Let me give you the run-down on marriage equality in the country I live in, Australia.

By Kat Bak

 

First, allow me to preface this by reminding you that as recent as 1967 we had a national vote about whether we should include indigenous Australians as, you know, people that matter.

I should also let you know that I’m non-binary/genderqueer and trans. For me to be recognised as NOT female and get gender marker ‘x’ on my legal documents, I would have to undergo invasive surgery to remove an entire functioning organ from my body — a hysterectomy. A major surgery that has side-effects that will impact a persons life for years. So until such time, if I wanted to marry my beautiful partner (you know, if I could), I would have to swallow my pride, and tears, and be seen as a ‘wife’ in a ‘same sex’ marriage. Not only does this whole thing uphold the notion of binary gender (which is a myth), it’s completely arbitrary. So, from here on out, I will be using the phrase ‘marriage equality’ rather than ‘same sex marriage’.

Australia’s current Government is currently held by the Liberal party, routinely described as “Australia’s Republican party”. They’re economically conservative, talk a big talk about destroying red tape and minimising government, but continually impose further bureaucratic processes. They’re mostly white. They’re mostly male. Their best friends are medium/large business, the banks and older Australians. That’s what’s keeping them in power, for now.

Now, both the majority of Australians AND the majority of the parliament (made up of many parties) also support marriage equality.

The Liberal Party doesn’t want to upset their business buddies and their voting bloc, and lose power. They have offered two options — a plebiscite, and a postal vote. Both are options that put the decision in the hands of the Australian people. Since the majority of Australians support it, it’ll pass, it’ll be all great — right? No.

Both these options cost big money. A plebiscite costs up to $100 million. That’s money coming out of Australian’s pockets — millions of LGBTQI+ pockets — to fund it. Not only would this require funding to conduct the vote, but you bet there will be funding for both the YES and NO votes.

I’m 28 years old. I’m in a stable, healthy, happy relationship and I have a strong support network. I know who I am, I’m (mostly) out, and I’m proud. But I’m lucky to be in the position I am. I’m lucky both of my parents accept me as I am. I am lucky I work in a progressive field. I’m privileged.

But there are many, many LGBTQI+ people out there who struggle. Whether they struggle with a society that systematically tells them that their existence is wrong or not normal, or they struggle with mental health to which that is a compounding issue.

Indulge me for a moment here.

Meet…. Jacquie. Jacquie is 13 years old. Jacquie has a crush on a girl. She’s liked girls more than boys for as long as she can remember. But she hasn’t told anyone about it. She goes to an all-girls school and she’s scared that the girls will feel like she’s ‘perving’ on them. She’s not. But as young as she is, she knows that being seen as both a tomboy and maybe a lesbian makes her apparently appear very ‘aggressive’ and, when she gets older, ‘predatory’. She’s quiet at home because her parents are religious and well, she doesn’t want to be shunned out of the family like the ‘weird gay uncle’, Jason. She goes to school Monday and she overhears girls talking about Marriage Equality debate because it’s on TV. Some agree with it, some don’t. Some spout overheard bigoted views. And the stereotypes, the accepted way of being, it’s all around her. Girls like pink, girls like dresses, girls like BOYS. Girls do this, they like this, they act like this, they look like this. But she doesn’t fit in. Now everyone is talking about whether, in the future, maybe she shouldn’t be allowed to marry a one-day girl she loves and have a cat and a nice garden. But she goes home, and there’s a pamphlet on the kitchen table her father bought in from the letter box. It’s for the NO campaign. It makes her feel bad. Guilty. Dirty. Wrong. She hates herself. She feels like she is broken, and can’t be fixed.

That’s your fault, elected officials.

What if Jacquie hurt herself? What if someone beat up Greg at school because they thought he was gay? What if Greg wasn’t gay and just wore an AirBnB Until We All Belong ring because his brother is gay, and his best friend?

That’s your fault. That blood is on your hands.

We always say, if you don’t like something… change it. Well, what if we can’t? What if the people we elected to change things on our behalf, are cowards? What if they lack empathy? Why would they grant marriage equality, when we’re locking people on a remote island after fleeing their dangerous situations because they didn’t follow the expensive and bureaucratic system we have in place. They came in the wrong vehicle, they paid the wrong people, they didn’t have the right paperwork. Red tape. Cowardice. Lack of empathy. Those people aren’t doing life the way they like, so we’ll limit it. Marriage equality, too.

Holding a national vote such as a postal vote or plebiscite is likely to cause immense emotional pain to many people in the LGBTQI+ community (don’t forget it’s non-binding). Particularly at risk are LGBTQI+ minors, (gender & sexuality diverse) people of colour and those who suffer from mental health issues and/or lack support. Any harm to the LGBTQI+ community, psychological or physical, self inflicted or otherwise, shows the blood clearly on the hands of our elected parliamentarians.

We voted our representatives in. There is a parliamentary majority for marriage equality. The majority of the Australian populace also agrees. But the Liberal Party wants to spend our hard earned tax dollars, MILLIONS from the LGBTI+ community, to fund a debate on whether they should be extended the same rights as other Australians.

This game of political keepers-off is both upsetting on a personal level to LGBTQI+ people… and embarrassing on a global stage for Australians.

We pride ourselves on a lot of parts of our Australian culture. The multiculturalism, the friendliness, the ‘have a go’ attitude. We are a young, wealthy, western country. Many countries who would be considered far behind us (economically and politically), and yet they recognise the right for love to be love.