Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Killing Friends

I've just come across this eye-opening admission of guilt from National Party MP Adrian Piccoli regarding the death of a gay friend, which though devastating in tone is also quite inspirational.

Piccoli has previously been in opposition to queer rights, voting against the 2003 NSW bill to equalise age of consent and also opposing gay marriage. On paper he's not the sort of politician from whom you would typically expect to read these heartfelt statements:

I have killed a man. In fact, I have killed men, not through what I have done, but through my own pathetic and stupid prejudice...

At the cemetery, I saw two of his friends, both male, holding hands as they lowered the casket, bawling their eyes out at the loss of their beloved friend. Through their tears my eyes were finally opened. Their love and respect was what mattered. Who cares what people do as long as they love each other?

I felt like a complete moron. In all these years of thinking that being gay was odd or unusual, in actual fact I was perpetuating prejudice that was killing young men - and which still kills young men...

I killed my friend through my failure to accept difference, and through the lack of understanding from other country blokes, just like me, who made him hate being gay. It is not overt prejudice or open vilification. It's the more dangerous, subtle, constant things we do that must have gnawed away at his soul...

Thomas, if you can hear me, forgive me for now I understand...

What can I say: Call me a sap but I've come close to tears reading this. How crushing is it that a man only comes to appreciate the true damage his fear and bigotry can cause while standing over his mate's casket? Knowing he had all those years while Thomas was alive to treat him with love and respect and accept who he really was, but instead he wasted the time they had together slowly "gnawing away at his soul"?

Can people only ever be truly educated, have their eyes opened to reality of queer people only when someone close to them "dies of a broken heart?"

I wouldn't begin to understand what it's like for gay men growing up in rural Australia (no jokes about Adelaide, please). There are only so many different horror stories you can hear or read about before you come to the conclusion that the problem is unresolvable and that the only solution is to get the hell away from there and come to Sydney or Melbourne - or leave Australia all together, even - where you'll be truly "accepted" and everything will be peaches.

But of course this is not the solution, because - gasp - there are actually gay men who embrace country life, who yearn for an existence beyond drag queens, pills, daylight dance parties and Darlinghurst cafes. They should not be made to feel unwelcome or even threatened in their own home.

The solution as I see it is for a man like Piccoli, who unfortunately has been educated in the worst way possible, to honour the memory of his friend and use his position of influence and power in rural NSW to spread the word of his experience and wisdom after the event.

The National Party as an organisation is one of the greatest enemies of queer sexuality, but that is not to say that all its members are too. As well as Piccoli there is Russell Turner, the sole National Party MP who surprised us all by supporting the equalised age of consent Bill, speaking proudly of his own gay son and imploring "society to work through the issue of homosexuality and treat homosexuals as normal human beings." It doesn't always have to reach the point of seeing a mate die from rejection before people can realise the error of their ways.


At 17/3/05 1:26 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've met and have spoken with Adrian professionally on a number of occasions. He's not a typical National Party member and this admission is not out of character. His predecessor in Murrumbidgee, Adrian Cruickshank was also socially progressive.


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