Marriage is about love, and love is about family. Daniela Marina wonders out loud how hers will be impacted by the marriage equality plebiscite, and the broader Australia attitudes to same-sex attraction.
My siblings and I are all gay.
I don’t know what the odds of that are, but I certainly don’t need to enlist the Australian Bureau of Statistics to provide me with some vague, gratuitous and costly ‘survey’ results.
Correction. Two of my adult brother’s and I are gay. We also have a 3-year-old half brother we’ve never met. Let’s call him Jason**. He’s currently being raised on the other side of Australia, far enough away from his father’s ‘other’ children to perhaps never meet us.
Luckily for Jason, he might never be faced with the decision of whether to announce his sexuality to every person he’ll ever meet… and then wait, somewhat apprehensively, for their response each time.
While I do sometimes wonder what Jason will come to think of his father’s gay children from Sydney, I think more often about the type of divisive rhetoric children of his generation are growing up listening to.
Jason will certainly go on to meet many people who don’t fit the ‘nuclear family’ mould. However, the way that he treats them will be greatly influenced by how we decide to treat each other at this moment in time.
There’s very little I can mention here that you haven’t already heard. I reactivated my Facebook account just recently (after a very peaceful hiatus), just to confirm what I already knew I would find – a rehashing of what we’ve all heard time and time again:
Just last week former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that marriage should “protect” women and children, and he would be “very reluctant” to change its definition.
In 2016 Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby compared children of same-sex partners conceived via surrogacy to “the stolen generation”.
In 2015 Rev Dr Michael Jensen, rector at St Mark’s Anglican Church stated, “It is not even the case that “all the surveys say Australians want it” is a sufficient argument. The surveys say that Australians want capital punishment. Wisely, our politicians don’t listen to surveys on that issue (and I agree with them). They should exercise leadership, not follow opinion.”
I could continue further back in time and go on to list more supposed ‘arguments’ from this very ‘respectful’ discussion. For me though, whether or not people approve of another person’s sexuality, or their right to enter into a marriage, should not be up for consideration.
My own sexuality has never been something I’ve felt the need to talk openly about, to justify or to ascertain whether or not it’s ‘okay’ with other people. For a long time, that decision was large in part due to my own shame – and then later, because I came to the conclusion that my sexuality is no one’s business but my own.
I’m tired of listening to people who are convinced that this is a civil conversation. As Penny Wong stated last week in Parliament, “Let me say, for many children in same-sex couple parented families, and for many young LGBTI kids, this ain’t a respectful debate already.”
Like Jason might, and like many children before him, I grew in up in a country that is anything but ‘respectful’ towards people who happen to like, or love, (or love and then sometimes grow to dislike or hate), people of the same sex. I learnt as such from a very young age.
Let me take you back to the year 2003 for just a moment. I was 13-years-old and on the regular school bus trip home. One particular afternoon, one that I thought would blend into all the rest, the most ‘popular’ girl in my year started shouting down the bus aisle calling my older brother a fag. Let’s call that girl Sophie**.
Sophie was seated at the back, my brother was down the front, and I was somewhere in the middle. In that moment, as the laughter of all her protégés shot past my ears to where my brother sat alone, I froze.
I froze, partly because at that point in time 13-year-old me wanted nothing more than to sit with Sophie and her minions up the back. I also knew my older brother didn’t need his younger sister fighting his battles for him. I shut my mouth for the rest of the journey home. I shut my mouth for the rest of high school. I didn’t say anything then, but I’m choosing to say something now.
Cut back to the present day. Most of the people eligible to ‘vote’ on this ‘matter’ aren’t in school anymore. Our days of hurtling insults down the bus at one another should be well and truly over. For the LGBTIQ youth and children of same-sex parents that are in school, and the adults that might never have been able to grow to be their truest selves, there’s way too much at risk.
If the so-called ‘respectful’ discussion circling Australia at present (as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would have it), is anything to go by, it’s looking very likely that Jason and his peers are very much at risk of becoming the next schoolyard Sophie.
* Names have been changed to protect identities.
** No one has cared less about our sexuality (in a good way) than our Mum. Onya, Mum!