Archive for the ‘gay’ Category

My thoughts, exactly

December 7, 2017

not youOr almost,

on watching Malcolm Turnbull at the end of a gruelling (for us) day of pointscoring and futile amendments – some of which Turnbull voted for and none of which he voted against – celebrating with his rictus grin the outcome of the final substantive vote for marriage equality as if it were a triumph for him.

Taken from a comment in The Guardian:

Any one of those amendments debated / filibustered over the last few days would have sent the Marriage Equality bill back to the Senate. It would almost certainly have delayed the passing of the Bill until at least February, giving opponents time to regather and continue the fight. This is what the Nationals and most “Liberals” wanted. That is what Malcolm supported.

Now Malcolm wants to join the party. Well (vomit emoticon) to you.

Memo to the “Liberals” (with a few honourable exceptions): You lost. There’s no place on the winning bandwagon for you. So don’t try to to crash the party. Don’t try to claim credit. No one except your media boosters are listening.

One such media booster is Mark Kenny in the SMH, who starts out:

Like it or not, history will show it was Malcolm Turnbull – a Liberal Prime Minister – who presided over a renovation of the nation’s outdated marriage law.

One might have expected such a modernisation to emanate from the left.

Look, Mark, it did emanate from the left. Sure, it was slow, but once the ALP got to a free vote in 2012, the obstacle was those in control of the coalition denying their own members one.

Kenny continues:

His [Turnbull’s] backflip to champion Tony Abbott’s much-loathed plebiscite and subsequent embrace of Peter Dutton’s benighted postal survey, had quickened his poll slide among middle Australians. But these same Australians would later participate in Dutton’s survey in droves.

That really made me mad.  If Turnbull really thinks that participation in the postal survey signifies approval for it as opposed to a pragmatic acceptance through gritted teeth of no real alternative, he’s going to be surprised at the size of the stick that quite a lot of voters will be waiting for him with at the next election.

 

 

Don’t read the comments

September 26, 2017

One night last December, Jaden Duong drove a rented van to the premises of the Australian “Christian” Lobby (ACL) in Canberra.  In the van were four LPG gas cylinders.  There was a fire/explosion, causing substantial damage to ACL’s offices.  It can’t have taken the police long to find Duong – suffering severe burns, he had walked 4km or so to Canberra Hospital.  He told police he had been trying to kill himself.

Lyle Shelton, the head of ACL, rushed back from his holidays.  He tweeted that he was shocked that things could come to this in Australia.  There was more about how violence was being incited against ACL by opponents calling ACL bigots etc.

Police, who had spoken to Duong, hastened to reassure the community that they were satisfied that this was not a terrorist incident.  The basis for this appears to have been their own assessment of Duong and his statements to them that his primary motive had been to kill himself and that the choice of location was subsidiary – though in fact there was some material pretty early on which indicated that Duong was unhappy about organised religion and ACL.

Duong spent some months in hospital (including for mental issues) in Sydney.  It wasn’t until June 2017 that he first appeared in court and his identity was disclosed to the world.

Straight away, what the Chinese call the “human flesh engine” got to work.  They were interested in depicting Duong as a “SJW” (that’s “Social Justice Warrior”) at whose hands ACL were being victimised.  They wanted to establish that the ACT Police were giving Duong a soft ride.

Duong had spent some time in San Francisco in about 2014 when his partner was working there.  He did some volunteer work for democrat politicians and a cat shelter; he appeared in a gay fundraising Mr Gay Asian and Pacific pageant; he welcomed the striking down by the US Supreme Court of the Defence of Marriage Act.  It looks as though he was doing volunteer work because as a gay partner he couldn’t get a working visa.

Back in 2003 or so Duong had also made a comment about gay law reform which was published in the SMH.

That’s about it, but on the strength of this the Murdoch press followed up this narrative, describing Duong as a “gay activist.”

If you find opinion pieces by someone, even if only 2 over 15 years, I guess you could say they are an activist.  Much as you might say someone who writes for News Limited/News Corp is a journalist.

Here’s a sample of the Catallaxy forum  from 7 June when Duong’s name was first released and the human flesh engine unleashed. Leigh Lowe is a particular charmer.

Look, let’s not jump to conclusions.
It could be that the court might just be trying to spare Duonger some embarrassment.
Maybe he was found in leopard print leggings with red stilettos or some other ghastly ensemble that any self-respecting poove wouldn’t be (cough) found dead in.

And picking up on this found material:

Jaden Duong, an Australian living in San Francisco, welcomed the high court’s decision on DOMA.
“My partner’s here in the U.S. for work,” he said. “I’m here on a tourist visa indefinitely because of DOMA. Now they have to recognize us … which means his work visa includes me.”

LL said:

Jaden (WTF?) appears to be front and centre everywhere.
The volunteer work is explained by the fact that his partner was in the US for work.
I wonder if the partner had a gummint posting? If so, if he is hooked up with someone who tried to commit a terrorist act, both Duonger and the partner may appear on DHS watchlist, and both may be banned from travelling to and working in the US.
Just wait for some screaming fag to bung on a Mem Fox if detained at an airport and you night have your suspected boyfriend.
Look, I am prepared to acknowledge the possibility that … and I know this sounds crazy … that Duonger was a common-or-garden drama queen, who was approaching (OMG!) his 40th birthday, maybe had a series of failed relationships in quick succession, and decided to top himself.
It’s just that blowing yourself to bits in a van doesn’t scan like a typical drama-queen suicide MO.
Whatever, there is no excuse for brushing it under the carpet. The AFP’s rush to call “nothing to see here” whilst the Duonger hadn’t even been interviewed is suspect to say the least.

Jo jumped on the wagon:

jo

Leigh Lowe
#2404865, posted on June 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Sorry ..
“ring wear” should read “ring to wear”.
sorry.
Won’t happen again.

A lefty in San Francisco will have plenty of “ring wear”.

Another scintillator referred to “tontine fanging.”  (Geddit?)

Duong had another court date in August and then last week.  Each date was the occasion of a fresh dose of the Newscorp treatment describing him as a gay activist.  Duong pleaded not guilty on account of mental impairment.  It’s clear that police (who despite the Newscorp and altrite commentary, are not softies about this sort of thing) recognized Duong had mental difficulties.  The Murdoch press trawled through court papers and snippets of remarks in the hearings to build up the contrary picture, in simple terms, that Duong was bad, not mad, or at least bad enough and not mad enough to be responsible.

On Sunday Duong, aged 36, was found dead.  There were no suspicious circumstances.

It is very very sad.

 

 

 

I was there

September 11, 2017

Yesterday at D’s insistence and with him I did my part and went to the marriage equality rally in town.  There was a festival atmosphere on the train as we headed in with about 15 minutes to spare before the advertised start of 1 pm.

The last demonstrations I went to were the marches that broke many Australians’ heart – the big ones in 2003 against the invasion of Iraq.

The worst thing about such rallies is that practically every member of the organising coalition, and then a few more, has to have someone up there giving a speech.  This can really try one’s patience.  There is also the problem that in such a coalition on one issue, people will want to push the envelope out to the corner of their particular concerns.  Mostly I was with them at every corner and suspicious bulge to the package, but in the light of the “No” case campaigners’ attempt to make this postal opinion poll about every other issue than marriage of people not of a different sex, it would have been prudent, in my opinion, to keep things tight.

Bill Shorten gave a speech where he managed to reference “Climb Every Mountain,” “You’ll never walk alone,” the parable of the Good Samaritan and the St Crispin’s Day speech (those not here today will wish they were and say they were.)  There were probably more references that I missed.

So we stood out the speeches and after a longish wait to decant from Town Hall Square, headed along Park Street, Elizabeth Street, Phillip Street, Bridge Street and Young Street to Circular Quay where we were told Pauline Pantsdown had taken the stage in front of Customs House.  We didn’t actually see her as the square was pretty much full to capacity and we took the opportunity to catch a train home while we still could – just after 3.30.

It felt like a big rally to me so I was a bit peeved that it only ranked No 3 in the evening news. In some cases the rally was coupled with coverage of Malcolm Turnbull attending his own tame (I doubt if a single non-coalition-apparatchik gay person was in attendance) Liberals & Nats forum for the Yes campaign. As if Malcolm’s do was in any way comparable to tens of thousands of people on the streets.  Also a bit rich and doubtless calculated of him to hold it on this day.

I found myself immersed in a terrible emulatory hardness of heart waiting for “our” story to reach the screen: how dare those pesky Hurricane Irma types (No 1, though with predictably much more attention to the yet to suffer Floridians than the already devasted Cubans and Martinians) or Mexican earthquake victims vie with our just cause for attention?

There were lots of colourful costumes. My favourite was more subtle – a t-shirt in the style of an old pale blue Penguin paperback cover worn by a gent, about my age.  The book title?   An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde.

 

 

Conundrum 2

July 27, 2017

I’s taken me a while, but back to Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos v Yesilhat; Yesilhat v Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos [2017] NSWSC 666.

You will recall that George Sclavos, a pharmacist who had been generous to many or at least relaxed in his attitude to recovering monies lent to many, died suddenly aged 65, survived by his two nieces, Anna and Cleopatra, in whose favour an informal will was found.

Okan Yesilhat disputed the validity of the will. He said he was George’s surviving de facto partner. Okan said this relationship, of many years’ standing, had been a secret.

Obviously there must have been some kind of a relationship between George and Okan. George had advanced substantial sums of money to Okan – well above the other amounts known to have been advanced by him to others – and he had given Okan the means and authority to conduct his bank accounts.

To me, as a gay man, Okan’s claim of there being a sexual relationship is a plausible one. On reflection, perhaps that is putting it too simply. To me it is plausible that, if there was a sexual relationship, it would have been conducted in complete secrecy in the way that Okan alleged.

On the other hand, it is very easy to make up a story about someone who is dead. A court must scrutinize carefully any claims of dealings with deceased persons and especially where those claims rest entirely on the word of the surviving person who makes the claim.

Lawyers often talk about whether one judge or another is a good “draw” for their client. This preserves what in some ways must be a legal fiction, that there is some random process of selection of which judge hears a case. Often it may be that the selection of a particular judge from those available is a matter of chance, but the selection of judges itself is clearly far from being so.

In any case, it doesn’t look as Justice Slattery was a very good draw for Okan. As he said at paragraph [28] of his reasons for judgment:

The Court soon began to doubt Mr Yesilhat. Early in his evidence he explained how he deliberately deceived his first wife about his alleged relationship with George. Without a flicker of shame he elaborated upon a cynical scheme to mislead his first wife, Ms Susan Katri, into believing he was not with George at night. His story of lying to his first wife is barely worthy of credit. But the fact that Mr Yesilhat was prepared to parade such studied trickery carries its own significance. Why would one who shamelessly avowed deceit of a spouse, not practise deceit on this Court?

When I first read this, I thought “Whoah!” There seemed to be a kind of paradox  – a variant on “all men [sic] are liars” – in this case, “all closeted gay men are liars.” So is no self-confessed closeted man to be believed?

What Slattery J found “barely worthy of credit” (credit here means worthiness of being believed rather than reflecting well on the teller) was Okan’s claim that he used to go to a gambling club before leaving without placing a bet to spend time with George.  Okan said he did this so that he could produce the ticket to his then wife (who had already complained that he saw too much of George) as, in effect, an alibi.

Slattery J didn’t accept this.  I’ve inserted in bold the numbers for his reasons:

[211] (1) First, it is difficult to accept that Mr Yesilhat could have kept up this pretence for years, when he claims his visits to the deceased were regular. (2) Secondly, his claimed alibi was unstable. Other people frequented the same club and would have been able to see that Mr Yeslihat had left to go elsewhere. (3) Thirdly, such an alibi was likely to create quite separate domestic concerns: that he was gambling away the family’s money. He sought to answer that threat by explaining that this poker club was not one where gambling for money occurred. But that does not meet the problem that to a person being shown sign-in slips at a gambling club it may not have looked that way. (4)Finally, Mr Yesilhat’s case of arranging regular assignations with the deceased behind his first wife’s back infers that the deceased was complicit in this deception. How else could the deceased believe that a married Mr Yesilhat could spend so much time with him?

[212] (4A) But that is not consistent with the deceased’s character.  All the evidence about the deceased points to a man who  (4A1) had an open and friendly nature, (4A2) had deep moral feelings and religious scruples especially about his sex life, (4A3) maintained warm relationships with family and friends and (4A4) had never been involved in fraudulent activity. But Mr Yesilhat seemed comfortable to accept that the deceased was as dishonest as he was in conducting this relationship.

That’s a lot of reasons. Maybe 2 is the best, were it not that many affairs are conducted under cover of equally risky alibis.  My own skepticism would be of the elaborateness and consistency of the claimed ruse rather than its fragility – why not a variety of garden husbandly lies?   3 assumes Okan’s wife did not know/believe that no money was gambled at the club.  I don’t think I would be as ready as Slattery J is to take 1 and 4 (4A4 in particular is a stretch – how can you prove such a negative?) as from the start tending to preclude the truth of Okan’s account.

There’s a lot more in the judgment and the judge had plenty more reasons to which I find myself without the energy to do justice.  The thing is, unlike the rest of us who can afford a Marabar-caves sort of indeterminacy, he did have to make up his mind. That’s his job.

From which you’ll probably realise that Justice Slattery totally dismissed Okan’s claim, and upheld Cleopatra’s claim for repayment of all monies paid to or taken by Okan, with interest.  Okan’s story was just that: the story Okan had to tell if, following George’s sudden death, he was to avoid having to repay the money he had already received from George and hang on to the money he opportunistically grabbed by continuing to use after George’s death his capacity to operate George’s accounts. That Okan had obtained monies on such a scale and authority to operate George’s accounts in this way was not to be attributed to any sexual relationship between them, but rather that (at [312]) Okan was an “intuitive and manipulative individual” who well understood and was close enough to take advantage of George’s generosity.

So much (so far as the monies obtained by Okan and his company in George’s lifetime were concerned) for any credit in heaven which George professed a hope to attain on account of funds unrepaid at his death.

Nieces and intestacy

Why, asked Cleopatra (rhetorically), would she seek to forge a will as Okan claimed she had when, as George’s nieces, she and Anna stood to benefit anyway under what looked like otherwise being intestacy?

It is possible that this emerged during submissions as a result of a remark by the judge himself.  As he said at [688]:

the Court did raise the hypothesis in submissions that George’s nieces would take on George’s intestacy. But in the course of preparing these reasons it is clear that hypothesis was based on an erroneous assumption as to the present State of New South Wales law at the time of the deceased’s death. The nieces or nephews of an intestate in New South Wales have no entitlements; the State of New South Wales would be entitled to his estate: Succession Act, Parts 4.3 and 4.5.

I think his Honour’s first instincts were better than his afterthought.

This is the contents page to parts 4.3 and 4.5 of the Succession Act (part 4.4 deals with indigenous families) to which his Honour refers:

PART 4.3 – DISTRIBUTION AMONG RELATIVES
Note

   127.    Entitlement of children
   128.    Parents
   129.    Brothers and sisters
   130.    Grandparents
   131.    Aunts and uncles
   132.    Entitlement to take in separate capacities

   PART 4.5 – ABSENCE OF PERSONS ENTITLED

   136.    Intestate leaving no persons entitled
   137.    State has discretion to make provision out of property to which it becomes entitled

If you go by the contents listing alone, there is no section which, going by the headings, deals with the entitlements of nephews or nieces.  However, section 129 is as follows:

129 Brothers and sisters

(1) The brothers and sisters of an intestate are entitled to the whole of the intestate estate if the intestate leaves:

(a) no spouse, and

(b) no issue, and

(c) no parent.

(2) If no brother or sister predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate, then:

(a) if only one survives-the entitlement vests in the surviving brother or sister, or

(b) if 2 or more survive-the entitlement vests in them in equal shares.

(3) If a brother or sister predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate:

(a) allowance must be made in the division of the estate between brothers and sisters for the presumptive share of any such deceased brother or sister, and

(b) the presumptive share of any such deceased brother or sister is to be divided between the brother’s or sister’s children and, if any of these children predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate, the deceased child’s presumptive share is to be divided between the child’s children (again allowing for the presumptive share of a grandchild who predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate), and so on until the entitlement is exhausted.

If I am reading this aright, contrary to his Honour’s observations, nieces and nephews (and for good measure any intersex children of siblings) do have entitlements under intestacy in the event that their parents had an entitlement but predeceased the intestate person.  Siblings have an entitlement if a person dies without parents, spouse or issue.

If George died without leaving a will, under s 129(1), George’s parents having predeceased him and he dying single and childless, his brother would have been entitled to the whole of his estate. George’s brother having predeceased him, under s 129(3)(b), that brother’s daughters, ie, Anna and Cleopatra, his nieces, would have been entitled to share that brother’s presumptive share equally.

 

 

 

 

A conundrum

July 9, 2017

Maybe we are all unusual people, if you can only look closely enough, but George Sclavos, who for many years conducted a pharmacy at Leppington must have stood out.

From the late 1980s, George, who graduated as a pharmacist in 1973 when he was about 25, owned and ran a pharmacy at Leppington (near Campbelltown).  George never married and you’d have to say that the pharmacy really must have been his life.   He befriended many of his customers, including the local “down and outs” from the caravan park nearby whom he would often invite in after hours to spend time with him after the pharmacy had closed.

George was the “go to” man amongst his fellow shopkeepers at Leppington for making up a float at the start of the trading day.  He lent many people money, but if they didn’t pay him back was apparently content to leave that as something which would rest on their consciences or probably souls (he was devoutly religious) if they failed to repay him.  He told a friend “If I die and they owe me the money maybe God will put that in my credit to cover my sins.”

George was a heavy smoker, and it seems that other aspects of his shopkeeping lifestyle were quite unhealthy.  In 2013, aged 65, he died suddenly at the pharmacy.

George’s older and only brother, his father and his mother had predeceased him in 1980, 1979 and 1992.  He was survived by Anna and Cleopatra, his brother’s daughters.  George had told his nieces that they would find a will in his house.

George had lived since 1983 in a house in Strathfield first owned by his father and later by him.  He was a bit of a hoarder.  His nieces and family friends set about tidying things up in the hope that the will would surface in the process.

A document later admitted to probate as a informal will was found in George’s bible (which was on the table next to his bed), folded around an old photo of Anna and Cleopatra.  This appointed Cleopatra (who is a barrister by profession) as his executor and left George’s estate of about $6 million to her and Anna equally.

But there was another claimant.

Okan Yesilhat claimed he had met George in 1999 when Okan was 17 and George about 51.  Okan said he had been in a sexual relationship with George from that time and was in a de facto relationship with George at the time of George’s death.  Okan said that the document found in the bible must have been planted there and was not a will.  He said that probate of the will should be revoked, in which case (on his contentions) he would take the entire estate as de facto “widower” on intestacy.

As a fall-back Okan claimed family provision on the basis of his asserted relationship with George.  As a fall-back or parallel claim to that, Okan also said that money which he had received from George in George’s lifetime was a gift rather than money that Okan had to pay back. This was about $386K less payments by Okan or his company in George’s lifetime of about $82K – a net amount of $304K.

Okan had also taken money out of George’s accounts after George’s death using means of operating these accounts which George had given him.  Even if you are authorised to take money from someone’s accounts while they are alive, that authority ceases on their death and any money taken out after usually has to be repaid to the estate.  One way or another (as the heir on intestacy or by means of provision in a greater amount) Okan sought to resist having to repay these post-mortem amounts, of about $206K.  Okan had made a further $7-8K of withdrawals from George’s accounts which were reversed by the bank when it stopped the account at Cleopatra’s request.

Anna and Cleopatra knew about Okan, because in 2011 George had told them that he had lent upwards of $100K to Okan for a tyre business on Canterbury Road in Lakemba.  Anna and her husband had visited the business and met Okan not long after that.  You could not blame Anna and Cleopatra for feeling some disquiet about this, let alone about the full picture which came to light after George’s death, not only of the substantial amounts which had passed in his lifetime, but also the post-mortem withdrawals from his accounts.

But Okan’s claim of a 14-year homosexual relationship with their uncle came as a complete shock to them.  As far as they were aware, although unmarried, George had had a number of girlfriends in his life.  There was a bit more mystery over the circumstances in which George had harboured in his home from 2005 to 2008 a (since deceased) married mother-of-five sex worker with a drug problem whom he had met on Canterbury Road.

To Cleopatra and Anna Okan’s claims were not only a shock but a calumny.

Okan for his part maintained that his relationship with George was secret for cultural reasons.  He rubbed salt in to the wound (so far as Anna and Cleopatra were concerned) by claiming that George was dismissive of and said disparaging things about them.

By the time the matter came to trial, it emerged that if Okan was telling the truth, he had his own cultural reasons for keeping his relationship with George secret, including two marriages of his own.  For good measure, witnesses claimed that even when married he was seen consorting with other women.

There was no evidence from anyone, even Okan, of either George or Okan having any other same-sex relationship.

The matter was heard over 21 days in early 2016 before Justice Slattery. It took his Honour over a year to deliver his decision: Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos v Yesilhat; Yesilhat v Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos [2017] NSWSC 666.

That seems a long time, even if his Honour was off on leave for some of it, though the reasons are certainly lengthy.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to skip to the end of the book to find out the ending, or to look up the endings of TV serials on the internet (I am that kind of person) you can find out more there. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until I have the energy to write another post.

Forty years on

June 5, 2017

On Saturday night I went to a reunion of my year from high school.  This was a “back to school” day where you could watch the football matches of the day, have a tour of the classrooms and facilities, and then have dinner.  I just went to the dinner.

The school is a boys private school.

In my time boarders made up about an eighth of the students – less by the end. Lessons seemed almost a sideline: the sociopathology of the school was overwhelmingly sport, played on Saturdays against other schools.  Rugby was the dominant winter sport.  In the junior age groups (13, 14, 15, 16) teams went down to “G.”  In summer, cricket and rowing shared the crown.  Tennis and swimming were outliers.  Soccer (as we called it then) and basketball were introduced under sufferance for winter and summer respectively.

Instead of an elected school captain, we had an appointed senior prefect – invariably a prominent athlete and cadet under-officer and usually at least reasonably academic. Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. The same goes for senior prefects – he has sent out the invitations for reunions in previous decades and did so again this year, though with the assistance of the school which by now has become very organised in its alumni relations.

Email and the internet make this sort of thing much easier than it would once have been.  Starting a few months ago there has been a flurry of emails as far-flung ex-schoolmates hit the “reply all” button announcing their intention or inability to attend and the odd broadcast reminder seeking missing contact details.

I did not respond to these.  At these reunions, it is the sporty element and boarders who are best represented.  A circulated list of those who had accepted to date confirmed this prospect. Few of the people I had much in common with were on it.

Then a “reply all” from an unlikely source mentioned me.  I havered right up to the last moment, then took the bait, making the necessary payment on the Thursday just before.

On the night we were about 50 out of a year which started with about 150 boys in first form and ended up with about 125 at the end of year 12.

I don’t know if we ever had a ten-year reunion.  I went to a twenty-year one in 1997.  That was the first time I saw my school fellows as a group as adults.  For me the chief interest was the small group of people (including myself) who had turned out to be gay.  Even then, not all of them chose to make any general declaration about that.  We formed a little quasi-masonic secret society for the night.

I remember some of our little sub-lodge as having a miserable time at school.   It never really occurred to me that any of them might be gay.  It was sufficient explanation for their plight that they were not sporty.

I don’t even recall having any particular theory about NH, a singer and dancer who went on to make a career around the world, though perhaps subliminally I did.  I shed a tear on hearing of his death some time in the 90s and I still remember him for both his beauty and his sweet disposition.

Seven other members of our year have died since we left school, so far as is known.

This time I was “the only gay in the village.”

The noisy sporty ones behaved pretty much as I expected.  Rowers were the hardest-core.

It wasn’t a night of many revelations or long-deferred denouements.  Those mostly happened 20 years ago – apart from the news in the meantime that a he (not one of the gay group) has become a she.

Nevertheless I’m still feeling a little shaken up, without being able quite to identify why.  Maybe it is just a matter of reverberance, a milestone passed, and the reminder when seen together of how old we are and are becoming, forty years on.

 

 

 

Angry

March 5, 2016

Homosexuals demand the right to work!

When, about 10 years ago, the push for marriage equality first emerged, the “establishment” gay and lesbian rights groups such as the NSW gay and lesbian rights lobby were caught on the hop. They were still focussing on substantive and de facto equality. It’s not as if they weren’t opposed to John Howard’s (with the ALP’s complicity) entrenchment of inequality by the amendment of the statutory definition of marriage (which would preclude any judge-made evolution of the definition of marriage at common low), but at that time gay marriage seemed like a symbolic and aspirational goal when there were so many other changes needed. Why try to run before you can walk?

That was my view, too. The most urgent need in gay rights was to improve the situation of gay adolescents in their high school years. That was based on my own experience at school and also as a teacher – experiencing homophobic abuse myself and witnessing the plight of the more obviously effete in the boys’ school where I taught for a bit over 10 years.

In your adult life, you can to an extent determine your social environment. You can seek out like-minded friends and to that extent protect yourself from direct abuse, though there remain some workplaces which are best avoided. It’s not that that prejudice against gays and lesbians (let alone (btqi people) does not exist, but abuse is rarely directed to your face except from strangers in public places.

School, however, is a bit like prison; it is a place you are forced to be by virtue of compulsory education, with company not of your own choosing. The same applies to your family whilst you are still a child/teenager. If there were any doubt about how tough adolescence is for gay [shorthand here] people, the statistics for youth suicide make the situation plain. And who can doubt that this trauma has a lasting effect into adult life for many?

But formal equality – where the availability of same-sex marriage is the great hold out, is also important – even if, in most respects, same-sex partners can arrange their affairs to achieve de facto equality. Even then such de facto equality is not even de facto equality because you have to take those steps. What it’s about is R.E.S.P.E.C.T..

Progress for LGBTIQ requires a pincer movement: on the one hand, the on the ground things like improving the plight of young LBGTIQ people; on the other, the higher order symbolic changes, like marriage equality.

That’s confirmed when the Tony Abbotts of this world obviously see things the same way, from the opposite point of view.

In part what they are reacting against, in the latest nasty political bout against the “Safe Schools” program is the fact that even anti-bullying requires higher-order attitude changing.  You don’t change the situation for kids in a school by saying “don’t bully [x] or [y]’ where X or Y are the specific children being bullied – although you also have to do that sometimes.  You have to change the children’s attitudes to the sorts of people that [x] and [y] are – create a more tolerant atmosphere generally.

That’s just what the reactionaries – truly, the homophobes – don’t like.  And we see it coming out in the arguments mounted against gay marriage/marriage equality, all about children when of course regardless of whether their parents are married or not there already are and will continue to be children with same-sex-partnered parents.

Right now I can’t be bothered spelling out more.  It makes me so angry.

I’ve used the picture above before.  In fact it’s of my elder sister in her Socialist Worker’s Party phase.   I’ve not asked her if she got up in time to go to the morning march and as she was a musician it seems unlikely to me.  But she was at the original 1978 Mardi Gras parade and a band she was in played at the first party in 1980.  Earlier this year she mentioned to me that the police violence was so unpleasant that it was 20 years before she could bring herself to take part in any demonstration/rally/march.

 

 

Surprise

December 28, 2015

Sir Kenneth Jacobs, former justice of the High Court of Australia, died, aged 97, this year.

I expect Jacobs’ death will have come as a surprise to many, as it did to me for the simple reason that I assumed he was already dead.  The authors of this obituary of his elder sister, Marjorie Jacobs, who died in 2013, appear to have overlooked that he survived her.

Jacobs was born in 1917 but because of the war had a career that ran on similar lines but mostly in advance of the career of Anthony Mason, born in 1925.  Jacobs was Mason’s predecessor as Challis Lecturer in Equity at the University of Sydney (during which time he wrote the text that still bears his name: Jacobs on Trusts) and preceded Mason to the NSW Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.  Mason was appointed to the High Court from the NSW Court of Appeal by the McMahon Government in 1972.  Jacobs was appointed to the High Court by the Whitlam Government in 1974.

At his swearing-in, Jacobs’ reputation as a judge of liberal views and wide cultural interests beyond the law, particularly in art and music, was acknowledged. When he was subsequently welcomed in Melbourne by the Chairman of the Victorian Bar, Richard McGarvie QC, he was described as a judge of independent and forward-looking mind who placed great importance on civil liberties.

In April 1979 Jacobs resigned from the High Court.  He had been ill and had not sat on any cases in that year. Jacobs was diagnosed with stomach cancer and told he had only a few months to live.  Reportedly, the then chief justice, Garfield Barwick, did not want him to retire and urged him to take a period of leave to see what happened, but Jacobs (who had previously been a judge of the NSW Supreme Court and Court of Appeal which he left as President) took the view that it would impose an unfair burden on other justices to leave the court a judge down.

Cancer turned out to be a misdiagnosis.  Jacobs saw another specialist and was told he had diverticulitis (a very “in” ailment at the time).  He recovered.  It must have been a bit embarrassing and his eventual survival for a further 36 years even seems mildly comical.  It happens.

Since then, a number of other judges have had lengthy absences from the bench owing to illness.  Perhaps his example has deterred any premature resignations.

Jacobs moved to England in the early 1980s (according the The Australian).  His wife, Eleanor, whom he had married shortly after the War (she was a widow – I infer a war widow – with a young son; they also had a daughter) died in 2002.

Jacobs must have been a sprightly octogenarian as in 2007 he graduated with an MA in Classics from the University of London (that’s a bit non-specific – London has many parts – but it’s the best my source provides).

It seems that over the years various Australians popped in to visit him in England, including James Allsop and that inveterate judicial socialite, Michael Kirby.  The National Library has an oral history interview with him conducted by Peter Coleman in 1996.

Jacobs died in May; news filtered back to Australia in early June; the High Court held a ceremonial sitting in October.  The address was given by Chief Justice French which has since been expanded and published as an article in the NSW Bar News, from which I have filched the bit above about Jacobs’ swearing-in and the remarks by McGarvie. The expanded version also held, to me at least, one last surprise:

The court extends its sympathy upon the death of Sir Kenneth to his daughter, Rosemary Henderson, his stepson, Peter Stewart,and his partner since 2008, Christopher Horodyski.

 

 

 

 

Brumal wanderings

July 23, 2015

D is away.

It is winter, or what passes for it in Sydney.

Parsnips and porridge are in. The dishes pile up and are intermittently scraped, soaked and washed.

It is my first complete winter in the Ashfield house. The house is all electric and I am dreading the electricity bill when it comes.

On the weekend June tipped into July I made a trip to Canberra to see my father. We went together to an NT Live screening of Bernard Shaw’s play Man and Superman at Canberra’s Dendy cinema, which lives atop a Westfield shopping centre in Civic.

It is easy to feel like Rip van Winkle whenever I go to Canberra. When I lived there in the early eighties the site of the Dendy was mostly open air carparks, save for the Griffin Centre, home of various community organisations including the Canberra Recorded Music Society which I suspect may now be defunct judging from the date (2004) of its latest web presence – though I note it is still at least listed as a tenant of the new Griffin Centre.

The screening was at 1pm on a Sunday. Driving towards the enormous carpark I spotted an archetypically Canberran elderly couple in the car next to me. I bet to my father that they too were going to the screening and sure enough when we had finally navigated the carpark and found the cinema (both new to me) so they were.

I looked around at the rest of the audience.

“I think I may be the youngest person here” I commented to my father. Right at that moment someone younger than me sat in front of me but she was just about the only one I could spot.

“Well I’m probably the oldest,” replied my father, just a touch triumphantly. He is 88.

I wasn’t so sure. There were quite a few who could have at least given him a run for his money and I suspect there may have been a few people there in their nineties. I put it down to the combination of old-fashioned high culture (for which a certain class and generation of Canberrans have a particular enthusiasm) and the matinee time. The couple next to us (who had booked seats on the aisle) brought out a thermos of tea at interval and they weren’t the only ones who had brought their own refreshments. I sensed a self-reliant spirit of days gone by – something which in a way the Recorded Music Society also manifested.

By contemporary standards, Man and Superman is an impossibly wordy play. Indeed, even by the standards of its time it was wordy to the point that the wordiness of the protagonist (played in this production by Ralph Fiennes) becomes of necessity a kind of running gag in itself. It came in at over 3 hours even with substantial cuts.

Some of the most substantial cuts were within a dream sequence, which has often either been cut or performed separately, where Don Juan (ie, Don Giovanni) goes to hell. There is a bit of a literary tradition of philosophical riffing on the Don (ETA Hoffmann and Kierkegaard, for starters). Nowadays the libertine figure he cuts is generally depicted as less attractive and more rapacious. Femininism may have something to do with it but I suspect, looking at Shaw’s approach, that it is also because the conventional morality the Don defies is no longer felt to have such stultifying force.

It was almost dark by the time we drove home round Lake B-G, past Black Mountain and catching the last of sunset over the Brindabellas.

Back at my father’s house I looked in vain for the Complete Works of George Bernard Shaw which my parents used to have. I knew that the book (in a way a monument to GBS’s fame at its height) had been left with my parents along with a portable typewriter (on which we all learnt to type) by a friend who left Adelaide in the early 1950s leaving these with them for safekeeping and who never retrieved them.

I asked my father more about this mysterious person. Apparently the book and typewriter owner, Jim Wright, had a friend who was a non-English speaker (necessarily at that time a European; if anything else that would have been remarkable). Somehow my mother had got involved teaching that man English (she was at least a teacher though without any special ESL skills). Not long after, Jim left Adelaide for Europe (my father thought Italy). A couple of years after that my parents moved to Sydney.

I suppose it is possible, depending on exactly how this teaching arrangement had arisen, that Jim might have returned to Adelaide and been unable to trace my parents to Sydney. If they had any acquaintances in common, though, he could have traced them. More likely, he did not return, at least until the trail went cold.

I mean no disrespect to JW to say that this tickled my historical gaydar. Single man with European friend travels to Europe in the 1950s and does not return. Makes you wonder.

Local News – on the beat

November 13, 2013

I put my postcode into the ABC’s Local News site. I wanted to find out more about a cyclist killed in a collision with a truck.

Before I tracked that story down, I read that a man was bashed and stabbed at about 9.30pm last night in Ashfield Park.

According to the report, he walked to a “nearby railway station” (I wouldn’t have said any station is particularly nearby, though two are within walking distance) and rang a family member. At this point the man noticed a small cut on his leg.

His relative took him to the hospital. It seems the injuries are not particularly severe. The story concludes:

“It is understood the victim is not co-operating with the police.”