THE ANTI-EQUALITY FACTION: WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT?

This weekend, Germany is celebrating marriage equality. It is a testament to democracy that although Angela Merkel was personally opposed to (and voted against) marriage equality, she nevertheless altered her stance enough to permit a conscience vote and the motion passed. It’s what governments are elected to do, and it is such an amazing way to close Pride Month 2017.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby has gone off on one saying that German children were ‘ignored in the rush’ to marriage equality, and there was a mild hullabaloo involving Christopher Pyne, a leaked tape, and something about the government’s ‘plans’ for marriage equality, which currently involve a protracted siege on our community and the government directly contributing to LGBT+ people being further debased, degraded and demonised. As proof of the damage a plebiscite would cause, the Australian Psychological Society has publicly stated that such debate puts the mental (and physical) well being of LGBT+ citizens at risk.

The aftermath of this week’s events is that, once again, the validity of LGBT+ relationships (and how much of a relationship straight people think we should be permitted to have) is open to debate by every Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry in Australia.

It’s open season on the LGBT+ community – and everybody has a gun.

I’m sick and tired of this merry-go-round, and quite frankly, I’m getting really fucked off. I can’t read a single article on the subject without seeing comments telling me that our community should be raped into submission, murdered or commit suicide. The worst part is that I am becoming numb to the violent rhetoric – it’s simply becoming par for the course.

Then I shake it off, look at my boyfriend and remember – we are blessed to have found each other in this crazy world, and we are fucking fabulous. I also remember we have the facts on our side.

Case in point – FACT – the current definition of marriage in Australia has only existed since 2004, and there was no legal definition prior. During the Howard years, both major parties decided to close the loophole that would have provided the framework for marriage equality. It was done without wider community engagement, no plebiscite, and no major fanfare. As a ‘matter of urgency’, marriage in Australia was quickly and quietly defined as ‘between one man and one woman’.

Point that out next time someone says ‘that’s how it’s always been’.

The purpose of the amendment bill, according to the Parliament of Australia website, was “to ensure that same sex marriages are not recognised as marriage in Australia, inclusive of those performed under the laws of another country that permits such unions.”

By its own admission, the amendment was a deliberate act of discrimination against the LGBT+ community. In 2013, the government ironically proceeded to introduce legislation that made it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, however in an unsurprising twist provided itself an exemption to ensure compliance with the amended Marriage Act.

Serious question – how can a government expect others not to discriminate while simultaneously failing to hold itself to its own legal standard?

Now it’s time to get personal. My partner and I have been together for almost four years. That’s four years of laughing, crying, arguing, hugging, going to work, having sex, watching TV, drinking, catching up with friends, complaining, making midnight hot chocolates, watching more TV, cooking, doing laundry, walking the dog, going to family events together, dancing like idiots in the living room, sharing the housework, snuggling on the couch, baking, taking selfies, spending an hour deciding what to order from Menulog and watching even more TV. You know, the stuff that normal couples do.

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Hitting the markets…you know, like normal people.

We casually dated for a while and soon became boyfriends. We went Facebook official, travelled on our first overseas holiday, moved in together, and adopted a dog. We do everything that opposite-sex couples do. Beyond a certain point, however, only opposite-sex attracted couples have the option of getting married. We don’t. Although I love and honour my boyfriend, according to many of our peers and our government, our relationship is unworthy of any legally recognised classification beyond ‘de facto’.

(You’ll notice my avoidance of ‘straight’ couples or ‘straight’ marriage. This is because using the term ‘straight’ as it applies to this discussion excludes the many loving members our community (bi, trans, queer, asexual) who are opposite-sex attracted and able to participate in the institution of marriage. Where possible, I use the term marriage equality to include those who are intersex, non-binary and don’t identify solely as either male or female, holding as I do to the notion that all relationships are worthy of recognition regardless of sexual or gender identity.)

So, who does marriage affect? The happy couple, and (to a lesser extent) their family and friends. Oh, and the government – because it wants its paperwork. For rest of the world, unless you’re a celebrity or trawling Instagram for wedding inspiration, two people getting married is a total non-issue.

What is it about the idea of extending the definition of marriage to include all commited couples (regardless of sexual and gender identity) that means suddenly everyone feels entitled to stick their nose in?

I can tell you straight off the bat what it isn’t. It isn’t about religion, faith, the children, the ‘sanctity’ of the institution or any other excuse that the naysayers want us to think it is; because each and every ‘argument’ they have put forth has been efficiently debunked time and time again.

Realistically, the faith and family argument is a complete and utter fiction – a ‘hail Mary, mother of God, please help me sleep at night’ fiction. As is most things pertaining to the human condition, the truth regarding the anti-equality crusade is a lot more pernicious, and ultimately selfish.

Let’s discuss what people don’t about talk about – that the equality debate has absolutely nothing to do with everything else, and everything to do with one thing – superiority.

For as long as there have been people, there has been the instinctual and insatiable need to assert dominance, to increase one’s perceived social prominence and prove oneself ‘better than’ our fellow man. Most of us do it with money and lifestyle, some do it in competitive arenas (ie. sports), and some do it by oppressing groups of people who they feel don’t meet their status quo. Enter the ‘conservative Christian’ and their two-thousand year smear campaign against the LGBT+ community.

The wonderful thing about self-righteously holding yourself aloft of people who are different is that it provides that addictive rush of power without the added exertion of having to do anything to earn it. The oppressor clings to this notion that they are normal, and therefore have a right to dictate the rights of those who they have deemed to be ‘deviant’. But it’s getting harder and harder to oppress the LGBT+ community now that, shock horror, we are considered to be mentally stable human people with rights like everyone else.

What bothers the extreme anti-equality faction the most is, more than anything, the closing of the gap between the apparent ‘normal’ people and those they consider ‘abnormal’, and the erosion of the legal pathways in which one can assert their superiority through discrimination. Suddenly, some straight people aren’t feeling so special.

While they might not personally engage in the physical torture or murder of queer people such as they do in other extremely conservative countries, the leaders of the extreme anti-equality movement nevertheless resort to underhanded political violence and propaganda to try and perpetuate the nonsensical ideology that being same-sex attracted is wrong. They stigmatise our community – directly perpetuating a cycle of bullying, violence and abandonment.

Getting other people to do your dirty work while convincing them it’s the right thing to do is a great way of getting the job done while keeping your hands relatively clean.

For same-sex attracted people, we might be able to live our own lives for the most part, but apparently only within the constraints that straight people ‘deign’ to allow us to. We are ‘permitted’ to contribute to society so long as we remember that we are ‘deviant’, behave suitably ‘grateful’ to our ‘benefactors’ for the rights they have so graciously ‘bestowed’, shut up and seek not to rise above our station.

If you think about it, it’s exactly the same cycle that sparked both the civil rights and feminist movements. People can only take so much – and if people continue to diminish and demonise an entire community for doing nothing more than daring to exist, eventually there is going to be an uprising and people will say “Fuck off, we’re not taking it anymore!”.

I’ve had a knife to my throat and a gun shoved in a place where no person ought to have a gun – simply for being a ‘faggot’. I don’t entirely blame the perpetrators for their actions. In part, I blame the system that firstly instilled the idea that there are ‘right’ people and ‘wrong’ people.

While not quite blatantly endorsing it, the minor but influential (and definitely vocal) anti-equality faction obviously condone the physical violence, bullying and torment LGBT+ people receive as simply an expected part of our lifestyle – a deserved consequence of our identity – which is why they seek to limit or outright destroy the programs and laws that are designed to offer us a modicum of protection.

Why else would the anti-equality faction campaign so hard to weaken discrimination and hate speech laws? It certainly isn’t in accordance with Matthew 22:39 which proclaims: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’.

They claim that programs and laws that endorse equality are a sign of ‘political correctness gone mad’ and an ‘affront to beliefs and freedoms’, which basically translates as the following:

Equality challenges my belief that I am better than a group of people. Equality legislation inhibits my freedom to assert my superiority towards that group.

And that’s the unfortunate truth that those who marginalise the LGBT+ community simply don’t have the guts to publicly admit. Tear away the weak arguments of protecting children and the supposed moral fabric of society, and all you’re left with is the blatant desire to assert dominance and see certain people continue to be perceived as ‘less than’.

I’ll concede the reality of sexual and gender diversity can make people feel uncomfortable. Even as a member of the community, it is sometimes confusing and it forces us to look outside of what we have been conditioned to consider ‘normal’. The difference is, some people are willing to grasp the concept, while others live in denial.

So it’s no surprise that a certain section of the population who abhor new ideas and want to discourage accepting the reality of sexual and gender diversity, continue to try and demonise those who dare to request that their government does its job and puts the relationships of all its citizens on equal footing and permit loving couples to fully participate in committing to their relationships.

What the anti-equality faction don’t want you to know or believe is that when it comes to relationships, there is no better – only different.

Moving on to families – children in same-sex families are no worse off or better off than in opposite-sex families, since it is the character of a parent that is more likely to help dictate the character of the child, not the parent’s sexuality. After all, if a parent’s sexuality was a determining factor, straight parents wouldn’t continue to have LGBT+ children.

Moreover, a child of a same-sex family is rarely, if ever, an ‘accident’. More often than not they are meticulously planned for. Also, for those worried about the lack of opposite sex interaction, the idiom ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has never been more appropriate. There will never be a shortage of potential ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ that can provide the necessary influence. So that argument is moot before it even gets out the gate.

The reason the anti-equality faction campaigns so hard against children in LGBT+ families is because the end result is more children who are understanding of the diversity in the world, and will likely harbour less hatred. This does not suit their purpose.

Nothing upsets a conservative more than the idea of a new generation that holds a belief that all people should be treated equally. The support for oppressive ideologies is slowly dying out – too slowly, some might say – but sadly, in their death throes, these conservative ideologies have never been more dangerous. They are fighting harder than ever to undermine and turn back the rights that we have had to fight so hard to gain.

Know this – when rights are bestowed, they are never taken for granted. We know that what one government giveth, another may taketh away. More than anything, we cherish what we have been given. After all, unlike others, it’s not like we are fighting for special treatment.

Since the extreme anti-equality faction can no longer deny our existence (or dispose of us entirely), they will continue to try and discredit our community and inhibit our ability to obtain equal standing within the wider community. They will fight for the political privilege to discriminate, perpetuate the ideology that certain relationships ought to be held in higher regard than others, and continue to seek exemptions from having to treat the LGBT+ community with anything other than the derision with which it has always done.

Those who want to continue to oppress and discriminate are even now claiming to be the oppressed because the previously state-sanctioned tools with which they perpetuated their bullying are slowly being confiscated. They also claim to be the victims of bullying because the paper-thin arguments and outright falsehoods they rely upon to contrive their propaganda fail to hold up to even basic scrutiny.

The double standard by which the anti-equality faction now cries poor because corporations are more commonly using their brands to take a stand on social issues is astounding – or can only ‘religious organisations’ with a tax-exempt status claim the right to influence our government? They call it ‘corporate bullying’ with no thought to the ‘religious bullying’ that we have had to endure for millenia.

The government, in the meantime, has allowed the debate to go on for far too long. While I’m sure they have enjoyed watching the hard left and hard right wing tear each other to shreds, it is time for them to grow a backbone and get it done.

As proven in the twenty one countries (now twenty-two) that already have marriage equality – the world won’t come to an end.

You cannot choose your sexuality, but you can choose to hold the idea that that marriage ought only to be for certain people and you can choose to perpetuate the belief that some relationships are somehow more worthy of celebration and thereby attempt to limit people’s ability to wholly commit to their significant others. If this is you, then it doesn’t matter how many gay friends you have, or how civil you are to us in public, you harbour a prejudice. You might consider it inconsequential, or justify it as ‘belief’, but in reality it is merely a deep-seated notion that your relationships are worth more than ours. It might not be entirely your fault, after all it’s what you’ve been conditioned to believe.

You might think that there is no difference in de-facto relationships between opposite-sex and same-sex attracted couples, and you would be correct. The difference being is that if an opposite-sex couple chooses to take their relationship to ‘the next level’ and get married, they can make that choice – a choice that those in same-sex relationships are currently denied.

You might argue that it’s about our community’s use of the word marriage and that we should have civil unions, or ‘something else’ instead. Realistically, that’s just another argument towards creating a division between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. You know, like when they had ‘white’ water fountains and ‘black’ water fountains. Separation is not equality. You wouldn’t describe apartheid as equality, would you?

You might also cut off a loved one on the notion of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’. This is the greatest cop-out of them all. What it really means is that you have chosen abandonment over understanding, and that you would rather continue to be accepted by your peers than get to know your child or friend, even if it risks smashing everything you have previously known to be true. It is truly gutless.

If you are a queer person who doesn’t believe in marriage equality because of its connotation with ‘the hetero-normative lifestyle’ and think that’s ‘not what being gay is about’, think again. Part of the struggle of coming out for many of us has been accepting that certain things might be out of reach – such as marriage and family – and that because of our sexuality we have to resign ourself to certain social limitations. With marriage and family equality, that would no longer be the case.

Another potential side effect of having same-sex attracted relationships placed on equal footing as opposite-sex attracted relationships is a greater feeling of acceptance, which possibly means that LGBT+ youth might be less driven to depression and thereby attempt to find solace in the somewhat faux acceptance of the party scene and by extension may be less likely to fall victim to the allure of drug culture and substance abuse.

The most nonsensical argument of them all is that marriage equality will diminish the institute of marriage and somehow make other marriages less significant. This is utter hogwash. Ultimately, marriage is between you and the person you’re doing it with.

As it’s been pointed out many times – rights are not pie. With pie, you will have less pizza if someone else takes a slice. However, you don’t suddenly have less rights because others have the same rights. Heretofore, you don’t suddenly have less marriage because others can also get married.

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Marriage equality would be another nail in the coffin of the outdated notion that queer people are ‘wrong’, ‘aberrant’, and ‘abnormal’. I’m sorry if labeling it as an ‘outdated notion’ offends people’s religious sensibilities, but its a fact. You can rest assured that if the day comes, we will ultimately be judged not on who we loved, but how we loved – and similarly how we hated.

I love my partner more than anything in this world. He means everything to me and I would gladly commit my life to him in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, our government says no.

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In love, in Thailand. The fish are so ticklish!

Will marriage equality be a panacea for the LGBT+ community? Probably not, but it’s start. If all relationships are created equal – and if we can all fully commit to each other in the eyes of our family, friends and the law – it might eventually lead to less stigma, bullying, violence and suicide. That being said, it’s a bit of a pipe dream while there is still a system in place (and an influential political faction promoting said system) that continues to demonise the community and therefore perpetuate the cycle of bullying, violence, and abandonment of LGBT+ people.

Pride Month might be over for the year, but that doesn’t mean we should put our rainbow flag in the closet for another twelve months. We need to be out there showing the ways in which we are lovers, not fighters. We need to pull back the hate, and however tempting it may be, refuse to stoop to the level of our opponents. We have pride, love and actual  – not alternative – facts on our side. It is a hard road ahead, but the truth will out, and we will eventually succeed.

More than ever, this world needs less hate and more love on all sides of the debate, with more time invested in finding and nurturing our commonalities instead of bickering over our differences. We need to focus on creating a world in which there is no distinction between relationships, and love can openly be celebrated in all its many glorious forms.

Is that really asking too much?

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