I should have known better than to hope.
Today I am kicking myself for being so naive as to think that, behind closed doors, the Liberal Party might wake up to themselves and realise what they have been told time and time again: that the plebiscite is damaging, expensive and ultimately pointless – and to resolve the issue with a free vote in parliament.
To rewind a couple of weeks, one thing you do have to admire is German efficiency – Angela had dinner with some lesbians and a couple of days later a free vote was called and even though she voted no, the motion passed and that weekend the country was celebrating equality. The process, once decided upon, took all of 72 hours.
The Liberal Party’s obsession with proselytising a drawn out plebiscite and their unwavering party line on this singular issue speaks volumes. It speaks to a government that honestly doesn’t give a shit about the community that will be directly effected by the result, and refuses to act in the best interests of not just the Australian public, but the mental and physical well-being of the LGBT community.
As someone who grew up being verbally and physically abused for simply existing, I view the plebiscite and the even more ridiculous voluntary postal vote as what it really is – and it’s more than just a public nod one way or the other on the issue. The lead up is a politically endorsed, national bullying campaign. Yes vs No. Us vs Them. We are exactly where the government want us to be – divided.
Not to mention, God only knows that sort of insidious policies they’ll slide under the radar while we’re busy trying to out-campaign each other. They’ve already managed to distract from the horror unfolding this week on Manus. While they kept us distracted with a secret closed door meeting, we were paying no attention to the fact the power and water has been cut off to the compounds on Manus, and yet another refugee was found dead yesterday.
More than just an expensive distraction though, the plebiscite is a licence for every Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry to flex their muscle and say ‘whatever we want’ because, you know, ‘free speech – fuck yeah!’ I’m sorry, but free speech isn’t free when somebody else is paying the price.
We have already seen what ‘respectful debate’ looks like in this country, and it isn’t pretty. It’s something that, as a mob, Australia seems to be inherently incapable of doing. We only have to look at the ‘respectful’ treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied following her ANZAC day faux pas for evidence of that.
So now I am buckled in for more months of being told I am a pedophile who is trying to subvert young children to the gay lifestyle. Months of hearing that my relationship is not worthy of marriage because it doesn’t serve a reproductive purpose. Months of hearing that we intend to ‘make a mockery’ of ‘traditional marriage’. Months of hearing about the correlations between my sexuality and bestiality.
I can already picture Lyle Shelton and the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby positively slavering at the podium time and column inches that will be dedicated to their hateful rhetoric with the full support of the conservative press.
And before you start, I’m not attacking Christians, because frankly Lyle and his cronies are as far away from my understanding of what it means to be a Christian as anyone could possibly be, and it would be easy to label the ACL as a single-issue lobby group whose sole mission is to stonewall LGBT rights at every turn. After all, they spend more time dedicated to advocating against the gay community than all other issues combined.
It’s interesting to note that the only advocates for a plebiscite sit with the anti-equality faction. The only ones pushing to continue this debate are the ones looking to block the progression of LGBT rights. I have yet to see one pro-LGBT person, organisation or advocacy group that is endorsing the plebiscite. That’s because every decent human being knows that playing politics with people’s lives is wrong.
So, the no camp are plowing ahead with the plebiscite, which indicates that there are thousands of people in the country (the current government included) who are willing to waste in excess of $120 million of tax payer dollars, simply for the opportunity to stick their middle finger to the LGBT community.
This is the country we live in, and it proves this process isn’t about democracy at all.
It’s about those who have a grudge against gay people doing everything in their power to stand in the way of equality under the guise of ‘religion and family’, and being granted a government-sanctioned platform to spew forth their often misleading or outright false rhetoric while labeling it a ‘difference of opinion’, ‘debate’ or ‘contributing to the public discourse’.
It’s about the LGBT community waking up every day to yet another demeaning, bullshit and sensationalist headline to an incomprehensible and poorly edited article in the conservative press, as they conflate issues that ought not to be conflated, for the sake of impressions that maximise the bang on their advertising buck. Yep, the Australian press is turning a tidy profit on the pain and misery of the LGBT community.
It’s about a government that is promoting a plebiscite not because it is the decent way forward, but because it absolves them of responsibility for the outcome. Not only that, they are so busy trying to figure out how best to game their own system that they don’t give a flying fox about the damage they are doing to an already disenfranchised and increasingly angry community.
And there’s no denying that we are angry. We’re angry because our opponents are trying to pretend like LGBT people are a new phenomenon who have just suddenly sprung up and are loudly demanding equal treatment. It’s simply not true. Same-sex unions are not a new idea – they are thousands of years old and part of the historical record. Look it up for yourself.
Over the years we have, little by little, clawed our way back from being murdered, driven underground, criminalised and deemed medically ill. As a community, we’ve spent centuries living on the fringes of society, outcasts, afraid to live authentically for fear of being tormented by a society who have been brainwashed into believing there is only one acceptable way of loving each other.
So here we are, finally, for the most part accepted as part of mainstream society. And now, as a community, we have the confidence to request that our government do the right thing and place our relationships on the exact same footing as our heterosexual counterparts. We are not asking for more, we are asking for the same. There’s a difference – and there is no humane reason why our petition should be denied.
There seems to be this misguided notion that if this plebiscite does not go in our favour, that we’re going to pack up our things and go home with our tail between our legs. Wrong, we will redouble our efforts and campaign harder than ever before. The matter will not be put to bed until our government does what it knows is right, but refuses to do out of fear of putting its own ass on the line.
Welcome to coming out. Each of us who has come out has put our ass on the line, and risked everything rolling the dice on telling people who we truly are. It’s hard, it can be painful, but it is also, at least from my own experience, immensely liberating.
The only thing that stands in the way of equality is fear, ignorance and intolerance. All I can say to that is, game on. Love is not a matter of public opinion. Our lives are not toys for you to play with, and our community should not be subjected to what is essentially a political popularity contest.
Marriage is between two people who love each other above all others. It is about wholly committing yourself to another person in the face of everything – good and bad – that life throws at you.
There is nothing just or right about denying marriage to two people willing and able to make that commitment.
Marriage equality will come, one way or another. All that remains to be seen is how much pain our community will be put through on the road to equality. Will love triumph over hate? In the face of a national vote on the issue, the power well and truly lies with the people.
Please, Australia, vote for love.