During the last few weeks I have had a few friends ask me how I am holding up during this same-sex marriage plebiscite. Each time, I’ve had difficulty answering.
I wish I could express the feeling that comes along with the entire country ‘weighing in’ on my own equality. It’s a difficult thing to process. Every Australian is being given the opportunity to have a say in my equal rights, my future, the legitimacy of my relationships. I’d love to be able to show my heterosexual friends exactly what that feels like but I actually have no words that do it justice.
As a kid in early high school I was explicitly taught that homosexuals were sinful deviants. I was told that ‘no one in this school is gay because God doesn’t make junk’. At church I heard that homosexuals were full of demons. Growing up hearing all of these things (and much more) about gay people, my deepest fear was that they were actually talking about me. I knew deep down that I was gay. I believed that I was demon-posessed. That I was junk. That I was innately and fundamentally disgusting.
My society confirmed those beliefs by the way people acted when the subject of homosexuality came up, and in the unrelenting teasing of bullies at school. As I grew older, I learned that homosexuals didn’t have many of the rights that straight people had. Even government agencies like Centrelink didn’t acknowledge their relationships as legitimate. As a young teenage Christian, not only did I believe that God found me unacceptable, I knew that my own government and society as a whole found me distasteful.
Fast-forward fifteen years and things are a lot better now. Many of the laws that kept us unequal have changed. It is slowly becoming more and more unacceptable to be homophobic. I have even managed to reconcile my faith and sexuality.
Yet now the government has given permission to the entire country to give their opinion on my equality…and what I have heard so far from a lot of people tells me that perhaps not all that much has changed after all.
This plebiscite hurts at a very deep level, where my fears about being rejected by a society that taught me that I was strange, feared, hated and unacknowledged are coming back at me all at once. When I open up Facebook or read articles online, the lessons about myself that my faith community taught me – that I was demon possessed, perverted, sick, unloved and unacceptable – bubble up from deep down where I thought I had buried them all those years ago.
Although I know that we have a lot more support than we used to in the wider community in 2017, the loud voices of ignorance passionately spreading lies and fear about us still hurt. The hardest thing to come to terms with is that they still don’t care about the amount of damage that they have caused (and continue to cause) LGBTI people across this nation. Suicide rates are highly out of proportion in the gay community, but they don’t seem to care, too concerned with their defence of the definition of the word ‘marriage’. Mental health issues, experiences of homophobia. These things haven’t gone away. Our community is still suffering the affects of oppression.
The nation will now vote on whether a minority group which has been abused and discriminated against in almost every way over many decades should be considered equal when it comes to marriage. It boggles my mind to think that this plebiscite has even been allowed to go ahead – when you consider how much this community is already subjected to, why are we doing this?
This is a taste of what it feels like to be gay during the 2017 same sex marriage plebiscite.
Photo credit: Scott and Mark’s wedding www.richbayleyphotography.co.nz