Of Rainbows and Dinosaurs
by Dr Maria
(This speech was given to an
enthusiastic crowd at the Sash action
on the morning of 31 August 2003)
From where I stand here today, looking at all of
I see rainbows, a diversity of colours, cultures, sexualities,
ways of doing gender, ways of being families.
I see the
reality of a multicultural, multi-sexual world, a world of life and love.
This is so different to what’s behind me, and to
where we’re heading to soon to protest.
Behind me is the grey cold stone of the Cathedral, a relic of the
But its pews are emptying rapidly.
At the risk of sounding ageist and sexist, and
being offensive to animals,
the Vatican has once again shown that it is
made up of old dinosaur-men
who seem intent on making the Church
extinct, who seem intent on their own extinction.
Their statements are
made in desperation by a desperate empire that realises
around sexual diversity, families and relationships
are moving on and
less and less significance is being paid to
what the Vatican has to say
But this doesn’t mean we can become complacent and
hope “they go away”.
We need to be resistant and speak out. We need to
ensure that all the good work
in shifting social attitudes and reforming
legislation, leading to an exponential increase
in positive attitudes
toward GLBT people over the last ten years, isn’t undone
documents, and that politicians like Howard are restrained from putting
them into effect.
I’d like to put this document into a wider
So I hope you don’t mind a little history lesson in
a cold and rainy park
on a Sunday morning. Vatican patriarchal
leadership is a long list of injustices
and oppressions of various
groups: inquisitions, crusades, genocidal colonial
condoned, wars promoted or ignored, women oppressed,
human life and the
joys of living healthily, happily and spiritually sacrificed
man-made dogma. Yes, much hurt and pain but also much resistance and
and history has proven how unjust those actions were.
History will prove this one is as well.
We only have to look back at how
Catholic women responded to Humane Vitae
in relation to contraception.
That’s how our society will increasingly come
to respond to, or ignore,
this latest attack on another group in society.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to also share a little
My parents were over from Adelaide the week that this
document was released.
This latest attempt at collusion between Church
and State made them feel appalled
and yet they found it hilarious as
well as horrific. They said it took them back to
when the Pope and
Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty in the 1920s.
This Treaty between
the Church and the Fascist State meant that the State
would protect the
Vatican in return for Vatican support of its Fascist dictatorship
militarism. My parents and grandparents experienced their village being
economically devastated and decimated. Subsistence harvests were taken
from families, animals were taken away, all to feed the State, the
Italy’s feeble attempt at being a colonial power, and the war
and sickness were everywhere, peasant farmers were
drafted into an army
and made to fight a war they didn’t believe in. No
wonder they cheered when
they lost, and were quite happy to sit out the
rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps,
like my Uncle did at Cowra,
until they could go home again, and set about rebuilding
their lives or
starting new lives elsewhere.
My parents recalled how it was well-known that the
wealthiest person in the village
was the priest and it was well-known
that you had to keep your priest well-fed and
regularly reporting your
obedience and dedication to both the Vatican and Fascism
if you didn’t
want your village decimated further. But throughout all this, there was
resistance. Families hid their food, tried to avoid the draft, sabotaged
and church efforts at enforcing obedience and passivity, and
of course the Fascists
lost the war. During those awful years both
before and after World War One,
girls weren’t allowed to attend the one
village school, a Church-run school,
as only boys were to be educated
according to the priest. Yet, like many of the
girls and women, my
grandmother taught herself to read and write from her brothers’
the evening. Another example of resistance was when the priest declared
from the pulpit that girls and women were not allowed to ride bicycles
as it meant
women had to sit with their legs apart and that was immoral.
It was also a concern
that girls and women would become more mobile,
independent and not so easily
controlled in their homes. But what did
many of the girls like my mother do?
They bribed their brothers for
their bikes, went out to the bushes, and learned to ride.
Sure, they got
sprung now and again and were made to stand at the alter and be
shamed as “immoral sluts”. But that didn’t stop them going out there
and riding around the countryside.
Later, most of those ‘naughty girls’ from that
village travelled the world as migrants,
setting off on ships for
two-month journeys across the world as single young women
little money, no idea if they’d ever get back to family, but lots of
determination. They raised their own daughters to get good
educations and become
independent, and encouraged them to speak out, so
that some of them like me never shut up.
Despite the bans, oppression
and public shamings from the Church for being women,
they made lives for
themselves and passed on knowledge and strategies of resistance
hope. But they rarely stepped into a Church after that, keeping their
as something sacred away from the cold stone and dinosaur
roars of the Church.
I recall my Mum saying, “ I never actually heard
God. God couldn’t get a word in
what with all the nonsense being said on
We’re there again today. I’m sick of old dinosaur
men telling me what to do or think,
or telling me what God thinks. God
can’t get a word in while all this nonsense is
said on God’s behalf. But we can still hear and we know what God’s
rainbow message would be. And we can see it in the positive developments
in our society. At a national level, there’s been a new Ministerial
group organised to
look into GLBT health. In Victoria, the Department of Human Services is
up a research unit for GLBT health. I’m increasingly asked to go into
to work with staff and students on homophobia. I’m increasingly working
with GLBT children, such as the wonderful parents from PFLAG, who choose
children over the Church. I’m also finding that the younger generations
affirming of sexual and family diversity. I won’t even bother defending
today by spouting stats and research data, as it’s so nonsensical to
think that being a
good parent is dependent on being heterosexual! There’s actually quite a
lot of data that refutes that connection!
The rainbow-world will keep moving forward in
understanding and affirming
sexual diversity and family diversity, and
the fact that this document has been released
is the best evidence of
that. If Howard, Bush, the Vatican and the rest of the dinosaurs
this is about the ‘survival of the species”,
history will show that
these pronouncements were suicidal and secured their extinction.
Senior Lecturer in Social
Diversity and Health,
School of Health Sciences,