One of the arguments I keep seeing on the news and through social media is that the marriage equality debate is going to be hard on the mental health of LGBT+ Australians, and I agree – at least when it comes to our LGBT+ youth who may be unfamiliar with adult cruelty.
For many of us, however, it will be another day, another volley of hate.
As one example, some posters went up in Melbourne on the weekend with the charming tagline ‘Stop the Fags’. I won’t reproduce the posters here, because that would give the hate more platform that it deserves, but it is quite apparent that our government was deluded if they thought the debate was going to be respectful. You only have to look at other countries that have voted on this issue (such as Ireland and Italy) to see where this debate was going to lead.
Pedophilia, abuse, predatory behaviour, grooming, bestiality and the slipperly slope to marriage with inanimate objects are just some of the arguments that have been put forth in the first week of this so-called ‘respectful debate’ – and much of this has come from our own politicians.
Respectful, my left testicle.
The strategy behind this postal survey is nothing more than a smokescreen to allow the public to spew forth the most vile and hateful rhetoric against the LGBT+ community with the full backing of the Australian government.
I do not need marriage equality because I am a victim. Nor do I require marriage for my mental health. I am an adult of sound mind who is able to make my own decisions. As is my boyfriend. And on those grounds, if my boyfriend and I decide that we would like to marry, then, as two adults in love who are both of sound mind and able to legally consent to such an arrangement, that should be a choice that we should be able to make together without interference from the general population.
You can bully me all you want – I will never be your victim.
Apparently, being a proud gay man is a heinous crime, and yet I stand here before you as a proud gay man. I am not going to be a supplicant and implore you to vote yes. I refuse to get down on my knees and beg the straight community to consider me their equal.
I have been assaulted, physically and sexually – but I have retained my strength. I have been called every name under the sun – but I have never backed down from being true to myself.
Throughout the years, as a community LGBT+ people have been executed, burned alive, imprisoned, tortured, beaten, chemically castrated, electrocuted, put through aversion therapies and been socially outcast for the simple fact of our existence. We continue to be prey to violence, bullying, misinformation and hate. And yet, we have not only survived – our community has thrived. We are here, and we are here to stay.
So, no, I will not debase myself for the sake of those who are affronted by my pride. I will earn your respect not by pretending to be something I am not, but by the strength of my own conviction. Marriage equality is coming one way or another, and you can blast me with all the lies, hate and vitriol you can muster and I will still be standing when the smoke clears. There is nothing you can throw at me that I haven’t already heard.
I have facts, truth, love and an unwavering strength on my side. They have and always will be my shield against the hate in this world. So bring it on because I am ready for you. Just realise that for every piece of unsubstantiated filth you publish you reveal your true nature, and for every gullible person you dupe with your lies, we will gain two.
No, I will not reduce myself to asking for equality, with pleading eyes and my heart in my hands. I will stand tall, resilient and stronger for the hate I have had to endure. I do not entreat. Instead, I am unrepentant in my demand for marriage equality for myself, my partner, and the rest of our community.
And I have but one message to those who might be thinking of voting no.
You might not vote no out of hate, but by voting no you are endorsing hate nevertheless. You are adding your voice to fraudulent and misleading rhetoric. You are telling the wider community that it is okay to continue viewing LGBT+ citizens as less deserving of respect, and you are lending your voice to those who would condone bullying and violence against LGBT+ people, including young people who might still be finding out who they are.
A no vote, regardless of its intention, is saying that discrimination is justified. It says that you think some lawful relationships are more worthy of celebration and respect than others. By voting no, you are, perhaps unwittingly, aligning yourself with people who believe in conversion therapy, in corrective rape for lesbians, and those who would rather see trans people commit suicide than live their authentic selves.
The gloves are off. We are only one week in and the no campaign have already reduced themselves to peddling deceit, slander and vitriol. This is no longer a respectful debate, if indeed it ever was.
You don’t know me. But I wonder, if you did know me could you still look me in the eye and tell me that you think I was unworthy of marrying the man I love. I would tell you to reach out to a gay person, or go to a gay bar and talk to us. If, after spending time with us you still think we’re monsters, then make your choice.
Tony Abbott indicated that if you believe in free speech, you should vote no. Well, if you believe in truth, you should vote yes. If you believe in love transcending hate, you should vote yes. If you wouldn’t want somebody telling you that your relationship was unworthy of celebration, vote yes. Or if you just want everyone to shut up about it and move on, then – in the name of all that is holy – vote yes.
Gay people may have been preyed upon, but I refuse to consider myself or our community as victims. We are strong, we have endured, and despite every effort from our opponents we have not backed down. So if you think that winning the no vote means that we are going away, you’ve got another thing coming.
You can either stand with hate and we can continue into another round, or you can stand with love and make a real difference to thousands of people who just want to be happy and marry the person they love.
The choice is yours.