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You can’t dress a boy in pink! My thoughts on gender and parenting…

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Before I begin….

Sex = Biological assignment of male/female/intersex – made up of characteristics such as genitals, hormones, and chromosomes

Gender = Social identity and expression with relation to masculine/feminine/other tastes or interests… in other words, how a person feels themselves to be (man/woman), and how they show that to the world

Despite how much progress has been made in society’s understanding of everything, gender formation – or the development of the intrinsic experience of how a person feels and expresses themselves in relation to boy/girl/other is still a bit of a mystery.

I very much consider myself a cis-gendered woman, but growing up, I felt like a very boyish girl. That is how I related with my gender identity. See above.

When I was pregnant with my son, there was a theory that we knew the sex of our baby. The clothing items I posted to Facebook didn’t help.

Pink cat socks? Must be a girl! A toddler soccer kit? You didn’t tell me you were having a boy? Actually, we were still placing bets the day before we met our baby – whose sex seems to be a delightful XY variety – time will tell how he relates to that with his gender.

I have never bought into the value of rigid gender stereotyping. I find it limiting that if a child presents as a female at birth, she should be press-ganged into a world of image-conscious dolls and shirts that say ‘I Hate My Thighs!’

I have an even lower opinion of make-up sets for little girls who are still losing milk teeth. I cannot help but wonder if all of this image-conscious advertising contributes to the toxic ‘mean girls’ trend that I keep seeing in my teaching career.

Likewise, I cry a little bit inside whenever I see boys steered away from performing arts in favour of plastic guns and shunning their emotions. ‘Boys will be boys’ has become tangled up with unsavoury attitudes that are not too far separated from these stereotypes and expectations.

It should be no surprise that we don’t limit ourselves to pink or blue.

We certainly get raised eyebrows when our son wears his light pink swaddle or purple tie-dyed t-shirt. More so when we show people his doll’s house (which sits beside his toy car.)

Still, I don’t buy into the idea that his gender identity is so fragile that it could be confused by a t-shirt colour or a toy. Whatever he becomes will always be okay by us and I believe it is our job to model acceptance and openness towards a range of interests.

“It’s just the way it’s always been done, that’s the way we’ll always do it.”

Back in 1995, I was not allowed a Batman cake for my fifth birthday. My mother was worried about what my party guests might think, and so I was given a princess cake. I was squeezed into an uncomfortable dress. I ripped that sucker off as soon as I’d blown out the candles.

I don’t blame my parents – it’s hard to buck traditions, lest you be labelled as ‘confusing the children’ or ‘pushing an agenda.’

It is also easy to think that one scantily-clad doll or toy gun is not going to rattle any child’s cage, but when our young are inundated with media and peer influence, there is no way out – unless a wider range of options are encouraged. Freedom to explore starts at home.

I would love for my child to do ballet lessons AND sports – or for his birthday cake to be anything he likes, superheroes or magical pink unicorns. His toybox is filled with puzzles, trucks, dress-ups, dolls, and LEGO. I don’t automatically reach for the bluest of blues in the clothing aisle, either.

In light of not having a default, people have applauded us for subscribing to ‘gender neutral parenting.’ The occasional person accuses us of ‘turning him gay’ – if that were possible, the opposite – conversion therapy – would have more credibility.

What we espouse is far from neutral – and I do not believe it is an unreasonably radical statement, either. It isn’t about raising a child free from these influences, but with the encouragement to explore in the safe love of two open-minded parents.

After all, I believe that it doesn’t really matter how much you push or police gender expectations either way – children will adopt whatever they feel as comfortable to their identity, and exposing them to a range of interests and tastes sends the message that any of it is fine by us. Conversely, discouraging a child from being their truest self can inflict harm from which they may never completely recover.

He can be whoever he wants to be – free from conditions, assumptions, and toxic limitations.

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Plus, he looks adorable in pink.

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Body shame and pregnancy.

Despite our highly enlightened modern world, body-shaming is a common experience for many people.

You would think that having the power to connect and inform would reduce this somewhat, but the shaming comment remains a popular way for people to bring out the worst in each other and themselves.

An easy-to-reach, low-hanging fruit is a person’s self-image. Body shame is something I noticed before falling pregnant, during my pregnancy, and immediately after.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the elusive pregnancy glow I was exhibiting was just frustration!

Prior to falling pregnant, I was a vegetarian marathon runner and triathlete. I played soccer and did weekly Park Runs. This lifestyle left me with a 12-year-old boy body, so the novelty of bouncing breasts was something I looked forward to.

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Note, this wore off very quickly the first time I tried to do Park Run with an underwire bra.

Prior to pregnancy, people would make comments about my body with great frequency.

“You should eat more. Vegetarianism is making you weak.”

I found myself perplexed. I could squat more than I weighed, my best 5km time was under 23 minutes, and I was in the Brisbane female top 20 for goal-score counts in the 2014 season of soccer. I also completed a marathon in under 4 hours.

Weak? Only when the potato chips were in arm’s reach.

When I started IVF treatments, I took steroids to aid with implantation. These tablets forced me to visit the drive-thru as soon as work finished each day.

The worst part about working in a small community is that the whole postcode knows you caved in and had junk food by 8am the next school day.

“Hey Miss, saw you at the KFC. Did you get fries with that?”

Cravings aside, steroids also have a positive impact on helping a woman get pregnant on an assisted reproductive cycle.

Yeah, I got pregnant.

You know what else I got? Fat. I got fat.

Actually, these are not my own words. I harboured a tiny bump up until I was induced, 4 days overdue. I got a job at 23 weeks pregnant and nobody I worked with (except for my boss) knew until I was 30 weeks along.

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40 weeks + 3 days

It was my midwife who told me at my 36 week appointment.

“You’ve gained 20kg. This puts you in the upper percentile – so yeah, you are overweight. You should watch what you eat.”

Daaaaaaaamn.

This got me thinking. I knew that my weight was fine. You can’t use a BMI scale when a person is carrying a baby, extra blood, and fluid.

However – what if I had been more vulnerable? What if I struggled with body image?

Imagine the consequences for a child in utero when a Mum starts cutting her calories out of fear of being “fat.”

Sure, there are risks when you have a significant weight problem, and I’m not suggesting that medical practitioners should dance around this.

What I am concerned about is where the threshold is – whether it’s worth it to add stress to a person who is growing a tiny human if they’re just a bit above par with their weight gain.

The moment I left the hospital, most of the weight dropped off very rapidly, which I was expecting, given my body type and the percentage of fluid retention.

Now, the “concerned” comments have come back.

“Are you sure you should be breastfeeding? Just give yourself a break and a chance to recover. Fed is best.”

I am sure that if I had an inappropriate fat percentage in relation to my individual body, then my milk supply would have dried up.

Au contraire. My son is a beast – wearing size 00 at the ripe old age of 5 weeks old.

They say that pregnancy helps you to embrace your body because you see what it is capable of. Absolutely, that is the truth. But do you know what else you learn to embrace?

The fact that you just can’t win, no matter what your size is.  

We should all be more considered with our words – if we can’t fight against the media saturation and the advertising, the least we can do is support one another as women.

And yeah, I’ll have fries with that.

-crunch-

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Rumble in the trash jungle – adventures in suburban recycling

I absolutely love being a spend-thrift.

Far from the modern grind-til-you-die attitude, gotta-have-it, spend, spend, spend mentality, I believe that the easiest way to become your richest self is to live below your means – and to acquire less. After all, the greatest assets are time and opportunity, not material belongings.

On this parenthood journey, I want to provide, but also to raise a child who is resourceful, ethical, and an environmental steward.

Not an easy task, but parenthood isn’t.

In the spirit of consume-less, recycle-more, save-more-money, I want to share my experience with Containers for Change. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this newfangled scheme.

four assorted-color trash bins beside gray wall

Queensland recently launched Containers for Change to address the low recycling rate. Did you know that around 3 billion beverage containers are discarded every year and they are the second most littered item? Crazy! And kind of shit when you consider that we should theoretically know better in our age of information. 

The way it works is that you sign up online, receive a personal code, and take your empty beverage containers into a depot, preferably in a reusable bag to reduce waste. The depots are quick and effective and will put your empties into a box, count them, and deposit the money into your account.

In drop-off locations, it can take awhile to receive a refund due to differences in collection and sorting times. I find that the depots are the best and easiest. Feedback from others has revealed that some of the sites work differently and are nowhere near as effective. Hopefully, this will be addressed.

Funnily enough, I don’t drink many bottled beverages. I believe that helping the environment is best achieved by reducing one’s consumption (e.g buying better/less.) So how do I generate recycling, to earn the refunds? And what am I spending it on? 

Glad you asked. Since giving birth nearly a month ago, I have started to walk around the neighbourhood again. I start my morning by expressing milk and then setting out for my walk while Natalie and The Boy are still snoozing.

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Aw, yes. 10c! Come to Mama! Note – it did not ‘come to Mama.’ I had to get my socks and shoes wet. Whatever!

I take an enviro-bag and keep my eyes peeled for discarded empties. My route covers a walking path behind The Gap High School, and sometimes if there are empties close to the fence line, I can poke a stick through and retrieve them.

On the way, there is a creek that collects the occasional empty can. I have no issue with getting my feet wet to swipe them – the obvious benefit is that this is removing trash from a natural habitat.

On my way back, I go past the shopping centre. There are spots where employees sit for their smoko. One guy has the same iced coffee every day and leaves it on top of the bin. I swipe it (and then use hand sanitiser.) Occasionally, he’ll still be drinking it when I walk past. I lay low and resist the urge to say, ‘You done, or…’

His trash is my treasure. 10c, ka-ching! Waste not, want not.

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This is just one morning – 7.5km route, The Gap, Brisbane. You kind of wish that people would be less disgusting, but that will never happen.

Then, there is bin diving. I don’t feel comfortable digging through bins at random homes, but given that I live in an apartment block, I can often collect other people’s empties if I ask.

As for the money? We deposit the refunds into an account we started before our son was born. The magical trash collections will go towards what we already put aside to allow him to be debt-free and educated in the future.

Obviously, the scheme isn’t perfect and it is far from a catch-all solution for waste, but if it encourages people to recycle and pick up litter, then it is a step in the right direction.

And it’s putting The Boy through college. Win-win.

 

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How did you do THAT? My experience of IVF!

This is published in QNews Issue 469 – which you can get from many book stores, bars, cafes, and clothing stores around Queensland.
www.qnews.com.au 

The first time I told an acquaintance, ‘My wife and I are expecting our first baby in December,’ the response was, ‘How?’ Luckily, I love talking about how babies are made, especially ours. The path we walked (due to my endometriosis) was initiated by in-vitro fertilisation – or IVF. Although many people think of this as a modern innovation, it was first developed 40 years ago!

Although our baby will be born in 2018, IVF’s first baby was born in 1978. In the same era that brought flared jeans and ABBA to the fore, IVF was just as experimental, attracting mixed views from the general public.

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Back then, IVF involved removing a single egg from the mother’s natural ovulation and placing it in the same environment as live sperm. After the egg was fertilised and had matured into a multiple-celled embryo, it was placed inside the mother, where it attached to the uterine wall and grew into a baby.

When we started, 38 years after its debut, IVF had evolved. Artificial hormones could allow for the creation and removal of multiple eggs, which could be fertilised with free-swimmers – but sperm could also injected into the eggs under a microscope, which addresses some male fertility concerns resulting from lower motility.

An embryo can now be implanted fresh, or frozen for later use – a technology that became available in the 1980s. A woman can now have multiple attempts to get pregnant from the same egg pick-up surgery by freezing leftover embryos. Eggs, sperm, and embryos can be frozen, used later, or even donated to other people. Just like we watched vinyl records morph into Spotify in the same amount of time, the complexity of fertility issues that could be solved increased.

“What do you think of this one? He is a healthy soccer player, and had braces growing up, just like me!”

Choosing the sperm was like a game of Guess Who. We looked through an album of potential young men who could help us create a baby, without wanting parental status. Although our child can access his details at the age of 18, we are legally their parents. Not everyone chooses this, and fertility clinics also allow people to choose people they know, subject to medical testing.

After our little game of Guess Who, I went in for a game of Operation. The most nerve-wracking part of this process was calling the clinic every day and seeing how many of our potential babies were still growing. Six were removed at surgery, but by day five, only two had made it to the freezer. Although it felt disappointing, I knew that my ice-ice-babies were going to give us a good chance of pregnancy.

Nearly two years later, the doctor furrowed his brow at the consultation and told me, ‘Be prepared, this first attempt is very unlikely to work.’

At least he was honest.

Some say the body is a temple, but I think it is more like a garden. When you are preparing for IVF, they scan your uterine lining a number of times to check that it is nutrient-rich for your microscopic ‘seed.’ I was given a nip of brandy and Valium – which would be my last drink for a very long time! This relaxed my muscles and the doctor inserted the embryo into my body, using a very thin surgical implement. It was mildly uncomfortable and took a few minutes.

I was so sure that my doctor must be right about the first time not working (with his 30+ years of experience) that I went to Cairns the very next day. I didn’t drink or carry on recklessly, but I swam in waterfalls, walked to places in the heat, and ate ridiculous wontons in a high-end restaurant. I also had the joy of hanging out with three of my nearest and dearest – my wife, and our close friends, Carmen and Mick. I had no qualms lying spread-legged in the back of their 4WD post-waterfall and waiting for my soluble hormone tampon (pessary) to melt. I was in great company. It was awesome.

Two weeks, 10 pee sticks and a blood test confirmed that it had worked! The process of making a baby may not always require IVF for same-sex couples, but this is my experience of its miraculous science. What a time to be alive!

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Have yourself a critically-thinking Christmas – or, why I bat for Team Santa

As an adult, my excitement towards Christmas has been limited to one of two activities:

1. Teaching my students how to make crafts for loved ones

and

2. Pressing all of the toys at Kmart and then walking away, creating an annoying canon of Christmas carols

I also work with my loved ones (my parents and my wife) to throw together some donation baskets for various animal rescues and family charities. Other than that, I tend to leave the country, so I miss a lot of the Christmas hype. Being grown-ass adults, we also don’t bother with gifts.

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As a child, I had a few short, sweet years where I believed there was a Santa Claus. I eventually had doubts – after all, why would an altruistic flying dude with a sack fail to address world hunger if he could deliver a bunch of stuff to kids every year?

I also questioned the plausibility of the physics, but it was good fun while it lasted. One of my best memories was when my brother and I received a game to share – Key to the Kingdom. Best 1990s board game, ever. Also, when we received a Yo-Ho Diablo, also to share. I can never remember having as much fun with a toy as when we took that bad boy into primary school and showed off all our tricks.

Santa must have known how much we wanted those particular toys…. right?

Now that we are about to give birth, I am noticing that there are two distinct teams – Team Santa and Team Critical ThinkingThe former love to take their children through the Santa stories, leaving carrots out for the reindeer. They’ll claim that at least one of the presents beneath the tree has been delivered by Santa. The latter consider themselves to be critical thinkers and shun the idea of propagating any ‘lies’ with their children because they want to foster intellect in their progeny.

Excuse me while I vomit. 

While these types wish to endow their child with thinking prowess, they fail to acknowledge one vital caveat; there has been limited research to support their assertion. That is to say, their rejection of Santa Claus on the basis of it disrupting critical thought development is mostly anecdotal conjecture. To which I give a resounding…. citation required. 

You would think that the first place a critical thinking parent would go to form their views would be research, but peer-reviewed articles to support the Anti-Santa viewpoint largely do not exist – like Santa himself.

What does exist is a significant body of research on development that points to the unequivocal benefits of pretend play and imagination. Children who engage in this form of play by themselves and with others develop a greater capacity for cognitive flexibility and creativity.

Busting the Santa Myth using burgeoning critical reasoning skills actually paves the way for cognitive development that will later be beneficial for persuasion, problem-solving, and innovative activities (like robotics!)

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It is generally a short-lived myth, but while children believe, it can provide magic and positivity – from the sharing of stories, the anticipation of writing letters to Santa, and the excitement of receiving a gift. I personally draw the line at using Santa to control behaviour – be good or you won’t get anything from Santa! After all, managing behaviour is the job of parents – but there are no clauses in the handbook that say you need to use Santa in that way, and it probably won’t do any lasting harm.

Once the child begins to work through the myth themselves, that is when the real magic begins, because you can then appoint them as Santa’s Helper – a child who has figured it all out themselves, but who has a special role in protecting it for younger siblings and friends. Children who have lived Santa’s magic might relate to keeping it alive for others, but children who have always heard the Santa myth shunned will likely struggle to develop this empathy.

I have met many families who squash the Santa myth before their child is ever able to believe. Far from developing critical thought, what tends to happen is an uncomfortable sense of intellectual and moral superiority from the mouths of babes.

“Only BABIES believe in Santa Claus. You must be STUPID.” 

You can imagine how pleasant these children are.

I received the short-lived joy of Santa as a child. I am critically rigorous of any viewpoint as an adult, to the point where it annoys the people who love me because I won’t accept any poppycock at face value. That is to say – yep, I’m not fun at parties!

Yes, that is an anecdote with a sample size of 1, but I think you’ll find the rigour of figuring Santa out is more beneficial for a child than begrudging them the experience in the name of ‘critical thinking.’

Ooh-la-la.

Let them eat cake – and leave some out for the big guy, too. 

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, or whatever you relate to! May this season be a time of safety and love for you and yours.

shallow focus photo of Merry Xmas LED signage

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Benefits of pregnancy massage

When I became pregnant after my first attempt at IVF, people were quick to offer me encouragement. It was assumed that my level of fitness, reasonable diet, and lower body weight had somehow influenced my success. Although it is very easy to be self-congratulatory, my two biggest “secrets” were my low maternal age and my doctor, who had used a high amount of hormonal intervention.

In the months leading up to transfer, my body was pumped with self-injected blood thinners and I took numerous hormones and steroids. Many of these medications continued up until the 12th week of my pregnancy. As you can imagine, I felt (and looked) like I had been ridden hard and put up wet. The exhaustion and physical pain in those early days was overwhelming.

A few weeks before the transfer, I decided to visit a massage therapist. I found one locally – Blossoms and Honeybees – who specialises in pre-IVF massage and continued pregnancy treatment. Some of the benefits of this treatment include:

  • Increased blood flow throughout the body
  • Relaxation and muscle support
  • Wellbeing and stress management
  • Something to look forward to that distracts from the anxiety of the two-week-wait!

I will stress that although a regular massage in a shopping centre is a great treat, what I am describing here is a therapist who has specialised qualifications in IVF-tailored massage therapy. It will cost you more than the guy behind the curtain, but I believe it is worth it if you benefit from massage.

As well as being excellent for my body, my massage therapist has also given strategies I can take home for dealing with swelling, poor sleep caused by discomfort, and even the Brisbane heat. Many of the suggestions revolve around foods or drinks that can be incorporated  to alleviate various symptoms. I especially appreciated this when the swelling from steroids reached its peak, right before my wedding.

Massage therapy is also covered under my ‘extras’ in private health, so it can be worth checking if you have access to this. Like anything, it is good to gain benefit where you can with health insurance. Your own wellbeing and stress management throughout pregnancy and IVF is as important as eating well or taking pregnancy supplements.

It is an investment, but one I would certainly recommend in managing the stress and discomfort that IVF brings! 

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Active birthing classes with Mummy and Co – they’re pretty awesome

When I first became pregnant, the most immediate thing I noticed (after the initial celebration) was the amount of advice I was given. People who know me well, gave me incredibly pragmatic advice – which kinds of baby outfits are best for nappy changes, how to sterilise and soak a cloth nappy, where to go to get a car seat fitted, among many other practical strategies. These were useful and I took note of all of them.

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The next most frequent topic was antenatal classes. Advice was clearly divided into two very firm positions; some people had left these classes in tears, and others told me that they were an absolute must. So I did some research, and many of the hospital-provided programs didn’t appeal to us.

The most concerning thing for us as a same-sex couple was the discussion of sex and contraception, which I felt was irrelevant to us. I also worried about this being a safe space for our family. Although most people are quite inclusive, particularly around where we live, I had heard about same-sex couples feeling very uncomfortable in some of these spaces. So I let it go. We didn’t sign up.

My pregnancy massage therapist, Blossoms and Honeybees suggested that we should opt for an active birthing class with Liz Lush (Mummy & Co), a physiotherapist in Brisbane. It seemed to focus more on the labour and empowering the support person with a toolbox of skills to use in pain management.

Far from being an uncomfortable space, Liz took us through exactly what labour would be like – how it starts, how it progresses, and what can be done at each stage. She also spoke about the various interventions, when they are used, and how to advocate for or against certain procedures when there is an opportunity for choice.

After this, Liz took us through specific strategies that could help distract us from pain. We practised these while tightly holding cubes of ice (because although it’s nothing on labour, it gives you an idea of what your tolerance levels are for certain kinds of contact during feeling of pain.)

Through this process, I was able to establish that I really do not like close contact when pain or discomfort is at a peak, but I do like heavy pressure on my back and stomach in between. Liz showed us specific ways of achieving this and which massage strategies would provide me with comfort. My wife was then able to attempt it and receive feedback on her technique. Overall, I highly recommend receiving pregnancy massage from a specialised therapist, which I plan to blog about next time, as well as shopping around for birth preparation classes. Everyone does it differently and gets different results, but we were very happy with the care we have received from both Blossoms and Honeybees and Mummy and Co.

Now…. along with all the useful strategies we learned… we also had the opportunity to learn some Pinterest-worthy mantras for birth. Normally, I dismiss a lot of #inspo as platitudes and fluff, but you’d be amazed at how powerful words of affirmation are when you’re about to embark on such a primal journey! It is pretty miraculous, what we are capable of… 

 

Image sourced from 10 Things Yoga Mama

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Show, don’t tell – (part of) my experience with religious freedom exemptions

Shared on IQ Digest 

A colleague wanted to talk. Not unexpected. Working in a Christian workplace, I originally planned to stay closeted. However, at a dinner party with work colleagues I accidentally mentioned my wife.

My colleague counselled me on the “need” to disclose my relationship to our boss. We’d just taken out a home loan. We wanted to start a family. Now my income was endangered.

After a discussion with my immediate boss, I was passed up the chain to state management. I was advised not to discuss my identity with the students, their parents, my colleagues, or on the internet. Any argument about the erasure of my identity was brushed aside with a reminder of a specific clause in my employment contract.

Australian Christian institutions receive taxpayer funding, often equal to – or exceeding – that of the public system. Nevertheless, church affiliated organisations are exempt from the Sex Discrimination Act which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. The law allowed my employer to discriminate against me as a lesbian.

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We all sin equally, but I question whether love can ever truly be a sin.

The employment contract included vaguely worded clauses such as a requirement for employees to ‘support the ethos of the church’. Did this mean we were required to be regular church-goers? If so, it didn’t concern me. As a practising Christian, I attended church regularly, unlike many work colleagues. But lesbianism apparently ranked higher as a sin than sleeping in on Sunday. Reading between the lines of my employment contract I surmised that we all sin equally, but some more equally.

Some say, “Get another job,” but some LGBTIQ professionals are also people of faith. Working in a faith-based establishment is the job they want and are best qualified for. Others just need a job. In specific industries, such as teaching, there are many applicants for fewer positions. Getting another job may be harder than it sounds.

I accepted my situation. However wrong the conditions of my employment, I had signed a lawful contract. But there was no reciprocal appreciation of my acquiescence. In fact, my working environment became markedly unpleasant with increasing scrutiny of my behaviour.

Socialising with colleagues was discouraged because it might lead to my being ‘found out’. When another staff member repeatedly made inappropriate comments towards me, I was told, she knew I was gay and the comments were her way of processing it.

Maybe.

I considered resigning. I sent hundreds of applications to advertised jobs, and attended interviews. I even considered unemployment. At times, living with no disposable income seemed a better option than my hostile work environment. Throughout this process, I developed anxiety. I had sleepless nights. When I cried on the way to work, I knew something had to change.

Finally, management suggested a staff event to address my situation. Far from it being an LGBTIQ+ inclusion and awareness event, it was a Bible study on homosexuality. There would be open discussion on various viewpoints and the opportunity to ‘out’ myself. I would face a jury of my colleagues (some not yet aware of my sexuality). The (im)morality of my life, my sexuality, my marriage all up for public judgement in a way none of my heterosexual colleagues would ever have to face. Nauseated at the thought, I threatened to take the day off sick. The idea was discarded.

I now felt at the mercy of everybody else’s ‘freedom of religion’. I had no legal protection. I resigned. I was sad to leave the people I worked with, as many supported me behind closed doors, but I knew it was for the best. Even as a reverent Christian, I will never again teach in a faith-based employment setting.

My lived experience and the knowledge that others experience the same hopelessness cause me to strongly oppose exemptions from the discrimination laws. The freedom to discriminate is out of step with the views of our nation. It is also morally reprehensible.

I would argue that Jesus would not stand for it, despite what his loud, self-appointed spokespersons might say. Fortunately my story has a happy ending, but there is no limit to the harm that can be done when institutions have the freedom to discriminate.

we like you proud signage

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We don’t need to do that gay stuff

Those of you who follow my personal Facebook and Twitter page may have noticed that I recently undertook training in the area of LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion. A lot of people are asking, why is this even necessary?

Recently, the Director General launched a policy that demonstrates Queensland Education’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, for the benefit of its workforce. This includes the training of liaison officers to support employees coping with discrimination and coming out. Likewise, it aims to educate its teachers and leadership teams on the necessity of intentional inclusive practices in our schools.

Overall, individuals who identify as LGBTI still experience discrimination and exclusion that impacts their working outcomes and mental health. This can be exacerbated with employers who have freedom of religion. This gives the church and its institutions carte blanche to behave in ways that would be deemed unlawful in state institutions (for example, in schools, healthcare settings, and universities). On a human level, many of these actions are out of step with Australian values and modern legal precedents.

One question I am asked frequently is, in what ways can employers still realistically discriminate? I thought it would be worthwhile to provide a succinct guide that outlines some of what I have experienced or read about, in the hopes that it could help someone else in a similar situation.

1. Any leave provisions that other employees can access may not be applicable to gay, lesbian, or other employees. 

In this, I am referring to leave that a person may take in order to deal with life business. One example is wedding leave. Because a same-sex union is not recognised by the church or by some individuals, an employer can make it difficult to access this provision. Likewise, carer’s leave or medical leave accessed for the purpose of obtaining fertility treatment can be deemed a ‘lifestyle choice.’

Until you have had to take a false sick day in order to start your family, I cannot hear you say that sexuality does not matter in the workplace and that diversity and inclusion is not needed in every context.

2. Your life and relationships may be put into the public forum for discussion or “spiritual development.” 

I am not kidding when I say that I have heard of and experienced staff development days about homosexuality, to allow people to ‘air’ and ‘grapple with’ their views on the matter, before suggesting that this could be a good opportunity for people to come out. I’m glad to say that these events are not common, but it is quite upsetting to hear about.

3. Social and professional engagement is limited when diversity and inclusion are not done well.

You may end up working in a school that prides itself on “community.” However, if your personal life is deemed as “controversial”, you will be summarily excluded from this engagement. For some, this may be a blessing, but it can definitely put you on the periphery in institutions where success relies on engagement. I have personally felt that there was a time when I felt I couldn’t even comment on articles related to gay rights online, let alone publish a book about it myself. Everyone weighs up their own contributions, but I could not live like that.

If you are feeling excluded or discriminated against, there is support out there. This resource has a range of liaison services and legal advice that you can access, I have personally accessed a few of these at times when the Independent Education Union could no longer assist me due to the complexity of my case. Moving into the public sector provided me with more protections, but this isn’t always possible for everyone.

If your working environment is causing you to feel mentally unwell, this resource is valuable reading. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, even if your current circumstances seem complex and difficult.

time lapse photography of water ripple