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POLICE PROBLEMS • SSO • April 28, 2009

I refer to the article in SSO 967, “Police review trans policy”.

This case is not about the need to incorporate more information for police on issues to deal better with transgenders. It is about alleged police misconduct.

The problem with the New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) is it never addresses the real issue involving the conduct of its officers.

Commissioner for Police Andrew Scipione needs to get his house in order by taking a good look at the make-up of his police force.

What about the hardship suffered by Ms Fell, having to spend two weeks in hospital?

If the NSWPF continue to dish the NSW public up these slops they might as well round us all up and put us in a pen ready for slaughter.

Perhaps Commissioner Scipione should call it quits, go home, put his socks on and sit in front of the fire and read a few mystery novels.

— Gary Burns

Ed. Even though this comment is in response to an appalling transphobic incident, it does highlight the overarching problem of police misconduct, and the homophobic/transphobic attitudes and lack of integrity by some members of the NSW Police Force.

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BEATS • SSO • January 14, 2009

I am not a beat user, but have been following the debate on these places with interest.

Recently I was chatting to a man who went to one of them. At the same time, unfortunately for him, so did members of the NSW police.

He had to provide his driver’s licence, which was taken back to the police vehicle for a time and then returned. He was alone, clothed, and not partaking in any activity that could remotely be described as lewd.

There were no toilets, or indeed any buildings, just trees and shrubs.
In some overseas countries where things are a bit more progressive such as Denmark, these areas are patrolled by police, but to watch out for any thuggery, as opposed to that other word.

In Australia, a gay man is treated like a criminal. Some police will retort that they are just doing their jobs. This suggests they have no skills in negotiation and are inflexible. They too can make choices. Applying the law punitively suggests that all laws are right and just. A short walk through history will show this is not the case.

Treatment like this does nothing but raises the ire of a public that is becoming increasingly jaded.

The chap I met described the law enforcers he met using the C word.
Being a teen in the ’80s, I have seen our society in some respects become more formal and intolerant. Common sense and a genuine concern for public safety have disappeared from the radar. My hope is that they’ll become like a great ’80s record and make a bit of a comeback.

— Andy

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BEAT USERS • SSO • November 26, 2008

It is always the same.

As soon as anything related to beats appears in the media the more prissy members of the gay community announce that they are “embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted” by people who use beats … and invariably say that if people want beats they should use “sex-on-premises venues” and of course, consequently show their utter ignorance of both types of venue.

Bluntly, telling a beat user to use a SOPV in preference to a beat is like telling someone who wants a pub that the golf club has a bar. They simply aren’t the same thing. Period.

I walk past a park. Maybe I see someone I like. We click. Maybe we have sex there. Maybe we go home together. That, dear people, is freedom. Me, under the sky. Being me.

I go to a sex-on-premises venue. What is that? Some guy has paid the straight community for the right to run a kind of lucky dip. I go to the place, I pay cash, usually between five and 17 dollars, to go into a black stinky hole and just perhaps, meet someone and have sex with them in a little dark box like a rat. That is if there is even anyone else in the damn place to start with … and do I get a refund if that happens?

Get real. It is a lucky dip, and the owner doesn’t even have to provide a prize. Is it any wonder that SOPV owners are rich? And usually straight? And well connected?

Sure. Beats are dangerous. They are dangerous not because there is anything wrong with gay people, but because society penalises beat users by legal, economic and criminal means, because, get this … society simply does not like gay people.

Shocking, isn’t it?
When I read the mealy-mouthed rubbish in the gay press that amounts to “if we can pretend to be more like straight people then maybe they will like us”, all I see is a bunch of credulous twerps announcing that they think that wearing a pink triangle and having the right identity papers is “fitting in”.

Hell. People like that belong in sex-on-premises venues.

— Alex, Surry Hills

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Comments:

#1 • Andrew M. Potts said, November 27th, 2008 @ 4:37 am

Alex of Surry Hills- “telling a beat user to use a SOPV in preference to a beat is like telling someone who wants a pub that the golf club has a bar”

Telling a beat user to use the internet or a SOPV in preference to a beat is like telling someone who is breaking the law to abide by the law, nothing else.

“I walk past a park. Maybe I see someone I like. We click. Maybe we have sex there. Maybe we go home together.”

If all beat users were doing was meeting other men in parks and going home with them, their behaviour would be completely legal and no one would have a problem with it- hell, they could do that in broad daylight.

Significant numbers of beat users are attracted by the illegal nature of the activity they’re engaged in, by the thrill of danger at beats, and by the chances of being discovered by non-beat users.

“They are dangerous not because there is anything wrong with gay people, but because society penalises beat users by legal, economic and criminal means, because, get this … society simply does not like gay people.”

First of all, most of us gay people don’t use beats and many of us don’t like them. In 2008 a clear majority of Australians want full equality for GLBT Australians- this society simply DOES like gay people.

Heterosexuals object to gay men having sex in inappropriate places for the same reasons that they object to heterosexuals having sex in inappropriate places- the only difference is that heterosexuals who have public sex do it in a far less organised manner.

That being said, when we cry homophobia over legitimate complaints about the behaviour of a minority in the gay community, we give ammunition to very real homophobes who want to paint us as a community that, rather than equality, wants special rights that no one else has.

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#2 • Luke said, November 28th, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

Regarding Beats…Go Alex. I whole heartedly agree.

Mr Potts, what gives you the moral authority to get up in arms about such ‘illegal’ behaviour? If you have never committed a crime or any illegal activity, then good for you. Something about stone glasses and throwing houses.

For some of us, some laws are wrong and need to be challenged, disregarded and/or ignored – which many in the community do and that is their choice.

The reality is that men have been having sex with each other in the outdoors for as long as men have been around. It is not going to stop.

The moralistic tone of your article last week is precisely what breeds ignorance and bigotry. This is not an issue about equality, It is about systemic homophobia that has plagued the police force and obviously continues to.

Using the language of ‘when we cry homophobia’ is unduly provocative. The people who are opposed to these actions aren’t ‘crying’ homophobia, they are bringing attention to the specific targeting of men who have sex with men who are yes ‘breaking the law’ but are going to do it anyway and should not be harassed for the sake of a law that rarely leads to a charge or conviction. How progressive that Amsterdam has just passed laws that allow men to have sex with men in parks after dark if they clean up after themselves etc. The police there work with the community to help eradicate violence at beats.

If the police allocated the same time and resources to addressing acts of illegal violent behaviour against the gay community with the same gusto, maybe we would have more arrests and less bashings.

‘Many gay men don’t like beats’ – This is meaningless. Many gay men don’t like sitting at a keyboard in front of a monitor for hours/days on end fantasising about getting off with a 2 dimensional image, but they still do it.

I say get out there and actually do it, do it with someone you love or someone you don’t know. Have sex in the street, the bar, on the roof, wherever you want. The world needs more affection and/or sex and less violence and sexually repressive waspish laws.

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#3 • Andrew M. Potts said, November 30th, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

Luke, I won’t say that I’ve never broken a law, but I’ve never been dim enough to get outraged when the police have done their job by pulling me up for it.

If only it was just parks and beaches in the evening where beat users gather. Unfortunately, a cursory look at the more popular beat websites will reveal that beat users are also taking over public toilets in shopping centres, office blocks and department stores during the day when non-beat users are around. Even in parks a lot of it is going on during the day in toilet blocks busy with non-beat users using them for what they were intended for.

Yes, gay men used beats for centuries- centuries in which homosexuality was illegal (sometimes even punished by death), and in that context pursuing a live in relationship or finding sexual partners through the normal channels increased the risk of discovery and the chance of a life destroyed.

Back then they had no other choice. Now, thanks to years of hard work, we can afford to live our lives in the sun with a modicum of dignity.

Using a beat in today’s context (particularly one located in one of the most gay friendly areas in Sydney) is an entirely different thing. Not only is it entirely unnecessary, it shows a disrespect for the community that has accepted us and it is behaviour that undermines and erodes that friendliness.

Personally, there are a lot of things about Dutch society which I admire. But as for decriminalising sex in public parks, I think it’s boneheaded and an idea that is doomed to fail because it’s based on the idea that if you extend beat users respect they’ll return it by not leaving used condoms lying around or by not having sex in risky or exposed areas. Many beat users are there precisely because of the thrill they get from potentially dangerous sex and the risk of getting caught. Make it safe and they’ll only find somewhere else more public and risky to go to.

It is not homophobic for police to patrol beats when many people in the local area both straight and gay object to them. If police are not there, who will stop the gay bashers beats inevitably draw? Police are doing exactly what they should by instructing users to move on, or by removing them from the area and then using their discretion not to prosecute.

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WEAK LAWS • SSO • November 26, 2008
RE : “Anti-discrimination push goes national” (SSO 944).
It would be wonderful for the GLBT community to achieve uniformity in anti-discrimination laws but an absolute disaster to follow NSW AG Hatzistergos’ suggestion that the rest of Australia should adopt the NSW model or its legislation.

In most respects NSW has the worst and weakest set of anti-discrimination laws, largely due to Hatzistergos himself. The 1999 NSW Law Reform Commission reported on reform of these laws including proposals to remove the unjustified exemptions for religious organisations and educational authorities to perpetuate discrimination against the GLBT community. The Labor Government, ( Hatzistergos in particular) rejected these recommendations — almost all of the LRC’s significant proposals remain unacted upon.

By contrast most other jurisdictions (apart from SA) have taken steps to modernise their anti-discrimination laws and nearly all limit religious-based discrimination exemptions.
The claims by Hatzistergos that NSW laws are “one of the strongest”, that adopting them would not “involve winding back any protections” are simply false — in every respect. His failure to address the key recommendations of the LRC report [and] failure to address religious-based exemptions which perpetuate discrimination against the GLBT community are matters of public record.

That Federal Commissioner Innes (an outstanding supporter of the GLBT community) clearly does not endorse the NSW model speaks volumes — he knows the truth.

If we really want to advance the cause of removing discrimination against the GLBT community, we would press for the adoption of the Tasmanian model and a complete rejection of the nonsensical claims that NSW can teach the rest of the country anything in this area of public policy.

— Chris Puplick, NSW Anti-Discrimination Commissioner 1994-2003

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BEAT USERS #1 • SSO • November 19, 2008

Re: “CAAH hunts beat patrols” (SSO 944). The use of beats is often reduced by non-beat users to the issue of sex only. Let’s clear up some misconceptions as to how beats are used and what happens at them.
Many beats are used as social gathering places and places for dissemination of news and safer sex messages.

Furthermore there is a common misunderstanding that sex in public places is somehow anonymous. It may be anonymous or it may be between people who know each other over long periods of time.
Beats may be used to meet potential sex partners, with any sexual contact happening somewhere else, a home for instance.

Country residents may have little option but to use these sorts of spaces to meet other MSMs.

Finally, not all beats are toilets. There are some wonderful outdoor cruising areas that are delightful places to visit even if you don’t meet anybody who takes your fancy.

— Michael, Sydney

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BEAT USERS #2 • SSO • November 19, 2008

I am a beat user. And I’m an out gay man, who socialises on and off Oxford St and I have no qualms in going to any one of a number of beats in Sydney to and from work, or near my home (and for the safety of all I won’t tell you where any are). I’ve been using beats for over 20 years.

Some are stinky public toilets, some are nice public toilets, some are beautiful pieces of Australian landscape, some offer a great outlook (over the city, rivers etc).

At some of them, I have met and chatted to some of the nicest people you will ever meet. And, yes, at some (many) I have just participated purely in the pleasures of the flesh.

Growing up in regional Australia, beats were the only social outlet for men to meet.

Why do I use them now? It’s a bit of a social element, and its also about the ability for anonymity of sex in a place where you are far less likely to be judged by the clothes you wear, the people you know, or the substances you have. And yes, some people may not agree with it, but if beat users follow simple guidelines (discretion and clean up after yourself being the major two), how are we hurting anyone?

As for CAAH’s “actions” — I kind of don’t get it. Yes, I have seen police being heavy-handed in years gone by, but in most cases if the police see you there (and not having sex in public), they very much leave you alone, and just let you know that there have been reports of bashings / car vandalism, etc and to be careful. I think that CAAH will just inflame the situation.

— MPK, Sydney

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BEAT PATROLS • SSO • November 19, 2008
Gay men who have sex with other men in dirty public toilets are an embarrassment to me as a gay person. I support the police cracking down on sexual activity at beats.

— Jason