This week’s edition of Southern Star covers the revised policy of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) that asks for the Victorian Jewish community to respect gay people (read my blog on that here). This came about as a result of action by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society and people from the Bund movement. Read their motion put to the JCCV in the October 2009 JCCV plenum meeting here.
This call for respect is definitely a good start. However the downside of simply not saying bad things about gay people is that potentially no one says anything. As an example, some people previously only said degrading things about gay people because they feel our homosexual ‘lifestyles’ are an abomination in the eyes of their religion. Now these people may reluctantly feel an obligation to abide by the JCCV’s request to respect gay people, possibly because the organisation they are a member of is in turn a member of the JCCV, and so bite their tongue and don’t use degrading language to describe us.
So you then have the situation where people are not saying bad things about gay people, which is good, but they’re then not actually saying anything, which is bad, because it makes the issue of intolerance of homosexuality invisible.
The next step that the JCCV must take is to make the issue of intolerance of homosexuality visible. It claims it’s serious about addressing mental health issues in gay people in the Jewish community because it has set up a reference group to investigate these issues. It would be good to see some sort of public statement about what this reference group is actually doing, as it’s now 6 months down the track since it was established and there has been no public statement or any form of transparency on its operation.
It would also be good if the JCCV started acknowledging that these mental health issues and the alarmingly high suicidal behaviour didn’t just affect ‘GLBT Jews’ but actually affected the entire community. I say this because the people who are most at risk are those who have same-sex attractions or gender identity issues but don’t or can’t identify their feelings outwardly and so are not visible as GLBT in the community. They are “in the closet” and may be in denial of their sexuality or gender identity and in fear of anyone finding out.
These people are someone’s children, siblings or parents. They’re someone’s friends or business partners. They’re part of a community that supposedly cares about its people. Supposedly.
Yes, respect is good, but it’s not enough. Tolerance is only part of the way there. Acceptance is the ultimate goal and it must be unconditional.