My mum, who went to a Catholic school, tells me that the nuns used to walk through the classroom and if they saw you writing with your left hand, whack you with a ruler.
That’s what life is like for many GLBTI people today. Yes, still, in our great era of enlightenment when everything is finefinefine. Whether you’re open about your identity or not, discrimination and abuse finds its way to you and whacks you – not across the hand – but in your brain.
The left-handed metaphor is the basis of a brilliant and comprehensive new campaign launched by Australia’s national depression initiative, Beyond Blue, today.
It comes first with a short 2-minute film featuring a young left-handed man being taunted, cajoled, attacked and hiding his nature for fear of reprisals at home, school and in the streets. Parents, teachers and fellow students are all in on the bullying. For any GLBTI person, the scenarios will look very familiar.
The film ends with a simple voiceover:
“Imagine being made to feel like crap just for being left-handed. It’s the same for lesbian, gay, bi, transgder and intersex people. The things we say and do cause anxiety and depression.”
And then three words: Stop. Think. Respect.
Have a look:
According to this morning’s Age, the campaign comes with a $1.5 million budget and will encompass cinema, print, television and outdoor advertising. It will run for the next year.
In addition to the short film, it comes back with personal video stories of around 5-6 minutes in length from six brave, clear-eyed and articulate Australians of diverse backgrounds who talk openly about their experiences of discrimination – both mild and overt – their experiences with depression, how they overcame it, and how you can too.
This is a landmark initiative, and comes only a week after the launch of the less potent but still valid No To Homophobia television campaign.
Produced with funding from Movember, Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett told The Age that he considered the campaign to be among the charity’s most important work.
”I believe that law-abiding citizens whoever they are should be given the same opportunities as anyone else to live their lives as they see fit and that includes gay marriage. If it is children, I would apply the same test.”
This is a major turnaround for an organisation that came under heavy fire last year for homophobic comments Kennett had made, and dark whisperings that GLBTI research and campaigns within Beyond Blue were being quashed because of Kennett’s beliefs. The community outrage was so palpable that it led one man, Adrian Hempel, to create a rival funding drive, Fauxvember, urging people to direct their Movember donations to mental health charities that were more gay-friendly.
With the launch of the Left Hand campaign, those fears have been well and truly put to bed. There’s no soft soaping here – the language is simple, direct, and uncompromising.
Across the ditch in New Zealand, where GLBTI charities Rainbow Youth and Outline had to scrimp, save and pull favours to launch their WTF anti-homophobia campaign, it’s a bit of a wake-up call. There are numerous studies in New Zealand that show poor mental health outcomes for GLBTI people, especially youth.
The Mental Health Foundation in New Zealand also receives annual funding from Movember ($1.4 million was raised last year, which gets split 50% with the Cancer Society), and last year were also the recipients of $3,500 (a drop in the bucket, I know) from a charity auction at Auckland bear bar Urge which I helped organise that was to be used for GLBTI mental health initiatives.
I’m sure our communities there are eagerly waiting to see what they will come up with.