michael.

JCCV calls for respect for difference

06 May 2010

At the Jewish Community Council of Victoria plenum held on 3 May 2010, delegates overwhelmingly voted for the following amendment to the JCCV’s policy platform:

3.7          Respect

 

This Council:

 

3.7.1  ACKNOWLEDGES the distinctive character of the Victorian Jewish community as part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition.

 

3.7.2   RECOGNISES that irrespective of the common traits that bind us as a community, Victorian Jewry is also diverse and pluralistic and that this is reflected in different, often strongly held views, on a range of issues affecting the Jewish and larger communities.

 

3.7.3      CALLS FOR respect for any such differences, while affirming that disagreement is only permissible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views.

 

3.7.4    CALLS FOR abstention from any public or private conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, revulsion, vilification or severe ridicule of, another person or group on the ground of their identity (including race, religion, colour, disability, sexual orientation, gender and national origin) or views of that other person or group.

JCCV President John Searle noted that the JCCV’s policy platform was a living document, continually updated to reflect the views of its affiliates.  He observed that under his presidency the JCCV had demonstrated an ongoing and increasing opposition to vilification in all its manifestations.

He stated that “it is important to realise that this particular policy is not intended to prohibit robust debate or to demand acceptance of all opinions or lifestyles.  What it does do, however, is set parameters for the conduct of discussion of such matters, asking for respect for difference.  Quite simply it’s about playing the ball, not the person.”

Searle concluded, “While our policies are not binding, they are nonetheless a strong statement of principle and provide guidance to and educate those persons considering a range of issues that affect our community.”

Please address any queries to Geoffrey Zygier at 9272 5566

Click here to see JCCV Policy Platforms 2010 (amended):


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