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Community hits back over homophobic letter

STANDING STRONG: BJ Moore is angry about anti-gay comments.
STANDING STRONG: BJ Moore is angry about anti-gay comments. Brenda Strong

Why The Observer published the letter

WE'RE here, we're queer and we're not going anywhere.

Gladstone's gay and lesbian community has presented a united front against homophobia.

The move followed the publication of a vitriolic letter in the Gladstone Observer on Monday.

Gladstone resident Carol Zussino wrote (in part): " "I see another television show has appeared on our screens with the token homosexual character. Forget the warm fuzzy propaganda; homosexuality is a sexual perversion."

Gay man and drag performer BJ Moore slammed Ms Zussino's comments.

>> What you said about the letter

"I don't know what the definition of normal is but there is homosexuality in 1500 species and only one of them is homophobic," the Gladstone man said.

Mr Moore said if gay couples wanted to conceive they could do so through surrogacy.

"There is also the option to adopt, but that be can hard," he said.

"She (Ms Zussino) might think that HIV is only for homosexuals but it's not, there are more straight people with AIDS than gay people.

"There is more education these days and people are smart about using protection."

Mr Moore said there were more than just token gay characters on TV now, with gay men Ricky Martin and Neil Patrick Harris on popular shows.

Gladstone lesbian Tenika Logan, 20, said she found the comments discriminatory.

"Some gay people are born that way," she said. "I'm proud of my relationship with my partner.

"People like Carol are very shallow."

Ms Logan said she was in favour of gay marriage becoming legalised.

"It's been a long battle fighting for same-sex equality," she said.

NOT IMPRESSED: Gladstone residents Emily Patterson and Ashlee Ryland are taking a stand against homophobia.
NOT IMPRESSED: Gladstone residents Emily Patterson and Ashlee Ryland are taking a stand against homophobia. Andrew Backhouse

Teenagers Emily Patterson and Ashlee Ryland are members of Diverse, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning support group that meets at the Gladstone PCYC.

"I was bothered by the letter," Ms Ryland said. "It contributed to the feeling of hate."

Ms Patterson said she thought Ms Zussino had ulterior motives for the letter.

"She (Carol) just posted it to get attention," she said.

Leading gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome, who's the national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said the views expressed by Ms Zussino were less common than they once were, and showed why allowing same-sex marriage was important.

"In today's Australia most people no longer hold the stereotypes and prejudices espoused by Ms Zussino," Mr Croome said.

"This is not because of TV shows, as she suggests, but because most Australians have gay friends, family members or colleagues whose lives are just like everyone else's."

"The lingering perception that same-sex relationships are somehow different and threatening is the reason we need marriage equality."

Gladstone Uniting Church Reverend Allan Smith rejected Ms Zussino's comments, saying that everyone was welcome in his congregation.

"We don't turn anyone away," he said.

Gladstone Baptist Church was also contacted but Pastor Stewart was unavailable for comment.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are.

Why The Observer published the letter

NEWSPAPERS mean many things to many people.

They inform, entertain and, most importantly, encourage debate on the issues impacting their readers.

For hundreds of years, newspapers have run letters.

The Observer is proud to uphold this tradition - not because we must, but because the letters to the editor section gives people from every walk of life a chance to have their say on topics close their hearts.

Sometimes letter writers enter a very dark place - even shining a light on their own prejudices.

On Monday, The Observer ran such a letter. Gladstone resident Carol Zussino wrote (in part) "I see another television show has appeared on our screens with the token homosexual character. Forget the warm fuzzy propaganda; homosexuality is a sexual perversion."

The Observer does not agree with Ms Zussino's opinion - just like the paper does not always agree with other opinions on the page.

But if we censored this letter by refusing to publish it, we would have taken a dangerous step onto a very slippery slope.

Rejecting this letter - which we agree is inflammatory but does not breach defamation and other legal areas - would set a nasty precedent.

Suddenly, the measure we use to say no to Ms Zussino's argument could be applied across a range of topics.

And if we started doing that we would quash the chance to foster debate in our community - and that would be a dark day indeed.

- SHERELE MOODY, deputy editor

Topics:  gay, gladstone, lesbian




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