Updated: LGBT Accommodation Discrimination and Me

Update: After I wrote to the landlord, he gave a heartfelt and genuine apology, and said he’d act differently next time. I really appreciate it when people reconsider their views and actions, and I want to acknowledge the effort involved.

I recently had to move house unexpectedly, due to my previous landlord wanting the space back. There were only 9 days between the time I was asked to move out, and when I finished moving house. (This rapid pace wasn’t due to my previous landlord, it just happened that way.)

I looked at a significant number of properties, inspected rooms at six, and came up with a shortlist of four, which I felt ranged from excellent to tolerable. (One declined as they chose another person, and another didn’t get back to me.)

I called the first potential landlord, and we had a chat about specific arrangements to move the next day. I then said: “[When] would you like to meet my boyfriend?” (Who was going to help me move, so meeting him wasn’t really optional.) There were a few seconds’ silence on the phone. The landlord (who lives in the room next to the one I was applying for), asked if my boyfriend would be around much. There was a little awkwardness in the conversation, but it seemed like he recovered quickly. We continued to make arrangements for him to send me the bank account details later that afternoon, so that I could secure the room upon payment. I was looking forward to being close to work, which is why the place was at the top of my shortlist.

I spent the afternoon feeling I had made a terrible mistake disclosing my sexuality and relationship status. I baked biscuits. Because, when you burn biscuits, it’s obvious, and you can throw them out. But when you burn landlords, …

Finally, several hours after I expected to receive bank details via text, I instead received a phone call: “You’re not going to be very happy with me.” Apparently, the landlord and current tenant(s) had decided they only wanted students in the house. (Which seems implausible, given that the ad mentioned a full-time worker as an occupant. It also offered a room suitable for a couple, so that wasn’t the issue.) I told him that at this stage of the process, he could evaluate applicants on whatever basis he wished. And wished him luck finding applicants who suited his criteria.

But I was wrong, at least about the ways in which it is legal to evaluate accommodation applicants. Under ACT law, it is illegal to discriminate against those seeking or accessing accommodation at any stage of the application or tenancy process. (Of course, it still happens.) And, it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of (assumed) sexuality, relationship status, or, ironically, the thinly-veiled excuse of occupation. [Correction: If the landlord lives on the premises, their selection of tenants is exempted from ani-discrimination law. I was mistaken because I didn’t read the whole of the Discrimination Act. I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.] I told the potential landlord this today. [And I’m just about to eat my words. How awkward.] I doubt he’ll respond. Perhaps he’ll be more clever in his excuses next time. (I guess I could have ended up educating him so he could be more subtly discriminatory.) I hope he reconsiders his attitudes. But, if he doesn’t, he [may be] in a bit of a bind, [at least when it comes to advertising his tenant preferences].

I feel like it would have wasted much less of both our time, if he could have been upfront about his preference for avoiding people he assumes are gay. (I’m bisexual, but I think that distinction would have been lost on him.) Or people in non-straight relationships. Or “people who aren’t students, except for the non-sutdent(s) already living there”. Or whatever. It would be terrible for someone to move in, the landlord to discover they’re gay, and then for them to face overt discrimination for the duration of their contract.

But, due to anti-discrimination law, landlords stating a preference for straight tenants really isn’t an option [unless they are living on the premises]. I doubt the accommodation website would permit it [due to the unlawful (discriminatory advertising) part of the law, and even with the exception for living on the premises, they may not want to be associated with any ads which state “no gays”, however legal] (although I did tell them what he did). It would be unpleasant for me to read through hundreds of ads saying “no gays”. And it would be terrible to not have anywhere to live, simply because I wasn’t straight. I now understand why LGBTIQ people often want to live with other LGBTIQ people.

The accommodation website I used offered applicants (but not landlords), the opportunity to create a profile, and choosing to disclose their sexuality. I believe people should be able to choose whether to disclose their sexuality, and I often choose not to if it seems irrelevant. But if it helps avoid an unpleasant situation like this next time, it’s well worth it.

Now, I’m not homeless. I found some housemates who really don’t mind my sexuality (or my boyfriend). And I moved, fast.

But there are LGBTIQ people around the world who face all sorts of discrimination on a daily basis. Who are homeless as a result, and at a much greater rate than straight people. Particularly young people, whose parents can’t bear to live with them (or treat them abusively), simply because they are gay (US-based figures). What an incredible tragedy.

Blogging Update: It appears that I am going to have to get used to the idea of being an intermittent blogger. There are higher priorities which are taking up a lot of my time right now. And, as a programmer, I already spend a lot of time at a keyboard. So I will satisfy myself with occasional rants. Like this one!

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Privacy, Secure Communications, and Law & Order

Understanding Apple and privacy | iMore.

I’m concerned that there is often a false dichotomy presented between privacy and security:

“It’s vital to understand that privacy and security, while often mentioned together, are not one and the same. Privacy demands security, but security does not demand privacy. Historically, privacy has often been violated in the name of security.”

In this context, I can’t quite tell if the author is talking about “secure communications”, rather than, say, “domestic security”. One could easily say: “(communication) security has often been violated in the name of (domestic) security.”

Perhaps we could define our terms more clearly.

But I still think there’s truth in the article: people’s privacy and communications security is dependent on a certain degree of law and order, yet is often violated in service of that same law and order.

Edit: Copy and paste error. I adapted this from a post to the Cyber101x forums on edX.

Why coming out matters (South Bend mayor)

Yep, he knows what he’s talking about – I could say many of the same things about my life and experiences:
(And he is [or has] a great writer, too!)

“I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.

… I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business.

But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community.

Whenever I’ve come out to friends and family, they’ve made clear that they view this as just a part of who I am. Their response makes it possible to feel judged not by sexual orientation but by the things that we ought to care about most, like the content of our character and the value of our contributions.

Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting, or a hiring decision. …

We’re moving closer to a world in which acceptance is the norm. This kind of social change, considered old news in some parts of the country, is still often divisive around here. But it doesn’t have to be. We’re all finding our way forward, and things will go better if we can manage to do it together. … we have an opportunity to demonstrate how a traditional, religious state like ours can move forward. If different sides steer clear of name-calling and fear-mongering, we can navigate these issues based on what is best about Indiana: values like respect, decency, and support for families — all families.

Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family. I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love.”

South Bend mayor: Why coming out matters – South Bend Tribune

Edit: Changing all posts to “Standard” format, as the other formats look weird in the archive view.

Update 2: Is Australia becoming a Police State?

Religious protesters demanding changes to asylum seeker policy removed from Parliament House – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

[Update 2/Corrected: Asylum boat turnbacks: Australia paid people smugglers under former Labor government, as well as under Tony Abbott’s government. Abbott’s government turned them back, Labor didn’t, but both paid them money. Oh dear. Just, oh dear. I can’t even…]

Wow, they kicked them out? For protesting? In the foyer of Australia’s Parliament House? Unbelievable.
[Update: Apparently, the protesters were removed because they weren’t in a “designated protest zone”. That’s pretty petty and controlling, if you ask me. Bet the government sympathisers don’t get removed for bootlicking outside “designated fawning zones”. What, the entire country is a designated praising-the-government zone? I rest my case.]

But you can just walk into Parliament House and take a self-guided tour. I did it with a backpacker friend. We even got to see both Houses of Parliament (they weren’t sitting at the time).

So I can only conclude that they are being kicked out for their opinions. (Or, euphemistically, “causing a disturbance”, or “blocking the walkway.”)

Police state warning.

This is breaking news, so I’m posting it straight away. But that means I’ve burned a blog post I could have used as a buffer later in the week…

#DistractinglySexy: Women Scientists and Systemic Bias

Women Scientists Are Tweeting "Sexy" Photos Of Themselves At Work To Shut Down Sexism.

Women get paid 83% as much as men.* That’s a 17% loss of female earning capacity (real jobs or real pay that women have lost just for being women).

So compare this ongoing, systemic discrimination** against women with a very few, very sexist men losing their jobs.

If 17% of men lose their jobs over being sexist and male, then that’s an interesting statistic.

When 17% of men lose their jobs over just being male, then I’ll agree there’s something terribly wrong.

That said, I am a white man who benefits from systemic bias in many ways. I sometimes say stupid, discriminatory things. I don’t always realise. I’d hope to be told what I’d done, and given a chance to change.

I recently did the Old-Young and Gay-Straight Harvard Implicit Association Tests. It turns out I have implicit positive associations with being young and straight. Which is tough when I’m getting older (and gayer!) If you’re interested in your own implicit biases, and willing to be disturbed, give them a try.

After missing a week or so of blogging, I’m trying a new strategy – less-than-perfect drafts! Let me know how it goes, or if I mess anything up.

  • Yes, I rounded up.

** In orchestral auditions, the impact of gender on assessment is 50%.

The Discipline of Writing Daily

… or, in my case, writing bi-daily.

It’s tougher than I expected – I missed my scheduled post today, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

It’s late, and I’ve been feeling under the weather. (Which, by the way, is freezing cold at the moment!)

I hope to be up to posting more tomorrow or the next day.

On Haircuts and Chronic Pain

I had a haircut last weekend.

You’d think such a simple thing wouldn’t make much difference, but my chronic pain has increased since then. The back of my neck gets colder (it’s winter here), the muscles tense up, and then so do the problem muscles a little lower down.

So this is another short post, because when my body finally got a good night’s sleep, I woke up at 3pm. I’m still feeling a little shaky and uncoordinated, but that might just be low blood pressure.*


* Oh, I get low blood pressure as well. Feel a bit faint at times. But alongside everything else, it doesn’t even rate.