I can honestly say that in my life I have rarely, if ever, experienced discrimination or felt marginalised simply for being myself. This is clearly an extremely privileged position to be in, and one that I do not take lightly, especially as a member of the LGBTI community, and in light of mine and Dylan’s recent journey.
That said, I am writing today about my first true feelings of marginalisation, and I am absolutely saddened to say that they stem from the Australian Government. The Australian government has stubbornly, and embarrassingly, held off on amending the Marriage Act 1961 despite national pressure to do so for some time now. On my recent travels overseas every time this topic came up for discussion with international friends they were absolutely shocked that Australia, a country that for some reason seems to be viewed as progressive, was so far behind the times. It’s clearly time to move forward, with national polls showing the majority of Australians want this, and yet I’m currently feeling even more concerned than I have been in the past.
Whilst I understand the argument that marriage is a religious institution and not one that some people in the LGBTI community want to be part of due to the religious connotations, I also believe that the need to have marriage equality is about more than this. It’s about the right to choose. My right to choose in fact. If I want to celebrate my love, and have it in a legally binding contract that is recognised by our government I should be readily able to. (It’s funny to break it down like that isn’t it!) And, the reality is that many people, myself included, do want to be able to get married because it is a long standing tradition. One that I look at with love, and a small but distinct feeling of rejection and sadness.
With this in mind, Tuesday night was a particularly sad evening for me. Whilst we have known for a while in Australia that it is likely we will have a plebiscite about same sex marriage (a stupid decision for a multitude of reasons- check out this GetUp! clip to understand more), the actual question for this was leaked on Tuesday- “Do you approve of a law that would allow 2 people of the same sex to marry?”
I’m not even going to get into the world of hurt that the words ‘approve’ and ‘allow’ cause me, and many others in the LGBTI community, because although discriminatory and downright rude (why on earth should random members of the general public ‘approve’ and ‘allow’ my marriage!), many people won’t consciously notice the wording, and with any luck it will get us a positive outcome regardless. My main concern for now is with the words ‘2 people of the same sex’. As with the other inappropriate wording in this question, this phrase would go unnoticed by so many Australians, with many thinking it is absolutely appropriate to the situation- this is all about same sex marriage after all isn’t it? The thing is, if this wording is a preview of the final amendment to the Marriage Act then Dylan and I can’t get married. Assuming that the law were to be eventually passed, we will be marginalised and part of a very small community of people that are systematically excluded. This wording excludes intersex, gender diverse and some transgender people, alongside their partners obviously. And that is definitely not what this fight has been about. Whilst the words ‘same sex marriage’ are bandied around a lot, the real fight here is for marriage equality- an extremely important distinction that should not be forgotten.
In 2015 Bill Shorten proposed an amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 which was clear and did not discriminate. The suggested amendment defined marriage as a ‘union of two people’. A simple and concise amendment that sings with equality. Two people. At the core of everything that is what we are- people who want to demonstrate their love to each other through the longstanding tradition of marriage. I genuinely cannot see a problem with this, nor understand why this blatant discrimination is occurring, which is why I spent Tuesday night in tears. I mean who is going to benefit from excluding members of our communities who are already systematically excluded and discriminated against in a multitude of other scenarios. There is no social, moral or financial gain through this discrimination (not that that would make it ok regardless!) and I genuinely cannot see a reason for it. Obviously we can’t be certain that the proposed plebiscite question will go ahead, and nor will it necessarily reflect the potential amendment, but I was absolutely floored by the extreme discrimination, total lack of understanding and use of offensive language. None of this is ok.
I don’t have any particularly helpful quick fixes for my sadness and utter disappointment about this situation, other than to look to our society, and hope that enough people will see through the wording, notice the discrimination and help support true marriage equality. I hope that one day, preferably soon, Australia can truly own the ‘progressive’ label that the international community seems to give it, and that we as Australians can feel proud of way the Australian Government supports the LGBTI community.
*Click here to sign 41000 other people supporting GetUp’s petition against the plebiscite*