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Why you should pity the homophobes

Ben Jenkins
Published: January 25, 2013 - 1:42PM

When we experience a week as steeped in old-world bigotry as the one we’ve had, there’s always a huge amount of focus on the impact such statements must have on the LGBT community. The unremittingly bigoted comments made by Katter Australia Party members Tess Corbett and Bernard Gaynor will no doubt inflict pain on a group so entirely and uncontroversially undeserving of such treatment.

And this is all well and fine, but can we just once take a step back and spare a thought for the homophobes?

Because Christ almighty it must be frightening to be homophobic. I have my own issues with anxiety, so I can sympathise with the persistent and inexplicable sense of impending doom that must plague these people. But even with this insight, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to hold a worldview in which the gays are forever lurking in a corner, waiting for the opportunity to explode our traditional way of life in a cloud of glitter and amyl before snaffling away our kids like the Pied Piper and marching them over some kind of horrible gay cliff. Being dogged by such thoughts must be utterly exhausting.

If I truly believed in a world so fragile and a force so malignant – a force that is, crucially, becoming less stigmatised, gaining more support, approaching some kind of ‘normalisation’ – then I doubt very much that I’d have the fortitude to get out of bed in the morning, save for the driving force to paint my beliefs on a sandwich board, hit the main-street every day and grab people by the shoulders shouting ‘Don’t you see?! Why am I the only one who sees!?’.

And increasingly, I can only assume, they feel isolated, they feel the opinion of the rest of the nation slipping away from them. They sit bewildered and indignant when called to account for statements that positively slayed at the Club, circa 1980. This isn’t the Australia they grew up in – there’s an odious sway toward the politically correct, where just saying what they imagine everyone is thinking is suddenly a crime.

How do they think this is going to end?

How many more times did they think someone could tie homosexuality to paedophilia or a threat to our children before such a comment was seen as so drastically out of step with the mainstream that that person would be written off as a loon, much less a viable politician?

But these last guardians of ‘values’ and ‘family’ (and at what point, by the way, did bigots get a monopoly on those two concepts?) lash themselves to the mast in the hope that this storm will pass, in the belief that if they hold strong this fad will go away  - as though the concept of social equality was the Charleston or a Tamagotchi.  And, of course, they can tell their grandkids that ‘yes, there was a time for a few decades where queers could teach kids, but of course there was also a time where people had pet rocks!’

This is Bob Katter’s line, and one he’s been peddling for years. He’s the closest thing our nation has to a ‘celebrity homophobe’ but it’s a title he seems to believe has been foisted upon him unfairly. The interview he conducted with The Project on Thursday was a perfect example of this. He paints himself as a no-nonsense bush politician who is forever going on these shows to talk about important things, things that actually matter to folk, and is constantly bombarded with questions about inner-city issues that, if he’s honest, he doesn’t really give a lot of thought to.

He characterises issues like equality as luxury causes – causes that it must just be lovely to have the time to take up without having to worry about grown up things like, oh he doesn’t know, feeding a whole country, which you’re welcome for by the way.

Which would be an understandable enough position were it not for the fact that Bob Katter and his party clearly do give a lot of thought to gays. He can say what he wants about important issues like farmers getting destroyed by the supermarket duopoly and rural suicides, but it is undeniable that his party has been the most vocal on the issue of any this side of the CDP.

And it’s especially galling when he feels that he can say what he wants about an issue that means so much to so many and then hide behind rural suicide rates when called to account. And the rate of rural suicide is a staggering tragedy in this country, and it’s worth more than a means of deflection when asked to explain views espoused by him or his party.

And even if we accept his premise, it still doesn’t hold up. Just because you believe an issue does not affect your electorate (which it plainly does, probably more-so having someone like Katter as their representative) that’s not how being a politician - or a human being really - works. For all Katter’s sound and fury about inner city types not caring about problems affecting rural communities, he certainly seems reluctant to give two shits about something he deems (again, entirely incorrectly) to be a city-based issue.

So spare a thought for Tess Corbett and Bernard Gaynor; spare a thought for Bob Katter if you feel especially generous. As the first two pick through the wreckage of their careers and the third tries to deflect the ensuing media shitstorm, imagine their simmering rage and bewilderment as they try to work out what exactly, if anything, they did to deserve this.

Ben Jenkins is a Sydney-based writer. He blogs at and tweets at @bencjenkins

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