Discrimination: Which person will you choose to be?

Discrimination is like a cancer. Imagine this:

Two people walk into a hospital feeling sick. The two patients have the same symptoms. Both look essentially the same, but one has cancer, the other does not.

Who should the doctors prioritise?

Many people’s interpretation of “equality” is that the equal symptoms should receive equal treatment, but for the cancer patient, their symptoms hold much more significance in terms of their broader illness. Their immune system is already compromised – these symptoms could be the attack on their body that kills them.

For the otherwise healthy patient, their symptoms represent a temporary discomfort, but ultimately they will recover and be fine once again.

Discrimination – racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism and the multitude of its forms are a cancer. When we face the symptoms of discrimination our immune systems are already compromised.

When you complain about “double standards” as a person in a position of privilege and power you are the otherwise healthy patient demanding equal treatment to the cancer sufferer.

When you complain that we “overreact” you fail to see that a symptom that is insignificant to you can have major consequences for us.

When you get defensive and aggressive, you’re distracting the doctors from helping both of us. In the meantime, the symptoms of my cancer (the discrimination) can build to the point that it stops me from living a happy and healthy life or could even kill me.

So, what kind of person in the hospital will you choose to be?

The person who shows patience and empathy for the cancer patient?

Or the person who helps my cancer grow?

P.S I’d like to add to this that I recognise I still hold a lot of privilege in my life. Yes, I’ve faced discrimination as a gay man – but it pales in comparison to many in the community. Much like actual cancers, some are more aggressive than others and I lay no claim to being at the worst end of the spectrum.

My hope in writing this is that it can articulate why these issues matter so much to me and why I can’t just stand back and say or do nothing when this is happening to others.

We’ve seen a lot of the “symptoms” this week and the discussion has become about the relevance, severity and validity of those symptoms. It’s time we talked about the cancer.

Future Options for Radio Adelaide – a letter to Professor Warren Bebbington

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Attn: Professor Warren Bebbington

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide

Dear Professor Warren,

I write in regards to the Options for Radio Adelaide discussion paper.

Radio Adelaide changed my life. At the age of seventeen I joined the University of Adelaide community as a Radio Adelaide volunteer. Radio Adelaide was my introduction to the university and my introduction to the value and importance of community broadcasting in a healthy community.

Volunteering at Radio Adelaide directly influenced my decision to undertake a Bachelor of Media at the University of Adelaide. I chose the university because it was an institution that took community engagement seriously and invested in being part of Adelaide and South Australia’s social fabric. The university’s commitment to Radio Adelaide demonstrated to me that this was a university that would provide me a quality education with tangible and practical opportunities to engage with the broader community.
My Bachelor of Media studies weren’t simply enhanced or complemented by Radio Adelaide – the station was my primary source of meaningful education. Without Radio Adelaide’s presence at the University of Adelaide, the Bachelor of Media program might as well not be offered.
Since leaving Radio Adelaide and the University of Adelaide I am now a media professional working in the community legal sector in Melbourne. Prior to my current role, I worked for SYN Media – a community radio station operating in partnership with RMIT University. Using the skills I learned from Radio Adelaide, I worked closely with RMIT staff to engage students in the opportunities available from the partnership. I was impressed by their commitment to the station and it is clear that RMIT saw the benefits of directly enriching the culture and opportunities available to their staff, students and community.
I am extremely disappointed to hear that the university is seeking to disrupt over forty years of investment in Radio Adelaide. The station represents over forty years of passion, community and culture fostered by thousands of dedicated volunteers and students. It is particularly disappointing that these decisions would be made in such a hasty fashion. As an alumni of the university I am shocked that such a major decision would be so rushed and that the future of vital cultural institution would be so poorly managed.
This is not the university I chose to be a part of. A University of Adelaide without Radio Adelaide is a university that has lost its heart.
However, I have hope. It’s not too late to give Radio Adelaide and its community certainty for the future. I provide my response to the questions raised by the Options for Radio Adelaide discussion paper below:
Would a gradual transition to a new entity over a period of up to 5 years (Option 2, as recommended by Letch-Tonks) enable Radio Adelaide to develop for the community audience in the future with a viable and robust financial operation?

 

Gradually transitioning Radio Adelaide into a new entity is only viable if the organisation is given the appropriate time and resourcing to develop sustainable new business models and partnerships for the future. Aside from maintaining the status quo, this is the only option that can be done in a respectful and considered way, but I believe the university would lose a major asset.

Would transfer of the station to a new owner at 30 June 2016 (Option 3) better enable Radio Adelaide to develop for the community audience in the future with a viable and robust financial operation?

I would be extremely disappointed if Radio Adelaide was given such a short and unrealistic timeline to secure its future. This option seems highly unlikely to be viable or realistic.

Are there possible alternative owners to the University of Adelaide in the community, with the capacity to underwrite costs of the scale required?

I maintain the view that the University would be giving up a major asset by transferring ownership to another entity.

Are there other viable options not canvassed by Letch-Tonks? 

Given the university’s profile and influence in the community I am surprised the university cannot be more influential in securing outside sources of funding to support the station’s operations.

I thank you for the opportunity to comment. I hope that the university that gave me so much has not lost its heart and secures a strong and viable future for Radio Adelaide.

-JB

Domestic violence prevention is not a competition 

  
A number of prominent Australian media outlets and personalities have spoken out about violence against women in the last few weeks. It’s a long overdue discussion that Australians have needed to have in order to have any meaningful impact on the issue. With it has followed the usual (and highly predictable) cries of “what about violence against MEN?” in comment sections and on social media.

All this serves to do is consciously derail meaningful conversations about violence against women and achieves nothing for men who are victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence prevention is not a competition.

Many of these commentors cry that we need to fight ALL violence, but domestic violence is a diverse issue with diverse causes and solutions.

This attitude is like saying we should stop producing vaccines, because it’s stopping us from developing a magic super vaccine that will stop all diseases ever.

Diverse social problems need diverse solutions. We need to discuss domestic violence against women in its own right to  be able to come up with solutions for its highly specific and gendered nature. There will never be a one size fits all solution to violence – so we must have the ability to discuss its many contexts without it being derailed by people whose real agenda has more to do with shutting down women than supporting men who are victims of violence.

Stop the competition. If you’re genuine about helping stop violence against men then expend your energy discussing how to solve that issue instead of making things worse by blaming women and being a destructive force in the fight to stop violence against women.

-JB

Parents of young boys: you need to do better

Image sourced under Creative Commons from https://www.flickr.com/photos/purplesherbet/11997048715/in/photolist-6k7FVk-QB6kB-jh91Bv-9PAXbc-21GV37-hFsyCV-gSXHJe-dK4gCu-qcaGMa-hgdTiW-gHKpy6-gHBjfs-gRSBBy-gEorse-h3SGkf-hjK35T-gSWSMi-gSXcFS-6ACrne-dWd8Wx-gEiDpF-gEuMWQ-hjPcab-jhaQay-hax9VA-hb4T3d-gHB5NY-gEcP1Y-gT5tqk-o2rHZH-m9oYU4-pkbxhC-raXGhN-gE7DSh-e3S3J2-f163Ay-9XmjCV-dWcZKM-25aA11-9Xp9MA-244r4K-heBmYG-h4pULL-dWiRTy-dWd89P-dWcYLX-dWdiYT-pmWc3v-7tVsoZ-hhRk2u
Image sourced under Creative Commons from Purple Sherbet Photography
Imagine if your child had a one in ten chance of being a genius. Would you foster their skills? Would you entertain the possibility they’re special?

 

What if your child had a one in ten chance of developing a serious illness? You’d imagine most parents would prepare for the possibility.

 

Then why don’t we prepare ourselves for the fact that our children might be sexuality or gender diverse?

 

The Kinsey Institute reports that seven percent of adult women and eight percent of men in America identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Other studies suggest these numbers would be closer to one in ten were it not for underreporting and social stigma.

 

So why are we so unprepared to talk about sexuality and gender diversity with our kids and what impact is this lack of conversation having?

 

A recent study by the mental health charity beyondblue found that young Australian men still hold extremely homophobic views with the study finding that:

“- One in five said they find it hard to treat same-sex attracted people the same as others.
– Six in 10 said they had witnessed first-hand people being bullied for their sexuality and four in 10 said they had seen people bullied for the same reason on social media.
– A quarter said terms such as “homo”, “dyke” and “confused” are “not really that bad”.
– Four in 10 either agreed that they felt anxious or uncomfortable around same-sex attracted people or did not disagree that they felt this way, while 23% think it’s ok to say something they don’t like is “gay” and 38% wouldn’t be happy if a same-sex attracted person was in their friendship group.”

 

Parents of young boys – you need to do better.

 

If you haven’t considered the possibility that your child might be gay you need to consider the high likelihood that one of their peers will be. You are in the single most important factor in making sure your child isn’t a victim or a perpetrator of discrimination.

 

Initiatives like the Safe Schools Coalition Australia aim to combat these attitudes in schools with the knowledge that “75% of same sex attracted or gender diverse young people in Australia experience some form of homophobic or transphobic abuse” and that “80% of these homophobic and transphobic incidents take place in schools” (From Minus 18’s ‘Stand Out’ booklet).

 

Initiatives like the Safe Schools Coalition do important work in fighting homophobia in schools, but it’s only a band aid solution to a problem that should be tackled much earlier in the home.

 

What beyondblue’s study shows is that parents are not doing enough before these young men reach school. If you’re serious about the long term wellbeing of your child and their peers you need to act early. It isn’t good enough to assume your child and their peers will identify as you expect. The only safe assumption is diversity.

 

What can you do to ensure your child is prepared and supported?

 

– Educate yourself on sexuality and gender diversity so you’re prepared when you talk to your child about it.
– Discuss sexuality and gender diversity openly with your child and do it early. Tell them early on that you will support and love them no matter what.
– Don’t assume the sexuality or gender identity of your child or that of their peers.
– Have an open discussion with your child about discrimination and reject it unreservedly.
– Make your community accountable. When your child does reach school make sure the school actively rejects discrimination and hold them accountable.

 

The conversation might be uncomfortable. The conversation might raise more questions than answers, but the vital part is telling your child you have their back and that you as their central role model reject discrimination in all its forms.

 

The only way to have a serious impact on the level of homophobia amongst young men is to educate yourself, act early and educate your child. It’s not enough to expect schools and the community to do it for you.

 

The positive side to all this is that we are progressing, albeit slowly. If your child is part of the one in ten the time has never been better for them to grow up into a happy, healthy and loved adult like any child deserves. Growing up as a sexuality or gender diverse young person still has its challenges, but the more of us who say “I have your back” and do something about it the easier it gets.

 

Jonathan Brown is a media educator based in Melbourne.