February 25, 2010 – PinkNews
Australian Senate rejects gay marriage bill
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Australian Senate today rejected a bill to give equal marriage rights to gay citizens. The bill was introduced by the Greens but was defeated 45-5, just days before the world’s biggest gay celebration, Sydney Mardi Gras. Twenty-six senators were absent from the vote, with some of these choosing to abstain because they disagreed with their parties’ official stances against same-sex marriage.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who introduced the bill, said: ”There may have been a group of senators voting to keep discrimination against same-sex couples being able to marry the one they love, but well over one-third of all senators were absent for the final vote, presumably the only form of protest open to them.”
Marriage equality campaigners claim that 60 per cent of Australian citizens support the right of gay couples to marry. Alex Greenwich of Australian Marriage Equality, said it was “arrogant” of Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd to “ignore” the public. He added: “However, the fact that 26 senators were absent from today’s debate is an indication that there is dissent in the ranks of the major parties, dissent which we believe will only grow.
“Because the leaders of the major parties are clearly deaf to the wishes of mainstream Australia we have no choice but to make this an election issue when the nation goes to the polls later this year.”
February 28, 2010 – ABC News
Mardi Gras parade struts through Sydney
Hundreds of thousands of people have lined the streets of Sydney to cheer on Australia’s largest and most famous gay pride parade. Nine thousand people have marched in the parade, greeted by a crowd that waited hours to be close to the sights and sounds of the festival. Those organised enough to get a front-row spot waved rainbow flags, and 73-year-old Jim Davies, who went with his wife Glenda, scored a kiss from drag-queen Lovely Liz.
"That’s the benefit of turning up early," Jim says. The couple has a gay grandson and they say they are proud of his sexuality. They cheered as the raucous parade rolled down Oxford Street from Wentworth Avenue, made a right at Taylor Square and finished at Anzac Parade.
This year’s march consisted of about 9,000 participants and 135 sparkling floats, belting out iconic gay tunes while teams of frocked-up dancers performed their routines in tow. Many portrayed this year’s theme, History of the World, showcasing gay history and shining a pink light on some colourful historical figures and events. Osama Bin Laden came out of hiding, while NSW Labor Party zombies also reared their ugly heads.
For the first time, a transsexual – US model and performer Amanda Lepore – led the parade. A float of 150 dancing George Michaels was organised in an attempt to lure the the former Wham! singer along. There was much speculation he would make a surprise appearance, after plugging the event at his Sydney concert on Friday night. Husband-and-husband Marc Van Den Broek and Tim Dekkers channelled the British singer by wearing `Choose Life’ T-shirts.
They wedded nine years ago in their native Holland and say Australia needs to get with the times and recognise same-sex marriage. "Mardi Gras is important for gay rights, to show who you are what you want to be where you want to live," Mr Dekkers said. Now in its 33rd year, the Mardi Gras parade started out as a protest march for gay rights in 1978. It has grown into a world-famous event, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators and harnessing the support of the state government, the NSW police force and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Such recognition shows how far the gay and lesbian community has come, says drag queen Glenda Waverly, who attends every year to "promote diversity and equality". "It’s great to have the police here because in 1978 everyone was arrested," she said.
But Vivian Chen, who dressed as Bjork for the occasion, feels it is still tough for her. "There is so much discrimination still happening…every day and it’s only once a year that no one can say anything," she said. As the parade came to an end, organisers said it was too early to estimate crowd numbers, but they believe it was in the hundreds of thousands, boosted by the great weather.
The glitz and glam rolled away from the CBD and people began to peacefully disperse into the night. Many were disappointed they couldn’t penetrate the throng of onlookers. Teenagers Chantal Tapp and Katherine Christie were glad they came for the spectacular, which ends with a Mardi Gras party next weekend and is expected to inject $29 million into the local economy. "It’s important to show support," Katherine said. "We want them to know we don’t care they are gay."
March 11, 2010 – PinkNews
Australia is first to recognise ‘non-specified’ gender
by Jane Fae
Australia may have made gender history this week, as the New South Wales government lays claim to being the first in the world to recognise an individual’s sex as officially “not specified”. This milestone in the evolution of gender queer came about with the issuing of a ‘Sex Not Specified’ Recognised Details Certificate in place of a birth certificate to Norrie (also known as norrie mAy-Welby) a resident of Sydney.
Zie (a gender-specific pronoun) is now legally recognised by the Australian government as neither male nor female, the Scavenger reports. It is the end of a long journey for Norrie, aged 48, who was born in Scotland and registered male at birth. When zie was 23, zie commenced the process of gender re-assignment through hormone treatment and surgery. Zie was later issued with a gender recognition certificate as female in Australia. However, Norrie did not feel comfortable living solely as a female.
Hir philosophy, developed through hir art and through hir work with Sex and Gender Education, a lobby group campaigning for the rights of all sex and gender diverse people, draws heavily on Eastern concepts of one-ness: of yin and yang being just two halves of a greater whole. On hir site, zie writes: "The theorists who inform transsexual and intersexual medical intervention presume that everyone has one real gender identity at the core of their being, whether or not this is congruent with their anatomy. Even children biologically hermaphrodite are supposed to be ‘really’ of one gender, with the surgically discarded sex declared the ‘false’ one.
“Unsurprisingly, many intersexual children are traumatised by the obliteration of their sexual duality. Many as adults seek transsexual procedures to restore their discarded sex, but at the expense of the surviving sex. This is just one tragic result of our society’s belief in mutually exclusive genders. Not all human societies see the genders as mutually exclusive. Transgender people are seen in India as "half half" , in the Philippines as "lady-boys" , and in indigenous American cultures as "two-spirited." People seen by our society as having a gender opposite to the one sex they were born with are seen by other societies as simply having two genders. Bi-gendered. In this light, the permanent removal of the characteristics of one sex to allow the expression of the other seems a total waste."
Zie goes on: “I wonder if we in Western culture would have more options for happiness if we too had permission not simply to be of one gender or the other, but also to be of both genders, if such was our nature." Norrie ceased lifelong hormone treatment and took up a neuter identity – neither male nor female – resisting any further female or male normalisation.
In January 2010 doctors declared that they were unable to determine hir as either male or female as zie has no gonads, the hormonal system was not typically male or female, and Norrie’s psychological identity was neuter.
The rest is now history.
The irony of this landmark decision will not be lost on other trans Australians, who discovered just three years ago that the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, had secretly and without consultation reversed a policy whereby trans people could obtain a passport stating their “intended sex.”
Jane Fae also writes at
March 22, 2010 – ASTDA
Men Who Have Sex With Men Prefer Rapid Testing for Syphilis and May Test More Frequently Using it
Most Australian men who have sex with men who underwent rapid testing for syphilis using the Determine Syphilis TP immunoassay indicated a preference for rapid testing over conventional serology. Most also indicated that they would test for syphilis more frequently if rapid syphilis testing was available in a clinic setting.
4 May 2010 – Fridae
Malaysian transsexual given refugee status in Australia
by News Editor
In what has been described a "rare" case, Malaysia’s New Straits Times reported that a 38-year-old Malaysian transsexual was recently given refugee status in Australia as only 12 transsexuals were given asylum in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada between 1994 and 2008. A 38-year-old Malaysian transsexual was recently given refugee status in Australia. Born male, she had undergone a sex-change operation in Thailand.
She went to Australia last year on a tourist visa and worked illegally as a fruit-picker. However, she claimed refugee status after being apprehended by Australian immigration authorities. "In Malaysia, I do not count as a person," she told tribunal member Rosa Gagliardi when her case was heard in February. "I am not considered to be a woman because my identity card says that I am a man." Her statement was enough to convince Gagliardi that Australia owed her protection obligations under the Refugees Convention.
It is rare that transsexuals are given refugee status. Transsexualism is recognised as a valid medical condition under Gender Identity Disorders within the International Classification Of Diseases (ICD-10) by the World Health Organisation. Between 1994 and 2008, only 12 transsexuals were given asylum in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The Australian case has dismayed, but not surprised lawyers and academics. Lawyer Simran Gill said it was alarming that a Malaysian citizen had won refugee status, considering how high the standards required for it was. She said applicants for refugee status needed to show a "well-founded" fear of persecution. "For a Malaysian citizen to be granted refugee status implies that the international community perceives Malaysia’s human rights violations to be as gross as countries such as Myanmar and Afghanistan." She added that people do not often get refugee status on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
August 31, 2010 – PinkNews
Tasmanian LGBT activists welcome recognition of Interstate and overseas same-sex unions
by Christopher Brocklebank
Legislation has been passed by the State Lower House in Tasmania which will allow same-sex couples in interstate or overseas unions to be automatically recognised under Tasmanian law without the need to re-register their status. Tasmanian LGBT activists have welcomed the move. Couples in Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship (a form of civil partnership) are already recognised in other states of the Australian Commonwealth and in some overseas countries, and reciprocal recognition of couples will bring significant benefits to those travelling in, or relocating to, Tasmania.
Rodney Croome, spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group said: "Couples in Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship have benefited in a range of areas from being recognised in places like the UK and New Zealand, and couples coming to Tasmania will benefit in similar ways when their unions are recognised here. "For example, if a same-sex couple in an interstate or overseas union is travelling in Tasmania and one partner is taken ill, the other can rest assure they will automatically be considered next-of-kin. A couple in an existing union relocating to Tasmania can also rest assured their relationship will be respected without the need for a long and costly re-registration process."
An amendment banning the recognition of overseas same-sex marriages as Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship, as proposed by State Liberal Michael Ferguson, has been voted down. Had it been passed, only civil partnerships made overseas would have been recognised in Tasmania. Mr Croome labelled the now-defeated proposition "inconsistent". He added: "Overseas same-sex marriages are already recognised in Australia by Federal Government agencies like the Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Immigration, and by numerous large corporations from Telstra, through QANTAS to the Commonwealth Bank, so it extreme and inconsistent to say they should not be recognised as Deeds of Relationship in Tasmania.
"It would also be inconsistent and overly-harsh to recognise couples who made civil unions vows in Auckland or London, but then to tell same-sex couples married in, say, Vancouver or Madrid, that their solemn vows mean nothing in Tasmanian law."
September 30, 2010 – PinkNews
Tasmania to recognise foreign gay marriages
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Tasmania is to become the first Australian state to recognise gay marriages performed abroad. They will be recognised as Tasmanian deeds of relationship, which are similar to civil partnerships. The amendment was made to the Relationships Act and passed the upper house without opposition.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the change would help gay couples moving to the state. “Couples in interstate and overseas unions should not have to re-register their relationship in order to secure the legal rights and protections most other couples take for granted”, Mr Croome told SameSame. “It is important for Tasmanian law to respect the official, legal commitment partners make to each other, regardless of what state or country that commitment was made in.”
21 February, 2011 – La Trobe University
Divided by more than a common language
by Michael Kirby AC, CMG
My days in court were easier. At least there, participants generally spoke a common language. Mostly they shared common assumptions. Exchanges followed a generally predictable course. Laws and traditions identified the boundaries for disagreement. Compromise, or at least resolution, was normally achievable. And when it was not, there was a general understanding of the other point of view; sometimes even a grudging respect for it. In the big world, outside the courtroom, progress is often much more difficult. Sometimes it is nearly impossible. Take three international bodies on which I am serving and events in which I have been engaged over the past year.
One of them is a group advising UNAIDS, the joint UN agency that co-ordinates the worldwide efforts to reduce the spread of the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. In early 2010, I went to a conference in the Netherlands with religious leaders from around the world, aimed at promoting dialogue between experts engaged in reducing the incidence of HIV infections. A Catholic archbishop from Africa rubbed shoulders with a Hindu swami from India. A stern Lutheran bishop from Scandinavia swapped stories with the Coptic Pope. Pentecostalists from the Caribbean conversed in a corner with a Buddhist monk, dressed in orange saffron robes, from Cambodia. The Archbishop of Canterbury sent a video message. Mullahs from Iran and Egypt listened quietly to a rabbi from Israel. As the head of UNAIDS (Dr. Michel Sidibé from Mali) opened the proceedings, I was full of hope.
The three days of exchanges were far from useless. Returning to our homes in the four corners of the earth, we took away ideas and memories of human faces to connect to the explanations of where we were all coming from. But the going really got tough towards the end of the meeting when the generalities were dropped. And when we were asked to agree on a statement that urged religious leaders worldwide to become part of the solution to this epidemic, rather than part of the problem.
The AIDS experts demonstrated the urgency of the challenge. Still no cure or vaccine, 25 years into the epidemic. Still 2.6 million people annually becoming infected. Still much the same highly vulnerable groups, specially exposed to infection: sex workers, injecting drug users, vulnerable and disempowered women, prisoners and refugees. And men who have sex with men, the UN formulation for homosexuals, gays. Many of the religious participants could agree on bland generalities and pleasantries. But when I urged the necessity to specifically mention and acknowledge the specially vulnerable groups, there was strong resistance or silence. ‘You can’t expect me to sign on to that. If I did that, I could not preach when I returned home. I would lose my credentials. It would be shocking to people of my religion’, said one irate participant. Even to use the words – even to acknowledge the urgent need for outreach to sex workers, gays and drug users, could possibly de-legitimise many in the room in the eyes of their co-religionists. Or so they feared. The fact that overcoming stigma is the best way to begin the process of communication and behaviour change, did not matter. It just was not on.
7 March 2011 – Fridae
Sydney Mardi Gras: Is anyone listening?
by Justin Ellis
Beacon of tolerance or ‘parade of live porn’, the 34th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2011 theme of ‘say something’ got the message across on same-sex marriage. But were politicians listening? Justin Ellis reports from Sydney. Photos by Nat Cagilaba. With 135 floats, 8,500 paraders, and over 300,000 spectators, the over three hours of spectacle and spandex that is the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade is still definitely ‘saying something’. In response to this year’s theme, 15 floats from groups including Amnesty International, Labour Faces for Marriage Equality and Australian Marriage Equality were lobbying for same-sex marriage.
Leading the parade this year were a group of people who have definitely said something. Some have been saying these things for many, many years and have raised the profile of sexual minorities in times and places where it has been life threatening to do so. Others are new voices that have only recently been heard. Most well known internationally of these voices are Peter Tatchell, Co-organiser of LGBTI human rights group Outrage and Don Baxter, outgoing executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, who for close to a decade has been at the helm of Australia’s HIV/AIDS peak body.
Unlike previous years, there was no one chief of parade but “eight people who have had the courage to ‘Say Something’ and make a difference to our lives”. The eight are openly-gay American actress and comedienne Lily Tomlin, British LGBT human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Australians Don Baxter, who has worked for decades in the HIV/AIDS sector; Bobby Goldsmith Foundation CEO, former Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras president and Sydney 2002 Gay Games co-chair Bev Lange; Lex Watson and Sue Willis, who were the first co-presidents of Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP); and Hannah Williams and Savannah Supski, who protested against the Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar school ban on same-sex couples attending the end of year formal last year.
The sheer number of young people taking part in the parade was a fantastic sight, but it is important to ensure inclusion for people of all ages, especially those who were defending gay rights before most of the paraders and spectators were even born. The message on the Mature Aged Gays float was: “You’re here because we said something”.
While the parade was a celebration of those who had said something and afforded us with freedoms denied previous LGBTI generations, not to be forgotten were the number of countries where homosexuality is still illegal or where equal rights are not our rights. The plight of sexual minorities in these countries, highlighted the necessity to ‘keep saying something’ on behalf of those who are unable to do so.
Political satire is never too far away from the parade, with characterisations of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbot, who are so obviously not saying anything on our behalf. Both leaders’ parties oppose calls for gay marriage although a 2010 poll of 1,050 Australians showed 62 percent support same-sex marriage. The gay marriage push may be getting louder, but is it still falling on deaf ears in Canberra? The answer is definitely, yes. All the more reason to answer the call and keep saying something until politicians do something about it.
Ron Wilson has released a statement saying: “As a journalist my job is to present an issue from different perspectives. If anyone took offence at anything I said during the interview I apologise. I fully support the gay community in its campaign to promote the issue of gay marriage and I congratulate the gay and lesbian community on the success of Mardi Gras.
* Sydney Mardi Gras focuses on gay marriage (Sydney Morning Herald)
* Thousands line Sydney streets (MSNBC)
* Mardi Gras marchers push for gay marriage (ABC News)
* He loves gays, but hates Mardi Gras (Peter Madden, the Christian Democratic Party’s candidate for Sydney called the parade ‘live porn’)
* News anchor calls Mardi Gras “disgusting” (Star Observer)
15 March, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Gay Asian Men at Sydney Mardi Gras Parade
New SBS channel, Mandarin News Australia recently did a series of interviews on Mardi Gras and Asian Gay Men. Featuring intimate coverage of Mardi Gras and Asian gay men’s experience, this video encourages visibility and dialogue on GLBT issues.
Access to video available at link below –
View original article here
13 April 2011 – PinkNews
Australian Facebook group outed gay soldiers
by Jessica Geen
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been accused of failing to discipline soldiers who were involved in an online hate campaign against their gay colleagues. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that eight months after complaints were received about the Facebook group, an investigation has been shelved and no one involved has been disciplined. More than 80 soldiers were named on the Facebook group, which claimed “It is your right to know who is biting the pillow.”
The group called homosexuality a “filthy lifestyle” and urged Facebook users to name “bum bandits”. It was closed last year but reports say the ADF did nothing to discipline the dozens of troops who were reportedly involved. The Herald said that the investigation apparently stalled because of inadequate resources, with no one assigned to the task at various stages in the last eight months.
A Defence spokeswoman said the matter ”is still the subject of ongoing investigation”. ”The attitudes and behaviours described are contrary to everything that the Australian Defence Force stands for and has achieved in welcoming and supporting diversity across the organisation.” she added.
One of those named in the online campaign, Major Paul Morgan, an army psychologist who has served in Iraq, told the newspaper: “I have sacrificed my whole adult life to the army and the inaction in this case is soul-destroying.” His friends said he had received death threats and intimidation since the campaign was reported to the ADF. The ADF has allowed openly gay and lesbian soldiers since 1992.
16 May 2011 – PinkNews
Violence breaks out between Christians and gays in Australian city
by Jessica Geen
Police had to intervene when a clash broke out at a gay rights rally in Adelaide, Australia, this weekend. The rally was held to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Around 150 gays and lesbians staged a peaceful mass wedding outside parliament but members of the Christian Street Church turned up with banners calling them ‘sinners’.
Scuffles then broke out and one woman who was part of the pro-gay side said she was pulled from her wheelchair. Both sides blamed the other for the violence, although police forcibly removed two street preachers. No arrests were made. Jason Virgo, who organised the rally, told Same Same: “I blame any violence on Saturday on the street preachers, they set out from the beginning to disrupt and antagonise people from the outset. Police removed two of the street preachers and no one from our community. I think that speaks for itself.”
Speaking for the Christian Street Church, Damien Gloury told ABC: “We thought we would go out and not try to disrupt because we do love everybody, it might sound like we’re condemning people but we’re not we’re just preaching the Bible. We’ve been mobbed, we’ve been hit, our banners have been thrown down and these people have been hating our guts just for proclaiming the Christian message in this nation and that’s what it’s about,” he said.
2011 June 1 – PubMed.gov
Gay men and ambivalence about ‘gay community’: from gay community attachment to personal communities.
by Holt M.
National Centre in HIV Social Research, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
The concept of ‘gay community’, and gay men’s attachment to and involvement in gay community activities, has held both a symbolic and practical role in understanding and guiding responses to HIV in developed world contexts. In the West, the HIV epidemic has disproportionately affected gay men. Being involved in and connected to gay community activities (what, in Australia, is described as ‘gay community attachment’) predicted the adoption of safe sex practices. However, the meaning of gay community is changing. This presents a challenge to those working in HIV prevention. With reference to previous research, the meaning of gay community is analysed in qualitative interviews conducted with Australian gay men. The interview data indicate that gay men are often ambivalent about gay communities, suggesting a need for subtlety in the ways we think about and address gay men in HIV education and health promotion. The concept of ‘personal communities’ may better reflect the ways in which gay men engage with each other and their social networks. Recognising and responding to the changing nature of gay life will ensure that the flexibility and pragmatism of HIV programmes aimed at gay men are maintained.
11 July 2011 – PinkNews
Australian MP challenges overseas gay marriage ban
by Jessica Geen
South Australian gay MP says he will challenge the country’s ban on gay marriages abroad. Upper house MP Ian Hunter and his partner of 22 years, artist Leith Semmens, intend to tie the knot in New York, following that state’s legalisation of gay marriage. However, the federal government is refusing to issue gay couples with Certificates of Non-Impediment to Marriage (CNI), which show they are not already married.
Mr Hunter told AAP: “I don’t want to wait till I’m 75 to get married. It [CNI] has no legislative weight … so I can’t see for the life of me how making those instruments available … will cause any blowback. I think that it’s petty and mean spirited.”
Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said: “The Gillard government’s policy of not allowing same-sex marriages in Australia forces same-sex couples to go overseas if they want to marry, but when they apply to marry in another country Julia Gillard is there saying ‘no’ as well. “This means some couples miss out on entitlements and protections they can only receive overseas if they are married in a country that would otherwise recognise their commitment, and it causes endless hassles for couples who have planned their wedding only to find it can’t go ahead.”
The leading Australian Labor Party is to discuss the issue of gay marriage at its conference in December. However, prime minister Julia Gillard told Sky News last week that she may not respect any motion in favour of equal marriage. Mr Greenwich said: “Frankly, the 13 million Australians who support marriage equality are getting sick and tired of Ms Gillard telling us that her antiquated personal views on the issue carry more weight than ours.”
9 August 2011 – PinkNews
Lesbian Australian minister’s partner pregnant
by Jessica Geen
A lesbian minister in Australia has announced that her partner is pregnant with their first child. Penny Wong, the finance minister, said her partner Sophie Allouache conceived through donor insemination and expects the baby in December. In a statement, she thanked the biological father “for giving us the opportunity to raise a child together”. She added: “We have chosen to make this statement about Sophie’s pregnancy as we understand there may be public interest due to my position.”
The news has reignited the debate about gay marriage in Australia. Ms Wong was criticised last July for refusing to give her views on the issue. But in November, she introduced a motion in favour of same-sex marriage.
She said: “I will be advocating for our party to support equality including to in relation to marriage or same-sex couples and I do so because I have a deeply held commitment to equality.” Australian prime minister Julia Gillard gave her congratulations to the couple but restated her anti-gay marriage views. She told reporters: “Penny Wong is a colleague of mine, she’s also a very long-term friend, so I’m very pleased for Penny and her partner Sophie as they look forward to a new baby and the next phase of their lives. Clearly there are strong views about same-sex marriage in the community. I’ve made my views clear.”
11 August 2011 – PinkNews
Australia’s first gay and lesbian retirement village to be built
by Jessica Geen
Work on Australia’s first gay, lesbian and bisexual retirement village is to begin next year. A 120-unit complex is being built in Ballan in Victoria with a croquet lawn, indoor spa and bar. According to the Geelong Advertiser, developer Peter Dickson said that more than 200 people around the world had contacted him to find out more about the Linton Estate retirement village.
Mr Dickson said that the estate, which will cost $30 million to build, will be a haven for the older LGB community. People will be able to buy off-plan apartments in two month’s time.
August 26, 2011 – Herald Sun
No going back to Lebanon after ex-wife reveals secret to man’s family
by Padraic Murphy
A man whose marriage to an Australian woman fell apart after he began frequenting gay clubs has been recommended for asylum because she outed him to his family in Lebanon. The Lebanese Muslim man came to Australia in 2008 after being sponsored by his Australian wife, whom he met at a barbecue. A Refugee Review Tribunal decision said the woman became suspicious of her husband after he had difficulty consummating the marriage. He also began having sex with men.
The tribunal said he began frequenting Prahran gay clubs, including the Love Machine, before the marriage finally fell apart. The man’s original application for asylum failed and he took his case to the review tribunal. This month the tribunal overturned the original decision, describing the man as a "courageous witness". It found he genuinely faced persecution because his wife had told relatives in Lebanon about his sexuality.
"Despite the popular view that Lebanon is the gay-friendliest country in the Arab world, some activists say that behind closed doors, sexual minorities often suffer physical and psychological abuse," the tribunal found. The tribunal also rejected suggestions the man could return to Lebanon if he suppressed his homosexuality.
"Consequently, the tribunal accepts that to require the applicant to modify his behaviour in the event that he returns to Lebanon by concealing or suppressing his homosexuality, including the nature of his relationship with the witness, would amount to a persecutory curtailment of his sexual identity," the tribunal found. The tribunal therefore finds that there is more than a remote chance that the applicant will encounter serious harm … in the reasonably foreseeable future, should he return to Lebanon."
The man’s case will now be reconsidered by the Immigration Minister before a final asylum decision is made.
30 September 2011 – Fridae
Former Australian judge Michael Kirby offers his new book
by News Editor
Openly gay former High Court justice, and international advocate for LGBT equality and people with HIV and AIDS, Michael Kirby has launched his new book A Private Life: Fragments, Memories, Friends in which he reflects on his career and life.
The 72-year-old retired from the bench two years ago as Australia’s longest serving judge and is a pioneering AIDS activist since the 80s, international advocate for human rights, and outspoken critic of the British colonial era laws that continue to criminalise homosexuality in many Commonwealth countries.
In 1991, Michael Kirby received the Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest civil honour, and the Australian Human Rights Medal. In 2010, Kirby received the Gruber Justice Prize for his work on sexual orientation discrimination and international human rights law, including laws relating to privacy and HIV/AIDS. In 2011, his biography, Michael Kirby: Paradoxes/ Principles was published. Michael Kirby came out in 1999 when he named his longterm partner, Johan van Vloten, in his listing in “Who’s Who in Australia”. The couple met in 1969 in a gay bar in Sydney, but it was a love that was – in Kirby’s own words – "hidden away for a quarter of a century". He recounted that year after year his partner would prepare everything at Christmas parties and literally disappear until the last guest left the apartment. The couple live in Sydney.
In a wide-ranging interview with ABC’s Lateline on Sep 28, Kirby spoke about having to keep his relationship under wraps as it was expected of him in order to rise to the highest levels of the legal benches, the parallels between the acceptance of gay people and Asian Australians by society. "Well, he – that was the rule. You – and everybody knew the rule and many people – I mean, you can’t live in the suburbs of Sydney for 30 years and 40 years – 42 years as we’ve now been, without people knowing about it, but everyone knew the rules," he said.
"You didn’t reveal it, you didn’t force it on people and as long as you kept quiet, then that was something that was tolerated. But toleration is a very condescending emotion and toleration’s over as far as I’m concerned. What is now the obligation of Australia is to face up to this reality of fellow citizens, fellow human beings living in our society, pushing the trolleys at supermarkets, paying their taxes and demanding equal respect and equal dignity and equal rights – equal legal rights." He continued: "You had to pretend that you were something other than you are, and I’m afraid to say that there are some people in religious organisations in our country who still wish we went back to that and there are quite decent citizens who think that.
Read complete article here
6th October 2011 – Questioning Transphobia
High Court decision welcomed
A consortium of organisations representing transgender and intersex people around Australia today welcomed the High Court of Australia’s decision to uphold the appeal of two trans men who challenged the interpretation of the West Australian Gender Reassignment Act (2001), saying that they hoped the decision would set a precedent for the way similar laws around the country would be applied. Sally Goldner, spokesperson for TransGender Victoria said “The High Court ruled that the law should be applied in a beneficial way that makes life easier, not harder for people, and therefore that there was no justification for requiring people to have costly and unnecessary surgeries in order to have their sex recognised.”
Goldner added that the decision “is in line with the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Files Report in 2009 which recommended that surgery should not be considered a necessary pre-requisite for the legal recognition of a change of sex.” Aram Hosie, spokesperson for the WA Gender Project said “Previously transsexual people in Western Australia, as in other parts of the country, have been unable to legally amend their sex without invasive, medically unnecessary surgeries that may be unwanted, impractical or unattainable.” “This has resulted in difficulties in proving ones identity on essential documentation, a loss of privacy, and the risk of exposure to discrimination, harassment and sometimes even violence.”
Hosie added that “in Western Australia in particular, a person’s inability to legally amend their sex leaves them without any legal discrimination protections. The High Court’s decision will now make it much easier for transsexual people in Western Australia to obtain documentation that accurately reflects their identity and physical appearance. In turn, this will further help those same people to more easily obtain discrimination protection under West Australian law.”
Peter Hyndal, spokesperson for A Gender Agenda said he hoped that the decision would “set a precedent about the way that laws governing the recognition of sex in Australian should operate, and so help make life easier for transsexual men and women in Western Australia and the rest of the country.”
“To this end, we call on other State and Territory Governments around Australia to reflect the High Court’s decision in their interpretation and administration of the law and to act on the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission Sex Files report” Hyndal added. “We would also like to acknowledge that this historic case would not have been possible without the generous pro bono support of Freehills. Freehills commitment to this case over more than three years demonstrates their support for human rights in Australia, and we are very grateful for their efforts. We congratulate AH and AB – and also people like Conor Montgomery in NSW – for their courage and determination in tackling unfair situations. They make a huge difference for the lives of many other people in standing up for what they believe.”
October 25, 2011 – The Syndey Morning Herald
Ending sexual apartheid
by Michael Kirby
The whole world knows that the Commonwealth of Nations has a problem securing action on the legal issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a specific Commonwealth problem, let there be no mistake. Of about 80 countries that still criminalise same-sex, adult, private, consensual conduct, more than half (41) are members of the Commonwealth. Given that there are 54 Commonwealth countries, that means three-quarters of them still impose criminal penalties on gay people. The fact that such laws exist leads to stigma, discrimination, violence and an awful lot of personal misery.
In the past year, there have been many reports of physical and verbal violence in several Commonwealth countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Jamaica, Malawi and Uganda. Although all of the original Commonwealth countries have abolished such laws (the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) and India has witnessed a strong court decision holding them unconstitutional, most of the "New Commonwealth" has ignored or rejected reform. This includes even modern Singapore, where a Law Society committee recommended change but a bill was defeated in Parliament in 2008. So how do we move the logjam so that the river of reform will begin to flow again?
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It will not happen just because proponents of change feel angry, heap abuse on opponents and jump up and down. Nor will it happen because other countries of the Commonwealth have changed their laws. Changes we have seen in Australia in the area of racial discrimination bear witness to the pace of reform. It took many years to come about, but the process was definitely helped by the strong voice of leadership from the Commonwealth Heads of Government addressed directly to apartheid South Africa. And inferentially also to Australia and other ”settler” countries.
Until 1966, Australia observed the "White Australia" policy. This totally excluded non-Caucasian immigration. We were specially frightened of the Asian "yellow peril". We even imposed constitutional restrictions on our Aboriginal people, partly repaired by a referendum in 1967. Until 1992, Australians did not recognise the claim by indigenous peoples to legal recognition of their traditional lands. However, that logjam was dislodged. In my lifetime I have witnessed a major change for the better. It came about by quiet persuasion, good example and a bit of international pressure. So it will be with sexual orientation. It forces a kind of sexual apartheid. It divides people into strict categories. It ignores their basic natures (sexuality not racial). It imposes harsh legal restrictions. It makes them second-class citizens. It denies them full entitlement as human beings in fundamental matters such as love, sex and identity.
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26 October 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Improved Queer as Fxxk Series 5: Grabbing Homophobia by the Balls
New and improved Queer as Fxxk Series 5: grabbing homophobia by the balls Melbourne’s favourite online gay soap opera, Queer as Fxxk puts homophobia in its place with its star-studded fifth series which will premiere on Facebook and YouTube next month. Bigger and brighter, Series 5 tackles the issue of homophobia and features stars such as Geoffrey Rush, Denise Scott, Adam Richard and Judith Lucy. QAF is a lot of fun to watch. It’s got comedy, drama, sex, satire, and health promotion to boot. Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush and AFI award winner Neil Armfield donated their time to take part in Queer as Fxxk Series 5.
– Queer As Fxxk has been running for 2 years
– Geoffrey Rush, Denise Scott, Adam Richard, Judith Lucy star
– Series 4 had 10466 video views on Facebook over a month
– Youtube channel lifetime worldwide views: 65,622
– Research of gay and bisexual men after the pilot season by the FaceSpace project showed that QAF was effective in successfully communicating health promotion messages:
– One third reported that the project caused them to discuss or seek more information about HIV/STIs
– 1 in 5 said the project made them more conscious about safe sex practices
– One third said the project lead them to seek advice from a health professional or a HIV/STI test.
Colin Batrouney, Manager of Health Promotion at the Victorian Aids Council Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC) said that the series was a huge success and proved that the common methods of health promotion were not always so successful in delivering messages to the gay community.
“We’ve found that using social media tools and a funny, well written soap opera is a great way of generating this vital conversation about safe sex, health and wellbeing and respect in our community,” said Mr Batrouney. “We were also lucky enough to work with Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush and AFI award winner Neil Armfield who donated their time to the series, and helped us explore the theme of homophobia in a humorous and honest way."
Geoffrey Rush, who stars in the first episode of the new series said, “Homophobia is a huge issue that negatively affects the gay community and I was happy to participate in this initiative to highlight that. Also, it’s great to see innovation in the use of social media and health promotion that is informative, provocative and funny.”
“Promotion of health and wellbeing doesn’t have to be traditional printed material or advertising campaigns – indeed from the success we’ve seen and the positive responses from the community to Queer as Fxxk – social media allows greater engagement and discussion around these important issues,” said Mr Batrouney.
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14 November, 2011 – Afao.org.au
New AFAO (Australia Federation of AIDS Organizations) Website Launched
The redeveloped, new look AFAO website went live on 22 September and was officially launched at the AFAO Annual General Meeting on 4 November. The major goals of the redevelopment were to improve navigational function and to better promote work and resources produced by AFAO, our members, and other related organisations. The redeveloped site aims to be a leading Australian portal to HIV/AIDS information, news and resources.
Key strategies to achieve these goals are: a restructured home page, a revised site structure, banner ads, featured links, related articles listings and a searchable Library, all of which add up to multiple entry points to information throughout the site.
Read more about the redevelopment or check us out here