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Tag Archives: America

The transphobia “moral” panic

People contributing to anti trans rhetoric are playing a much more dangerous game than they realise.

The current wave of anti-trans sentiment will lead to more violence and victimisation. Initially the attacks will hit people who are visibly trans women. Eventually, it will spread to anyone who is LGBTQI+. The same forces promoting this violence are those aiming to limit women’s rights, and ultimately purge their countries of unwelcome categories of people.

Be very sure you know what you are doing if you join in.

In America over one weekend in Pride Month alone, extremism monitors tracked “seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people.” In the most dramatic event, 31 uniformed men in balaclavas were dragged from a U-Haul vehicle before they could create a “riot” at a Pride event in Idaho.

American political aspirants and preachers demanded death penalties for homosexuality in a year when 250 anti LGBTQI+ bills were introduced around that nation. In Ohio laws were passed that would allow the genital inspection of secondary and tertiary female student athletes. In Idaho, the law would make it a life-sentence felony for parents or doctors to help trans youth gain puberty delaying treatment, including making it a trafficking offence to take them out of the state in pursuit of medical care.

This hysteria feels much more extreme than in Australia, but as we saw on our streets over the pandemic, the violence of the turbulent world of American politics is brought here through internet swamps. Trump flags and nooses appeared in our street protests. Australians unknowingly appealed to American constitutional amendments for protection from health measures. Most Australians were shocked to see violent brawls with the police on our streets apparently emerging out of nowhere.

And in the global sewers of the internet, the reasons for the panic are clear. Of all the manifold bigotries that pervade the space, the one with the most convergence is that gay or trans people are pedophiles. That facts dismiss this as nonsense is no help; facts long since ceased having traction in this sphere.

This iteration of social contagion is not surprising. It is easier to absorb a “moral” panic when it confirms feelings of discomfort or incomprehension. Again, when it builds on earlier waves of “moral” panic, the new variant can confirm previous prejudice.

The “save our children” hysteria of the QAnon movement crescendoed in the worst of the pandemic. Lonely and frightened people sat at home on their computers absorbing a fantasy built on earlier waves of child stealing (and sacrificing) panics. Some of the people caught up in the QAnon cult would have been immersed in the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s where childcare operators were persecuted over baseless accusations of mass child abuse. QAnon proved they hadn’t been fools to believe.

The trans panic of this moment calls upon earlier fear and horror at the existence of Queer people in general. It was only in 1994 that mainland Australia legalised homosexuality, with Tasmania following three years later. The religious campaign against marriage equality during the postal vote in 2017 harnessed all the risks and threats that conservative Australians might dread.

The success of the equality vote brought change. Queer people in Australia described feeling accepted and finally welcome as part of the community. People felt newly safe to hold hands with their partner in the street.

These changes are recent and fragile. The Religious Right is fighting hard to limit equality, then ultimately to reverse it. This is most clearly apparent in the United States, but Australia saw Scott Morrison’s faction echoing its strategies. His religious discrimination bill aimed to grant religious groups the right to practise discrimination. In the election, Morrison’s decision to harness Katherine Deves’s feminist transphobia aimed to draw in a fresh base for his religious bigotry.

*And this feminist support for transphobia needs to be seen for what it is. “How the far right is turning feminists into fascists” traces the trajectory from some early radical feminist movements to the new anti-trans “feminism.” It is as likely to celebrate women for their child-bearing capacity as it is to echo ethnonationalist ideas. While feminisms are a broad range of beliefs, this kind seems grim.

The American Religious Right which Scott Morrison aimed to inject into Australian politics is infused with the theocratic belief in the absolute necessity for Evangelical/Pentecostal Christians to purify society. Christian Nationalism demands that all sexual activity in the state is procreative and within marriage. All men must be strong patriarchs. All women must be submissive wives. The Religious Right has not, however, placed itself at the centre of American “conservative” politics by being clumsy. It has deployed any strategy to achieve its aims, and encouraging women outside the churches to define their value in their reproductive capacity has been useful. It both works to aid the Religious Right’s war on women’s reproductive freedom as well as gaining allies against the LGBTQI+ people who would blur the boundaries.

They have convinced a sizeable proportion of America that progressives demand abortion up to the point of birth. The ludicrous parallel distortion is the depiction of trans women as a threat to other women. Both nightmare boogeymen prevent rational discussion of the issue, but rational discussion was never the goal.

The issue in America is driven from the top by well-funded Christian Libertarian thinktanks, and from the ground in the post-QAnon MAGA base. Republican politicians believe they have the key to minority rule in juggling these interest groups. In Australia, the nascent Religious Right is regrouping after Scott Morrison’s defeat. The secular version of their talking points is being amplified on Sky News, funnelled free-to-air into the regions.

When decent Australians allow themselves to be carried along by the wave of this moral panic, they are not defending women. What they are doing is becoming caught up on the rational-sounding fringes of a hysteria that will lead to violence.

The overlapping groups attacking LGBTQI+ people in America include Christian fascists and post QAnon conspiracy theorists alongside a range of other extremist factions. Anti-LGBTQI action has overtaken all the other “cross-pollination opportunities” like CRT, pandemic health measures and abortion access.

The violence in Australia is unlikely to look like militia in U-Hauls, but how many bashings or murders would be acceptable? The attack on trans people – or abortion – are not ends in themselves but trojan horse missions with the aim to replace our democratic projects with theocracy, and our freedoms to shape our lives with stringent rules of chaste behaviour.

We need to work together, just like the overlapping groups that despise us.

 

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Australia versus USA on social housing – how do we compare?

By Dr Heather Holst

On a recent trip to the USA I was struck by the progress being made nationally to solve the homelessness crisis. A few major cities were proudly declaring they had ended veteran homelessness, while others claimed to have ended homelessness completely in their communities.

As deputy CEO of a major homelessness agency in Melbourne I was keen to understand how a country with a strong aversion to social welfare and government intervention seemed to be accepting a level of responsibility and even leadership in efforts to end homelessness.

I knew the US had a history of developing large scale affordable housing projects in several major cities. This was largely borne of the necessity to house a growing immigrant population and low income workforce throughout the early to mid-20th Century.

Much of the newer affordable housing development in the US is supported by low income housing tax credits provided to both not for profit and for profit organizations. For some large cities like New York the impetus for setting impressive targets like 200,000 new or reclaimed affordable housing properties by 2024 continues to relate to productivity and workforce.

New York Mayor Bill de Blaso has embarked on a serious campaign to boost affordable housing stock in that city by 200,000 because essential service workers like nurses, paramedics, and teachers have been priced out of the private rental market in that city. He also wants to provide housing for low income households (those earning under $24,000 a year) who have previously not qualified for ‘affordable housing’ because their income was too low.

Under de Blaso’s plan developers will adhere to mandated affordable housing quotas in where previously quotas were voluntary. The city will offer developers incentives such as the ability to increase the size of developments to compensate for the lower income generated from the affordable stock. It will also offer tax credits and other incentives for new construction. It will also extend financial assistance to landlords who offer or extend regulated rent to tenants that provides security of tenure.

In contrast Australia’s affordable housing stock has been rapidly shrinking in recent decades and all levels of Government have contributed to the crisis that we now find ourselves in. A combination of bad social policy, a lack of leadership at the federal level and a lack of planning and investment at the state and local levels has contributed to the housing crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians today.

In 2011 Australia recorded a shortage of over half a million rental properties and working in the housing sector I can guarantee that number has increased since then. In Melbourne alone it is estimated that only 1% of rental properties are affordable for low income families.

A Senate inquiry into affordable housing in Australia reported in May this year that the market was not capable of solving the affordable housing crisis. The report was critical of the lack of a coordinated national response on this issue.

One of the findings that resonates with the success of the US model was the need to attract private investors into developing low cost housing. This will only be attractive to developers if incentives are offered along the line of the tax credits available to private investors in the US.

Despite cuts in federal affordable housing subsidy programs in the US, New York’s local government has prioritized a boost in supply through a coordinated effort involving 13 city agencies and buy in from more than 200 developers, and other interested parties. They have also committed $8.2 billion in public funds over 10 years to the plan.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit in the US is part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Since its inception it has leveraged over $100 billion of private investment capital which has financed the development of 2.8 million homes for low income families.

It is now widely acknowledged now in Australia that housing affordability and homelessness are not marginal issues that we can continue to ignore in the hope that they will go away. There is no stereotype of ‘a homeless person’. While people from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds or those experiencing family violence, mental health or drug and alcohol issues continue to be hardest hit by the housing crisis in this country, it is increasingly impacting on middle class households.

So how can we learn from the US experience which is by no means perfect but has made significant inroads into a problem that really shouldn’t exist in wealthy, developed nations?
The most significant factor in the success of the US model is political leadership. This leadership comes from Washington and flows down to the states and local authorities who are taking up the challenge issued from the top to end homelessness in local communities.

The approach has been considered and well planned. Where it works best it incorporates well thought out public policy and strategic planning and financing from federal, state and local governments. It refocuses the issue of homelessness and housing affordability as an issue the whole community has a level of responsibility for.

I’m hopeful that Melbourne, with a Mayor who is genuinely concerned about homelessness and housing affordability and a strong philanthropic community that includes construction companies like Grocon, can come up with a New York style plan. It might not be as impressive in scale but it would send a message to Canberra and our neighbouring states that we are serious about an inclusive and humane future for our city. One that affords everyone the very basic right to safe, secure and affordable housing.

About the author: Launch Housing’s deputy CEO Heather Holst has worked in the housing sector since 1989. Heather joined HomeGround Services in 2009 as General Manager Client Services where she led the client services teams across all sites and programs.

Heather is passionate about ending homelessness and is committed to leading Launch Housing in working towards this mission.

Her housing experience spans homelessness service delivery, tenancy advocacy, homelessness policy, program development, research, rural homelessness service coordination in both the non-profit sector and government since 1989.

Heather co-authored the Opening Doors initiative and has contributed to key Victorian housing and homelessness innovations including the coordination of all services, transitional housing, standards, data, rights-based approaches and sector training.

Prior to working in the housing sector, Heather worked in the publishing industry for Penguin Books as a sales representative and then as reader and copy editor and for the Australian Women’s Book Review as business manager.

Heather has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Melbourne. She has published scholarly articles, book chapters and a book, Making a Home: A History of Castlemaine. She taught history for several years at Australian Catholic University, including in the Clemente program for people who have been homeless.

 

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Hypothetical: What would you do if . . . ? (Part One)

Geoffrey Robertson’s recent appearance on Q and A reminded me of the value of considering a situation through the eyes of another via a hypothetical situation…

Here’s one to have a go at by:

  1. Reading the Hypothetical (and extremely fictional) story.
  2. Considering the three options.
  3. Checking out the ‘Things to consider’ section. And then….
  4. Voting for the option you would choose if you were walking in this person’s shoes.
    (And of course, if you are so inclined – post a comment below the article with the
    reasons you selected a particular option.)

Let’s get the conversation started….

1. Hypothetical (and extremely fictional) story:

It’s early 2016. Sticking with his promise to continue with Abbott’s policies on climate change, Malcolm Turnbull and his new Immigration Minister share a ‘private’ Joke about our Pacific Island neighbours soon being underwater. In keeping with tradition, they do this in front of a microphone while waiting for a press conference to start and their joke is broadcast to the world.

Once they realise they’ve been heard, they immediately apologise PDuddy-style, saying “We’re sorry some of you didn’t find our joke funny.”

When the President of Kiribati hears about this, he is furious. “Let’s see how Australians like losing their country” he shouts and storms out to Kiribati’s little known [because it’s fictional] nuclear missile launch base. With the press of a few large red buttons marked ‘Danger’ and ‘Are you really sure?”, he launches a nuclear strike on all Australia’s major cities.

Within an hour, just over 80% of Australia’s population is wiped out, and nuclear fallout threatens the remaining 20% by turning Australia into a nuclear wasteland.

The only Australian Territory not impacted by the attack is Christmas Island. Luckily the ABC regional radio network withstood the blast, and regional broadcasters advise that all surviving Australians should make their way to a specific list of small ports around the Australian coastline where Australian naval vessels will collect survivors and transport you to Christmas Island. The UNHCR is on there way to Christmas Island and will be setting up tents for survivors to live in.

You, your partner and kids were holidaying at a coastal resort up north when the missiles hit. The resort is a long way from any major cities, so you survived the blast and haven’t yet felt any effects. But you know that your home in Perth is gone – blown to pieces. And with nuclear fallout spreading across the country, you need to start working out what you and your family are going to do next.

Then you learn that the US is sending in planes to pick up American survivors who are also staying at the same resort as you. Some of them suggest that you and your family should go back to the USA with them. But having left your passports at home, you’d have to go without the proper travel documents and claim asylum once you reached America. You have no idea whether they would accept you since they, like Australia, are not all that keen on people seeking refuge in their country. And as all Australian banks have been wiped out, and Australian currency now has no value, you would head there with no money and no way to support yourself and your family.

2. Your options

Option one : Stay where you are – in the coastal resort, and try and make a living there. But if nuclear fallout doesn’t get you, it’s possible that further attacks from the irritated Kiribati President will.

Option two: Make your way to one of the designated departure ports and go to Christmas island. But you’ve already been warned that there may be as many as four million people there – all trying to fit into 135 square kilometers. Plus, there’s no guarantee Kiribati won’t try to finish the job and attack Christmas Island at a later date.

Option three: Try and sneak onto one of the US planes sent to rescue American citizens, and hope you can get to America and seek asylum there, knowing that they may very well turn you around and send you back. Or lock you up in a Detention Centre.

3. Things to consider – stories from the real world

In the real world, being forced to flee your home due to war or conflict is not hypothetical for many people – it is very real. In fact, in 2014 some 42,500 people per day were forced to flee their homes in order to seek safety elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, just as most Australians love Australia, and would be reluctant to leave here – many people who are forced by conflict to flee their homes stay in their national country and try to find somewhere safer, hoping that one day they can return to their home town/city.

At the end of 2014, according to the UNHCR there were 38.2 million people who had fled their homes but stayed in their home country. They are classified by the UN as Internally Displaced People or ‘IDP’s.

TOPSHOTS A Kurdish Syrian woman walks with her child past the ruins of the town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL

A Syrian woman walks with her child past the ruins of her home town of Kobane in March 2015. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL

The most common reason for IDPs having to flee their home currently is attack by non-state armed (or terrorist) groups such as ISIS or the Lord’s Resistance Army (a Christian extremist group in Uganda seeking to rule Uganda according to Old Testament law).

Where they can, IDPs stay with family in other locations within their home country. Others stay in camps – some run by their governments and some by the UN. But often they are forced to flee from location to location as local conflicts escalate.

A relatively small number of people who flee their homes subsequently seek asylum elsewhere. In 2014, according to the UNHCR, 1.7 million people left their home country to seek asylum elsewhere – although this number is likely to be much larger in 2015 due to increased warfare in Syria alone.

By way of example, at the end of 2014 there were 7.6 million IDPs in Syria. Unfortunately fewer than 3% of them were in official camps. The rest were staying with family, host families or renting accommodation for as long as they could afford to do so. But as the conflict escalates, more and more of them have no choice but to cross the borders of Syria and seek asylum or refuge in another country – which is why we’re seeing the scenes of Syrian refugees in Europe right now, desperately trying to find a country to take them in.

(You can read more about the plight of Internally Displaced Persons around the globe here.)
4. What option would you choose and why?

So what would you do if you were in the hypothetical person’s shoes above? Would you stay on the Australian mainland, and take your chances avoiding radiation poisoning and further attacks? Would you head up to Christmas Island – the last remaining non-nuked part of Australia, and hope that all 4 million surviving Aussies can fit there. Or would you and your family try to sneak onto the plane to America and seek refuge there?

Lodge your vote below:

[polldaddy poll=9085462]

And don’t forget to add any comments or thoughts you have about why you chose a particular option below.

A quick note on my choice of hypothetical story…In case you’ve had better things to do than think about hypothetical situations before, the purpose is to try to imagine what you would do in a completely different set of circumstances to those that you are normally faced with. In this instance, I have deliberately picked a highly unlikely and somewhat ridiculous situation, because I want the focus to be on the options, rather than the story itself. So try to see past the fact that it is pretty much impossible that Kiribati would nuke Australia, and consider what it would be like if something did happen to your home and your city more broadly which meant you had no choice but to leave and seek refuge elsewhere.

 

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

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