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19 October 2017


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Rashmii Bell

Thanks Bernard. Further reading from Dennis Altman here in The Conversation:

Altman, whom also responds (balanced), in correspondence to Law's 'Moral Panic' refers to the term used in human rights discourse; SOGI - sexual orientation gender identity.

This term I think captures what I tried to highlight in my own piece that as a heterosexual, (most importantly, a human being) I come to the issue viewing it as the 'human experience'.

Bernard Corden

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it - Evelyn Beatrice Hall from The Friends of Voltaire (1906)

Rashmii Bell

I've just read the correspondence relating to the essay 'Moral Panic' in the current Quarterly Essay issue (68). In the words of Amy Middleton, " I commend him (Benjamin Law) for amplifying the voices that are truly crucial in this discussion, over those that, frankly, we could stand to hear a lot less."

Lyle Shelton's response is in there somewhere.

Given Minister Fierravanti-Wells' recent comments and backlash, issue 68 seems a timely read.

It includes Hugh White's 'Without America: Australia in the New Asia'. An extract of the blurb: "America is fading, and China will soon be the dominant power in our region. What does this mean for Australia's future?.... We (Australia) are heading for an unprecedented future, one without an English speaking great and powerful friend to keep us secure and protect our interests..."

Daniel Kumbon

Papua New Guineans need to know and understand such topics as Rashmii discusses here. We cannot continue to hide behind the façade that ‘we are a christen country’ or that sex is a taboo subject for open discussion.

Same sex marriage, woman’s rights, gender equality and freedom of choice etc are discussed more openly in the modern era. We need to know and understand the type of society we are living in and the different groups of people we will interact with.

Many of our children particularly students and athletes are venturing out away from our shores for further education or compete in international sports tournaments. They need to be protected and made aware of problems they could encounter.

I googled to find out what ‘intersex’ meant and came across Caster Semenya, a South African Gold medalist runner who was subjected to sex verification tests by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to assertion if she was female.

Having beaten her previous 800 m best by four seconds at the African Junior Championships just a month earlier, her quick improvements came under scrutiny. The combination of her rapid athletic progression and her appearance culminated in the IAAF asking her to take a sex verification test.

The IAAF says it was ‘obliged to investigate’ after she made improvements of 25 seconds at 1500 m and eight seconds at 800 m – ‘the sort of dramatic breakthroughs that usually arouse suspicion of drug use.

On 6 July, the IAAF cleared Semenya to return to international competition but the results of the gender tests were not released. But some results were leaked in the press resulting in claims about Semenya having an ‘intersex’ trait.

Caster's ‘intersex’ condition of hyperandrogenism gives her testosterone levels that are three times those usually found in women and approaching those of a man.

She was born with no womb or ovaries and instead, due to a chromosomal abnormality, internal testes.

She spent 11 months on the athletics sidelines while she had tests but was cleared to compete in 2010.

By this time the IAAF had set a testosterone threshold. It meant Caster could run again if she took medicine to suppress her testosterone levels.

The ruling was then challenged by Indian runner Dutee Chand, who also has hyperandrogenism.

In 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the rules for two years, meaning Caster could come off the medication.

Critics agree the way she has been treated has shamed the sport, and harks back to 1966 when female competitors at the European Athletics Championship were subjected to a ‘nude parade’ past three gynaecologists.

In an interview with South African magazine YOU Semenya stated, "God made me the way I am and I accept myself." Following the furor, Semenya received great support within South Africa, to the extent of being called a cause célèbre.

The British magazine New Statesman included Semenya in its annual list of "50 People That Matter" for unintentionally instigating "an international and often ill-tempered debate on gender politics, feminism, and race, becoming an inspiration to gender campaigners around the world."

Some commentators expressed concern about Semenya's testosterone levels.

Eric Vilain, a medical geneticist, said in an interview, "if we push this argument, anyone declaring a female gender can compete as a woman... We’re moving toward one big competition, and the very predictable result of that competition is that there will be no women winners."

Other commentators, such as bioethicist Katrina Karkazis, point to statements by losing competitors as evidence of discriminatory treatment.

Semenya, 26, recently married her long-term partner, Violet Raseboya, 30, while wearing a ‘Prince Charming-style’ outfit of embroidered jacket, gold breeches and velvet slippers for the ceremony as Violet wore a full-length white lace and appliqué dress.

Sharing a string of intimate photographs of the event on instagram, the South African runner referred to her bride as ‘my heart’ and used the hashtag #ourperfectday to sum up their union.

Rashmii Bell

In the conversation and activities towards 'reducing inequalities' in PNG, the rights of LGBITQ should be included. The main reason for writing this piece.

Thank you Phil and Gary. Gary - your last sentence sums up my overall view.

Keith has done (once again) a brilliant job at editing this piece that in its original version is my practising at building up my long form essay writing.

That version is some 3000 words. It opens with reference to Brokeback Mountain- Annie Proulx's novel, adapted to screenplay/film directed by Ang Lee, then goes on to giving an overview of Law's essay of Safe Schools debate (history, development and funding), weaving my thoughts in between.

Happy to forward that version on to anyone who's like to read it. Email

However, I do recommend having a read Law's work in the current issue of Quarterly Essay.

Garry Roche

Rashmii, it takes a lot of courage to venture forth on this topic of LBGTIQ. As Phil relates, he got quite a negative reaction when he raised the topic a few years ago.

I must admit that I had to look up “intersex”, I was not aware that there was such a category in addition to bisexual and transgender!

I am heterosexual , I do not pretend to understand what the personal consequences are for those individuals who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer.

But I do accept and believe that these individuals have the same rights and obligations as the rest of us, and hopefully I have treated all in such manner.

I have read convincing arguments that there are genetic reasons why some people may be lesbian or gay etc. In other words from this viewpoint, it is not a person’s choice to be heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual or what-ever, but rather it is the complex genetic-hormonal –chemical composition of our own bodies that determines our sexual orientation.

At the same time, a recent (April 2017) article in Scientific American stated:

“As it stands, sexual orientation research will continue to evoke widespread interest and controversy for the foreseeable future because it has the potential to be used—for better or worse—to uphold particular sociopolitical agendas.

"The moral acceptability of homosexuality has often hinged on the idea that same-sex desires are innate and immutable and therefore not a choice. This is clear when we think about how previous beliefs around homosexuality being learned were once used to justify now discredited attempts to change these desires. …

"The cross-cultural similarities evinced by the Lethbridge study offer further evidence that being gay is genetic, which is, in itself, an interesting finding.

"But we as a society should challenge the notion that sexual preferences must be non-volitional to be socially acceptable or safe from scrutiny.

"The etiology of homosexuality, biological or otherwise, should have no bearing on gay individuals’ right to equality.”

There are indications that some churches are changing their approach to homosexuality.

Perhaps what is important is that no matter what our orientation we sincerely try and treat each other with respect, avoid abuse, avoid harassment, avoid bullying.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The cutting of funding by the federal government to the safe schools program seems to be symptomatic of Australia's regression on many issues over the last couple of years. I'd classify the outrageous allocation of money to the school chaplains as also a regressive development.

It would seem to me that if Australia sees fit to decriminalise homosexuality it is axiomatic that it also recognises rights that logically fall from that decision, like marriage for instance.

One day, next century maybe, PNG will decriminalise homosexuality. Perhaps it will also acknowledge the rights that a decision like that bestows on people.

I must admit, I don't fully understand the violent opposition to homosexuality in PNG, particularly since it was not uncommon in traditional societies. The only thing I can put it down to is the influence of the Christian churches.

With respect to Bret Stephen's essay and the right to disagree being a sign of a healthy society I can't help thinking about Donald Trump, who is hell bent on making sure people don't have the right to disagree, especially with him.

Trump, I think, is perfect proof that Darwin's theory of evolution is not just something in forward motion, it is quite possible for the human race to evolve backwards. Some Australian politicians want us to evolve backwards to the 1950s. ISIS wants us to evolve backwards to the dark ages.

It's a strange world that we live in I think.

Philip Fitzpatrick

A couple of years ago, pursuant to Bret Stephen's ideas about the value of disagreement and a touch of my own tendency to provocation, I wrote a couple of articles for PNG Attitude about homosexuality. Neither as eloquent as Rashmii's effort.

The first was about the need for PNG to legalise homosexuality. The kick back from this was surprising and shocking. It was the first time I had ever encountered such a virulent and violent reaction to something I had written. This concerned me a great deal, especially since I have some gay friends in PNG. It made me actually fear for their safety.

Amongst those virulent reactions was an undertone that suggested that gay men in particular suffered some sort of biological disability that rendered them weak and ineffective.

With that in mind I followed up with an article about gay kiaps. I figured that in the minds of many PNGs kiaps were seen as wholly competent individuals, extra masculine in fact.

The reaction to that article was deafening silence. It took me a while to figure that one out but a reading of Stephens puts it nicely into perspective.

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