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Watch what you say

15 December 2012

9:00 AM

15 December 2012

9:00 AM

‘Imagine being made to feel like crap just for being born left-handed’, exhorts a poster at the tram stop, neatly illustrating not only the delicate sensibility of advertising agents but the subtlety of their vocabulary. Imagine indeed, I thought, wondering just what it would be like to feel like faecal matter. Still, left-handers have had it pretty hard, in the past being made to learn to be right-handers. If that still goes on, the poster makes a point and it should be stopped.

Then I read the fine print. ‘OK,’ it asks, ‘that’s hard to imagine? But being gay, lesbian, bi, trans or intersex is no different to being born left-handed, it’s just who you are.’ This asserted, out comes the wagging finger. ‘So stop and think because the things we say’ — for which read, you say, unenlightened tram-user — ‘are likely to cause depression and anxiety. And that really is pretty crap.’

This message comes to us courtesy of beyondblue, the ‘national depression initiative’. It sounds to me as though an organisation that has its work cut out in dealing with a fearful clinical state has let itself get sidetracked by the anti-discrimination industry. Why else would it be presenting a general problem in a sexually divisive manner? Besides, aren’t we now told that depression as an illness is biochemical in cause? How can saying anything make a difference?

If I were left-handed I should regard my being co-opted into this endless cracked-record whine about anti-gay prejudice an affront. Besides, what prejudice? Isn’t it rather the other way around? To appease the strident gay lobby Western society is well on the way to abandoning its fundamental assumption that marriage is between a man and a woman. Not much evidence of anti-gay prejudice there.

As for beyondblue’s expenditure of public money on silly and mendacious advertising, is there any indication that gays, lesbians and the rest of the sexual-diversity catalogue (which at this rate will soon take up the alphabet) suffer depression and anxiety more than anyone else? More than the left-handed? Is the poster asking us to believe that some sensitive gay is depressed and anxious because someone called him a poofter (as if anyone in these litigious days would dare, with the hate-speech police peering over every shoulder)? And how many gays, lesbians etc has one ever encountered who feel remotely ‘crap’ about themselves? Most accept their sexuality as it is and get on with their lives; the rest glory in it, flaunting it in publicly subsidised street parades.

The anti-discrimination industry is highly selective in its patronage. Apart from the sexually diverse, it likes women, asylum-seekers and Aborigines. But it ignores plenty of other categories of the discriminated against; less modish, but publicly derided enough to induce depression, if you accept beyondblue’s argument about the power of words. Here are three. People who have no problem with homosexuals but don’t think homosexuality should be extolled from every housetop. People who think opposite-sex marriage should remain the norm. People who think too much taxpayers’ money is sloshed around on fatuous campaigns for non-causes, money that could be redirected to where real need exists. Perhaps beyondblue might consider taking up the cudgels on behalf of these victims of discrimination. It’s just who they are too.

Christopher Akehurst blogs at

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