Gay slurs take AIDS fighter by surprise

A NSW government MP stunned colleagues at an inquiry into gay marriage when she accused the gay community of ''looking down'' on women and deliberately excluding them from efforts to combat AIDS.

Catherine Cusack, a Liberal, asked the head of an AIDS-fighting agency whether gay men routinely referred to women as ''breeders'', ''beards'' and ''fag hags''.

Nicolas Parkhill, the chief executive of ACON, a community-based gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender health organisation, said he was ''taken aback'' at the line of questioning at a hearing of Parliament's standing committee on social issues on March 15.

Ms Cusack went on to question whether ACON was delivering HIV/AIDS programs to the 20 per cent of people who contract the disease every year who are heterosexual.

Her first question to Mr Parkhill was: ''In the gay community are women often referred to as breeders?'' He said that was not the case. She then asked if the term ''beard'' was slang for a woman who was married to a gay man as a front for him and what was meant by the term ''fag hag'' - a female friend of a gay man.

Ms Cusack, who was elected the first female president of the Young Liberals in 1985, revealed she had been a member of ACON when it was established in the 1980s.

But she had become disillusioned with its approach, claiming her membership was blocked.

''It seemed as if it got taken over by all these gay people and all the straight women like me got kicked out,'' she told Mr Parkhill.

She added: ''I have voted for this legislation [gay marriage] and will keep doing so.

''But it bewilders me sometimes with the gay community that you want to be separate and the same.

''I say that as a woman who feels very excluded and often looked down upon by gay culture.''

Ms Cusack said on Monday that she stood by her comments.

''Gay culture is very strong and vibrant in Sydney and I was just asking whether that was an inclusive culture.''

Mr Parkhill said Ms Cusack's view of the role of ACON appeared to be confused.

''ACON was founded by the gay community for the gay community in response to the HIV epidemic.

''Its very essence is as a gay organisation,'' he said.

smh.com.au

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