Culture

Labor MP Penny Sharpe Perfectly Sums Up The ‘Gayby Baby’ Furore In This Passionate Speech

"LGBTI families do not need your judgment, we do not need your advice and we do not need your feigned concern. What we need is to be given respect."

When Maya Newell’s crowdfunded documentary about LGBTI families, Gayby Baby, premiered last month, we proudly called it “the film that will make you un-hate Australia“. But in the past surreal 24 hours, Australia has done everything within its power to fight that claim.

Taking offence at the fact the critically-acclaimed film was set to screen at a Sydney girls’ high school this week for Wear It Purple Day, The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page story claiming parents were outraged about the event. This was then supported by a suite of editorial in which a middle-aged straight man publicly ridiculed a 12-year-old girl with same-sex parents for seeking acceptance from her peers — and, ludicrously, things took off from there.

In what may be some of their most efficient political action to date, NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli explicitly directed the state’s schools to can the film within hours of the Tele‘s stories going to print. NSW Premier Mike Baird publicly pledged his support for this move, before The Guardian had a chance to reveal that neither the school in question nor the Department of Education had received a single complaint against the film in the first place.

Last night, the debate raged on in op-eds, radio, and TV with the many Australians who were outraged by the move making their voices heard; albeit occasionally alongside outspoken proponents. But while all this was whirring on and on and on for LGBT Australians and their allies to observe with horror, NSW Labor MP Penny Sharpe was in Parliament calling bullshit on the whole thing.

“This morning I awoke to a political storm about this touching, funny and honest film about four wonderful young people who have gay or lesbian parents,” she said. “Today’s splash with added nasty commentary in one of our daily metro newspapers came from people who have not seen this film. Their words may have delivered a front page, but they also delivered an ill-informed commentary about this film — commentary which went too far.”

It gets better from there:

“There are days when the politics of the day touch you personally, today is one of those days,” Sharpe said. “I’ve been with my partner for 22 years. I’m the proud mother of three children: 16, 11 and 5. Prior to having our children, my partner and I were foster carers for three terrific young women … These facts should remain unremarkable, except today I was reminded why they are not.”

Speaking from her experiences as a gay parent, Sharpe brought a much-needed clarity to the furore which surrounds the film, and the heavy symbolism it has for those in her position.

“Although over the past two decades the laws have changed to recognise us as a couple and as a family, in the eyes of some, this is not enough. Although we went through a rigorous process that entrusted me to care for young people who were under the care and protection of the Minister of Community Services, in the eyes of some, this is not enough. As politics and my personal life collided today, what became clear is that in the eyes of some, I am not normal and my children are not normal. In the eyes of some, the thousands of gay men, lesbian, transgender and intersex people in our communities and in our families, are not normal. It is time for this to stop. I am normal, my kids are normal, being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or intersex is normal. It is called being a human being.”

Showing a real frustration with the whole mess and the actions of The Daily Telegraph in particular, Sharpe also addressed the media directly indicating they were contributing to a kind of discrimination that leads to bullying, self-harm, suicide and homelessness among the LGBTI population.

“To those that seek to make commentary on LGBTI families, I say this: LGBTI families do not need your judgment, we do not need your advice and we do not need your feigned concern. What we need is to be given the respect we give every family, no matter the structure.”

This message is one which has been proudly championed by a number of Labor politicians especially. This morning Penny Wong penned an op-ed for The Guardian in which she encouraged News Corp staff to watch the film and “learn something from these kids about respect, love and tolerance”. And, more recently Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has offered a frank response on Facebook.

“I’m getting really sick of this stuff,” he said. “Young people who are same-sex attracted often lead a quietly difficult life and they deserve our full support. If you want to talk about things that confuse and distress young people, let’s talk about telling thousands upon thousands of them that they aren’t ‘normal’. No one deserves that – and it’s just not true.”

“We won’t put up with this kind of cruel rubbish in our state. If any young person is hurt by all this, please know that I stand with you. I’m on your side. So is the Victorian Government.”

If you block out all the rest of it — the confected outrage, the misguided moralising, and the fact the government played an active role in this further discrimination of an already marginalised group — it’s almost enough to make you un-hate Australia again.