I initially started writing this piece, straight after the results of the vote were posted. The media is all about immediacy after all, but sometimes it’s a little better to take a breath and then pen something on the matter. Which is exactly what I did in regards to the following piece on the marriage equality results. This piece discusses the impact of both the ongoing marriage equality debate, and the breakdown of the results. As a gay person, the ongoing themes are pretty personal, and bringing to light the darker side of the ‘debate’ and the impact it can have on the LGBTQI community well after the results are released, is one that often gets overlooked.
It’s really not wise to check your phone whilst you’re driving. Especially on the morning of the same sex marriage vote, when you forget the ABC sends you timely, prompt and informative news updates whenever media waves sends ripples across the nation. These updates make a noise, and initially I was just annoyed that my audio book stopped playing, however briefly, but upon catching a glimpse of the words “it’s a yes” and the following stats, my stomach dropped and for a moment the whole world fell still. I’m elated, as a gay person, obviously, but also feeling a whirlwind of other emotions as well. (Don’t worry I have to come out every single day this particular sentence in this article is not a big deal for me, nor in 2017 should it be a big deal for you).
The experience of the entire marriage equality postal vote is different for everyone, but it’s a very very different experience if the result directly affects you. I’m still sitting in disbelief that Australia, in 2017, had to resort to a nationwide survey to at least bring us up to speed with the rest of the world, and enable my future relationship to be looked upon equally in the eyes of the law. I’m also still in disbelief that our politicians were so blatantly afraid to step forward, lead, and be the elected representatives they had tirelessly campaigned and promised to be.
Although it is a crucial first step in the process to legalising marriage equality, the only thing that’s really changed is the visibility of the exact statistics of opinion. To bring things back to a smaller scale, upon getting out of the car at 10:15 this morning to start my working week, surrounded by shoppers going about their business and their day, I didn’t want to scream with upmost elation or celebration. I wanted to turn my phone off, and hide. The only thought running through my mind, was which 3.8/10 people in Australia disagree (strongly enough to fill in a postal vote) with something that I cannot change about myself? Something that every single LGBTQI identifying Australian struggles with immensely at one time or another.
For LGBTQI Australians, the postal survey (call it what it is, it’s not binding), put our livelihood, our sexuality, our and private lives under the microscope of the nation, and by extension the rest of the world. Because whilst most were able to switch off mentally from the campaign, reading the horrific and malicious comments on Facebook (there may even be some under this very piece) about something which you cannot change, hearing our previous Prime Minister doing everything just shy of saying ‘the gays ruin religious freedom’, or in my case, having someone approach me at work, begin a conversation about marriage equality, not knowing that I am in fact (as he called it) a gay, and letting me know “just how perverted the lifestyle is” hurts. In fact it doesn’t just hurt, it takes away a piece of you, every single time.
I know many will say that I am merely focusing on the negatives and that I should be ‘happy we won’ but I really don’t see it that way. But the word victory implies something we gambled, played and campaigned hard for, a trophy we won, instead of simply being given access to the rights we should have been afforded many years ago.
I just want all of this to be over so myself, and my friends in the LGBTQIA community stop being the subject of debate, and are removed as a commodity in the government driven push pull topic of the time. Because yes, it is a really really great step forward that the result of the poll was a yes. 75% of Novocastrians voted yes, Shortland 68% and the Hunter Electorate 64%, all significant majorities. NSW as a whole however, clocked in at 58% yes vote. It’s completely different once you start to section people off into a yes or no camp, a for or against, a this way or that way, when people’s livelihoods are at stake. Instead of being a government driven and decided issue (as the decision to initially change the Marriage Act was, Mr Howard you sly dawg) it was a public debate where ‘No’ voters were given the chance to masquerade hate speech as religious freedom and democracy.
Finally… If you did vote no, you are a bigot. Stop kidding yourself and wise up to the fact that you wanted to use whatever power you had in the circus that was the marriage equality debate to simply say my relationship is not equal to yours. “Gayness” isn’t catching. Me being able to legally marry the person I love regardless of their gender does not change your marriage. In fact it doesn’t change your life at all, but it does change mine. Don’t agree with gay marriage? Then it’s simple. Just. Don’t. Get. Gay. Married. From me to you, I think Paulie Bleeker from Juno said it best… “Like I’d marry you! You’d be the meanest wife ever, okay?”
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