EDITORIAL: Sexuality shouldn't matter

THE least important thing anybody other than those close to her needs to know about Cessnock councillor Cordelia Burcham is her sexual orientation.

The things that do matter are the same things that matter when judging the performance of any other person who chooses public life.

Whether they really care about their community, for example. Whether they are mature and sensible enough to weigh conflicting points of view. Whether they have enough backbone to stand up for the things they believe. 

In declaring publicly that she is gay, Cr Burcham has implicitly demonstrated considerable courage and her stated reasons for making that declaration also reveal much compassion.

Like many others in similar positions, Cr Burcham describes the strain of leading a double life for the sake of appearances. There is a fear among many people, when they realise that they are gay, that their potential contributions to their communities will be devalued because of their sexuality. 

Faced with that fear, many gay people choose to remain undeclared, making them vulnerable to the ever-present threat of exposure by those who wish them ill. In the hostile world of politics such enemies are seldom far away.

In years gone by it was almost essential for many gay people in the public eye to lead elaborate double lives to conceal their true orientation and preferences. But that has been slowly changing and more are coming out.

To cite just two examples, former Greens leader Bob Brown and Labor senator Penny Wong have proven that sexual orientation is irrelevant to either political capacity or social responsibility.

  Cr Burcham has noted the unfair consequences of political double lives for those obliged to lead them. She has also expressed concerns about the potential hypocrisy of telling children to be who they really are while simultaneously concealing one’s own nature. 

These are important observations that should resonate with any human being, not merely those who nominate themselves as gay.

It is hoped that Cessnock citizens and voters will disappoint Cr Burcham’s political opponents by failing to answer the redneck dog-whistle of kneejerk homophobia.

Ultimately, sexuality should have no bearing – either positive or negative – on public perceptions of any leader’s fitness for their role. 

Cr Burcham is to be commended for her courage and honesty under difficult personal circumstances.

As for her role as a councillor, let her be judged on the identical standards that apply to her peers. 

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