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The Marriage 'Debate' - impact on CALD Communities

Same Sex Attracted People from CALD Communities and the impact of the marriage debate

My parents were Irish and immigrated to Perth in 1967.  This was the time when boys went to primary school bare feet.  The test of masculinity was being able to walk across the quadrangle on a blistering hot day without wincing in pain.  A test I failed.  Of course, coming from the UK I didn’t have the necessary ball handling skills for cricket or football and wearing socks and sandals immediately marked me out as a target who could bring endless fun to the bullies in all grades of primary school.

My parents never acclimatised to the Australian way of life, maintaining their Irish outlook with a grim vengeance.  After twenty years in Australia they returned to Ireland for a holiday and went into a state of shock that people in Ireland had fridges and motor cars and most shocking of all had kept pace with modern society.  Ireland and Australia had moved on, but my parents had maintained a world view that originated in their migrant experience.

For years I thought it was just my parents who had never been able to really settle into the Australian lifestyle, but as I befriended and spoke with men from other cultural backgrounds I found they too had a similar experience.

There are always exceptions, yet for many people growing up in CALD communities they live in the gap between two worlds, particularly for first generation Australian.  In their home lives there are often cultural practices and expectations that constrain how they live.  However socially, and in educational or work spaces they need to acclimatise to the subtly of Australian culture.  This is particularly true for same sex attracted men and I imagine for same sex attracted women.  The expectation of family expectation to marry a member of the opposite sex or to enter an arranged marriage can be overwhelming.

Many of the men I have spoken to accept these expectations or try to navigate them, the best way they are able.  While they know they will most likely have to conform to cultural expectations the sense of freedom to be themselves in the educational, work or broader social areas of their lives gives them some space to live for a period of time without expectations or without pressure.

What has all this to do with the marriage debate?

One of the things we need to thrive is a sense of safety.  It is not just physical safety, but emotional safety, the sense that it is safe to be myself.  For many same sex attracted men and women or trans young people the home is not a safe environment to be themselves.  Those who should love them the most and want the best for them seek to confine them to traditional expectations that do not allow them to be themselves. 

With the current level of argument and noise in the wider community, there can be a feeling that work places, places of study that used to be comparatively safe are now seen as hostile.  Where does the gay man, lesbian or trans individual from CALD communities go when the animosity of the home environment is reflected and amplified in the wider society?  Where do they find the sense of safety that is necessary for them to thrive?

What is the answer?  To be honest, I don’t know.  I do know at WA Aids Council we have the Freedom Centre which provides a safe place for young people.  We also have the counselling service which is confidential and another way of finding a safe place.

Yet as a member of the LGBTQI community I am mindful of my responsibility to try as much as possible to provide space places for our family members from different CALD communities who need some additional support at this time.  Many men from Asian backgrounds I have spoken to talk about the prejudice they experience on Grindr, Scruff or other hook up apps.  I accept our sexual preferences are unique and often are outside of the realm of rationality.  Yet as gay men we need to be careful that our sexual preferences do not become the mask of racism or prejudice. 

As members of the LGBTQI community, we have all experienced at some time in our lives the sense of shame.  Shame is different than guilt.  Guilty is the sense we have when we have done something wrong.  Shame is the sense we have when we feel we are wrong.  For many members of the LGBTQI community from CALD groups they live with double shame.  Not only the sense of that they are somehow wrong but also the shame of letting their families down.

Next week, I would like to consider how we deal with shame

Thank you

David Kernohan - CEO

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