Today may have marked a partial end to Israel Folau’s anti-LGBTQI+ crusade, but the storm has all but cleared. GoFundMe may have pulled Folau’s plea for donations from their site, but there’s still a pervasive issue which indicates the saga is all but over.
LGBTQI+ communities remain tightly bound to an uphill battle – their plight for equal rights and acceptance continues to mount, whether a GoFundMe page was rightfully pulled, or not.
But I have to admit, I’m extremely divided. The Folau saga is a complex interplay between strong signs that our intolerance for discrimination is indeed strengthening (and can even act to partially curb a bigot’s hate campaign). But it also represents that bigotry is not yet dead. Australia just witnessed a once notable sportsman exploit his following to disseminate hate and toxic views under the guise of Christianity.
Here’s the difference – Israel Folau was not sacked for being Christian. He was sacked for preaching hate. In the same way I would be if I said things like that about a religious minority. Teachers are sacked for teaching maths etc while being gay https://t.co/tvHzRN5nw1
— Magda Szubanski AO (@MagdaSzubanski) June 23, 2019
There’s many things we can all learn from this saga. Yet above all else, we should acknowledge the undercurrent of LGBTQI+ intolerance that ticked off Folau’s tirade in the first place. This saga represents the struggle that LGBTQI+ communities continue to face in their plight for acceptance and if we’re to do anything, it’s support these communities with awareness and tangible support. It’s the least we can do.
#1 Our Intolerance For Discrimination Is Strengthening
If there’s one positive thing to come from the Folau saga, it seems our intolerance for discrimination is indeed (and finally) strengthening. With every social post, Folau’s ‘preaches of hate’ were met with a steady backlash among Australians who refused to tolerate such blatant discrimination. The backlash spanned from Folau’s own ex-teammates, to journalists and everyday Aussies standing in solidarity against views that quite frankly, echo some kind of mid-twentieth century ignorance.
— Hayden Quinn (@hayden_quinn) June 21, 2019
Whilst GoFundMe today claimed that Folau’s plea was pulled for its breach of their terms and conditions, one could argue that the widespread slandering of the plea was also to blame. A nation-wide backlash actually had an effect on curbing Folau’s bigotry – and we should be proud to have instigated it.
YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!
— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) June 21, 2019
— BUZZ ROTHFIELD (@BuzzRothfield) June 21, 2019
#2 Bigotry Is All But Dead
Or does the Folau saga prove the contrary? Is bigotry and the outdated views that fuel its pervasiveness still alive and thriving? I mean, Folau has almost exhausted every online platform to disseminate homophobia and toxic views – despite the majority of us slamming him, he thrived on those who supported him (and still do). His GoFundMe page amassed over $750,000 in donations within just days, so bigots and supporters for anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric are well and truly among us.
Similarly, backlash against Folau’s anti-LGBTQI+ tirade ignited a battle among people who believe it to be justified – that Folau is simply exercising his freedom to religion. Sadly, this line of argument doesn’t quite account for the fact that this isn’t an issue of freedom to religion, rather its an issue of whether people can simply preach hate at the expense of others.
@drew_mitchell this ‘fight’ is not about Izzy keeping his job / playing rugby again – it’s about Freedom of Religion – whether an employer can FIRE employees for stating their religious beliefs! This case will set a precedent for ALL Australians of all religions in the workplace!
— Sean Simpson (@seanspi) June 21, 2019
#3 Siege Mentality
With GoFundMe pulling Folau’s plea, you get a feeling that there might be a growing sense of siege mentality for some. Sort of creating an ‘us verses the rest’ between some who agree with Folau’s views and those who don’t.
GoFundMe did ultimately pull a page that had amassed nearly 10,000 donations in a matter of days. That’s a lot of individual donors, and whilst they’re maintaining that Folau’s plea was in violation of their T&C’s, it’s indirectly contributed to the battle between religion and ‘the rest’. In Folau creating his own, free-standing donation platform, you get a feeling he might drum up even more cash.
#4 LGBTQI+ Communities Aren’t The Winners Here
Above all else, the Folau saga represents the struggle that LGBTQI+ communities continue to face in their plight for acceptance. The fact that Folau exploited his social followings and instead used them as a platform to disseminate hate and toxicity is beyond concerning.
The irony in Folau’s plea for donations to fund his legal battle against Rugby Australia (despite arguably boasting a net worth of several millions of dollars) whilst LGBTQI+ communities continue to grapple with the immeasurable emotional distressed caused by his views is sickening.
What I worry about more than #Folau shamefully asking for money that could go to charity to people who actually need it is the deep harm his words do especially to #LGBTIQA youth. Know you are loved, seen, matter and deserve to be safe, treated as an equal and included always.
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) June 23, 2019
#5 Our Intolerance Should Transfer Into LGBTQI+ Support
LGBTQI+ communities continue to grapple with widespread intolerance and if we’re to do anything in response to the Folau saga, it’s to show them emotional and tangible support. A number of reactionary, ‘anti-Izzy’ campaigns have kicked off in support of LGBTQI+ communities Folau (and his supporters) so toxically condemn, and they’re worth our money, too. The ‘Israel Folau’s intolerance will not be tolerated’ is a reactionary GoFundMe page which is live and accepting donations, now.
So among the things I’ve learned, the most glaringly obvious lesson is that LGBTQI+ communities are the real victim here – not Folau. He’s simply victimised himself to further his own discrimination tirade and frankly, I see right the way through it. So too, thankfully, does most of Australia.
Sources: @drew_mitchell, @hayden_quinn, @MagdaSzubanski, Israel Folau Facebook.