Confronting Aker's and Australia's gay fear


You're On Your Own AkerOn Thursday morning, it appeared that widespread homophobia in the Australian community had become a thing of the past. AFL legend Jason Akermanis failed to gain traction when he argued that it would be in everybody's best interests for gay footballers to remain in the closet.

He was testing the water to see if it is still possible to uphold the old cultural taboo that shamed gay men and women. It wasn't, and Akermanis was ridiculed. It seemed decades of work to affirm the human rights of gay men and women had borne fruit.

But on Thursday evening, homophobia resurfaced as an ugly force to be reckoned with. NSW Transport Minister David Campbell resigned from the ministry when he learned that Channel 7 was about to show pictures of his visit to a gay and bisexual men's 'sex club' earlier in the week. It needs to be asked why this was considered a more salient reason for him to resign than his oversight of the bungled CBD Metro project, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and delayed a solution to Sydney's transport bottleneck.

If homophobia no longer existed, the media would have treated the Campbell story as just another incidence of marital infidelity. This should be considered to be of doubtful news value, given the regrettable reality that at least half of Australian marriages are affected by infidelity at some stage.

On Friday morning, it was claimed by Channel 7 news director Peter Meakin on ABC Local Radio that Campbell had presented himself as a 'family man', and that his hypocrisy was consequently 'in the public interest'. But pressure for politicians to depict themselves as 'family-friendly' is itself a product of homophobia.

The story's distorted insight into what goes on inside gay men's sex clubs fed a prurient interest, not the public interest. It is worth reflecting that, like legalised brothels, such clubs may provide some public benefit. The taboo against homosexuality ensures much sexual activity between men is pushed underground, into dangerous and illegal settings like public toilets and parks. The clubs offer a legal and comparatively safe place for gay and bisexual men to meet in a context in which there is promotion of safe sex and even personal responsibility. The code of practice at the venue Campbell visited stipulates that patrons and staff must be 'treated with respect'.

At a media conference on Friday morning, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally referred to the secret Campbell has lived with for more than two decades, declaring that it is 'appalling that we live in a society in which he has to keep that secret'. Gay and bisexual men and women will always be part of a social minority. Their ways may not be understood by the heterosexual majority, but that is no reason to pressure them to live underground, or a life that amounts to a lie.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Jason Akermanis, homophobia, afl, gay footballers, david cambell, gay sex club, nsw transport minister



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Existing comments

I think that Michael Mullins correctly names Peter Meakins’ justifications for airing the story of David Campbell as being more prurient than public interest. I also agree that people who are homosexuals must still have their rights as humans respected.

However, this does not mean that their lives should be seen as only one variation on the theme of human sexuality. I absolutely oppose any moves or views that seek to put homosexuality on a par with heterosexuality.

Michael Mullins constantly uses the loaded term homophobia. He thereby denies people the right to reasoned moral objections to homosexuality. A moral objection to homosexuality is itself some type of mental disorder.

He also makes the preposterous claim that legalised brothels and gay sex clubs 'may provide some public benefit'. How can the impersonal commercial transactions in flesh, whether homosexual or heterosexual, be anything other than sordid and degrading to the humanity of all concerned? “Patrons and staff must be treated with respect,” Michael Mullins assures us. Well, that’s alright then!

Did it ever occur to Michael Mullins that Jesus 'would have called all to repent, practice abstinence, and live a life of true love?

Patrick James | 22 May 2010

David Campbell was simply exposed as a hypocrite - that is all. And considering that recently a certain W.A. minister also was forced to resign over an adulterous liaison with a certain Greenie, I'd say you're drawing a long bow in trying to prove that this resignation is all due to "homophobia" (to use that silly buzzword).

I really don't think the gay community is in any imminent danger of being forced to wear pink triangles and put into concentration camps. On the contrary, I'd say the greater danger is to give the wholly misleading impression that homosexual sex is not an act of grave depravity.
Nathan Socci | 22 May 2010

The most logical reason for "the resignation" should be the realisation that any stressful behaviour in private life impacts on behaviour/performance for better or for worse in public life and vice versa! Unfortunately this truism is frequently denied/ignored by all levels of society!!
Ernest Flock | 23 May 2010

The outburst against akermanis was far from convincing - though it was startling to see the hypocritical herald sun putting being gay in a positive light.

The scandal is that campbell was followed.

'Homophobia' is no more a buzzword than 'racism'.

As patrick james says: 'A moral objection to homosexuality is itself some type of mental disorder.'
michael farrell | 24 May 2010

For me, this story has nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with the integrity of the elected representative. An extra marital affair is always a big deal, and statistics on divorce should sadden people, rather than be used as a reason to seemingly justify affairs.
An elected representative should be open, honest, and have integrity. If she / he cannot live this way with his / her own family, then what hope is there that she / he will serve the interests of the people openly, honestly and with integrity.
Luke | 24 May 2010

I was pleasantly surprised to read Michael's article, but not at all surprised with the immediate reactionary response.

Of course we expect our political and community leaders to live lives of integrity, but we are realistic enough to recognise that they, like all of us, don't always realise our (or their) expectations.

But why is the immediate reaction so much greater when the shortcoming involves some sexual 'misdemeanour'? What sort of sick society do we have that focuses so intently on what it calls 'sexual deviance' and yet has few qualms about politicians sending young men and women off to kill other young men and women?
Warwick | 24 May 2010

Michael's article is grossly simplistic. On the one hand, the trauma to a wife/family of learning that the father is homosexual but also actively so, must be enormous; while the cultural and logisic issues raised for an all-male sports club of having openly and active gay playing members are far from trivial. To lampoon such remarks as merely `fearful homophobia` is hardly constructive or mature.
eugene | 24 May 2010


I am always heartened to read such progressive, compassionate views in Eureka and here is one more example.
I have never commented before but let me say now that I love reading Eureka. You are spreading kindness.

The two stories are very sad; most especially the story of David Campbells's outing.You are right that the fear is a fear about the unknown. I dare say that in a brothel, for example, there is a great need for lonely people to talk and to have some semblance of intimacy in their lives. We so misunderstand what goes on inside people.
Abigail Dunleavy | 24 May 2010

Homophobia means "fear of homosexuality", and it seems a suitable word because so many heterosexual people fear homosexuality. The question is, what have they got to fear?

Patrick James rightly sees commercial sex as degrading, but it is more degrading to all concerned to have a homosexual person living in marriage to a straight one, and pretending to enjoy it.
Michael Grounds | 24 May 2010

The so-called outing of Campbell is not about his sexuality but rather about his dishonesty as a husband and father. Would it have been better if, like Tiger Woods, he had affairs with other women? I wonder what his wife would think.

It is a question of whether a person in public life is honest and open and reliable for those who put him in power.
John Evans | 24 May 2010

Thank you for sober commentary on these recent issues. This topic is a constant issue when you are teaching in a school of more than 1,000 boys! Once again, society's double standards too often cloud the issue for young men who don't know which way to turn when they are trying to 'work things out'!

Akermanis and people like him need to be challenged every time so that their views don't become the majority. Anyone afraind of showering with a gay man needs to question their own sexuality if they are worried they are going to be 'hit' on by the other. Keep up the good work.
Michael O'Brien | 24 May 2010

Abigail Dunleavy is right. The TWO stories linked in Michael's article are very sad. Akers' is sad because I think he was put up to it. From his experience of the blokey camaraderie of the AFL change rooms his opinion is that it is still not yet a good time for gay footballers to declare themselves homosexual. Immediately his opinion/advice was twisted to mean that he was anti-gay, he was hung out to dry. In fact I think Akers was trying to be protective of gays in footie but at the same time implying that there were still dangerous anti-gay elements within AFL. Instead of these anti-gay elements being exposed - I don't doubt they exist - the media lambasts Akers. How sad!

The David Campbell story is sad because of the mealy-mouthed defence by the Channel 7 news director and his sycophantic journalist - Campbell was a hypocrite and at risk of being blackmailed. If ever there was a more blatant case of the pot calling the kettle black I've yet to see it.
Uncle Pat | 24 May 2010

Mr. Mullins,

You should be pushing Our Lord's Commandments and Church teaching regarding purity, rather than looking at this subject from a liberal atheist secular point of view.

We are all called to observe purity as it is pleasing to God. By this article, you are pleasing godless man and offending God by your stance on this issue.
Trent | 24 May 2010

A thoughtful considered article. I agree that it seems strange that David Campbell should be forced to resign for this misdemeanor rather than his bungling of financed. Which does more harm to the community? When will we recognise that politicians are people too and we will all fail in one or other area, even though it does seem fair to hold a higher expectation of those holding public office.
jean Sietzema-Dickson | 24 May 2010

Thank you Michael for an insightful article. But, when are we going to address the 'real' issue? As a society we need to have a discussion about human sexuality in all its wonderful diversity. Many of the responses here just show how limited our understandings really are.
Tim Collier | 24 May 2010

Thank you for your insightful article. I was dismayed by many of the comments in that to my mind they display a widespread misunderstanding of human sexuality and a distorted view of contemporary Catholic social teaching. It may surprise some to learn that many of us who became married gay or bisexual were urged to marry by priests who said it was a way to escape our nature. How wrong they were.
Hamish | 24 May 2010

Michel's essay correctly identifies many of the issues in both stories. The bottom line remains 'respect'. I am puzzled as to why one's sexual orientation is so important that it has to be paraded in the public forum. For me it is a very personal matter.
While the main aim of Eureka Street should reflect the Church views and teachings (and it does) it should also invite thought and discussion about issues which impact on us in the ordinary world. I did not gain the impression that Michael is in conflict with Church teaching in this area. The current trend within the Christian community to towards understanding of the issue. There is now a considerable body of research on the causes of homosexuality and maybe it is time the Church examined some of the findings. There is a need for the Church to revisit and 'upadate' its teachings on the issue.

Finally not withstanding the issue of Clergy Abuse, the Church should in the end be guided by Christian charity, understanding and respect, not some theological view now hundreds of years out of date!
Gavin | 24 May 2010

Patrick James: The moral dilemma lies in the discrepancy of two statements made by Patrick James.

1: "I also agree that people who are homosexuals must still have their rights as humans respected."

2: "I absolutely oppose any moves or views that seek to put homosexuality on a par with heterosexuality."

To have your rights as a human respected, your sexuality must be regarded as being "on a par" with that of other humanity.

All other discussion on this issue is rightly what Michael Mullins calls "homophobia".
Sebastian | 24 May 2010

I'm very sorry to lower the tone of this discussion, but I must point out the truth. The issue here is that contributors are using complicated moralistic language to disguise their preoccupation with what others might or might not be doing in their genital regions. Yes, it's all about genital activity and our fear of what others are doing.

The fact that a man attends a gay sex venue does not mean that he is engaging in genital sexual behaviour. I for one know that from personal experience - and being an overweight balding elderly gay man, wish the case were otherwise!!

May I suggest the holy rollers such as PATRICK JAMES practice what they preach? - they should repent and practice an abstinence of the mind - thereby living a life of true love.
Dorian Gray | 24 May 2010

Sebastian, if you want to know what I base my views on homosexuality on, look at the the webpage (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality). There you will find articles by experts. The causes of homosexuality are explored calmly, rationally and sympathetically. The contributors to the site reject the notion implicit in your posting, i.e. that homosexuality is innate. They trace it to problems in early relationships with significant others.

I found this site when a very close friend of mine decided she was gay. I was trying to understand why she had so radically changed her life. Many posters here, and elsewhere, encourage us 'homophobes' to understand this issue. They assume that greater understanding will lead us to acknowledge the errors of our ways and accept homosexuality. Not so! The more I have read on the issue the more I see it as a false identity, an aberration.

Dorian Gray, if you want to go to gay sex venues for a chat or anything else, I don't care. Nor am I afraid of what you are doing. I just don't think it's right, moral or healthy. If I showed "abstinence of mind" (i.e. shut up), it would hardly be loving to my children as it is my duty to guide them.
Patrick James | 24 May 2010

Good on you, Dorian Gray; Oscar would be proud of you. You have hit the nail on the head.

Homosexuality is neither a crime nor a sin: it is a human condition - like left handedness or red hair or the ability to run fast. People are obsessed by what they think or imagine homosexual people do. Such thoughts or imaginings are a greater discredit to those who have them than anything which a couple may do in private.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not with the homosexual but with those who pollute their mind imagining what homosexuals do.
Frankf | 24 May 2010

Worth noting that the organisation Patrick James refers to, NARTH, is in opposition to the American Psychological Association's position on 'treatment' of homosexual people, i.e. it is out of step with the main body of psychological research into this area. It is ideologically predisposed to a (for want of a better word) 'homophobic' interpretation of available evidence. Its statements seem designed to fortify those members of the public with a similar predisposition. It is the sexuality equivalent of pseudo-scientific climate change denying bodies.
Charles Boy | 24 May 2010

Good on you, Dorian Gray; Oscar would be proud of you. You have hit the nail on the head.

Homosexuality is neither a crime nor a sin: it is a human condition - like left handedness or red hair or the ability to run fast. People are obsessed by what they think or imagine homosexual people do. Such thoughts or imaginings are a greater discredit to those who have them than anything which a couple may do in private.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not with the homosexual but with those who pollute their mind imagining what homosexuals do.
Frankf | 24 May 2010

Well Michael Grounds, strictly speaking "homophobia" doesn't even mean fear of homosexuals. Etymologically, "homo" means "the same" as in "homosapien", so homophobia means fear of the same? Couldn't the politically correct lexiographers come up with a better word to describe hatred towards or prejudice against homosexuals? And considering that homosexuality used to be officially regarded as a psychological illness in itself the word "phobia" makes it sound even more ridiculous. But who's getting pedantic...

It's just a stupid throw-away word, a slur that people use without even thinking and implies that a phobia is some sort of crime not illness. Xenophobia is another. Would you condemn someone for being agoraphobic?
Nathan Socci | 24 May 2010

Charles Boy, it’s also worth noting that you are using the age old trick of Arguing from Authority. Just because the APA says something does not make it right or wrong. The same naturally holds for NARTH. It’s the evidence that counts.

The contributors at NARTH cite much evidence from their research and experience as therapists. Their conclusions were not ideologically predetermined. Just because they do not agree with your view does not mean that their conclusions were not reached after disinterested scientific research.

In addition, one of NARTH’s guiding principles is that each individual has the right to determine their own course of counselling. If someone decides that they are comfortable with their homosexuality, then that is his or her right to live that way. But the APA is not so flexible.

If someone is experiencing unwanted same sex attraction, the APA would hold that they must accept their homosexuality. It would be dangerous to deny who they really are. This is despite the fact that many people have received counselling and reverted to healthy heterosexual lives.

Read some of the testimonies from ex-gays that are posted at NARTH, Charles Boy. You will find that the “born that way” argument is not everyone’s experience.
Patrick James | 24 May 2010

Michael Mullins said that on Thursday evening, homophobia resurfaced as an ugly force to be reckoned with. Practicing Catholics are intelligent enough not to fear or hate homosexuals. they hate the sin "homosexuality" It is Christian teaching which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity. Christians are expected to pray for homosexuals to repent, practice abstinence and live a life of true love. Too often Christians are accused of hating homosexuals when they publicly called homosexual persons to chastity. An example is Rev Fred Nile who is falsely condemned by the media as being against homosexuals. Rev Nile has many friends who are ex-homosexuals and have converted to Christianity.
Ron Cini | 24 May 2010

Actually Patrick James, I was just pointing out to other readers of your posts that there is more than one side to the story, and that you have clearly chosen which side of the story you are going to believe.

I have a question for you: did your reading the material on NARTH change your beliefs about homosexuals, or confirm what you already suspected?
Charles Boy | 25 May 2010

Charles Boy, I would admit that I always had a moral aversion to homosexuality, and probably a mild aversion to homosexuals as well. I had incidental contact with a few people who were gay, but no friends.

When my friend, a very close one, decided to begin living as a lesbian, the whole issue hit me on a personal level as it never had before. I began looking for answers. I wanted to understand the issue as it became obvious to me that I had only a very superficial knowledge of many complex issues.

It is too simple to say that NARTH confirmed what I had already suspected. I think that for the first time in my life I became anywhere near informed. I realised how little I had known. I also realised that gays were people before they were anything else. I had been inclined to write people who were gay off. If you like the much-used phrase, I was defining people primarily by their sexuality.

I can thank the contributors at NARTH for correcting this. However much they think that homosexuality is neither healthy nor natural, they never forget that they are dealing with people.

I hope this answers your question.
Patrick James | 25 May 2010

This article, while advocating an end to homophobia, is missing one thing, equal attention to all the issues involved.
If we want to end homophobia, we must also want to end what can only be described as 'the war' against sexuality. Homophobia is of course, the appeal to evil ways to deal with a perceived wrong - wrongful use of the human capacity for covenantal sexual intimacy.

What is the right way for society to deal with wrongful use of the gift of sexual intimacy?

That of course begs another question, what is sexual intimacy and what is its purpose?
I disagree with totally bagging Aker and Channel 7, as Michael has done here, they are struggling with something which the 'silent majority' are struggling with but which some in our society are refusing to struggle with in order to arrive at a truth which all can commit to.

It would be sad to replace homophobia with integrityphobia, that would not not really be progress for humanity.

As God is tolerant and merciful to an infinite degree, society can be too, but that does not require God or us to deny what is immutable.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew Bombala-Delegate NSW | 25 May 2010

Patrick James: Abstinence of the mind does not mean "shutting up"....which implies I am suggesting turning a blind eye to injustice. Abstinence of the mind is the same as abstinence. Jesus himself likened our desires to our actions..whether we carry out the action or not is irrelevant - it's what's in our heart that matters....and so it follows that you yourself are condemning people without knowing what they are engaged in through real actions, let alone through what they are desiring in their hearts.
Dorian Gray | 25 May 2010

Dorian Gray, sorry but I do not understand what you are trying to say. What is it that you thought I was saying, and what is it that you object to?
Patrick James | 25 May 2010

Patrick James, I think your attitude on this issue is much more open minded than some people's, and I admire your efforts to become informed. What other sources did you go to along with NARTH? You can probably tell that I wonder if you were naturally drawn to explanations and information that confirmed your natural 'aversion'?
Charles Boy | 26 May 2010

Charles Boy, it was some time ago when I began looking on the internet for answers. I don't really remember the sites that I looked at. I tried some from the various Churches. Most of them took the line of compassion and abstinence, with little attempt to look at the psychology of homosexuality.

I looked at pro-gay sites and found most took the line of born that way. Though few included research to support their position. It was taken to be a self-evident truth.

No one recommended NARTH to me. I simply came across it after a google search. I have read through its articles and will admit, I rarely look elsewhere now.

There was one article from an openly gay man that I found most intriguing. It was written by John McKellar. In 1997 he found HOPE, Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremeism.

If you do a google search I am sure you would find it. Here was a homosexual who challenged the hedonistic, self-destructive and whining behaviour of radical gays. He preaches the need for restraint and does not want to see humans descend to the level of animals with their sexuality.

While I still have issues with homosexuality, McKellar puts the spotlight on those issues of homosexual activism and a gay-friendly mainstream, that I deplore.

McKellar is fine man and well worth reading.
Patrick James | 26 May 2010

There are thousands of men and women in David Campbell's position and there are as many different stories.

There are support groups such as GAMMA in Sydney and, for those outside Sydney and in rural and regional Australia, an online support group for same sex attracted men (and women) who are in a heterosexual marriage:

Malcolm McPherson | 26 May 2010

Thank you Tim Collier and Frank F for your comments. Please keep making them. And thank you Michael Mullins for beginning this conversation. It will be a wonderful day when people read the gospels and hear Jesus Christ's unconditional acceptance of human beings, rather than rules about purity.
Anna Summerfield | 28 May 2010

I for one will not assume, nor accept that (i) "will always be part of a social minority": I expect that community attitudes will begin to value DIVERSITY over any single lawful sexual orientation - it's already happening. I hope the day soon arrives when bigots will be in a 'social minority'.
legaleagle | 28 May 2010

Well done Michael and Eureka Street for being open, challenging, thoughtful and compassionate. You contribute to the hopeful possibility that we could build a world that is accepting of all our complex ways of being while allowing us to discuss those differences with respect.
spiritedcrone | 30 May 2010

My response to your comments: "It is worth reflecting that, like legalised brothels, such clubs may provide some public benefit. The taboo against homosexuality ensures much sexual activity between men is pushed underground, into dangerous and illegal settings like public toilets and parks. The clubs offer a legal and comparatively safe place for gay and bisexual men to meet in a context in which there is promotion of safe sex and even personal responsibility" is that what benefit is there to the women working in brothels (who are also the public) and any men involved who lose the dignity they deserve through love-less sexual acts (be it heterosexual or homosexual acts)? This only erodes their dignity. Also, there is no such thing as safe sex.
Mary | 28 September 2010


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