Tag Archives: opinion

A Raft of “Facts”

My beautiful cousin Alicia (left) is an awesome person. She is smart as hell, funny and kind. She is studying at university, working and is a proud indigenous woman. She is also in a committed and loving relationship with her partner, Naomi (right)- I spoke to them a while ago on the subject of marriage equality. Like many people, Alicia left the small country town she grew up in to live elsewhere and study but still likes to keep up with the local news. So you can imagine her feelings on reading this opinion piece in the Area News. A similar piece was also published in Wagga’s Daily Advertiser written by the same Catholic priest.

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It was published in response to another opinion piece by Monique Patterson, who  interviewed a same sex couple raising a child together who question why their marriage is not recognised by Australian law.  

The good Father appears to take issue with the entire argument supporting a person’s right to be homosexual. I would like to respond to his “opinions” and “facts”, as the Father professes himself to be a big fan of facts and it would appear that the ones he used in his writing are a bit out of whack, to say the least. 

Firstly, he accuses the other writer and the local news of trying to “trick” readers into believing that same gender marriage is normal. Let’s look at the definition of “normal”. It means conforming to a standard- usual, expected or typical. Now, how can gay marriage be normal when it’s not legal? You can’t very well expect gay couples to be “normal” when their union can’t legally proceed to the next expected or typical step. So the good Father is correct- it’s not yet normal here in Australia (though here is a list of places where same sex marriage is legally performed, recognised or about to become legal) That is in fact a part of why we NEED to legalise same sex marriage in Australia- it would certainly go a long way towards normalising said marriages and that would certainly be a good thing, since many agree that not allowing persons to marry on the basis of their orientation is regarded as a violation of their basic human rights. Hardly a surreptitious attempt to trick anyone, Padre. 

Father Rafter goes on to make a list of what he says are facts to support his position. The first is that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that same sex attraction is something you are born with. Now, I know that there actually is some evidence in this regard (here is one good article on the subject) but let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the Father is correct. Taking into account what I know about the Father who wrote this, he is a bonafide Catholic, endorsed by the Catholic church as a priest. Doesn’t get much more Catholic that that, right? Is there a scientific study conclusively showing that some people are born Catholic? Some genetic predisposition towards Catholicism, perhaps? No, I don’t believe there is. Is this a good reason to tell people that they should refrain from, er… being Catholic? Catholicism, like any religion, is a lifestyle choice- just like Father Rafter seems to be arguing that homosexuality is.

Father Rafter then mentions that HIV is at a 20 year high with the most common rate of transmission being unprotected sex between males. This is true- but let’s expand on this a little. While 67% of the new diagnoses were applied to men who have sex with other men, 25% were attributed to heterosexual men. This number is also rising. Is this evidence that heterosexuality is also abnormal and that heterosexual couples should not be allowed to marry? I don’t think so, no. What it does show is that HIV is not a problem only faced by the gay community. Professor de Wit, who co-authored the report the Father appears to have gotten his figures from, is the Director of the National Centre in HIV research is quoted as saying the most at risk men (namely young, gay men) are also “less likely to have been exposed to HIV prevention” so it would seem that the problem is education based and not, perhaps, solely orientation based as Father Rafter implies.

Father Rafter also states that US based research by a Dr Patrick Sullivan shows that 20% of gay men in a study are HIV positive. I eventually located some information on this study and again, I think the Father is being a little vague on details here as the figures he quoted are pretty alarming when read in isolation. It would appear that yes, the figures he quoted were correct, however he failed to mention this salient point- that the study group was only 194 men. So a reasonable, but by no means enormous, sample group. There is also one other really important detail Father Rafter has ignored- the study drew their sample group thorough an organisation called AID Atlanta, which is an HIV service organisation. Due to this, the researchers pointed out that “the results cannot be generalised to other couples.”and“the findings are preliminary”and the study is ongoing.

I think it’s evident that Father Rafter has cherry-picked available research (and ignored quite a bit of it too) to support his argument. The solution that the Father implies is “Don’t be gay, stop being gay!” This just isn’t an acceptable, ethical or practical solution. It wouldn’t be as effective, in my humble opinion, as a targeted drive to educate all Australians on HIV prevention. Start in schools, advertise on television and online, provide information to new migrants (who are also a big at-risk group if they are from Sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia, according to this report) After all, sexual orientation is a part of who we are- and you can’t just stop being who you are, right?

In his writings, Father Rafter mentions that there is a higher rate of depression and anxiety particularly in homosexual men and also mentions an increase in substance abuse, mood disorders and an increased use of mental health services. I can’t help but wonder how the Father would propose to address these issues? Since he reminds us that the Catholic Church is against homosexuality, I can only assume his solution to all these issues is not to stop the persecution and discrimination experienced by many in the LGBTI community but again to tell them to stop being gay- essentially blaming the victims. Perhaps if all facets of the community exercised unconditional tolerance and respect towards members of the LGTBI community, this would be a step towards remedying these issues? Again, this sort of education needs to begin early. I recently read here that LGBTI people experience a higher prevalence of risk factors for suicide than other members of the community including social isolation, with a much higher proportion of this occurring in schools. These numbers were drawn from this survey of all up 1749 young people.

Father Rafter might also do well to listen to the comments of Pope Francis, who said earlier this year that the issue of same sex marriage should be looked into and studied, not dismissed. He also reportedly reached out to gay people, saying they should neither be marginalised or excluded from the priesthood. The Pope’s views still reflect the position of the church, of course, but he seems to be a bit more modern, open and tolerant than Father Rafter comes across in his articles- in my humble opinion, of course.

Father Rafter then says that the gay community has a high level of domestic violence within same-sex relationships. However:

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I’m not able to see where Father Rafter got his “facts” from in this instance. Maybe his facts relate to another country? Another small study group not intended to reflect the general population? I don’t know. I do note, however, that here is Australia, they aren’t correct. Intimate partner or domestic violence does not discriminate and occurs in all sorts of relationships, across all socio-economic groups and all cultures. It is not a gay problem or a Christian problem but a societal one that sorely needs to be addressed across the entire spectrum of groups within our community. 

Father Rafter then says :

“The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that the reason there is violence and discrimination within the gay community is because they are unaccepted and persecuted.”

Yes. They do say that and I, for one, absolutely believe this to be true. I don’t think he believes it to be true, judging from the tone of his articles, but if I am wrong, I will happily retract that.

Then he goes on to make what I can only label a Strawman argument. He says that Christians experienced and do still experience persecution for their religious beliefs. Ok, yep, I agree. Then he said this has not necessarily lead to domestic violence within Christian marriages. Okay…I’ve never heard anyone say that it did. So, where does the problem of intimate partner violence within Christian marriages come from, then? Because it certainly exists. You can read more on that subject here, here, here and here. From what I can tell, Christian people experience domestic violence at much the same rate as anyone else does. No one claims that persecution leads to intimate partner violence in Christian OR homosexual relationships that I am aware of. 

Father Rafter also says the idea that LGBTI domestic or intimate partner violence will somehow vanish if same sex marriage is legalised is an objectionable one, and I agree. I mean, marriage has hardly eradicated domestic violence among heterosexual couples, why would it work in same sex ones? I should point out, though, that I personally have never seen this justification for same sex marriage raised by anyone, except, of course, for Father Rafter. I googled a number of variations to his statement to this effect and couldn’t get a hit anywhere making such claims- except for the Father’s articles.

Father Rafter then reiterates the false statement regarding high levels of violence between same sex couples in “gay friendly” areas and then mentions an American survey where 100% of homosexual respondents (and I quote) “had been unfaithful to their partner”. Again, perspective and accuracy are needed here. This survey was conducted on 3000 adults. Of those 3000 randomly selected adults, less than 3% identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. My high school maths puts 3% at 90 people. So less than 90 people in one survey in one country. Father Rafter says that all of them admitted to being unfaithful, but that is incorrect. It actually says that 100% of gay people surveyed experienced infidelity in their relationships. That doesn’t mean all gay people surveyed were unfaithful. He’s also ignoring infidelity among heterosexual people. This article, from earlier this year, discusses a website set up for married people to seek affairs. Australia has over 910,000 members. That’s not to say all of them are being unfaithful- but I think it’s fair to say they’ve all considered it! This study, put together by the Australian Institute of Families, looks at reasons for divorce among heterosexual couples, and 20% of respondents cited infidelity. The study involved 650 people, so 130 of them had experienced infidelity. My point is, heterosexual couples are hardly immune to infidelity- even Catholics- so using infidelity as an argument against same sex marriage doesn’t add up.

Father Rafter then implies these issues are not being addressed and that we are being told we should redefine marriage and allow children to be “brought into this lifestyle”. So far, research is showing that children being raised by same sex parents are doing pretty bloody well, actually. There has been no credible research that suggests otherwise.

Father Rafter takes the opportunity to remind readers that the Catholic position towards persons with same gender attraction is to be ‘sensitive, compassionate and respectful’ while also reiterating that acting on such attraction is a violation of the 6th commandment.

I think it’s a terrible shame that Father Rafter did not adopt the sensitive, compassionate and respectful approach to this topic that his own faith recommends. He says he likes facts, while misrepresenting them, misconstruing them, ignoring them and even making them up to marginalise a whole community in his efforts to continue to deny them a basic right. This is not showing sensitivity. This does not demonstrate compassion. This is not respectful. 

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Linking up with With Some Grace for FYBYF

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Toy Weapons: A Veritable Minefield of Opinion

Toy guns, toy knives, toy swords, light sabers, toy battle axes, toy bows and arrows…

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We generally don’t allow them; never have. The only exception had been brightly coloured water pistols that don’t really resemble a weapon like some toy guns do, and even then only in summer etc. It actually took me a while to really feel comfortable even with that concession. I don’t like the idea of normalising or glamourising weapons, personally. That’s just my point of view. Just recently though, a lady who lives near me posted on our local community facebook page that an elderly man stopped her in the street and chided her for the toy gun her 3 year old was carrying. He told her that all the reports of gun crime should make her want to move away from that kind of thing for her son. I put the topic out on my facebook page and the responses were interesting.

In the initial discussion, some people passionately defended toy guns and say that it is the way we parent, model behaviours, discipline and discuss weapons and violence with our kids that will affect how they turn out, not what we let them play with. They said it was all just harmless role play. I agree with most of that- but I do think what we let them play with is also a possible factor.

One person said that NOT allowing toy weapons was limiting their ability to role play and therefore they would suffer developmentally and have poor self esteem. That I do not believe for a second! 

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The other comments defending toy guns seemed to keep circling back to letting “kids be kids”. I don’t understand this one. What is it about a prop used to role play violent acts that somehow completes the childhood experience?

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Another person made an interesting comment (which was referred to in one of the above quotes)- you don’t give kids toy illicit drugs to play with to let them role play taking drugs, so why would you give them replica weapons to encourage role play of violent crimes like assault and murder? This was met with general outrage and claims that this was a ridiculous comparison- but it caught my attention. We would be horrified if our kids role played say “drug dealers and users” instead of “cops and robbers”. It seems a strange standard of social acceptance. The consensus among the pro-toy gun camp seemed to be that toy guns and pretend killing are entirely normal and part of childhood- healthy, even. But play acting any other illegal and/or abhorrent act was ridiculous and the suggestion itself was worthy of moral outrage.

Quite a few people said that even though they didn’t allow toy guns, their children would make a gun out of anything- a stick, a rolled newspaper. I do admire their ingenuity here! I can’t recall our older kids ever doing this, though.

I did some searching online to see if there was any research to support my stance or to oppose it. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of study in this area but from what there is, there seems to be some evidence that childhood gun play doesn’t lead to an aggressive adult and some that it does. So like most aspects of parenting, it comes down to what you are comfortable with.

I’m comfortable with a no-toy-weapon policy. Guns do kinda freak me out a bit. I’m a city girl so I don’t have that lifelong respect for the gun as a tool that someone raised in a rural or farming area might. In my experience, guns are weapons. I don’t come from a culture where guns are regarded as the right of each and every citizen; I come instead from a culture where a gun license is a privilege and not a necessity. I see guns on police officers and soldiers and security officers and know that these men and women do not carry or use them lightly and I have great respect for the burden this places on them and anyone else that must carry one as part of their duties. I hear of other people using guns to injure, kill, threaten and intimidate. I have even had one pointed at me in this manner. Am I projecting my fear of guns on my kids by not allowing them to play with them? Maybe. Do I think it will do them any harm? No. If they reach adulthood and declare themselves the victims of a deprived childhood, I’ll be pretty surprised. That said, it’s not something I would condemn another parent for either. They have come to their own decision based on their own reasoning and experiences- I get that.

Do you allow toy weapons in your house?


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Breastfeeding- the exact age to stop…

…Doesn’t exist!

In Australian society, most mums have stopped breastfeeding within the first months of their baby’s lives. There are many factors that lead to early weaning including lack of education, lack of support, early return to work, difficulty pumping and much more.

However, many cite around 4 years as an average weaning age, though there isn’t a huge amount of data to back that up and it is probably more accurate to say that the natural duration of breastfeeding is between 2.5 and 7 years. At around 7 years, humans lose the ability to nurse anyway.

But for those living in a western society who choose to continue to breastfeed beyond infancy and well into toddler-hood, perhaps even into childhood, the lack of understanding and tolerance is frankly disturbing.

Last night, this article, by Kidspot, appeared in my timeline, and I made the very real mistake of reading the comments. The article is about an English mama who is still breastfeeding her 5 year old daughter. From what she says, her daughter feeds for comfort and she will be letting her self-wean.

I don’t know if I will be breastfeeding for 5 years. I have no plans to actively wean, though I have recently night-weaned (and even that is subject to flexibility!) so I guess I will leave it up to my little girl to make that decision for herself. Approaching age 5, if she is still breastfed, I may want my body to myself again and actively wean. Maybe I won’t. I don’t know. What I will NOT do, though, now or in the future, is to suffer abuse and intolerance based on how I choose to feed my child. Standing up for breastfeeding rights is not something I’m a stranger to, but it is getting tiring, so I’ve compiled a list of the most common themes I have seen against breastfeeding past infancy, many of which have reared their ugly heads in the aforementioned Kidspot thread.

1- There’s no nutritional benefit beyond the age of (insert arbitrary number here)- it’s unnecessary.

As Sharon Spinks points out, no food loses it’s nutritional value because you reach a certain age. The idea is a bit ludicrous, really. There is even evidence to suggest mature breast milk contains higher levels of fats and energy which may have a significant contribution to the diet of a growing child. So while it is obviously not necessary, in the strictest sense of the word, it’s not without benefit. I once saw a couple pouring Mountain Dew energy drink into the sippy cup of a child who could barely sit up in the high chair they had her in at my local KFC. Now THAT is what I consider truly unnecessary and void of nutritional value.

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2- If a child can ask for it or has teeth- they are too old to be breastfed

By this logic, next time my 11 year old asks for something to eat, I should say no. I actually remember feeling this way about breastfeeding several years ago- but after doing SO MUCH reading on the subject, I can now chuckle over the lack of reasoning behind that argument. Since when do we stop someone eating or drinking based on their ability to ask for it or their dental status? The funny thing is, both my daughters have asked to be fed since birth. The newborn rooting for the breast is asking for milk just as much as the little voice that now asks me for “Mook, mummy, want some of dis!” while little hands pat my chest or the bigger voice begging me to make lasagne and offering to help.

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3- She should just express if she wants her child to have the milk.

Why? What difference does that make? Breast milk is breast milk, whether it is in a bottle, a cup of straight from the breast. This one ties in closely with the next point.

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4- It’s sexual/child abuse/paedophilia/incest/wrong/dirty/disgusting etc

No. It isn’t. the primary function of breasts is to make breast milk to feed our children. It’s really quite simple. The idea that breasts are only sexual is a man made construct that we are bombarded with constantly and the sad thing is that another consequence of this is that some mothers and their children are paying the price for that by early weaning or not breastfeeding at all. One lady commented on the Kidspot thread that her 17 month old would attempt to breastfeed in public and she would become so embarrassed that she would literally shake her off her and refuse to hold her until she weaned. Her comment just about broke my heart- she rejected her child’s attempt to be close to her, to seek comfort and food from her mother, due to what appears to be societal pressures. I find that so sad. She then added some rubbish about it being a “fact” that breastfeeding could trigger a “pelvic muscle” to cause a “small orgiasum”[sic]. Most women that I know who breastfeed don’t have a sexual attachment to it at all. It’s not sexual. It doesn’t feel orgasmic. It’s not that kind of pleasure. The pleasure that I associate with breastfeeding is generally in the closeness, the bond, with my child. I don’t know where people get some of these ideas, truly. Why is the idea that a body part can serve more than one role so hard to grasp? Take for example- the humble backside. Many people list a nice bum as a desirable feature, there are songs devoted to it, pants available to enhance it- but what does it do? The muscle itself helps us to walk, stand, sit- and also protects the opening through which we pass waste. And wind. Hot, right? So we are ok with a sexy bum that has all those other purposes- but sexy breasts that also nourish a child? Nope. Gross.

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5- The poor child might get bullied!

One way to prevent this is to raise your children not to bully others. Saying “Don’t feed your child that to avoid bullying” is akin to saying “Dye your child’s ginger hair or she might get teased for it”. I doubt many school aged kids are breastfed during school hours (ie- at school) and my guess is that it’s probably not really something they’d think to discuss. But if they did, I’d hope that any child of mine wouldn’t care in the slightest. My eldest, some time after the fact, learned that a couple of her kindy pals were still occasionally breastfed once starting school. She shrugged and went back to what she was doing before. Kids are only horrified by something if they are taught to be, so teach them that being breastfed is nothing to clutch their pearls over and this problem goes away.

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6- It will damage them psychologically, they might remember it!

Remembering being held, nurtured and nourished by your mother, how bloody terrible! The poor children! As for as psychological damage, nope, no evidence to suggest that. The research admittedly isn’t huge in this area- but what there is points to long-term breastfeeding being overall physiologically and psychologically beneficial for children.

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To summarise- breastfeeding beyond infancy is pretty normal in some parts of the world. Mothers in Western societies who do it are speaking out in what seems to me to be an effort to normalise it- not to gain attention I don’t think anyone would invite the criticism and vitriolic abuse and ignorance directed at Sharon Spinks that I have seen online. It may not be for you, that’s ok. Totally fine. But others wouldn’t have it any other way; they want to let their child decide when to wean, allowing them to make that first big decision for themselves. There is no proven harm to the practice and available evidence says there are health benefits both physically and psychologically.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding a toddler, here’s an idea- don’t breastfeed your toddler! Or perhaps examine your reasoning, do some reading on the subject and reassess. This is the same as the debate over public breastfeeding- if you have a problem with it, recognise that it is your problem, stop projecting it on to others and expecting them to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate your prejudices and hang-ups and move on with your life.

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