Gender Politics: Croome's blackmail gamble

There is barely any example of gender-identity politics starker, or more reckless, than Rodney Croome’s use of LGBTI youth in his campaign to redefine marriage.

An article published by the veteran gay-rights campaigner in The Age on Tuesday (August 23), argued that the marriage plebiscite should be cancelled because apparently it would inevitably lead to youth suicide: “If a plebiscite occurs, and when the first young gay person dies at their own hand, I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I did everything I could to stop it.”[1]  

Australians have been promised a plebiscite on marriage. 

And later in the article: “I also urge [senators] to consider how they will feel when the first gay teen dies because of the hate they voted to unleash.”

Not if but when! This is emotional blackmail pure and simple but what is even more concerning is the exceptionally dangerous message that he is sending to vulnerable young people. It is effectively a call for martyrs.

If he is concerned for the wellbeing of young people with same-sex attraction then he should stop publicly representing youth suicide as if it were a natural response to any voice that opposes same-sex marriage (which is a concept that was barely even mentioned in Australia just ten years ago). The power of suggestion is real and the last thing a vulnerable young person needs is to be told that suicide is somehow inevitable.

Young people need to hear that there is always hope, that if things are dark they will always get better. We all need support from other people and young people need to know that it’s OK to seek help for distress and mental-health issues.

The publication, Reporting Suicide and Mental Illness: A Mindframe Resource for Media Professionals,[2] is produced by the Hunter Institute for Mental Health with support from the Department of Health and provides detailed guidelines for the media regarding dealing with the topic of suicide. The guidelines are largely based on evidence gathered by studying the increased rates of both suicide and attempted suicide that are associated with reckless journalism.

Some of the key points included in the guidelines are:

  • Avoid disclosing explicit information from a suicide note as “this information alone, without context, may not tell the whole story”.
  • “Take care not to imply that the death was spontaneous or preceded by a single event as research suggests most people who die by suicide have underlying risk factors, including mental-health issues, a drug-related illness or other social influences.”
  • Avoid sensationalising or glamorising suicide.
  • “To help ensure stories about suicide don’t impact negatively on people who are at risk of suicide, add help-seeking information offering immediate crisis support.”

In an August 2 article in The Guardian entitled “Rodney Croome: Why I can’t resign myself to a plebiscite”,[3] Croome attributed the suicide of a young Tasmanian man to the public debate over the decriminalisation of gay sex in that state. He cited as evidence the man’s suicide note, at the same time holding the tragedy up with high drama as his source of motivation: “He is a splinter in my bloodstream that has finally reached my heart.”

He then prophesied sensationally that a plebiscite would necessarily lead to youth suicide: “If there is a plebiscite, and when the first gay kid dies at his own hand because of the hate and fear-mongering, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know I did everything I could to stop it … everything.”

Sadly, it is Croome himself who is doing more than anyone to create a climate of fear and apparent conflict by labelling those who support natural marriage as hateful and homophobic. In fact, the primary plank of Croome’s campaign to redefine marriage has become the labelling anyone who disagrees with him as a hater – this isn’t fair and respectful debating: it is an attempt to avoid debate by silencing everyone else. It is a tragedy if young people with same-sex attraction are being led, by the likes of Croome, to believe that people who support man-woman marriage hate them or wish them harm in any way. But this is the sad reality of how gender-identity politics works.

Croome is no amateur at his game. These weren’t comments made in private that were leaked to the media, nor were they from someone caught off guard by a journalist with a leading question. These were calculated statements from a seasoned political operator that were published in major newspapers at a carefully chosen time. Nor was mention made of services where youth in distress might seek help.

Did Croome think he could get away with using youth suicide as a trump card? Did he calculate that no one would dare call him out on such a controversial topic? Or does he think no one else is qualified to speak for LGBTI young people, that as a gay man he owns the territory?

Young gay people are first and foremost people. Their personhood comes before any LGBTQIA label. Perhaps it’s time to stop labelling our young people with acronyms describing their sexuality and start calling out gender-identity politics for the divisive curse that it is. Every young person needs to hear the truth that their infinite, irreplaceable value is based in their humanity.

On Monday the most comprehensive review to date of scientific papers relating to sexual orientation and gender identity was published in The New Atlantis.[4] The book-length paper Sexuality and Gender was written by two of the world’s leading psychiatrists, professors Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer of Johns Hopkins University.

The report has profound implications for public policy. It finds that there is no scientific basis for the sociological concepts of sexual orientation or gender identity. Also, contrary to popular belief, it finds that discrimination alone cannot account for the heightened rates of mental illness and suicide observed among non-heterosexual and transgender populations.

For the sake of young people, it’s time to put political correctness and gender-identity politics aside so that we can focus on finding and alleviating the underlying causes of the suffering of these groups.

For immediate help phone:

Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelp.com.au

 

[1] Croome, R., “Marriage equality plebiscite proposal fulfilling expectations of frustration”, The Age, August 23, 2016. Accessed August 24, 2016.

[2] Hunter Institute of Mental Health (2014). Reporting Suicide and Mental Illness: A Mindframe Resource for Media Professionals, Newcastle. Accessed August 24, 2016.

[3] Croome, R., Rodney Croome: This is personal: why I can’t resign myself to a plebiscite”, The Guardian, August 2, 2016. Accessed August 24, 2016.

[4] Mayer, L., McHugh, P., Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the biological, psychological and social sciences, The New Atlantis, 50, Fall 2016. Accessed August 24, 2016.