Brindal brought to brink

This is one way to come out of the closet:

MARK Brindal is the Liberal MP who claims to have been blackmailed over his sexual relationship with a 24-year-old man.

The married father of four had a three-month affair with the man - who has a mental incapacity - earlier this year.

The pair had sex in Mr Brindal's Unley electorate office several times.

Truth be told, there was nothing willing about the timing - it was forced out by a blackmail attempt, and may well destroy his political career as he seeks preselection for the state Labor held seat of Adelaide. Still, these are gutsy word and deserve to be applauded:

"I believe people in all sorts of places have been living a lie all of their lives . . . who need to get out of the shadows," he said.

"Hopefully the next generation of kids can actually grow up and say this is who I am, I don't need to be ashamed, I don't need to hide." Mr Brindal has told close friends that while he may have made "an error of judgment", he had done nothing wrong.

"At least I don't have to live a lie any more," he has confided.


In an emotional speech at the Fad Bar last night, Mr Brindal, near tears, asked: "Why is it that people are absolutely fascinated with attempts to blackmail a politician?

"It's about same-sex attraction. Maybe there is nothing wrong with that, but there was something wrong with the other human being . . . so it was predatory action."

The first of three panellists at a fund-raiser for leukemia, he began by saying "nobody today could throw any more stones at me".

"I thought I would come naked today, because that's how I feel," he said. "I thought if SA wants to know all about every intricate detail of my life and my anatomy, I might as well just front up with nothing on. I am instructed that given the situation that I find myself in, I need to have a level of caution.

"Please bear in mind I am a little constrained by what I can say."

Mr Brindal told about 30 people that he "grew up in a world where if you wanted to go into public office, you had to . . . divide yourself into two people and live in the shadows.

"And that I think is the most cruel cut of all - the fact that some people are not the same sexually.

"I don't know of a gay person who would say this is what I chose . . . I went out shopping for sexuality, there's mine . . . there's gay, bisexuality, and this is what I picked - the best brand on the shelf.

"Some of the right-wing churches will say there is a choice. Most gays will tell you that gayness found them - there was no choice.

"It is who they are, and most gays, I think, are more comfortable now than in my generation, when it was a truly difficult choice.

"You either took it, or you lived a life in the shadows - and I am one person that can actually stand up and say that is no life at all.

"It is a life foisted on gays and it's a life that gays shouldn't have foisted on them because what actually happens is that trying to hide something, you try to be discreet about something, which after all, is no one else's business.

"You then become vulnerable because either you make wrong choices - because your choices are limited - or, in fact, you allow yourself, because you are vulnerable, to be open to blackmail or any other sleazebag effort that comes along, and that's not right."

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It will be interesting, though I expect disappointing, to see whether his outing will destroy his political career. Voters have shown themselves to be very conservative when it comes to those who lead adventurous private lives. Last year Ross Cameron lost his seat of Parramatta after admitting his (hetero) affair, whilst in the US the former Governor of New Jersey, James McGreevey came out and then resigned all in a single breath, fully aware of the likely response of voters.

The reality is that voters place a significant value on the character of their local candidate, and the further reality is that for most voters bisexuality is not consistant with good character. No doubt they will cloak their homophobia (well, bi-phobia) as objections to Brindal's extra-marital activity.

It shouldn't be this way. Brindal should be a role-model to those who are questioning their sexuality - not just those young people unsure of what sign their bodies' are sending them, but to married men and women who are realising later in life that there is more to sexuality than monogomous heterosexuality. One wonders how many people live in unhappy marriages, with a constant 'what if' eating away at their mind. To condemn someone for exploring this side of their life is disappointing, but hardly surprising.


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