In the latest example of gross stereotyping and intolerance opposition leader Bill Shorten’s comments that the marriage plebiscite could cause young gay people to commit suicide are to be condemned. Apart from being deeply demeaning, this type of intervention simply promulgates an outdated and false stereotype of homosexuality in society.
Worse still, his statement is not based in fact or evidence – aside from statements from ideologues there is no Australian data to suggest that LGBTI people take their lives at much higher rates. Indeed, a 2014 study in Queensland found that only 0.5 per cent of the almost 6,000 cases examined were members of the LGBTI community.
Instead of expressing confidence in the Australian people to have a respectful discussion on marriage, Mr Shorten has chosen to spit out sensationalised prerehearsed lines designed to make the TV and print news in an attempt to shame Australians into backing his view.
While I absolutely accept, and can attest, that it is not always easy growing up as someone who is gay – and to compound matters, to be a gay conservative – but the vast bulk of LGBTI people that I know are smart, articulate and strong individuals.
Mr Shorten’s continued push of the stereotype that all homosexuals are sad, impulsive and not in control of their emotions to the extent that a TV advertisement may force them to commit suicide is not only offensive and deeply demeaning but, I am sure, would be doing more harm than good for any young person coming to grips with their sexuality – and for nothing more than making a political point.
If Mr Shorten were genuine about wanting to better support young people who are suffering depression – and let’s be clear here, youth depression and suicide is a BIG problem across the whole community not just amongst LGBTI people – he would be talking up the positive contribution that people from all walks of life can make in Australia. That we are an aspirational nation where it doesn’t matter your gender, race or sexuality if you set your mind to it you can achieve whatever you like.
Instead his belittling stereotypes only make people feel more isolated and alone.
If Mr Shorten were so sure of his position on marriage he would be welcoming a vote of the people with an open embrace not clutching at every excuse to oppose it – from labelling all opponents of change as homophobic to now inferring that supporters of marriage will have blood on their hands.
This kind of behaviour is not only unbecoming it just again demonstrates why Bill Shorten is unfit to be prime minister.
Josh Manuatu is the Development Director of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia and a staffer to Liberal Senator Eric Abetz