it's a jill rant

I have a lot of opinions. Don't worry, even my Mum says to ignore me.

We dare not speak its name

1dd0903a54b36cd15d84b36b07eb183fI woke up angry this morning.

I feel like everyone has had this experience. You wake up under the cloud of a prevailing emotion and, whether you like it or not, it provides the theme for the day. It can ruin or brighten an entire 24 hours – sometimes for no reason that you can think of.

That wasn’t the case for me today, though it took a few cups of coffee to figure it out.

A few nights ago, my husband and I sat on the couch together to watch a 7.30 report on clergy wives who have experienced domestic abuse at the hands of their husbands. It was full to the brim with truly horrifying stories, and unsatisfying answers from several senior members of church leadership.

I have done a lot of reading and thinking about domestic violence and rape, in particular while I was studying law at university, but I still found it uniquely distressing in a way I still haven’t quite processed. In part, because I was afraid of what would come next.

All through yesterday I waited for the posts to reach my Facebook feed – the angry ones, about how the ABC, and Julia Baird in particular, had it out for Christians and were always mean to us and about how other religions have this problem too and sometimes people make false accusations.

I waited and waited. But they didn’t come.

There was silence. There was nothing. Women had gone on TV and spoken about their experiences and the church had admitted it had only committed $5,000 to tackling the problem and…nothing. Suddenly everyone was very quiet. Nobody had anything to say.

It was worse than the noise.

Domestic violence and the church have been on my mind ever since Julia Baird published her first article on the topic earlier this year. Some of the responses to her article were truly distressing to me. So many senior leaders and well-known figures in the Anglican church came out speaking about potential inaccuracies in her reporting, about interviews left on the cutting room floor, and about how the ABC are a bunch of pushbike-riding, latte-swilling small-l liberals. Even if all that is true, terrifying domestic violence was found to be occurring in the Sydney Anglican Church, justified by our teaching from God’s word, and nothing has been done.

I keep waiting for a big announcement, for Moore College to run talks on the subject – but all that seems to have been produced is this unsatisfying booklet. My own small church in a liberal part of Sydney has alluded to the topic in a few sermons, but there’s been no sweeping change at the diocese level.

Given the amount of money, resources and vigour that the diocese has  pushed into issues like (but not exclusively) the same-sex marriage debate this year, this is very disappointing and very hurtful. Whether or not the intention of the diocese is to ignore victims, to be defensive and to push their stories aside, this is what it appears to be doing. It is essentially saying to victims either “you are not a credible witness to your own experience” or “you are not worth enough to warrant a change in behaviour.”

I wonder how many of them have heard similar things from their violent husbands.

There are so many things I want to say about this situation and about the church. I want to talk about the way that women’s voices are silenced in the church, about the many people who tell us we should pipe down – about how we should not scar our other more selfless and more feminine “good work” for God by, for example, speaking out on the internet. I want to talk about being Christian in a church that tells me men are allowed to be loud and wrong and angry, and calls it being on fire for the Lord, but calls women with opinions selfish and proud.

I want to talk about the time when I was in a relationship in which I was subtly controlled at times, the memory of which seems to live in the middle of a hall of mirrors. What was going on? How did I allow myself to be so manipulated? Why did nobody around me notice? Where would it have gone if it had been allowed to continue?

I want to talk about the time a friend came to me and told me that a good friend of mine had behaved toward her in a way that was, for want of a better term, rapey. I want to talk about how I didn’t believe her. “That’s not my experience of him,” I told her. I want to talk about my regret that I didn’t stand beside her. I want to talk about all his friends beside me who brushed her off. I want to talk about how strange it is to be told someone you trusted has betrayed someone in this way. More than that I want to talk about the incredible scepticism that women – and seemingly, especially Christian women – are met with when they say that a man has behaved inappropriately.

I want to talk about toxic masculinity and the way it has perverted the church, about Jesus as the ultimate man, and a man who was never cruel, was never self-serving, who never stood on his rights or acted as tyrant – even to the point of death.

I want to talk about the way in which married people in churches are firstly presumed to have no problems, and secondly discouraged from discussing any relationship issues at every turn by a church culture that holds up marriage as a sacred cow, and sees complaints – even very serious ones – as private matters that should be handled in-house.

I want to talk about the stories I have heard, whispered in quiet corners at parties and hinted at in the cold silence after a divorce and openly spoken of among clusters of women who know, who “get it” who have been there or who know someone who’ve been there. Who are safe.

I want to talk about why men are presumed to be well-intentioned, even when they may not be. About the concern over false reports and the lack of concern over real ones.

But you know what? Me going off about any of those things is not going to help the young Christians girls who are all over my Facebook feed.

It’s wedding season, and while at 28 I’m a little old for the first rush of younger couples rushing down the aisle and a little too young for the second “we’re 30 let’s get it done” round of pair-ups, Facebook friends of varying ages are gearing up to wed.

Many of them are very young. I got married at 23, and I looked like an old maid next to some of these rosy-cheeked, slender nymphs. Doubtless many of them are hard-nosed and vivacious, and will go on to have fabulous, rewarding marriages – my own is one example of how everything can, with a bit of luck and hard work, get along pretty well.

But they look so vulnerable, and I fear for them.

So instead of endlessly kneading my own past and staunchly defending my very right to type, I want to talk about submission – because this is the doctrine dirtbags most often manipulate to ruin their wives’ lives.

For the uninitiated, submission is a doctrine Paul talks about several times in his letters with regard to Christian, heterosexual marriage. Marriage, he says, is supposed to mirror the relationship of Christ and the church, and thus men and women have different roles. Men are to take on the loving, self-sacrificial role of Christ, and women are to “submit” to this love, as the church submits to Christ. 

Not all Christians subscribe to this doctrine, and not all Christians think about it in the same way.  When it works, I have seen the love/submission doctrine be a beautiful paradigm for a marriage, albeit a thorny one unlikely to be popular in the age of the angry feminist.* But it’s equally easy to see how this doctrine could very easily be perverted by a dirtbag. When I get to heaven Paul and I are gonna have a long talk about effective communications strategy.

This is not to say, of course, that all Christian husbands are bad and mean, or that Christian wives are walking into some kind of trap. As Julia Baird did legitimately fail to mention in her first round of reporting, studies show that the more seriously a Christian man takes his faith, the less likely he is to be abusive – after all, there are far more bible passages about kindness, generosity and love than about complementarianism. #notallChristianmen**.

I don’t think the problem on this issue is the bible’s teaching. I think the problem is a refusal at the church level to speak about or clarify the teaching, and to address the ways things can go wrong.

The fact is that the bible is full of strange topics like this one that are spoken about fully and well in the church, clearing up any confusion and setting relationships back on the rails. But while I’ve sat through plenty of talks and electives about the “role of men and women in the bible” – often, unfortunately, targeted toward women and about how we can avoid hurting men’s egos (not a biblical mandate) – I’ve heard very few practical, example-driven situations of how submission looks in a marriage.***

So it’s worth having a chat, girl to girl, especially to women getting married, about what submission actually means. It’s so amusing to me that we do this with other issues (like sex) which you can learn about anywhere, but fail to do it with submission, which is so niche and potentially even more difficult to talk about.

Let’s start with the basics. They’re shocking I know, but history has taught me we need to go there.

Submission never means your husband can deny you basic rights, like the right to sleep in your own bed, or the right to food and water, or the right to be in contact with the people that you love.

Submission doesn’t mean you have to do everything your husband asks you to do. It doesn’t mean you can’t argue with him or yell at him. It doesn’t mean that your wants and needs are less important than his.

Submission doesn’t mean your husband has sole control over the household’s money. It doesn’t mean that you don’t get to have a say in how money is managed, even if he, as the one in the workforce “earns it” or “earns more of it”.

Submission never means rape.

Submission never means putting up with shitty sexual behaviour that isn’t rape. It doesn’t mean that once you’re married, your husband has permission to do whatever he wants with and to you. It doesn’t mean you have to have violent sex, or a kind of sex you didn’t want to have that day, or that you need to try things you don’t want to try (all of which are rape, if he forces you to take part against your will).  Your husband did not marry a sex robot. Neither of you is given 24/7 access to the other’s body.

Submission doesn’t mean traditional gender roles. It doesn’t mean that the man “loves” by going to work and the woman “submits” by staying home. There are many parts of the bible that exort all Christians to work hard, and many parts that acknowledge the reality that looking after children will comprise a big part of many women’s lives. But there are also many examples of women being entrepreneurs, and of men showing love and care to children. Certainly, Jesus did not consider menial tasks below himself, or below anybody else.

Submission does not mean that your husband has an objective view of the way things are in your relationship, and yours is somehow mired in “women crazy” and invalid. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a Christian woman say something like “I really think my husband should do more housework, but I’m just being harsh and should cut him more slack,” I would have enough dollars to be able to buy a billboard that says “THE MALE REALITY IS NOT THE OBJECTIVE REALITY.” It’s not harsh to want things, and cutting slack should not be your full time job.  Your partner should take your wants and needs seriously.****

So then, what is submission? What does it look like in a real-life marriage?

My favourite picture of submission was explained to me by an old bible study leader. He considered that the idea of submission was only about submitting to love.

He used to use the example of his wife, who had two small children, and was constantly working.  She struggled to stop, even if she was unwell. Her acts of submission, he said, usually looked like letting him run the house for a few hours, and to have a lie down.

In this picture, true sacrifice is hardly ever required of a wife, because the husband puts her needs before his own in all things. The only time a wife need submit is if a husband decides something is generally in the best interest of a family and his wife.

Imagine a wife and her husband are trying to decide between two equally good things – for example, deciding which car or couch to buy. They go back and forward for months on the issue – they don’t agree and are slowly becoming more and more angry with each other.  In 30 years the outcome of this conversation will not matter, but the damage to their relationship might. So, if the husband will not give in out of love and take his wife’s side, the wife might give in. She may say, “fine, I submit.” She shouldn’t have to be the one to give in all the time. She probably gives in in situations where the outcome rarely matters a few months from the moment she gives up.

And this is the key. The wife chooses to give in  – she is never made to. If women are made in the image of God, submission will always mean choosing to freely give up something to improve your relationship and show love and respect to the other person –  not having something taken away, and not being bullied into surrendering it. Submission only works when two people have equal value and equal worth. Performed otherwise, it is a kind of spiritual slavery that the God I worship would never demand of anyone.

Not to mention that, when looked at this way, submission is not an idea exclusive to the bible. Every relationship requires compromise, requires letting your partner do things to take care of you, requires that one person say on occasion “ok, it’s your funeral,” and pay the price of their partner’s poor decision. The bible simply gives husbands and wives a specific framework for how this should happen.

But it’s difficult for submission to look that way when submission is only a conversation had between women, and when women are constantly being told to bite their tongue in all things, and when men are consistently told that they are built for leadership and their wives are not.

If we are serious about stamping out domestic violence, conversations about submission  – and crucially, conversations about being a loving, sacrificial spouse – should happen often, and especially between engaged couples and some other right-minded party in the lead up to their marriage. Husbands and wives need to be double-checking that they understand this doctrine in the same way, and the church needs to be double-checking that people understand this doctrine for what it is. 

If 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that some men are hideous jerkmonsters and they are almost always very, very good at hiding that fact from other men.

Those hiding in the church need to be hunted out. Women will not put up with being prey any more.

What the church is saying by refusing to have this conversation is that men’s feelings are more important than women’s lives.

*Which I should clarify, I think is a fantastic age.

**#obviously #eyeroll.

***This lack of clarity is a goldmine for dirtbags, abusers and terrible husbands – whether they are Christian, or have Christian wives. If a woman is not sure what submission actually looks like, day to day, it’s easy for a bad husband to have her believe it looks like giving him whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. If the couple further believes, as some do, that a husband should be her ultimate authority on what scripture means on any one subject – including submission – the potential for disaster only deepens.

This is why good preaching on the topic is so crucial, and unfortunately, one of the reasons it doesn’t seem to happen is because men just don’t seem to understand or believe that there is a problem. Why would they? They are doing the right thing and so, it appears to them, are the other men in their lives. It is unusual for Christian men to have female friends, it is unusual for dirtbags to be dumb enough to slip up and be caught out by a fellow man, and it’s odd for women to bother to explain to men the small dangers that seem so obvious to us.

It still shocks me how often I have to teach such things to my husband (who only has brothers) which seem obvious to me (who only has sisters). I don’t want to take my large dog walking at night for his general health and wellbeing, I want to take him for the protection he appears to offer to anyone who might wish to harm me. But I have gotten off track again.

Swirling amongst this vortex of secular things, Christian things, and so much sin everywhere, is the Christian propensity to see speaking about your marriage (especially its negative or disappointing aspects) to anyone but your spouse, and easily misunderstood bible passages about a husband and wife being “one flesh”, and you have a scenario ripe for abuse. A power dynamic already tipped, and silence bought and paid for.

****just as women are taught to do for oh, I don’t know, every man on the damn earth.


A request. An apology. A prayer.


My sister came out to me three years ago while we were eating Lord of the Fries.

I didn’t know what to say when she told me, simply “I’m gay.” I’m pretty sure my poker face failed. I just tried to say “I love you” a lot of times.

I still love my sister, and when it was announced the government had pledged to spend millions of dollars on a divisive same-sex marriage survey, instead of letting politicians do their job by voting in parliament, I was upset, and to be honest, angry. I knew this vote would hurt my sister, I knew it would hurt my LGBT friends – and selfishly, I knew it would hurt me.

I don’t mean to say, of course, that I understand the true hurt this plebiscite is causing actual gay and lesbian people and their children. In fact, I’m not telling this story or writing this post for LGBTI+ people at all – they are more than capable of writing and telling their own stories, and don’t need a straight lady to weigh in.

The people I’m writing this post for are Christians.

Yes – I have a gay sister and I am also a Sydney Anglican, and a very biblically conservative one at that. Yes, we have some very interesting dinner table discussions in our house. No, I don’t think my sister is inherently wrong or disordered – the whole population (including me) are walking disaster zones (read: sinners), of course, but my sister is no more or less of one because of her attraction to women.

I’m writing this post for Christians – and in particular, Christian leaders – because I’m not alone in loving a gay family member, or a gay friend, or gay colleagues. While it seems it’s uncommon for those at the top to even know a gay person, lots of my “regular” religious friends maintain good, healthy relationships with members of the LGBTI community.

It’s perhaps in part for this reason, in addition to sound logical and social arguments for the ‘yes’ case, that 50 per cent of Christians now support gay marriage*, and a good deal more feel confused and conflicted about how they’ll vote.

Many of these voters feel angry and hurt that our church leaders are speaking hateful words about our friends and loved ones, and that money we gave to our churches is instead funding the Coalition for Marriage. 

Most of us feel it’s inappropriate for Christians to be in any sexual relationship with either gender outside of heterosexual marriage – but we recognise that our gay or straight Non-Christian friends aren’t seeking to follow God’s rules. Whether we support gay marriage or not, almost all of our LGBTI friends and family feel we aren’t going far enough to campaign for the ‘yes’ vote. Our church leaders feel that our lack of angry ‘no’ Facebook posts means we are somehow weak or double-minded, in love with a world we are seeking to bridge to Christ.

Many of us will vote quietly, or ‘yes’ or our ‘no’ pulled tight to our chest, afraid of letting either group use it as ammo. Some will give up and not vote at all. Either way, somebody will see this decision – likely the result of a good deal of research, wisdom-seeking and anguish, as a slight and an ignorance of justice.

This tension has made this lead-up to the same-sex marriage plebiscite a trying time for many of us.

On Sunday at church***, we are berated with rants about unsafe schools and bathroom bills. Terror that a daughter will cut her hair or a son will wear a dress. Next Friday night or Monday morning, our gay friends and colleagues tell us we’re not going far enough by defending others’ right to vote ‘no’, or by being unsure which way we’ll vote ourselves, or by stating we want religious freedom protected so our ministers don’t have to go to gaol.

For those of us stuck in the middle, our hearts ache every time a well-meaning but ignorant (though, frighteningly often, bible college educated) Christian comes out with an unnecessary quip on Facebook about marriage rights for incest, or gay people not being able to have children, or about straight sex being like a seatbelt, or some other hurtful, divisive party line.

We know our gay friends are seeing this, that it is hurting them, that it is damaging their image of us and the gospel. That it is us, not our minister, who will need to pick up the relational pieces and try and re-lay track back to Jesus.

Again, I’m not saying that we have it nearly as rough as the thousands of Australians whose future marriages depend on the result of this wasteful and offensive survey. I cannot stress enough that I cannot even imagine the heartache the ‘no’ campaign is causing LGBT families.

But the ‘no’ campaign – and in particular those representing the ‘no’campaign on social media – is causing heartache even for the very people it claims to represent. Me. My family. Many of my friends. Christians who attend conservative churches because they believe the bible is true and want to hold themselves to the standards that it imposes.

So the heck what

It would be easy, from this point forward, to let this story slide into a laundry list of the reasons why solid, biblically-minded Christians can have very different opinions on this issue – even opinions that would lead to a ‘yes’ vote.

Frankly though, there is no reason for me to write that post.

Others have written excellent defences of the Christian (yes, even the conservative Christian) ‘yes’ vote here and here and likely many other places. Equally good is this defence of Christians not voting at all, and this empassioned plea for empathy and careful words from Christians on all sides of the debate.

Instead of arguing for a ‘yes’, in the last part of this post, I want to address those who are firmly on team ‘no’.

I don’t want to try and persuade them to change their minds. They have a right to vote ‘no’ and I am in no way attacking that right. I don’t dismiss an alternate future where I vote ‘no’ myself, though it seems an unlikely one – I pray often for wisdom on this issue, and perhaps that wisdom will change my mind and heart.

But I do have a few things to say, to the loudest on team ‘no’. To our church leaders, to those running various Christian “think tanks”, to Lyle Shelton and his ilk. To those who have been convinced by them that they are the real minority, the truly persecuted, and that they are speaking the real truth for God’s “real” people.

You do not speak for me

Please, stop the Facebook entreaties assuming unity on this issue. Stop talking about the “Christian” perspective like we all have a single mind and a single vote.

How to vote in the upcoming plebiscite is the definition of a wisdom issue, and many of us will have different opinions. By going on TV or writing in the paper or even posting on Facebook as though we will all vote the same way for the same reasons, you are impeding my relationships and opportunities to speak about Jesus with my gay and straight ally friends. You are hurting my relationships with my family.

Please, stop presenting sermons, prayers and announcements in our churches about how society is going to hell in a handbasket in a way that implies we all feel the same way about trans people, or gay people, or the importance of stereotypical gender roles. We do not, and frankly, I am starting to feel church is no longer a safe place to bring friends of any gender or orientation.

Remember that a lot of teachers and health care professionals make up your congregation, and are likely to know a lot more about say, teaching children the Safe Schools program, or the medical implications of being transgender, than you do.

Think very carefully about the media content you are sharing and whether it is trustworthy, and whether it makes the point you would like to make in a way that demonstrates love and compassion for all people.

Feel free to speak your mind – but make it clear that it is only your mind you are speaking, just as this post is mine.

I don’t believe that you have gay friends

Please, stop hiding behind them.

Regretfully, there is no reason a gay person would be your friend if you were as rude about them in person as you are on social media.

No matter what you say, it’s unlikely you’ll convince me any queer person is rocking up at your house, bottle of wine in hand, ready for your dinner party, after you’ve compared gay marriage to polygamy or incest – which are illegal, while gay relationships are not.

Secondly, even if your gay friends are real, it doesn’t give you the right to say whatever you want about their sexuality.

All through high school I barely had any friends who were white, and many of us still hang out today – but that doesn’t mean I have the right to stereotype or speak negatively about immigrants or people of colour. For me to do so would be hurtful and to justify it thus would be ridiculous.

You don’t understand the LGBT+ community’s issues, history and perspective. Frankly, neither do I. Please, stop talking as though you are an expert. This paves the way for those of us with connections to these communities to ask real questions and be given real answers.

You might be being a bigot, though

Forgive me for indulging a wedding toast cliché, but the word bigot is defined as ‘a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.’

For all the think pieces about how ‘no’ voters don’t fit into this category (and I don’t think all of them do), those actually putting pen to paper to write them often are bigots according to this definition of the word.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with speaking your opinion – I would argue that’s the case even if that opinion is offensive. But where your offensive opinion has caused young people to kill themselves, you can’t be surprised when people who disagree call you a “mean” name – which may just be an accurate descriptor.

Getting upset in this way makes you the very definition of a “special snowflake”.

Free speech is your right (and everyone else’s)

I don’t believe disagreeing with same-sex marriage is hate speech. I don’t think we should remove the right to give offence – even if I, personally, think that being offensive and not caring about doing so is not very Christ-like.

What I am sick of is Christians arguing they are being silenced, and crying free speech every time someone tells them a piece of content they have produced is divisive or rude.

At the time of writing this piece, two pieces against same sex marriage were being run on the SMH and the DT, and two were being run in favour.

Honestly, that seems like very balanced coverage from Sydney’s two largest newspapers. Certainly, it doesn’t seem like anybody is being silenced.

Additionally, while it’s true that Christians have free speech – well, so does everyone else.

Christian leaders can say whatever they like on social media about this issue. And I, an untheologically educated rando with a blog, can say whatever I want in response. I am trying to say what I want to say kindly – but if I chose not to do so, that would be well within my legal rights as well.

I don’t agree with what happened to Pansy Lai. I can see the argument for it – nobody should go to a doctor for an STI check and receive a sermon instead. But many religious people are completely capable of doing secular jobs without bringing a religious agenda to work – in the same way gay people can do great work for organisations that don’t support their own views on every issue.

That said, Ms Lai, who exercised her right to free speech by appearing in the Marriage Coalition’s ‘no’ ad, can’t be surprised when people speak freely back – even if that free speech includes calling for her to be fired.

Many straight Christians are used to holding a position of privilege over LGBTI+ people, and grew up at points in history when we could say whatever we wanted about them without them shouting back. There were times when they needed to hide and we didn’t.

I don’t want to live in a society where LGBTI+ people are privileged above everyone else – but this is unequivocally not what has happened so far in this debate. LGBTI+ people have used the same rights Ms Lai did in calling for her firing – their freedom of speech, along with a free online petition platform, which Christians have also used in the past.

Their choices in the way they have conducted their campaign mirror our own. They sent text messages, we wrote in the sky. Both sides made emotive ad campaigns that deliberately skipped over facts that would feed the other side. Members of both camps have written some truly, truly regrettable things on the internet. 

The difference is that we have a higher calling. We are called to love the world by a holy God whose views we argue we are representing.

LGBTI people represent no God. They only represent themselves. If they want to act high and mighty with absolutely no deference for the comfort of another person, well, that’s one thing. For Christians to treat a world we are trying to win in the same way is entirely another.

Jesus was always honest, but he was also always kind. People followed him because he won them.

There might be a time when Christians are truly silenced in this country. Pissing off all and sundry now, when we are not, is not the way to ensure this doesn’t happen. It ensures nobody will help us when it does, and it ensures fewer will join our cause and his kingdom.

You don’t just want a “logical debate”

Churches across Sydney are madly running information nights and producing resources right now to educate their congregations on the same sex marriage “issue.”  In my experience, there is never anybody up the front to argue for the Christian “yes” vote, nor anyone speaking with real, strong connections to any LGBTI person.

It is ridiculous for Christians in the public eye to argue they want a fair, logical public debate on this topic.

Unless Christians want both sides of the debate presented in their own churches – which, in my experience, they don’t – our leaders need to stop lying to the public.

“Having our say” is not about ensuring the more logical argument is heard. I think we would get far further with the truth – that we believe this is what our God wants and plan to vote accordingly.

You’re not smarter than I am – and I’m not smarter than you

For all my ranting and raving, I promise, I don’t hate Christians and I don’t hate ‘no’ voters. I don’t hate our church leaders or Christians in the public eye.

The truth is, I think almost all the Christians I know are wonderful people who care deeply about the world and want what’s best for it. The same can be said of almost all  the gay people I know. Both groups include a few jerks, but that comes standard.

But as one Christian minister I knew once said, the difference between a minister and a lay person is time.

A Christian minister, or any Christian in paid leadership, is being given a gift by their congregation. That gift is not supreme trust or respect 100% of the time, or some magical knowledge that we can’t access. It’s extra time to study God’s word and care for God’s people.

This is why we esteem our leaders – not because they are cleverer, or know more, but because they have more time to think on God’s word than we do.

But this issue is special. Many of us “normals”, including me, have given countless unpaid hours in thinking through this issue in a way that just isn’t the case with most other theological issues. I would challenge any minister to have spent more time thinking through the guts of of this topic, including the theological guts, than I have – even if we may, in our digging, have arrived at different conclusions.

I plead with ministers and Christian leaders to stop treating congregation members who are confused as to how they will vote, or who have chosen to vote ‘yes’, as lesser or as somehow stupid. We are not. We are teaching your kids at youth group, we are praying in front of church, we are leading your growth groups. You wouldn’t let us do those jobs if we were heretics or intellectually incompetent. Beyond church doors, we have doctorates and medical degrees and high-paid jobs – or we don’t, which doesn’t mean we are unintelligent.

Please don’t lord your authority over us on this issue.

Maybe you’ll be right – a ‘yes’ vote will come through and the world will indeed fall over. Even if it does, that falling down is in God’s plan.

Please, consider how your words will impact those you don’t know and those you do – so that whatever the result of this disastrous survey,  those of us out in the trenches can show love to the world and save who we can.

I am praying for you. I am praying for all of us.


If any LGBTI people have made it this far through this long-winded rant that was not especially attended for their attention, I would like to say that you are important and you are loved. Many Christians support your rights and are saddened by the cruel things our leaders say. Others offer love but feel they can’t in good conscience do more – which must be exceedingly, endlessly frustrating. It must make you so angry.

But few of us think the same way as those organisations of white men with ‘Christian’ somewhere in their name. Most of us have no platform, we have no millions. We can only say that we are sorry. In our small ways, we fight for change and we win it very, very slowly.

If it means anything, I pray for you as well.


*It seems there may be some bias in regards to this particular survey – it was commissioned by a gay rights group and the numbers are different for more regular church goers. I’m including it because much of the content still rings true to me, because I feel biased stats can be useful if the bias is acknowledged, and because the article is very interesting.

**This seems like a good time to point out that this post is NOT intended to reflect the views of my church, which advocates a ‘no’ vote.

Speed rant: This plebiscite, vote ‘no’ to fake news

4a1c19e119e2857cc660b0465658e1af-e1505306792802.jpgApparently we are having a same sex marriage plebiscite – what a stupid idea – but more on that another day.

I’ve noticed that Christians, in particular those who plan to vote ‘no’, have been sharing lots of articles about how marriage will erode the family and we’ll all go jail and next thing you know two dogs can get married* or what have you.

This is not a post about how wrong those ideas are (though frankly, it maybe should be), it’s a post about the media and checking up on the things you read.

In contrast to the feelings of millions, I truly believe both of Sydney’s major papers (SMH, DT) and the large national players (ABC, SBS, The Oz) do at least some really solid reporting, and all report better on some issues than the others.

However, at this time of heightened political sensitivity, all of these and many other, dodgier parties are trying to get your hard-earned clicks and shares by making you mad and scaring you.

It’s worth thinking through some stuff before you give them what they so desperately, desperately want.

Firstly, and I think most importantly, is this content journalism or is it opinion writing? I love comment pieces, but they are simply not subject to the same (admittedly now depleted) checking and triple checking as news stories. Comment writers are also under no obligation to ‘balance’ their stories by talking to the other side – and as such, you really shouldn’t take facts from their pieces. The best comment writing is hard to find at present, and the worst is designed to bait you by putting into clever words your own opinions, and backing them up with “facts” that are often circumstantial or based on a single experience. Poor pieces like these are the ‘Today Tonight’ of journalistic writing – it’s worth being careful about how you read, digest and disseminate them.

In particular I’ve noticed a couple of articles around about a single person’s poor experience relating to a gender transition, or growing up with same sex parents. Stories like these are notable to the media (or the non-media, which I’ll address in a minute) not just because they push an agenda that appeals to readers, but because they are seen as an anomaly. ‘Child likes parents, receives appropriate medical treatment’ is not a headline that’s going to sell papers.

Secondly, consider the bias and agenda of the publication and journalist who have put together the story. Spectator, for example, wrote an article recently that lots of Christians shared. Many perhaps don’t know that they are an extreme right wing publication – far more conservative than most Christians I know. I would never trust a publication like them on either side of politics to present the balanced truth on any issue, as they have such a strong bias. This isn’t always bad,  sometimes it’s better to know of a bias upfront than to assume a publication sits in the centre, which really, none of them do anymore. Being decisive gets more clicks. But please, do think before you take pieces from publications like Spectator as fact-based or “real journalism”.

Be careful too of random websites that claim to have the “real facts” on subjects like Safe Schools  or being transgender or what have you. These are almost always run by regular joes rather than journalists. That’s not always bad, of course! Everyone is entitled to an opinion and many non-journalists are wonderful writers with great stories to tell. That said, I don’t trust these sites – which have a strong agenda and no accountability – as far as I can throw them. The people writing for them are not professionals seeking to provide a balanced viewpoint, there are no sub-editors or fact-checkers looking over them, and there are no company lawyers to hem and haw about defamation and the like. Not to mention, if these sites had any “real facts” so would one of our country’s very real journos – that story would be way, way too good to pass up, whatever a journo’s personal views on the matter.

If you’re confused about a big topic of the week, and especially reporting on that topic, Media Watch is often a great place to get clarity. Many don’t like the ABC, but I think Media Watch do a great job, and don’t always side with their own organisation. Their analysis on the “fake flyers” scandal a few weeks back was particularly impressive.

Thirdly, and this point is truly to everyone, consider balancing your media diet.

Personally, I read as much Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine as I can get my hands on. Mostly I couldn’t disagree more with their conclusions, and it’s always worth questioning any commentators facts, but I always learn something – even if that’s just what the right wing are feeling and thinking about this week.

Papers used to be more balanced in the views they present – now, we have to do our own balancing. It’s more work, but it’s always worth it.

Finally, language – it’s really important. Make sure you’re using the right words for the group you’re referring to – using the wrong words is like calling me Julian. That’s not my name, and if you call me that often enough, I will get annoyed no matter what you are actually saying. It’s not hard to use the right language (Google is your friend if you’re lost) and it goes a long way to making sure your point comes across as gracious and loving – things all Christians are called to be.

Thanks for sticking with me buds – peace, love and good vibes to all in this time where many feel stressed and under attack. Jesus turned water into wine for a reason so let’s all have a glass and be a bit nice to each other.

*which I am maybe for that sounds super adorable.

I’m a complementarian and I couldn’t care less about anyone’s hair


I stopped going to Equip a few years ago.

There was, at the time, no controversy. No especial love lost between me and that gaggle of shiny haired conservative women. I didn’t consciously decide to stop meeting with them, to stop soaking in their cheer – so bright a playschool presenter would roll their eyes in envy.

To be honest, I thought my non-attendance was just a side-effect of my busy-ness. But either way, I wasn’t there when one of them got up a week and a half ago and unconsciously lit a wildfire.

Following now famous comments from a speaker about whether or not a woman should have short hair, the tiny bubble that is the Sydney Christian internet erupted. A small and angry portion of women were annoyed about being told not to cut our hair or have tatts. The larger portion of the chatter was about bigger questions of theology and identity – about feminism, biblical interpretation, preaching, headship and gender. The mainstream media got involved. Lots of people pointed at Equip as an example of the kind of bullshit complementarianism is best known for, and on some levels,  I can’t fault them.

I feel I should say straight up that I myself am a complementarian myself –though probably a bit of a watered down one. I’m proudly and vocally a feminist, but I’ve traditionally held that it’s men who should be the rectors at church. That marriages should be equal, but that men should lead the way in displaying sacrificial, Christ-like love. Not because I personally think it’s a great idea but because I think that’s what the bible teaches – though I absolutely respect the well-supported opposing viewpoint.

Honestly though, reading the often heartbreaking stories of so many women this week has me re-considering my position unlike any biblical argument ever has.

To be saying at Equip that a woman shouldn’t cut her hair is not only hurtful and a poor witness and confusing and probably racist – it’s also, on so many levels, silly and a waste.

If you’re the kind of Christian who thinks it’s deeply important that women look like women, there are loads of ways to do that that have nothing to do with hair. Quite frankly, even if I buzzed my dome tomorrow, I think my DD’s would continue to give away that I have a vagina.

Sadly though, this isn’t the first time us complementarians have been guilty of taking odd verses of scripture to illogical conclusions.

Shockingly, the last time I attended Equip five years ago, I went with a secret that was not my affiliation with a certain F-word (by which I mean the better f-word – feminism). It was a silence I wore, quite literally, around my neck. It hung, bumping against the soft skin at my waist, on a long, cheap silver chain. It was a diamond engagement ring. I’d been given it the night before the conference.

I had gone hoping to glean some insights for the road ahead – my engagement and eventual marriage. I expected to find plenty among such perky marriage lovers as the women of Equip, but among the cheery kindness, I didn’t find much balm for what I felt were quite reasonable fears. Marriage was a long time, was I ready? How do you even love someone for that long? Did an odd surety that this was the right one make up for my many questions, my many faults? How would I tell all my non-Christian friends I was engaged at 22?

How could I hold all these fears and, the next day, once our families had all been told, draw my engagement ring out from behind my dress, and handle the squeals and jealousies I knew were coming?

None of these questions were answered that day – though this was hardly surprising in a conference not specifically about marriage. I did get some advice though, while sitting through an elective by an impeccably attired blonde lady. I don’t remember what the topic was supposed to be, but I do remember one of the takeaways of such.

“We should all be dressing in the ways our husbands like best,” she said. Or, she said some version of such – forgive me, it was five years ago.

“If your husband doesn’t like makeup, don’t wear it – and if he does, you should.”

A bullet-like bullet point. Straight and simple. Here I was seeking, ready to lap up any advice about marriage. But this hit seemed so shallow, so out of place. Yet another thing to do, to worry about. I wanted to be let in, to see the real stuff, but I was being kept at arm’s length by advice perhaps too trivial even to be scribbled in shiny pen on a scrap of paper and placed in an advice box at someone’s kitchen tea.

It is perhaps illuminating that I don’t remember what part of the bible the speaker was using to justify this point.

Don’t get me wrong – there was a time, not too long before this, in my early twenties, when I would have loved to dig down deep into the tiniest parts of a speaker’s understanding. I wanted to know everything, I was hungry for the most obscure scraps of wisdom. I was anxious to be completely perfect, totally absolved.

I’m not sure if, back then, I really understood grace.

I don’t blame myself, I was young, and I’d had too wonderful a life. But something had clicked in the difficult preceding year, as I’d turned round to really face the failings of my church and myself. Little things are of course, important, but I’d started to understand then, as I understand now, that I’d been adding too much weight to them.

I had spent time, for the preceding several years, in quite a liberal university group. Most of them would have called themselves egalitarian, and at first I, a staunch complementarian, had struggled to adjust. But the fact was that what united us was more powerful than the divide. I had learned a lot from them, and I had seen the power of their presence on campus.

At the same time, I was starting to feel the pressing in of a new knowledge. I had been working, at that time for several months, at a legal centre where the majority of the clients were homeless. I spent some of my period of engagement helping battered wives fill out divorce applications. The need before me was palpable, my own problems shrinking under its weight.

It had started to filter through me then, and now fills my whole body – the wonder at the tiny, petty fights Christians sometimes  seek to start from the pulpit. Not because we shouldn’t disagree – I feel strongly that we should. We’re not a cult. But can’t we disagree about something that matters? Can’t our leaders guide these disagreements in a direction that helps our understanding, and our love for the world?

I have so, so much empathy for the women who were hurt by these comments, all of which seem to have been silly and unnecessary. A woman CEO “helping” her male employees? How about she helps her female co-workers close the wage gap first?

But you know what? Even in my own anger, I see the senselessness of this debate, of this very valid parade of hurt feelings.

I don’t feel that, when I stand before the Lord, my complementarianism will come up. I can’t believe it will be added to my long list of sins – my greed, my pride, my doubt, my many failures to love, my laziness, my selfishness, the ways in which I have let down the ones I care about or was given to teach. But nor can I imagine my choice not to identify as egalitarian will earn me some kind of commendation.

I hope we spend time in heaven talking to each other, because I have a lot of people I’d like to catch up with. But I doubt that, even with eternity before us, we’ll spend lots of time on such tiny questions of theology. I certainly don’t think we’ll spend much time re-hashing past hairstyles, and examining each other’s tattoos or lack thereof.

None of this would matter, I don’t think, if we had all gained the kind of perfection I’d imagine life would someday mould me into when I was young. Perhaps, if we all lived lives of devoted service free from the world’s cares, we could all spend a good portion of our waking hours wondering the best ways in which our tresses could reflect the heavenly.

But as it is, I can’t get into such niggly debates any more. And it seems, based on the strong and swift condemnation of what was probably an example in a much larger talk, many Christian women feel our time is better spent in other ways than worrying about out hair.

The fact of it is, I think, that we are too busy, and too tired. And in many cases, too hurt by a shiny, Stepford wife stereotype that Equip – for all its good points – has helped perpetuate.

For Christian women, traditional pressures, the type dealt with by our mothers and grandmothers, remain. We are still meant to be able to whip up an excellent meal or cake at a moment’s notice, to be a natural hand with children, to keep a spotless home, and to look fabulous no matter what the reason or season.

Add to this the new pressure to be one of the lucky few plucked from the crowd for partnership – whether or not that’s what we want it’s what others want for us – it’s no secret eligible men are now slim pickings in many places.

Then we add traditional service to the church, teaching scripture and making meals and cleaning up messes and praying with our friends – as well as more modern egalitarian roles, now present even at more conservative churches. We teach at bible studies and youth groups, lead singing and prayers.

Then, we are also workers – there are so few places left in Sydney where one can wrangle being a stay-at-home spouse or parent. Whether we are high-flying lawyers, doctors and executives, or work part-time or freelance, bringing in the bacon is now an element of life for almost all of us.

Add to that even the good things of life – time with wonderful friends and family, time with ourselves, celebrations and joys.

Add to that then the very bad – death, disease, caring responsibilities, health concerns.

It’s no wonder that when we were told what we should really care about is helping out our male co-workers (and beauty tips) we all lost the plot a little.

There are so many things we could be taught, at a time for just us. So many cares that could be cast to the cross. I would love to hear, from women wiser than I am, how to place Christ at the centre of this avalanche of competing wants and needs. How do I talk about Jesus with my friends and family? How do I make my love for people obvious in my workplace? How do I create a strong marriage that can also out to the many single people around me? Is having children really the horrible disaster the secular world assures me it will be? How much can I care about my career before I’m being a selfless dickhead? And on and on ad nauseum, the endless questions and concerns. And these are just mine! Imagine all of those in that room! The swirling dance of uncertainties, loves and losses, the regrets and the pride. And somebody got up and spoke about HAIR.

Just thinking about it all makes me so tired.

Perhaps I am wrong when I sometimes think that the way the church treats men and women is fundamentally different at every level. At one level, I’m beginning to think, it’s the same.

I think so often about how out of touch male preachers sometimes are with their congregations – with the opinions, concerns and troubles of the everyday worker, parent and neighbour.

If I’ve realised anything in my reflection on Equip, it’s that many of our female preachers suffer the same fatal flaw. For whatever reason, they do not come to the pulpit with the same concerns as their listeners. They give time to tiny fears and insecurities – rather than to trying to tackle the big concerns of money, relationships, time and work that see the majority of us still up at 1am on a school night, reaching for a big glass of wine or a second Connoisseur ice cream.

I hope that future me will make the time to attend Equip next year. My complaints, I promise, don’t come from any ill will towards the speakers or the organisational team- many of whom I know to be women who are Godly, kind, and in every way well-intentioned. I almost chose not to publish this post, because reading negative comments constantly about one’s work is awful in a way that those of us in the media are only too familiar with. I’ve decided to hit publish out of selfishness, and out of solace with those egalitarians who have spoken out.

I hope to come back to Equip not only to show my support, but because I have missed being part of such a big crowd of female believers – and I still believe, fundamentally, in the power of women preaching to women. In our concerns being tackled by our own. Also, I just really like hearing metaphors in sermons that aren’t about superhero movies or sport.

I hope, though, that this little ruckus will bring change. That Equip will become a place where women are armed, not coiffed. A place like the men’s conferences, advertised with fighting words and comforting shots of mountains. Where women can hear talks that bite and shift, but also include and console. Where, like men, we will hear talks about being strong and courageous, talks that speak to our whole lives, and that – please Lord – don’t focus on the “controversy classics” or those standards of Esther and Ruth.

I hope we can hear talks that speak to the women who are really there, rather than the old myths that are not.

Talks that are truly, equal but different.

Millenials, do we even want to own homes though?


“There’s nothing like the feeling of walking in to your first home” our mortgage broker sighed wistfully, as he pushed the hefty piles of paper towards me for my signature.

But as I walked into my newly purchased property, exhausted after scrubbing my disgusting, cockroach-infested old rental to the bone, I only felt confusion, apprehension and fear.

I am that rarest of creatures, a millennial who, through hard work and many acts of God, owns her home. But when I come back to it at the end of the day, I don’t feel young – I feel old and tired.

This week, another property mogul – Tim Gurner, this time – has said young Aussies should give up their creature comforts and knuckle down to save for a home. But as I lie awake at night in the home I’ve already bought, considering the crushing mountain of debt I have built, I often wonder – why the hell did I do this to myself?

So I own a piece of ground – I mean, great, I guess. From the second I bought the damn thing all it’s demanded of me is more money. There’s rates and renovations and responsibilities pounding down my door all over the place. A lot of the time I reckon I’d rather be with my mates who rent, pounding schooners at the pub – and not just because my partner, our two dogs and I are constantly at each other’s throats in such close quarters.

Rather than living the Aussie dream, I have a rising feeling I’m just a victim of it. And a dumb one at that, because I worked incredibly hard to be here.

Unlike so many fantastically knowledgeable billionaires, I tell the secrets of my success to anyone who asks, for free, without requiring attendance at thousand dollar seminar held in a cheap hotel. I partnered up young, we hardcore saved with two incomes – and even with all that, the bank of mum and dad had to come through with a loan.

As a property reporter and as a millennial I completely understand the outrage that builds every time some white dude with daddy’s money tells us all to knuckle down and give up life’s little luxuries to purchase a property. I mean, I did it, and I know how hard it is. How impossible it is for people who, unlike me, can’t borrow money from family. How impossible it would have been for friends who own property if they couldn’t have lived at home while they saved a deposit.

Everyone deserves a good whinge and I’m always happy to listen to friends struggling to buy. But often when I hear one of my mates lamenting the state of the property market, quietly running through in my head the average house prices for the suburb where they currently live, I quietly think to myself: “are you sure you want my life?”

Sure, you could give up literal joy and get a foot on the property ladder, and it would (apparently) set you up forever. But is it worth, like me, only really beginning to live at some distant point on the future?

I get it, older generation, when you say that buying anything is about sacrifice. I’ve always been a saver. I eagerly tucked away the $6.75 an hour I earned at my first job when I was 14, and at every other poorly paid job I had through university, and at every poorly paid job I’ve had since. I wore hand-me-downs from my middle sister and shopped at Vinnies well into my mid-twenties. I turned down nights out, holidays, meals – I’ve never seen free food, or a free tote bag, I haven’t nabbed.

I figured it would all be worth it, when I could plunk down my 10 percent to own some bricks and mortar.

But there’s something I didn’t quite realise about owning a home. Something they never seem to include in the “young tycoon buys suburb” style write-ups boomers love to forward to us 20-somethings.

Even after you’ve scrimped and saved, you just get to do it some more – and especially when you’ve just scored a Sydney-sized mortgage.

I get that I’m an idiot for not realising this sooner – I’m sure all the boomers will call me a millennial snowflake, or a straight up moron, and in some ways I agree. But even boomers, I think, can see the downsides to the home ownership dream, in their day and in the present day. If many of them were in a modern man or woman’s androgynous loafers, staring down a million dollar average price, and could have seen in a crystal ball all the things they’d be giving up to own a home, would they still have plunked down the dosh?

I’m not so sure I would.

The three grand or so I pay every month to the bank is the money I would be using to explore the world, to actually go out on a date with my partner, to take even a minute off from working and side-hustling.

But I don’t have that money. The bank does. All my dreams are on hold ‘til I’m older.

Don’t get me wrong, other millennials. I can already hear you. “You already own a bloody home, you don’t get to whinge.” Fair crack. It’s not that I don’t understand the supreme privilege of my position. I promise that along with being ambivalent, I’m also grateful. I know that I am basically a unicorn. A unicorn who lives in a falling down one-bedroom house, but singular all the same (yes, I swear, it’s a house with one bedroom – nobody will ever believe me that it’s a real thing).

But in so many ways, I’ve traded my youth for it.

I’m not saying millennials shouldn’t keep raging – we should. We’re being gaslit by the older generation, who bought homes when uni was free and wages were rising and when the city wasn’t so sprawling that a “budget suburb” meant a two hour commute to work.

And I’m not even saying that boomers shouldn’t keep telling us to save money for things we want – though it’s time they admit that the property market is fundamentally different than it was when they were younger.

I’m just saying that it’s time we stopped pretending that saving for a home is the only hard bit, and that there isn’t more to life than just getting your hands on a plot of land.

Millenials, I say ignore the boomers and enjoy spending your money on whatever you damn well want.

Like me, they’re probably just jealous.

A timely reminder


I made a firm promise to myself at the beginning of the year that I would post on my blog every week. This promise has been stretched a few times, but never broken as thoroughly as in this last fortnight. I was sort of too sad to write, or too happy. In both, I was too much a part of the world – but here I am, back again, not with something funny or topical but with a long, rambling post about my life, so good luck with that.

The week before last I waited until the last possible moment to take lunch.

My stomach was rumbling as I clattered my way down the stairs that lie in the very belly of the big newspaper office where I work.

Many days I curse these stairs, the office and the impulses that brought me here. I used to be a magazine editor, a job I loved, but I traded it in when I was “headhunted” into a reporting role. I resent the job – which I don’t find as rewarding or as professionally impressive – and I resent the kind minds that inspired me to take it. “It’s a bigger company,” they said “more stable.” Ironically, it’s now in the middle of massive redundancies – but even before then, it didn’t feel good enough. I could no longer count myself the singled-out one, the young boss lady, with the impressive business card. I’m just one of many, and hardly the most impressive of the bunch.

But I don’t think of my career that day, as I trudge down the stairs. I think of the reason I am leaving the office for such a late lunch, to walk the ten or so minutes it will take to get to the nice salad place, a pleasant culinary retreat from my woes.

The reason is a phone call, which will come from my husband, about our little dog, Sunny.

Sunny was my choice – we have two dogs, and we both chose one. My husband chose beautiful Bruno, a show dog, a blue-blood blue. Both of our choices had to adopted, desexed and from a rescue we supported – but he picked the one closest to pure bred. Bruno looks like a dog prince, a quarterback, bouncy and confident; popular, cheeky and beloved.

When I first saw Sunny, even I thought she was too odd-looking to adopt – and who am I trying to impress? Me, a chubby, stressed-out average-looker, who already had one pitbull? But Sunny was truly odd looking, with a big comb-like mound of loose skin under her chin, a saggy belly with droopy teats attached, her trademark self-possession and sass on firm display even through the camera. She was burly and odd.

I almost didn’t take a second look – but I noticed, halfway down her adoption listing, the one fact that was absolutely key, the one non-negotiable. Sunny loved to wrestle.

Bruno, of course, loves to wrestle – most boys who look like him do, whether human or canine. It was essential his new companion, who we were adopting in large part to keep him company, feel the same.

I put Sunny on my mental shortlist, and went back to flicking through adoption profiles on the websites of my favourite shelters. But she wouldn’t leave my mind.

She wriggled herself in there so completely, that eventually, we went and met her in person. She didn’t make a great impression.

Shortly after being brought out to see us in the little pen-like verandah at the front of the shelter, Sunny dug herself a little hole in the dirt of an adjacent garden and lay herself across it, like a flower that had grown wrong. She didn’t want to say hello to us, and in a brief moment of play, she bit Bruno and he bled a little.

My husband was giving me the look – the “are you sure about this?” look – and the shelter lady seemed equally uncertain. I don’t know why I chose to take her home – or, not even home, but to the vet. We paid our money, and we drove there straight away.

It was supposed to be a check up, but Sunny ended up staying there overnight. She’d been desexed while in heat, and something had gone wrong.

It would be the first of a long line of medical problems. First, the time she got an abscess on her ear that required an expensive operation – during which they also removed several teeth, which she had ground down in her past life.

“Probably chewing on a cage,” the vet said.

There was the time she and Bruno got into a fight, and he tore a little hole in her ear, which bled and bled all over my sister as she held piece after piece of toilet paper over tissue-like skin and velvety fur. Sunny has a scar now – it’s one of many that mars her sweet little face. Proof of time spent as a stray, or maybe even as a puppy farm or bait dog.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising Sunny spends so much time at the vet.

In fact, she’d headed off to the dog doctor, basically her second home, a week or so prior to this day – this day when I am headed out to lunch. She’d been feeling a little under the weather, we told the vet, who said she would need antibiotics and a second visit on Monday.

“I’m like 90% not worried,” he said, “but I’m like 10% worried.”

The next time Sunny went to the vet, they told my husband to take her straight to animal hospital.

They told us him weren’t sure what was wrong. But they were testing for cancer.

I’d been worried about her, that morning my husband took her in. He’d had to call and let me know, and later, at home, reassure me.

“Everyone loves her at the vet,” my husband said, in comfort.

I feel the tears begin to slide down my face as I lean forward to place my head in his chest.

“Everyone loves Sunny,” I mumble.

Then the test, the big needle that must have gone right down, past skin, past bone, to her liver and lymph nodes. They needed to be checked, to see if anything was growing there that wasn’t meant to grow.

This is why my husband was going to call. To tell me, in the middle of my work day, if my dog had cancer. If she was going to die.

I was sure that she did. That she was.

The other treatment wasn’t working like it should have been – not for the liver infection she was supposed to have had. The latest antibiotics they were considering were for dogs on death’s door, they said.

So, I was leaving work for a moment. I was leaving to take a phone call, to hear my dog had cancer. My adult dog. Not the kind where I could palm off difficult decisions about cost or care or lethal injections to my parents – the real kind, where I was in charge.

I know some people will roll their eyes. “A dog is not a person,” they will say. Of course a dog is not a person – a dog is better than a person. It is not as important, but better is different to important.  Important makes money to pay the mortgage and talks to you about your many problems. A dog eats your most beloved possessions, but knows about your personal problems without you having to tell them.

I knew and know, I promise, that my dog being sick is not the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. But it was a real thing and it hurt. 

I prayed.

I don’t pray – not really. Well, I pray in church. And I pray sometimes, in the small hours of the night, when my mind won’t let me slip into sleep – fearful and fervent, and forgotten in the morning. Repeating soothing, old, well-trodden lines to God and myself.

I forget to pray, in my waking day. I have too many deadlines to pray. Too many things to read that must be read. Too many emails to get back to. Too many booze-fuelled catch-ups to attend.

But I prayed that day, for my little dog. I asked God to care for her, to make her well. I apologised for my smallness, her smallness, the insignificance and mountainous impossibility of my request. I looped my prayers over and over in my head, like collecting up a spool of thread, hoping that if they got big enough, they could be seen – not just by God, but by everyone. That if they got big enough, they would have to be made real.

As I walked along, praying, I saw one of the papers I write for, lying on the pavement in a doorway. It’s a small publication, often too small to even fit in the stories I write for it, meaning I grump around the office for an afternoon, muttering about wasted time and angry contacts.

On the front of the paper sat Guy Sebastian, alongside a headline. His religion was lost, it said. He believed only in himself now.

It was such an odd, shocking coincidence. I was here, at a low, praying, really praying for the first time in a while, while a newly tatted up Guy, on top of the world, lost grip on the whole conversation.

My train of thought was gone, and everything started to rush back. Sunny, small and sad in a little cage. My husband, dealing with clients and waiting for bad news he would then have to pass on to a distraught spouse. Bruno, alone, sleeping on the couch in the grumpy, sad state he comes to when he knows something is wrong or someone is unhappy.

I think about Guy as I duck into a largely abandoned bookstore, eager to take the call there. What has he gained from his success and what has he lost? I think about my own very limited rise to the measure of an adult. I own a house, I have a partner, I have a job that makes people ask more questions, that is of interest to them. I don’t spend the time with myself that I once did, or with my family. Or thinking about things, or learning about God. I am sure it could only be worse for someone who has gained more than me but seeks even more than that – wants to have more than more, to be more than more. To rise.

Right now I don’t want to rise, I just want my life to be like it was last week, and then take a different route, one without dog cancer.

The call doesn’t come in the bookstore.

A few days later I will be ushered, with my husband, into the animal hospital. It’s essential, they tell us, that Sunny eats. If she doesn’t eat, she can’t go home.

Even before she entered the hospital, neither my husband or I could get Sunny to eat – not since she’d been sick, that is. Before that, literally anybody or anything could get Sunny to eat. But for several days, nothing.

After we say hello I hug Sunny, who smells strange, like steel and dirty washing. Then the nurse brings in three plates of food. Sunny’s favourite, barbecue chicken, is present, but she only sniffs at it, refusing to eat. My husband takes some in his big hands and offers it, tenderly to the little dog. She won’t eat it. I worry for him then – his dogs are everything. What if Sunny never eats? What will it do to him?

She won’t take chicken from me either, nor will she take some of the cat biscuits the nurse has left – dogs are supposed to prefer them, she said. As I stroke Sunny’s lovely soft ears, I try for a hail mary, scooping up a little mixture from the final bowl. It’s brown, sludgey, with a little grit too it.

I coo to Sunny and hold some out to her.

She looks at it, and then at me. She sniffs it. And then she licks it from my fingers.

Tears rush to my eyes. I look to my husband, who has worked from home all week to look after this dog. He offers her some of the goop and she won’t take it, but when I hold my own fingers out again, smothered in the stuff, she laps it up gingerly, giving me careful glances.

I know that it could have been anything that made Sunny eat from my hand, but to my poor, sore heart, her favour feels rich and significant.

Sunny is my dog.

She fights so hard for herself, she is brave and ugly and misunderstood. She loves to wrestle but will attack on a whim.

Sunny is my dog, I tell the vet.  “She’s my favourite thing in the world.”

We sit there, for nearly an hour, while Bruno whines at the door, and I feed Sunny an entire bowl full of what is apparently wet food for anorexic dogs – tiny, slimy scoop by finger scoop. Watching her eat, the catharsis of it, might have been the happiest moment of my life.

Even now I can feel it slipping away – that tragic knowledge of what really matters, that surety that only comes when you’re tested. “Oh,” you think, in that dark moment, “all those other things? Jobs and reputations and followers and fake friends and fancy cocktails? Those weren’t real. I only needed them because I had all my real things.”

I have that awful knowledge, that day in the bookstore, as I wait as long as I can before I have to go and actually pick up some food I don’t want. Before I have to walk back to the office and write whatever it is I was writing that day – doubtless, it was unsatisfactory to someone.

I must have picked up my salad, and walked, daze-like, back to the building to start on it.

Perhaps – I think, when I realise I am there, climbing back up the steps to my private, tiny prison without walls – perhaps the test hasn’t come back yet. Perhaps there’s been some delay.  Maybe I have been granted a reprieve – another few days of blissful not-knowing.

But as I reach the second floor landing on my way to my third-floor desk, my phone rings.

I hear it in my husband’s voice before he speaks.

“Good news,” he says.

I thought I would cry even for good news, but I don’t.

I can’t stop smiling.

Calm Down Christian Blokes, Nobody is Bullying You


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about that Cooper’s video. If you haven’t, you can feast your eyes on it in all its cringe-y awkwardness here.*

I have a lot of thoughts about this video. Mostly, that it made me once again wish I could run PR for the entire religion of Christianity.

Seriously. How did nobody from a religion centred around loving your neighbour stop and think: “Hey, you guys, just a thought – maybe this video of three white guys, two of whom are Christian and all of whom are right wing, having a good lol over a beer about an issue that contributes to the fact that gay people are 14x more likely to kill themselves than straight people, is not going to go over well on the internet.”

Predictably, condemnation was swift. I’m not going to add to it – well, anymore than I already have in my attempt to describe the video above, which we can all agree failed spectacularly as a piece of impartial reporting. As previously discussed, I’m not the right person to speak for the gay community.

What I want to talk about is the condemnation of the condemnation. The pushback against the video’s detractors. Because, of course, the Christian white boys were outraged. How dare someone take a thing that they had made and not like it?

“We’re being bullied!” They cried. “What about freedom of speech?”

Firstly, Christian white boys, nobody was attacking you personally. They were not, for example, calling you out publicly for your decision to wear a one-piece swimsuit to the beach, or a tank top during a 40-degree heatwave, such as Christian men do to Christian women all the time. The dialogue was about the video, the very specific ideas in that video, and the presentation of such.

Secondly, in the style of many pre-schoolers I know, I think you need to learn a little lesson about bullying, because I’m not sure you know what it means.

The definition of being bullied is not “I said something and people did not think it was appropriate and got angry.”

It is especially not “I am a white man who practices Australia’s dominant religion and I said something and people did not think it was appropriate and got angry.”

Bullying is a big, popular kid and his gang of mates picking on a small kid who doesn’t have any friends.

If you honestly cannot see that the church has been the big, popular kid tearing down gay people and women and racial and religious minorities in the past, then I maybe can’t help you – you might actually be too far gone to change.

But I think a lot of Christians, including lots of white men, realise that the church has done wrong in the past, and has used its power in really terrible ways. The difference now, they say, is that we are no longer popular. People watched our big boys bully those smaller than themselves and left and joined the other side, in droves. There are more of them now, they say. They have gotten muscly over the summer holidays. They are the bullies and we are the ones being picked on.

To which, I have to say…weeeell…

Sure, bible-believing, church attending Christians are certainly thin on the ground in lots of places – and gay people undoubtedly have a lot of support on the issue of marriage equality. Those Christians in dissent** have long been outvoted by the general public (though still, bizarrely, in their next breath, claim they are supporting a silent majority).

But as any good networker will tell you, being powerful is not just about having friends. It’s about having the right friends.***

The fact is that, barring a lot of legal reform and a systematic cull of the older Caucasian blokes from beachside suburbs who run Australia, Christians are not being bullied.

It would be difficult, in this country, for us to be bullied ever. The constitution legalises our right to teach children about Jesus in schools.  Further legislation enshrines our values on everything from break time to BDSM. Any and every perceived slight against us is reported in right wing media as an attack on “the Christian values that built our nation.” There are so many Christians in parliament that they have their own prayer group – it meets on Monday nights.

If anything, we are overrepresented in positions of power. According to a 2014 article, during Tony Abbott’s time as prime minister, 8 of 19 members (42%) of the cabinet were Catholic, to say nothing of what I’m sure was a strong protestant showing. In contrast, only 25% of Australians said they were Catholic in the 2011 census – a number which I would bet money dropped in time for last year’s debacle.

There are only three out gay members of Australian lower house, 2% of the house’s total headcount (according to this 2016 article) and to my knowledge, no transgender members, while statistics indicate that one in every ten people is likely LGBT.

It’s easy to see why people don’t take too kindly when we say there is nobody to stand up for our values. When we argue we are being silenced, bullied and ignored.

Now, don’t mishear me, Christian blokes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Christians or white people or men being in positions of power having political opinions, or voicing those political opinions – though if they’re Christian, they’re called to do that in a loving way. We live in a democracy, a system of government based on people giving their views on policies, laws and legislators.

The thing that the most privileged Christians need to get used to is the fact that people can now say whatever they want back.

Seriously. Whatever they want.

They have friends now. If those friends don’t want to buy your beer, that is their prerogative.

Even if we think we are being nice and doing a nice thing. Even when we think their response is mean or illegitimate. Even when we think we are right.

Our detractors can still say anything the like, and we have to try and be loving in response.

Not try to stand on our rights. Not try to yell louder. Not try to silence the opposition.

God’s promise to us was not that we would live lovely lives protected from nasty name calling. In fact, it was the very opposite.

I understand the fears Christian white men have. They have never been a minority before – they have never been powerless. But to wallow in their own suffering as though they haven’t and aren’t causing suffering, or as though Christians aren’t being gunned down with machine guns in other parts of the world, is laughable to anyone, and particularly to the women and minorities that their voices have previously silenced.

It’s time you all came out of your bubble for a bit of air, took a look around, had a chat with someone who’s not like you (that wasn’t just a debate about an opinion you’re secure in), and learned to deal with where we are instead of longing for a past that is very much gone.

I think it would really help some of you stop saying silly things that those of us living in the real world then have to try and explain to our non-Christian friends and family – and I think it might help the rest of the world be a little more sympathetic if we ever come under real attack.

Perhaps every Christian white man fear will come true, and you will all be right. Maybe Christian ministers will be thrown in jail for preaching the bible’s views of sexuality. Maybe they will take away our legal right to tell our children about Jesus. Maybe we will be told we have to make a cake for a same sex wedding.**** Maybe your kid, who I suspect is the real target of your worry and concern, will support values you do not support, or will not be a Christian, or is gay or transgender him or herself.*****

You know what I doubt is going to slow the advance of that day, of those days, which may very well be coming? Privileged people playing a false victim card too early, before anyone has made any serious attempt to limit the rights of Christians in the first place.

And if our brothers and sisters, about to be eaten by lions and set on fire and nailed to pieces of wood, can bless their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, I promise, you can shut the hell up and stop writing nasty homophobic comments on Facebook.

*TLDR summary: three white guys in suits drink Cooper’s beer and discuss the pros and cons of same sex marriage

**And we are not all in dissent

***This potential pun was unintentional, I promise, I hate puns because I am a humourless bitch

****Which like, sorry Christians but big fat who cares. It’s a cake, nobody is forcing you to have gay sex

*****In which case I hope you will do as the bible says, and still love them and take care of them

In Which I Complain About Adorable Children (and Myself) for IWD


A few weeks ago I wrote a post for this blog.

The content of the post was, as I intended it: Christians and gay people are fighting again. We should probably stop being mean to each other but Christians should probably stop it more.

A friend of mine reached out to me a few hours after it went up. I need to mention for context that she is a lesbian, I just didn’t want to say “a lesbian friend of mine” because that sounds like her sexuality is the reason we are friends – it is not, we are friends because she is great. She said the post was offensive and a bit gross, and told me why in exacting detail, which is something she did not have to do, because minorities do not exist to educate you about why you are a dickhead, they exist to live their own lives and you are just in their way. She asked me to pull it down and I did.*

I tell this story for three reasons:

  1. I like to begin all my blogs with a rambling personal anecdote because I AM OBSESSED WITH MY OWN LIFE
  2. Even if you think you are doing a nice thing, or at least making a point in a respectful and nice way, it is possible you are not
  3. I am still here. I tried to do what I thought was a good thing, I learned that it was at best problematic, I felt sad for a moment, and then I felt angry that I could not say what I wanted, and then I felt angry that I was dumb and inconsiderate and I had upset people, and then I felt angry that society is not better and is fucked, and then time went by and I forgot about it and felt sad and angry about lots of unrelated things.**

The other reason I tell this story is because I’m about to roast some people for doing exactly what I did, and I sort of have mixed feelings about it but sort of don’t.

The subject of my roast is obviously, adorable children from Sydney Boys. They are not really children, they are young adults, it’s just that school uniforms make everyone look 12.

Today, these young adults – young adult prefects, I should clarify, as they did – made a video. In it, they face the camera, and repeat statements about why we need feminism. They do not, as I initially thought, make statements about why they as men need feminism – and feminism does have a lot to offer men and boys, apart from the chance to be outraged. They simply repeated statements made by their female friends and relatives about why they need feminism.

And people liked it you guys, they really liked it.

It’s been in my Facebook feed all day, and shared by everyone from major media outlets to loads of regular and kickass women.

Well, I freaking hate it.

Boooo adorable children and future hot guys raising awareness about feminism.


Ok. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously, I do not hate the message. I don’t even hate the messenger. These boys tried hard to do a good thing and I reckon they learned stuff. They potentially weren’t aware they would become an internet sensation, and even if they were, the net effect of what they have done is still good. People are listening to them in a way they won’t to me or any other woman.

I just hate it.

I hate that these women’s stories, some of which are frankly pretty traumatic, still garner more respect, are still praised more for their bravery, are still shared more widely, are still more palatable to society, and are still heralded as more feminist in this form than when ACTUAL WOMEN TELL THEM.

You want videos in which women talk about why they need feminism, or articles in which women talk about why they need feminism, or freaking tweets in which women talk about why they need feminism? You want women telling their own stories of rape or being overlooked in the workplace or literally most other things that have ever happened to us? Those are all out there! In fact, they are all everywhere! They are so ubiquitous I couldn’t possibly link to them all. I, as someone who loves to trawl the feminist web, am frankly kind of sick of reading them sometimes.

The difference is that the privileged men that the boys in this video will grow into do not read them. They need to hear them out of the mouth of someone like themselves. A man.

They need this video of adorable children “sticking up for their mothers and sisters and future wives and daughters,” or whatever whatever.

And that. That. THIS is why we still need International Women’s Day. We need it because women are still beaten with the crazy stick when we tell stories men are praised for telling. We need it because male feminists still expect a cookie and some nice attention for trying to help. We need it because the same media outlets who days ago were crying foul over the ABC’s decision to take male voices off the air for one single day have suddenly come around to the feminist message because a white man said a thing.

Perhaps, like me, it’s time men spend some time listening.

*Reasons I pulled it down include: I dislike making my friends sad, nobody paid me to put it up so who cares if it is now not there, knowing my luck somebody would pick it up and roast it on Twitter which is not something I need in my life, I do not want to be a jerk who contributes to LGBT suicide rates, and etc.

**I don’t think I’m fundamentally a jerk for writing that post. I don’t think I’m fundamentally a good person for fixing my mistake. I think I’m a huge mess like everyone else in the whole world who learned literally one single lesson.

If You’re Banning All the Muslims, Put Me On the List Too


As I have previously mentioned about a million times, I am a white woman and a pretty hardcore Jesus-person.

I don’t mean to bring up my race so often, but today it is relevant.*

It is relevant because I had to watch Jackie Lambie once again throw around anti-religious sentiment, this time on Q and A.

And funnily enough, that anti-religious sentiment only applied to religions often practiced by immigrants. Because obviously.

Christians rarely stand with those of Islamic faith because, quite frankly, a few of us are racist, a few of us are lazy, and most of us are too busy organising all of the various activities our church wants to put on.

This is ridiculous and frankly, it’s time we speak up. Religious freedom in Australia needs to apply to all religions, not just the ones led by old white dudes.

Ms Lambie, my ancestors came here as convicts. We are the whitest of the white. It you’re searching for what the right see as “real Aussie”** credentials, you’d have to search hard to do better.

But if you’re so worried about Sharia that you feel its adherents have no place in our country, well, you’re going to have to kick me out as well.

If your argument is that to live in Australia you need to respect the Australian law as the only and primary rules for living, then I am out. So are many Christians beside me.

Many Muslims, including Yassmin Abdel-Magied, have spoken out to say that Muslims are instructed to adhere to the law of the land where they live, and Christians have that rule too. But, if there is a conflict, we are told to go with the bible’s rules, rather than the ones made in Canberra.

To be frank, I don’t think it will be long before this will be in full view for the public. Many Christians support same-sex marriage, and most think it would be dumb to refuse to make a cake just because gay people plan to eat it. But if Christians don’t very soon get ready to have a kind and rational conversation about gay marriage, our ministers will eventually end up in jail for refusing to marry gay people in our churches.

I would see this as a real shame. Because, even though I am a leftie, the point of the law is not, as I understand it***, to reflect the minutiae of tiny unseen values that squiggle around the hearts and bodies of every one of Australia’s citizens. Instead, the law is fundamentally about what we as a country find so abhorrent that it requires punishment. It’s about making compromises and protecting rights – making sure things are split up at least mostly equally and everyone feels at least reasonably safe.

Meaning, Christians can privately practice and believe whatever they like about marriage, but should not have the right to deny gay people the right at a national level. That Muslim people should have the right to go about their business – and middle-aged white ladies should have the right to feel silently and irrationally terrified if they want to, but not to refuse them basic human rights.

If you’re saying goodbye to everyone who holds something above the law, say goodbye to  the woman who’s illegally using marijuana to treat her chemo symptoms, and the guy who went and beat up the man who was abusing his child, and as previously mentioned, myself. So long, Ms Lambie!

I’m not sure where I’ll go – I think England’s forgotten about my family by now. Perhaps I can pay a people smuggler to set me on a rickety boat bound for nowhere.

*I am quite happy to bring up my religion in any context, because it’s important to me, and also because I had to listen to you talk about sage cleansing and horoscopes so I figure we’re even.

**I know I’m so sorry; writing that made me throw up in my mouth a little. I was trying to speak the language of the right, but still feel the need to acknowledge that of course no white person is a real anything – our land is stolen land.

***I have a law degree, btw.

Good Work Other Women You Do That Thing I Don’t Care About



I care about sport about as much as I care about being able to apply perfect winged liner, which is not at all, ever.

But I couldn’t help but feel a little swell of pride last week as I watched a promo for the first WAFL match.

It was with no small amount of wonder that I watched these women, limbs on display in their practical shorts and singlets, huddle up before going out on the field. Their long hair was secured in bands and braids, kept out of their faces. There was no cleavage on display, only muscles. Their bodies weren’t sculpted for bouncing, but to kick.

They were their own cheerleaders – and even though I don’t really like watching sport, I was drawn so strongly to them, off to lead themselves to a tiny victory, in support of a much larger cause.

It’s scary, to be honest, just how rare it is to see a group of women dressed up to honest-to-goodness go and a do a thing. Not to sell a thing or to attend a thing or to be a thing, but to go out and just kick some general ass and take some freaking names.

In a month where Donald Trump signed a bill banning abortion rights while surrounded by a gaggle of smiling, old white men, these women were a bright ray of sun.

They reminded me of someone.

They reminded me of many someones.

They reminded me of my best friend from school who used to be the only girl to enter coding competitions, who had the last few subjects of her degree awarded honorarily because she was that good – and because she had to leave the country to start her job at Google.

They reminded me of my youngest sister, who is also studying computer engineering and politely corrects me every time I accidentally state that she is “going in to IT.” Apparently this is the equivalent of calling a journalist a copy writer.

They reminded me of my middlest sister and all the awesome women teachers and scholars I know, who inspire and inform, who don’t get nearly enough credit for the fascinating things they know and can tell us.

They reminded me of the women at work who are rising up a male dominated ladder to become kickass, full-on, hardline, hard news journalists, who get scoops and front pages and knows all the names of the people in the NSW state parliament – instead of Googling them as needed, like I do.

They reminded me of the women I interned for when I still thought I might be a lawyer, who were tireless, fearsome legal advocates for teenagers who lived on the streets and drug addicts just out of jail and women in abusive marriages and confused international students done for drink driving.

They reminded me of the women I know who truly understand and passionately love the business of business, who are rising through the ranks in HR or PR or MR while studying hard at night for a master’s degree, so they can one day nurture other women, can help us all pull each other up the jungle gym that dominates the corporate enclosure.

They reminded me of all the women doctors I know, who are just now, ten years after high school, finishing up their training – or still studying. Of the many other women in healthcare who don’t get nearly the same credit, but are just as crucial. To have the drive to do something that takes so much of you, and sometimes seems to give so little, is incredible and inspiring.

They reminded me of several women on my Facebook, who all seem to be getting Phds in  incredibly complicated science things that I do not, for the life of me, understand.

In spite of what every film ever released would have you believe, I am not jealous of any of these women.Their jobs and lives and choices are inspiring as hell, but they’re not right for me.

But I am so, so glad – I am glad beyond glad – that they want them and that they have them, and that they show us there’s another way. A way where we are more than bodies, more than things, more than numbers.

I am so glad that in every field there is someone to lead the way.

I am glad, selfishly, because if I ever decide to have a child, it will probably be a daughter.

We are a family of daughter-havers. My mum is one of four sisters and between them they had seven girls, no sons.

I’m sure in this hypothetical future people will come up to my fake daughter at a party and pat her soft little head and – because they don’t know what else to say – will remark that she looks so pretty today, or that they like her shoes.

I suppose I will have to let her hear it, to hope it skims off her. But if I see it sneaking and wiggling its way into her brain I will take her hand and pull her aside and crouch down beside her as she looks confused about why I am so weird. I’ll take her little hand in mine and tell her not to listen. I will say:

Don’t be a thing. You are not a thing.

Do a thing.

Do your thing.

Whatever the hell that is.