Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eddie's straight talk on gay comments

 earlier we brought you the news of the facebook page :  
Eddie Mcguire is ruining the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage
which now has 10742 member castigating football club manager and TVstar Eddie McGuire over his perceived homophobic comments during the men's ice skating competitions. The tale was featured in some UK tabloids.

The latest member Jane says "ah yes.... let's see if he can wiggle out of this."

Has Eddie done it ?.he has issued a press release:

 PRESS RELEASE: Gay rights activist Gary Burns met today with Winter Olympics host Eddie McGuire at Sydney's Hilton Hotel to look at ways of remedying the complaint against him and his co-host, Mick Molloy.

 Gary Burns said: "Eddie McGuire now understands his on-air banter with Mick Molloy during the Winter Olympics Games could impact on vulnerable gay teenagers.
"This was not Eddie's intention. Eddie does not have one homophobic bone in his body.
"As president of the Collingwood Football Club he has, and continues to promote, tolerance for all minority Australians, including homosexual Australians.
"I found his candour one of openness. Eddie McGuire is a man of integrity."
Mr Burns has written to the president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and withdrawn his complaint against the pair.
AND so ends the official proceedings from what was a bit of light-hearted banter about the outrageous ice-skating costumes at the Olympics that led to me being branded a homophobe.

As shattering as that allegation was for me, it wasn't about me or, for that matter, Gary Burns.
What it is about is the horrific statistic that in a country that suffers from one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the world, the incidence of suicide among gay teenagers is six times that of the straight world.
Burns is seen in the gay community as either a hero or a troublemaker.
Yes, he's a maverick and has taken big names like Sam Newman and John Laws to the anti-discrimination tribunal over the years, but he also is fighting for a big cause.
Many may not like his tactics and I, as did Mick, certainly bristled at the allegations made against me. But when you sit down and think of what the end-game result is of his stance, it isn't hard to work out there are bigger issues at play than headlines and embarrassment.
For me, the charge of being homophobic hurt deeply.
For all the carry-on that goes with my profile and public positions, one thing that I will fight for is any person's right to exist without vilification whatever their race, religion, socioeconomic standing or sexual orientation. I am also pretty big on free speech and having a sense of humour.
So when two worlds collide it is an awkward position in which one finds oneself, especially as the media likes to embellish and embarrass these days rather than reason and investigate.
Burns and I corresponded for weeks, worked out what we were both about and then found we were in vigorous agreement. He agreed the Olympics comments did not deserve the ferocity of the attack on Mick and myself, but, in being magnanimous, Burns quite rightly reminded me of the pain and suffering so many young people continue to endure for something as basic as their sexual orientation.
Yep, in 2010, young men and women, for the crime of being themselves, are still thrown out of home and bashed.
The biggest regret I had through the whole incident was that bigots would use our comedy schtick as a front for more venomous attacks.
There is always the chance that we are being far too sensitive and in fact all but one of the gay people I canvassed to assess the segment believed there was nothing in it.
But when young people's lives are at stake you need to be very sensitive and careful when in a public position.
As always, it's not the majority of the people who are fair-minded you have to worry about - it's the minority of idiots causing trouble.
So, given there was no call from Burns for compensation, or even an apology, have I dodged a bullet and will it make any difference to how I ply my trade?
Quite the contrary, it has given me a sharp reminder of the difficulties many face in everyday life and how, in my little world where everyone is gay friendly and open-minded, it is not necessarily the norm.
I will continue to react in live situations the way I have throughout my career, but just as we once thought it was fine to call indigenous footballers by racist names - "they don't mind" - it also isn't OK to take liberties with the feelings of gay people as a collective.
Yes, my gay friends send me up for being a hetero and we joke among ourselves, but we are all in on the gag. Not that long ago, the number of Aboriginal footballers in the VFL/AFL could be counted on two hands in almost 100 years of the game.
Now, some 11 per cent of players are indigenous.
Treating them as equals, but also putting in safeguards against discrimination - either deliberate or otherwise - has made for a safe haven for our players and we all are better for the experience.
So far we have had one gay footballer in the NRL, Ian Roberts, and none in the AFL.
We all know we are kidding ourselves to think that is really the case.
If helping to lead the charge against vilification of gay people leads to an environment in which gay boys feel safe to play AFL football, and the natural flow-on from that, then the embarrassment and genuine hurt that both Mick and I have felt will have served a purpose.
That Burns and I found ourselves singing from the same hymn book in our attitudes again shows most people are closer in thinking than they ever give each other credit for.
And that the power of conversation and collaborative thought is still the best way to sort out issues rather than combative legal processes that make lawyers rich and turn potential friends into enemies.