Puicture: The Advertiser.
As a general rule, newspaper columnists are supposed to write about "hot topics", things readers are discussing and debating, and try to bring new light to issues.

But I have to admit that sometimes when I come to write my column I'll reject a "controversial" topic because, in my mind, it shouldn't actually be controversial. There are things that shouldn't warrant deep discussion, because it's just so obvious what the logical, rational response should be.

Like whether we should make Prince Philip a knight. (No.)

Or whether the aboriginal flag should be flown outside council chambers. (Yes.)

These things don't need to be argued. They are obvious.

Until this week, this is what I thought about the Safe Schools debate. Well, I say "debate" but what I really mean is "scaremongering campaign by nervous old dinosaurs desperate to cling to power".

It just seemed so clear to me that an education program designed to foster greater understanding and compassion in schoolchildren on issues of sexuality and gender diversity would be a good thing, that I figured the argument wouldn't last longer than a week.

But apparently I was wrong, and people are still frothing at the mouth over the idea of Australian children learning that gay people exist.

Of course, this may have something to do with the misguided idea that Safe Schools isn't about education at all, but is actually stage one of a nefarious, rainbow-tinted plan to turn the whole world gay and put an end to the human race. Or something.

This is the conviction of Australian Conservative Party senate candidate Peter Wallace, who no one had ever heard of until he started vomiting all over Twitter this week. (Funny, that.)

"Safe Schools, I put it to you that your real agenda is to convert straight kids to be gay kids," he tweeted, alongside a picture of two teenage boys smiling. (It's unclear what the photo had to do with it; perhaps he thought they were smiling in a "gay" way?)

It takes some serious paranoia to not only think Australian educators want to turn kids gay, but that it's actually even possible.

Then again, this was the same bloke who tweeted a picture from the Safe Schools website of a young rower holding an oar and opined about the "large phallus" in the photo.

"They distribute this to our children," he gasped.

There is a certain level of irony in someone who thinks children are being brainwashed with sexual imagery and ideas seeing an oar as a giant penis. The rowing competition at the Olympics must be veritable pornography to him.

It would be easy to dismiss Mr Wallace's crackpot ideas, except that they appear to be shared by some high profile politicians. Like ex Prime Minister turned back seat driver Tony Abbott who fronted Sky News this week to call for funding to the Safe Schools program to be scrapped, because it was "not about anti bullying, it's about social engineering".

It is baffling. Not only do these people think children can be magically "turned gay", they also seem not to understand that kids don't need a brochure to turn on the internet and access all the lurid information they want.

And just a heads up: the internet contains much more worrying material than boys holding oars. Perhaps having a trained professional to guide them through the mire would be a good thing?

When columnists like me still get angry emails calling me a "leso" and an "ugly dyke" when I write something people don't like, I think it's clear we still have a problem with homophobia in this country.

If we start dealing with these attitudes in school, we might one day have a more progressive, compassionate society.

But I would have thought that was obvious.


First published in The Advertiser March 26, 2016. CLICK HERE to read the original article