The Daily Telegraph Bravely Tells A 12-Year-Old Girl With Two Mums That She’s “Not Normal”
Middle-aged columnist publicly bullies a kid from a same-sex family, because Journalism.
It’s been at least several days since the Daily Telegraph last used its immense platform to actively make people’s lives worse, so they were due for another round of hateful stupidity sometime this week. And boy, have they delivered. Taking a quick break from shrieking blue murder about the ABC, Muslims and/or anyone brown, poor people, sharks and mushrooms, the Tele‘s latest front page takes aim at the great Rainbow Menace that is schools teaching LGBTI kids to feel okay about themselves. Behold:
Some context: Burwood Girls High School in Sydney’s inner west planned a screening of Gayby Baby, a new documentary about Aussie kids in same-sex parenting families, to celebrate Wear It Purple Day on August 28, an annual event that aims to combat bullying and stigma against young LGBTI people in schools. Gayby Baby was chosen to show to the kids at least in part because Wear It Purple was co-founded by a former Burwood Girls student, Katherine Hudson.
Wear It Purple Day has been celebrated in schools across Australia for years and no one’s batted an eye, but for whatever reason the Tele saw an opportunity to stir up some gay-panic nonsense by claiming parents are “outraged” that their kids are being subjected to pro-gay propaganda. To back that garbage angle up, the accompanying article quotes an anonymous parent who asserts “they have no right to teach my daughter that kind of thing,” as well as local Presbyterian Minister Mark Powell, who claims in the article that the school “is trying to change people’s minds by promoting a gay lifestyle”.
Firstly, that Minister sounds like a delightful human being, doesn’t he. Second, the school isn’t “forcing” anyone to watch anything; the school notified parents of their intention to screen the movie in a letter sent out to homes, and added that students who didn’t want to watch it could opt out and study in the library instead if their parents let the deputy principal know. If the angle wasn’t so revolting, the fact that a major newspaper managed to devote upwards of 600 words and its front page to a movie screening in a suburban high school would almost be impressive. Even for the Tele, it’s a pretty weak beat-up; something that a stack of people have already begun to point out on their Facebook page.
But the Tele wasn’t done. It devoted the lion’s share of its daily editorial to the story, arguing that “children in their most impressionable years [shouldn’t be] brainwashed with propaganda” and wrongly claiming again that students were “required” to watch the film. Tele columnist Piers Akerman went further, writing that the school’s principal, who he mentions by name, “has failed the parents of her pupils by embracing political propagandists who have seized her school’s agenda”.
In an op-ed titled ‘Gay push should be kept out of schools‘ — which honestly has too many nauseating sentiments to pull out and critique individually in the time and space I have here — Akerman attacks “the fantasy that homosexual families are the norm” and offers up this pearl of wisdom to one of the kids who stars in Gayby Baby, taking as his cue her admission that the bullying and stigma she encounters because of who her parents are makes her feel bad:
“Twelve-year-old Ebony is quoted saying: ‘It’s not normal. You’re not normal.’ They’re the kind of things that go through my head.’
“Well, Ebony, normality is the state of being usual, typical, or expected according to the Oxford Dictionary and according to the 2011 Census, there were only around 33,700 same-sex couples in Australia, with 17,600 male same-sex couples and 16,100 female same-sex couples. Same-sex couples represented about 1 per cent of all couples in Australia — which would indicate they do not meet the definition ‘normal’.”
Disregard, for the moment, the irony of a human pufferfish like Piers Akerman lecturing anybody about what is and isn’t “normal,” as well as the beauty of one of Australia’s highest-paid columnists backing up his argument by quoting the fucking dictionary like a Year Nine debate student.
Imagine instead that this exchange took place in real life — that a young girl on a train opened up to a friend about the uncertainty and shame she feels because of the way people treat her and her two mums, and a bloated middle-aged man abruptly leaned over the back of the chair in the next row, got in her face and gave her a lecture about why those feelings are justified.
That would be a hideous thing for any grown adult to do to a child, but instead Akerman chooses to do it to thousands of kids like Ebony at once, via his widely-read column in one of Australia’s largest newspapers. If you’re genuinely unable to imagine the kind of wretchedness of spirit that could lead someone to do that, unfortunately you don’t have to: sadly for even slightly decent people everywhere, Piers Akerman exists.
Finally, the whole thing was the subject of the print comments section’s daily cartoon, which somehow manages to be just as vile as all that came before it in a single panel:
It’s the little details here that do it for me; the raised pinky finger of NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, implying via an old nudge-nudge slur from the 1950s that he’s gay, is an especially deft touch. If you could sum up the rotten old-style homophobia lazily disguised as hand-wringing, Think Of The Children faux-outrage that soaks through non-stories like this in a single image, it’d be hard to top this one.
No doubt the hardworking writers and editors over at the Tele are slapping each other on the back for cranking out another front page that’ll get social media riled up and dominate the news cycle for another day; that’s at least partially the point of doing stories like this one, and they’re very good at it. Hopefully that satisfaction will soothe the niggling discomfort that comes from encouraging comments like these for a living.