Gowing up gay in a rural/regional environment, plus another Op Ed piece

by ray goodlass

Saw Billy Elliot live from London today. Reminded me a lot of growing up gay in northern England in the 60s, and that I’m being interviewed on SBS 2 tomorrow on The Feed at 7.30 about growing up gay in rural Australia. there are parallels with my youth, though I had the advantage of being able to come out in Sydney in the 70s, ad of coming to Wagga to lecture at the university, and in theatre too, so I was luckily in a very welcoming environment.

And here’s another of my Daily Advertiser Op Ed pieces, this one from last July, when Ian Thorpe came out:

A rare example of synchronicity

At the same time as Ian Thorpe came out about his sexuality support for marriage equality is an all-time high, according to a new opinion poll. The Crosby Texter poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has revealed that support for marriage equality is at its highest level ever.

This is a rare example of synchronicity in public affairs.

It is not my intention to comment on Mr Thorpe’s decision to come out on a paid interview (commercial television’s Channel 10), as that is a personal matter for him alone. The timing, however, is of public interest, for it concerns the power wielded over our sportspeople by commercial interests, particularly sponsorship, and in this case with appalling consequences.

However, before commenting further I’d like to acknowledge Mr Thorpe’s courage in coming out, and to wish him every happiness now that he has been brave enough to do so.

”I’m ashamed I didn’t come out earlier because I didn’t have the courage to do it,” Thorpe told British interviewer Michael Parkinson on Sunday night. ”I wanted to make my nation proud of me. I didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay. I am telling the world I am,” he said.

We were told that Ian Thorpe contemplated coming out as gay prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but decided against it because of the detrimental financial consequences suffered by a Canadian swimming star, Mark Tewksbury.

Tewksbury said that he had come out in 1998 because mere rumours that he was gay caused him to lose a ”six-figure speaking contract”.

On the local level ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr says Brian Taylor’s recent homophobic slur while covering an AFL game highlights why it is so tough for athletes like Ian Thorpe to come out.

Barr said Taylor’s comments had hurt the progress the AFL had made in becoming more inclusive.

The AFL, along with the other major football codes, announced measures to combat homophobia in sport in April, a campaign greatly helped by openly gay VFL footballer Jason Ball.

However, Taylor’s comments are a clear setback.

On the marriage equality front I agree with Greens Senator Hanson-Young, who said “Public support for marriage equality is at an all-time high and now it’s time for parliamentarians to act.” The new poll shows that overwhelmingly the majority of Australians want to see equality before the law. If Australia is to have marriage equality we must put our political affiliations aside and work together to deliver this important legislation. The first opportunity that will present itself to do this for the Abbott government will be the Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill. This is a small step that will send a positive message to young gay and lesbian Australians. It is time for Tony Abbott to join the majority of Australians and allow his members a conscious vote.