A SSM Plebiscite. A mass opinion poll on people’s lives

As a straight up disclaimer, I am not trying to influence anyone’s opinion on voting in this plebiscite or pretend that I am across the many details and nuances of this issue. This is my thoughts on a complicated and conflicting event in Australia’s history. I also want to acknowledge that the debate and commentary around this event will be difficult, challenging and at times, ruthless bordering on abusive towards LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families.

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A postal plebiscite. Woo hoo. Who can’t get excited about what is really going to be an oversized, unrepresentative opinion poll that will potentially exclude and silence many homeless, displaced and marginalised people. NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has already signalled that residents of town camps and remote communities may not have their voices heard. Without seeing exactly how they are going to manage remote and rural voting, I can’t say for sure, but I can’t imagine the long-grass community of Darwin will have the capacity to sort out their enrolment quickly.

There are a lot of things wrong about this whole thing – but one thing is for certain – if you want to exercise your right to vote and have the power to  decide on marking yes; marking no; or effectively boycotting the whole damn thing  – YOU NEED TO BE ENROLLED. Stop reading and GO HERE NOW AND CHECK YOUR STATUS: https://check.aec.gov.au/ . Right, now that you know you are enrolled correctly (or have sorted out your registration), you are good to go.

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Aside from the inherent methodological flaws that this glorified survey holds; aside from the fact that it will exclude many people from being able to participate and have their voices heard; and aside from the fact that it opens the door to some horrific levels of debate (the nonsensical, yet incredibly hurtful abuse targeting high profile people on Twitter is just the start); and aside from the fact that it isn’t held to the same standards around misleading advertising – its just a bit of a cop out.

We elect our parliamentarians to make these decisions as part of our chosen system of government. I’m not a huge Senator Dean Smith fan, but his efforts to get a bill up and running that at least had politicians filling their role failed to get off the ground. It was flawed, yes – but it called for elected officials to do their job. We’ve only had three previous national plebiscites in Australia – dealing with military service conscription (defeated), reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force overseas (defeated), and choice of Australia’s national song (‘Advance Australia Fair’ was preferred).

“They go against the grain of a system in which we elect parliamentarians to make decisions on our behalf”.                                           – George Williams

What else will we have plebiscites for? What other decisions will our elected parliamentarians feel they are incapable to undertake without a survey of the people? Why bother with a Parliment at all, when we can just run the country on postal surveys? Mr Rabbot was laughed out of town when he proposed one for the mining tax. And why use the ABS rather than the AEC? Is it a chance to give them another go at running a big survey to see if they can improve on the last Census?

No sooner had the plebiscite been announced, there were high profile members of the LGBTQIA+ community calling for a boycott – including Michael Kirby. I read their opinions with much interest. What should I do? There are people urging us to vote – either way, just have our voices actually heard.

There are a few sides to this debate – the Liberal party have been quick to position themselves on the idea that a boycott is a “spit in the eye”; and while Peter Dutton says he will follow the vote of the people, I’m not holding my breath – particularly when some of his Liberal and National colleagues have made it clear they’ll ignore the result anyway. Unless it’s a no. I suppose they are on the side of encouraging us to vote, either way – but if the plebiscite has a terrible turn-out, with a failure to capture a representative sample of the population, it will be Peter Dutton’s $122 million dud – so of course he wants you to vote.

There are people, from the Marriage Equality side of things urging us to vote yes to change – and that boycott is playing right into the hands of everyone’s favourite Trump-Lite, Cory Bernardi. Now, Cory, known for his temperance, understanding and open-mindedness, just wants us to all get along and have a grown-up debate about the issue. People like Lyle Shelton, from the Australian Christian Lobby; just want to chat facts and freedom really. Lets acknowledge though, that “thoughtful debate” can still have an incredible impact on individuals – and this debate can impact not just on strangers you don’t care about, but your own family.

Now, there are sound arguments for participating, and voting yes – even if you don’t think it will do anything. If nothing else, you’ll force the no vote to expend resources campaigning and lobbying, you’ll make sure Dutton doesn’t have a clear escape clause, and you’ll give Cory plenty more airtime, which, since he left the Liberal party to find his own way – he has been lacking. I guess the thing for voting yes is – why not? If you vote isn’t worth anything and the Government ignore it (as they can, as it is on-binding) – then you’ve wasted time and pen ink. If it progresses marriage equality, it is a win – isn’t it?

 

Then the boycott. Michael Kirby has said he won’t take any part, feeling this whole process is treating him as a second class citizen. The Greens ruminating on the boycott. Some of the people who I see as LGBTQIA+ leaders in the twitter-sphere are working out their stance – and some are leaning hard towards a boycott. Sitting watching it all play out today, I was left wondering – what do I do as a respectful ally? Joining a boycott that I, arguably, have to right to join – seems disrespectful. Is voting just as disrespectful?

I’ve decided that the best thing for me to do is get my enrolment details confirmed; listen to the rational voices in the debate; try and be as supportive and protective as I can to my LGBTQIA+ friends; family and co-workers as possible; and wait for the LGBTQIA+ community to lead the way forwards. This is about their lives, their futures, their well-being.

Wading in too early with fixed views and a loud voice seems condescending, dis-empowering and tacky. I’m not in a place to act that way- given that a yes, a no or a boycott won’t impact on my life directly; no matter how I feel about it. It is time to listen, to learn and to support those who will be attacked or abused while this survey runs its course. Most of all, make sure you’re enrolled, informed and engaged – no matter what happens.

 

Being a Dad

I’m not a fathering expert. I’m not an expert in anything, really. I’m a general nurse. I have a Masters in THE MOST general health area you could think off. I am average, ordinary and general in many, many areas. I am a father, an average, ordinary one and my kids are challenging, but pretty ordinary and average really. This is just some thoughts – take it or leave it. No expert. Just a Dad.

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Doing cross country with my two boys

Being a Dad can be a tough gig. Now – mothers, I know yours is a special kind of hell. You carry a child; accepting numerous changes to your bodies; birth a child in a variety of different manners, none of them gentle; feed, or not feed a child with milk that your body produces, while having to cope with the judgement and shaming of doing it/not doing it/not doing it long enough/doing it too long. You have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, are the one your child is predominantly attached to in the early years and more often than not give up a career for the privilege. Or put it on pause. Or go return to work with your kids in day-care, while being judged for your time away from work and doing it/not doing it/not doing it long enough/doing it too long. Or have a stay-at-home Dad help you in return to work, who will be held up as bastion of selflessness for doing what the majority of mothers do with zero praise or adulation. Its balls. I get it. I really do.

Being a Dad is different. It is confusing at times and there are challenges. You don’t have anything to do with the gestation of a child beyond the fun part at the beginning. Unless your child has been conceived through IVF, where your fun bit was in a dark room, alone. Come the birth, you’re really a spare wheel. No matter how doting, caring and empathetic you are – you’re never going to get it. The midwife knows this intrinsically and will pay you no attention, beyond scoffing at any minor complaint you may make, no matter how quietly you thought you were voicing your concern about being tired or stressed. Save it for later. There will be no sympathy here.

The baby is born and you are largely forgotten. Child health nurses will largely ignore you, regardless of how involved you are. Friends will ask how the baby and the mum are going. Workmates don’t care, but will ask. They don’t care. They’ll pretend they do, but really, they’re only asking to be polite. Stop explaining what is happening and go back to work so everyone else can move on. Seriously, no-one cares. If they’ve got kids, they’re just waiting for you to finish talking so they can share their story – if they don’t have kids they are purely waiting for you to finish talking. Its not new to everyone else man. You are not the first Dad on the planet. Move on.

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Being a Dad is a challenge. Being a Mum is more of a challenge, and we should cut our whining and consider ourselves lucky and be more supportive, but it is still a challenge.  You feel like a spare part – but society expects you to be a major player. You feel like there is something you should do to help – but it isn’t very obvious. You want to be involved, but workplaces don’t support that really. Oh yeah – the department has got a family friendly policy, but don’t ask your boss for a morning off to attend an assembly. You’ll get laughed out of the office.

You’ll want to get involved and you’ll want to be supportive and you’ll also want some recognition from society that you are more than a walking inseminator – but none of that is probably going to happen so just try and keep yourself busy and engaged and for God’s sake, don’t complain. DO NOT COMPLAIN.

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Here are a few things you can do, to make yourself be less annoying and improve your life, and the lives of those around you:

  1. Forget about sex. For now anyway. Seriously, forget it. Just move on.  For the next few months just sort yourself out. You know what I mean. But even do that quietly and respectfully. You might feel great, and now the baby is sleeping a little more, your feeling a little more like you should try it on and look for a little bit of action. Your partner, despite having grown a 4.5kg parasite for nine months, looks amazing. You’ve never thought she has looked more beautiful. That incredible thing she has gone and done in growing and delivering a child has led to you thinking she is probably the most amazing human being on the planet. She’s also had an unexpected, chest related bonus you weren’t planning on. She is amazing. She looks amazing. She’s the sexiest creature ever. The issue is – she’s lactating. 62035291.jpgYep, those massive fun-bags you want to pounce on don’t belong to you any more (not that they did), they don’t even belong to your partner any more either. She is a walking food source and no amount of sleep, back rubs or gifts are going to change that. She’s also had massive body changes, is feeling incredibly responsible for a brand new, super needy human being and has more things to think of than you’ll ever know. Eventually (I hope for your sake), she’ll bring sexy back and you’ll be back in business – but until then, cool your expectations, be incredibly loving and supportive and focus on being useful. giphy.gif
  2. Focus on being useful. I spent six months as the stay at home parent when my first son was 3 months old. This was in another country, with an incredibly supportive Aunty helping out around the place, but primarily, child rearing was my gig (during the day). IT WAS HARD. Harder than work. Harder than manual labour. Harder than deciding whether to have a macchiato or a latte at lunch. SERIOUSLY HARD. latte-vs-latte-macchiato.jpgSo, when you come home from an INCREDIBLY stressful day at the office, doing whatever the hell it is you do; or get in after a really solid day on the tools and your back is throbbing – get useful. Now, this may not mean coming through the door and helping out by cooking. If you cook dinner, your partner is still looking after your kids. You need to ASK what is the most useful thing to do and muck in and do it. Then, when its sorted and baby is sleeping – turn your attention away from the couch and take on the next most useful thing you can tackle. You need to help the hell out. Raising a child is a full time job. Cleaning the kitchen and doing the laundry is ON TOP OF THAT. It is not an all inclusive deal, my friend – you need to do you share (as in an equal share) of the housework on top of the invaluable work you do earning money, because your partner is doing the invaluable work of raising your child for nothing. It is sometimes called domestic foreplay. If point one really resonated with you and you’re in a massive dry patch right now, try point two on for size. See if you can launder your way back to loving. Try to scrub your way to sex. Seriously, worst case scenario, you’ll actually help out by doing a small portion of the amount of housework you should be doing. Best case, you might gain some appreciation.images
  3. Don’t baby-sit your kids. Don’t do it. And don’t let ANYONE say that you are. You’re not babysitting. You’re not a desperate teenager saving money for next weekend’s binge drinking (or responsibly buying a car, or uni text books). You’re parenting. You’re fathering. You’re not doing a favour or taking on some additional task. You’re being involved in the most important thing in the world to you, aside from your partner. If someone asks if your babysitting your own kids. Tell them to go away (in much more colourful language). If your partner says your babysitting your kids – correct them. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAOQAAAAJGIxM2NiMTYxLTFiN2ItNDU5ZS1hZWRhLTcxYWIxZWIyYjMyNQ.jpgOn a slightly related side note: if your partner refers to you as “one of the kids” or a “mother of three” and includes you in the count – you need to grow some balls and man up. I don’t care how completely useless you are as a partner and a father, if you let your partner believe that you are as useful as a child in her life – forget point one. In fact, forget having any sort of meaningful adult relationship with your partner. Man up, stand up and change what ever has to be changed man-child. 635688549940642012-1245705170_man child.jpg
  4. They’re your kids. Yep, get involved big guy. You’re not doing a “favour” by being involved and taking them to swimming on the weekend. You’re not special. You are just doing what is expected of you – so don’t expect a pat on the head for just being an average father. Being involved in your own child’s life when you are not at work is not amazing. You don’t get a Father of the Year nomination for doing what is basically expected of you, having decided to bring another human being in to the world. tywinlannisterfar_893624.jpgJeez, if you think it is some big deal that you are involved in the most rudimentary way in the raising of your own child – you’re probably expecting a medal Ceremony for Domestic Services for that load of washing you put on. Pull your head in. It is your child, your house, your family. Take responsibility for what is yours and do what is expected of you without wanting a pat on the head every time you fulfil your most basic obligations.
  5. Work on your relationship. Once you’ve got your head around covering off the basics above – put some extra special effort in to getting along with your partner and work on your relationship. Take time out to spend together. Use eager grandparents to care for your child. Don’t feel bad for taking up a grandparent’s offer to look after your kids if your going to spend time with your partner. Your parents or in-laws remember how banal and mind-numbing raising kids can be, and they want to show off to their friends about how engaged and supportive they are. Exploit this for your own gain. They did. Don’t you remember being dropped off to Nanna and Grandad for the school holidays? THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS! Not an evening so you can watch a movie – extended bloody periods. My parents even went over seas. article-2501704-195AE59800000578-881_306x423.jpgHonestly, get over your self and how important you think you are in the raising of your own children and give Gran and Pop a turn. They want to prove to you they still have it. And seriously, as much as you think you’re critical to your kid’s well being day to day, you are so quickly forgotten once the milo and lollipops come out. Honestly, your kids will go to sleep without you, they’ll be safe(ish), they’ll enjoy bonding without you hovering around being clingy, they’ll love it. Get out and spend some time with your partner and reconnect. Keep dating, well beyond the birth of your kids. Make your relationship a major priority. you’re a team in this childrearing thing, and if that isn’t your number one priority, ahead of kids, work and craft beers – you still have time to re-jig things. Make time. Exploit your parents generosity and reconnect. You never know, point one may be back in play if you’ve done well in the other areas.

So that’s it. I could go on all day – but who needs that. We’re all losing interest. So that ends my general advice to Dads. Its nothing more than the basics really: don’t be a demanding tool, be respectful and fair, and don’t expect a ticker tape for doing the basics. Again, I’m no expert and my advice in general – but I’ve been trying to follow it for a while now and, despite the small sample size, it seems to be working.