THE awful feeling was all too familiar. Someone had me in their sights and decided to attack, and nothing I said or did was going to stop it. Suddenly, I was a kid all over again.
On the weekend, a well-known gay activist from Melbourne named Rodney Chiang-Cruise orchestrated a very public campaign to have me removed from the Board of the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
My terrible indiscretion? Being employed as a journalist for News Corp Australia.
I’ve worked for News for three years. I became involved with the GLRL about a year ago and was formally elected as a committee member in late 2016. My place of employment was proudly declared in my candidate bio, presented to Lobby members at the annual general meeting.
I’ve covered all kinds of things in my career. Politics, general news, entertainment, property… you name it. I’ve also written extensively about LGBTIQ issues, from marriage equalityto Safe Schools, in News Corp’s vast stable of outlets.
But in Rodney’s opinion, when it comes to me, I can’t be a participating member of my community while working at News Corp, because of some of its past coverage of LGBTIQ issues, including Safe Schools.
Rodney doesn’t live in NSW, the state the Lobby represents. He doesn’t really contribute much to the LGBTIQ community, except to be an aggressor and distraction of important issues. He is a known bully within the space and he has a lot of time to devote to that hobby.
In my observations of his past activities, I’d describe him as hard-line and naïve, with a very black and white view of the world.
When I became aware of his attacks, which he waged on Twitter and Facebook, and also privately, I felt sick. It felt like I was a teenager again, when this kind of harassment was the core of my
Even though this time it was directed via the internet, originating from thousands of kilometres away, it’s as though I could feel the nastiness like a strong breeze on a hot, humid day, stinging my skin; choking in its relentlessness.
As people very kindly stepped in to defend me, friends and strangers alike, Rodney grew more and more determined. Another known antagonist, Michael Barnett, joined in the fun and shared the messages, amplifying their reach.
Rodney took to a number of LGBTIQ-related pages on Facebook to spread his hate, attracting a smattering of support from some who agreed with him. It fuelled his momentum.
The snowball grew and grew. When I tried to reason with Rodney, he blocked me on his social media accounts.
As this was going on, my phone continuing to light up like a Christmas tree, I was sitting in my mum’s living room in central Queensland at the end of a three-day visit home. It felt just like old times — me silently fretting, holding back tears, not wanting to worry her; she wondering what was clearly wrong; me knowing I couldn’t win.
I went home to Sydney and felt increasingly worse about things. I stood down from the GLRL — a decision I made without pressure — in a bid to bring an end to the distraction Rodney and Michael were making. The LGBTIQ rights campaign is at too important a point to cop things like this. We should be talking about inequality and injustice, not a journalist from Sydney who sits on a Board.
The Lobby has been nothing but supportive but for now I feel it’s best I step away, particularly in light of the attention this unfortunate incident has received.
But Rodney had won. He achieved his goal of having me gone from the GLRL Board. And yet he still wasn’t happy. He gloated that if I thought this would end his ‘advocacy’ against what he calls “Gay Incorporated”, I was sorely mistaken.
I told him to go away, in my very pointed regional-Queensland-upbringing way. He threatened to make that colourful, admittedly not very classy message public. I don’t really care. I’d gladly repeat it here but it wouldn’t be published, so I’ll say this: Rodney, you’re a disgraceful bully and I wish you farewell, you meanie.
I’ve copped bullies my entire life. They’re the worst. They’re mean, without reason and they typically don’t give up, even when the fight is won. But to endure this from within my own community is the most disappointing thing I’ve encountered in a long time.
For the most part, the LGBTIQ community is warm, welcoming and supportive. The GLRL and groups just like it across Australia contribute an enormous amount to society and work tireless for equality and fairness of all kinds.
And it’s worth pointing out that my employer has shown incredibly overwhelming concern, ensuring I’m coping and even making very generous public statements of support.
For you see, the world isn’t black and white as Rodney sadly sees it.
Sometimes the LGBTIQ community is its own worst enemy, when people like Rodney hijack the agenda and steer focus away from the things that truly matter. Rodney is in the minority, thankfully, but his actions can’t be ignored.
I’m a bit embarrassed by all the attention. I’m extremely upset at how things have played out. I’m buoyed by the support I’ve received but I’m disappointed it was needed at all.
But mostly, I’m just sad — sad for Rodney, that he thinks the way he does, that his heart is so full of bitterness.
However he’s not representative of the community. Don’t let him distract from the work that’s being done.
This whole thing has left a sour taste in my mouth and I’m going to take some time away to reflect and let the dust settle. I hope for everyone’s sake that Rodney does the same.
Shannon Molloy is a reporter and producer for News Corp Australia.