The no campaign, in a seemingly desperate attempt to change the narrative, are now claiming to be the victims of bullying by the advocates of equality, with Member for Canning, Andrew Hastie, even going so far as to say that no campaigners are ‘living in fear’.
It is direct to Mr Hastie that I target this post.
Mr Hastie, you do realise, even by some of Australia’s own MPs, LGBT+ Australians have been referred to as pedophiles, our sexuality put on a par with bestiality, the parenting ability of same-sex families has been impugned, and our community has been compared to every terrorist organisation on the planet with the possible exception of ISIS.
Many of the terror organisations our community have been compared to (Andrew Bolt recently drew correlations to the Taliban with whom you have been in direct combat) have a sordid history of torturing and executing LGBT+ people.
This isn’t a recent occurrence, and it isn’t simply this one debate on this singular issue. LGBT+ Australians have been fighting many of these same arguments in the public domain since decriminalisation began in the 1970s. We have people who are still in government today, such as Eric Abetz, who argued in favour of continuing to criminalise and prosecute LGBT+ Australians citing the exact same rhetoric being used by the No campaign in the marriage debate.
Just because you say something hateful in a calm, soothing voice and refrain from swearing, doesn’t make it respectful – or harmless. We are not dogs that you can say anything to as long as you say it in a happy voice. We understand everything you are saying, and the hatred directed towards our community within certain corners of the Australian public has been made crystal clear, galvanised through decades of repeated, spiteful rhetoric disguised as religion, or a difference of opinion.
Mr Hastie, I’m sure you know the definition of fear. After all, you’ve experienced the horrors of war up close and personal. Not to mention, as a Liberal Party politician and an advocate of the No campaign, the politics of fear is obviously right in your wheelhouse.
I too, know fear. Not from anything that I voluntarily signed up for or co-opted for political gain, but simply for existing. I’d like to share just a few examples, plucked from my own personal treasure trove of lived experiences.
So without further ado, Mr Hastie, for your reading pleasure here are some of my definitions of fear.
Fear is calling a friend to let them know you’re coming out to your parents today and asking if it’s okay to stay with them for a while in the event you get kicked out.
Fear is being 18 in a bar doing karaoke, getting gut-punched, called a poofter and almost glassed, while your parents are out of sight, playing pool.
Fear is being 19 walking home from a night out and having a knife put to your throat and being called an AIDS-ridden faggot who deserves to be gutted.
Fear is being sent on a work trip to a country where being gay is illegal and wondering if you can be arrested and thrown in gaol just for being ‘too camp’.
Fear is having to research your overseas holiday destination to see if being gay is not just legal but whether the culture is tolerant enough that you can be yourself.
Fear is booking a twin room for a weekend away with someone special because you don’t want to be humiliated at the check-in desk and have your reservation cancelled – again.
Fear is the sound of a half-full can of bourbon striking your head, thrown out of a passing car filled with dickheads screaming ‘faggot’ and ‘poofter’ at you.
Fear is walking the 300m between bars on the gay strip in Sydney and having four thugs kick the shit out of you because the outfit you wore was a little less than mainstream.
Fear is visiting friends in a rural area and not knowing whether the mere fact of your presence is going to be enough to get you, or your friend, in trouble.
Fear is suddenly letting go of your partner’s hand because the group of people up ahead look like trouble and you don’t want to have your head kicked in – again.
Finally, fear is meeting someone you think is a bit of alright and going to back to their place only to end up with a gun shoved in your mouth by a man who laughs in your face while he confesses he is straight but gets his kicks ‘getting you queers all hopeful’ and ‘scaring the fucking shit out of little fag boys like you’.
Fear, Mr Hastie, is something LGBT+ people learn to live with as part of our daily lives. From the moment we come to understand who we are, we are forced to mitigate the fear of somebody else finding out our secret before we’re ready to move into the light. We fear rejection, physical violence and even murder on the basis of our sexuality.
Fear is not something that, to reappropriate the words of Italian-Australian Matthew Canavan, we need to ‘grow a spine and get over’. We must remember our fear, because for LGBT+ people sometimes not being afraid spells disaster. It can mean being placed in a situation that means life or death. Even at our most confident, a part of us still remembers to fear.
So, no, Mr Hastie – in the grand scheme of things a few words in a tweet are nothing of which to be fearful, and finding glitter in an envelope is not equivalent to an act of terror. I will concede that I don’t agree or condone everything our side has said or done during this debate, but nobody’s hands are 100% clean.
As an example, Tony Abbott, former prime minister and raw onion enthusiast, recently wrote that it has ‘been a long time, thank God, since gay people were discriminated against’.
It’s that sort of flippant remark that is symptomatic of the alt-polite misrepresentation of facts by those within the campaign to which you are lending your support. Has it really been that long though?
For starters, it was 1997 that Tasmania became the last state to decriminalise homosexuality – and that was only twenty years ago. We’re the same age, Mr Hastie, so we’re both old enough to remember, although only one of us is in a position to have to care.
For many of us – myself included – this is all just a little bit of history repeating, and I beg your pardon for my shameless Shirley Bassey reference.
In only March this year QLD abolished the ‘gay panic defence’, which in case you’re unfamiliar allows for the murderer of a homosexual to claim that they found the sexual advance of the slain homosexual to be so frightening and offensive it rendered them temporarily psychotic and therefore not responsible for their actions. This abhorrent defence is still permitted in South Australia.
Respectfully, by claiming there is no discriminatory legislation and has not been ‘for a long time’ the No campaigners are talking out of their respective jacksies, deliberately sewing misinformation and peddling fear. Sure, the law might be on our side in most things today, but nearly all of the legal progress on LGBT+ issues has occurred within our lifetime (yours and mine) and any claim to the contrary is patently false, as is the claim that same-sex relationships are enshrined in law to be on equal footing with marriage. A domestic partnership does not a marriage make.
But just because something is law, doesn’t necessarily mean it influences culture. Australian society might be predominantly tolerant and even accepting of LGBT+ people, but, as this debate has proven, there are still those who happily paint us as mentally disturbed religious abominations and child-grooming pedophiles who are creeping into your schools to bamboozle you and demand a bathroom for each of our 260 genders (?!), along with those who will brazenly go on live radio to state that the best thing Hitler ever did was put gay people in concentration camps. Oh, that and build the autobahns.
You (and your ilk) expect us to simply take it, in silence, and respect it, as merely a difference of opinion. In this expectation I am very happy to disappoint. You might not be shouting or swearing, but you are deliberately provoking in an effort to get a rise, thereby claiming proof of your own point. It’s political chicanery at its most artistic and frankly I have more respect for the tactic more so than the arguments. You know the buttons to press, and the no campaign are pressing them at every opportunity.
You’re poking the bear, then whining because it growls.
I realise the likelihood of you actually reading this is slim, and that it will have any effect on you is even slimmer, but as a former Dudley Park resident to a current Dudley Park resident, I would wager that we have more in common than you think.
My fear at the moment is that a winning No vote will give validation to those who would not only like to see Australia fail to achieve marriage equality, but to see LGBT+ rights rolled back even further. I fear increased instances of anti-LGBT+ violence as the more extreme No campaigners, such as neo-Nazi hate group Antipodean Resistance, gain traction and feel more empowered.
My biggest fear, however, is that anybody, gay or straight, would have to experience the sadistic acts of violence that I have already had to endure.
Thankfully, my experience has not beaten me. Though driven at various points to self-destruction and suicide, I have now emerged stronger than ever before. I will not subjugate myself. I will not stay silent in the face of those bearing false witness. I will stand not only for those who are struggling today, but for those who are yet to come.