I was recently asked how I was feeling in light of the same-sex marriage debate.
I have to say, it wasn’t a question I was expecting. By that point, I’d spent countless hours discussing the topic: the absurdity of a non-binding postal vote; the idea that a government specifically elected to represent the views of the people decided that this topic was simply too controversial for them to make a decision about; all the different ways $122 million could help people in need, including LGBTIQ+ youth; and, with the fear of the contrary going unspoken, how certain I was that the vote would come back yes.
There have been countless articles discussing all of this, but the question I was asked caught me by surprise because I realised I hadn’t actually taken stock of the immediate effects that the debate was having on me. After some thought, I realised that what I was mainly feeling was all too familiar: confusion.
I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in an extremely gay friendly environment. With the process of coming out nearly complete, my friends have been great overall. In the recent weeks, my news feed has been full of pro-gay sentiment. My university community, to their credit, has gotten behind the yes campaign, evident from the rainbow ribbons hanging over the quad to the Basser rainbow steps, which have been sending a message to LGBTIQ youth since long before this most recent round of debate.
Even taking all of this positivity into account, the heinous and spiteful rhetoric being spouted still cuts pretty deep. Yes, in part this is due to my own insecurities. After all I still haven’t completely made peace with my inability to fit into society the way I used to expect myself to (as if anyone actually does). Yes, it’s also in part due to the (in my opinion bigoted) articles, posters and other ‘no’ campaign material voicing and confirming the fears that have knocked me and so many others down for so long.
Mostly, however, it hurts because I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am, and because I know the devastation that this debate could have on the group of marginalised Australians that already have the highest suicide rates out of any Australian population. It’s because of the youth and adults who may ask themselves why it was so easy to change the Marriage Act in 2004, but so difficult to do so now, and who may not have anyone to explain it to them. They may not have anyone to explain that, just because it seems that the LGBTIQ community is being used as a pawn in some intra-governmental pissing contest, this doesn’t define the community’s value, or their right to equality.
So, here’s the bit where we all try to do something about it. First, you need to be enrolled to vote, with the correct details, by tomorrow (24 August 2017). This should have been done weeks ago, but if you’re a straggler that’s fine, just make sure you do it tonight. Second, everyone needs to pay attention and get involved.
Watch out for your friends. There’s going to be a lot of discussion that could be incredibly hurtful to anyone from your closest friends and family to that sort-of-friend who sits two seats over from you in class and looks like they could use a chat one day Make sure they’re ok. Check if they have a support system. Just make sure you’re respectful. Maybe save some of the links at the bottom of this article to your phone, in case you or someone you know needs them.
As well as this, try to make a difference. Scream ‘yes’ as loudly as you can for as long as you can so that the vote goes in the right direction and we can, assuming the free vote follows suit (but that’s a problem for later), put this whole matter to bed. You obviously don’t need to literally scream ‘yes’, although I have found it quite therapeutic and would 100% recommend. Try get to as many rallies as you can. Speak to as many friends as possible, especially the ones who may not vote otherwise or may vote no (…)
Let’s try to be respectful, understanding, aware and compassionate during this debate. Now get out there and let’s build the momentum!