On postal votes and social prejudice

By Christy O’Brien

With the country poised to take part in a postal vote on marriage equality, one session at this weekend’s Bendigo Writers Festival couldn’t be more timely.

It Changed the World with La Trobe University writer and academic Dennis Altman and ABC’s Robyn Williams will discuss Dennis’ seminal work Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation (1972).

Dennis will talk about the time he wrote his book and what’s happened since in the battle to challenge ignorance and social prejudice. No doubt that postal vote will also get more than a mention.

“This will be the most expensive public opinion poll in our history, and is a sign of the instability within the current government,” he says.

“But whatever our reservations, it’s important that people who want to see same-sex marriage recognised make sure they are enrolled and cast their vote.”

Dennis is a Professorial Fellow in the Institute for Human Security at La Trobe University in Melbourne, who came to prominence in the 1970s with his thought-challenging and ground-breaking publication.

Compared at the time with Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (197O) and Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975), Dennis’ book was the first serious analysis following the gay liberation movement of the early 1970s. It has since been published in seven countries and is still widely read to this day.

Since the ‘heady’ years of the 1970s Dennis has written 13 books, exploring sexuality, politics and their inter-relationships in Australia and overseas, including Global Sex (2001), The End of the Homosexual (2013) and more recently Queer Wars (2016).

Dennis’ recent work explores the dilemma where although we have witnessed “extraordinary progress towards recognising sexual and gender diversity in most western countries, the opposite is sadly true in many parts of the world, where religious and political authoritarians use us as scapegoats,” he says.

Dennis was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2008 for service as an academic, social and political commentator, and to the community through raising awareness of human rights issues and as a contributor to the development of HIV/AIDS policy.

In 2013 he was also awarded the Simon and Gagnon Award for career contributions to the field of sociology of sexualities by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Sexualities.

Dennis’ passion for human rights reaches well beyond a “gay rights conversation” and he laments the many pressing issues of human rights in Australia and globally.

“One of the worst aspects of the recent cowardly decision of the Liberal Party room to return to a discredited marriage plebiscite is that it happened on the same day another asylum seeker died in our camps offshore, and tended to overshadow that tragedy,” he says.

Join Dennis in a conversation that will deliver illuminating thoughts on human rights and on the current gay rights debate here and overseas, as he continues his lifelong work to challenge conventional notions of sexuality and gender.

Dennis Altman will be in conversation with ABC Science Show’s Robyn Williams on Saturday at 11.30am in the Trades Hall and will also appear on the Tomorrowland panel, hosted by Tim Clare on Sunday from 11.30am-12.30pm in the Capital’s Bendigo Bank Theatre. Both sessions are BWF 2017 pass events.

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