A happy Saturday to you Australia,
I am posting letter number five today, I prepared both Saturday and Sunday editions ahead of time, see:
I’ve also scheduled this post. So it either went live on Saturday morning, or will go live in six weeks time because technology is evil.
But I digress. Today, my thoughtful and creative friend Darren Ballingall shared his thoughts on the matter of marriage equality. Darren is one of those people who has so much talent, you can’t help but be a little jealous of him. We met when we were both members of the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Chorus, where we would make mischief in the back row of the bass section. Darren is a brilliant graphic designer who always donated his time to prepare promotional material for community concerts, he is a game designer (and creator of the acclaimed Town Squares), a composer and multi-instrumentalist, a great singer and an awesome person.
I think he might even juggle… UPDATE: Darren has advised that he cannot juggle, that was wishful thinking on my part.
The great thing that this project is reminding me of, is that the LGBTI community is full of people that step up and stupport each other. We work hard and, brought together by one commonality (being LGBTI), we form diverse networks that achieve great things. I cast a net out and called for submissions and the community and its supporters stepped up. That’s the great equaliser: deep down, we all just want to belong.
Don’t forget to forward your submission to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
19 November 2016
#DearPM: Marriage Equality (5 of 30)
To the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP,
The topic of today’s letter is belonging. A sense of belonging is an essential element to a cohesive society. There’s no one factor that defines one’s sense of belonging in a community, rather a bevy of influences and experiences that create this for each individual. Needless to say, the looming of an unnecessary plebiscite seriously risked the sense of belonging that every LGBTI person feels in Australia.
Today’s submission is from Darren Ballingall, one of the most talented and creative people I know. Darren is a quiet, hard-working person who has taken the time to put into words what his experience has been as a gay man in Australia.
LGBTI people are considered different, in part, because the law treats them differently. A part of reaching the point where it is no longer noteworthy, where one no longer has to fear if their new boss will be uncomfortable if they come out, is the passing of marriage equality through a free vote in parliament.
This is what Darren had to say:
Prime Minister Turnbull,
I grew up in a world where I never felt normal. Where there was no room for the feelings that I felt and the thoughts that I thought. I realised I was different when I was quite young and it wasn’t just a moment of revelation but also the feeling like my insides had been dropped off a tall building. I was gay and that was something that everyone around me thought was shameful, or wrong, or dirty, or evil, or gross, or perverted, or any other number of deplorable things.
So I decided early on to endure this hostile environment and get out as soon as I could. I lived in a small country town in WA as a child and teenager in the 1980’s and ‘gay’ was still a dirty word back then.
It took me a long time to find my place in the world among understanding people and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I found the courage to come out to my family who were thankfully, by that time, supportive, if not a little disappointed.
It took me even longer to realise – on my own – that gay people by and large were just everyday people. I did a bit of travelling in the world, I made friends with different nationalities of people both gay straight, bi, transgendered and everything in between, and I discovered that anywhere you go and anywhere you look, people are people. The other thing I found was no matter where they are from, what they do, who they love, how smart they are, how religious, how broad minded, they all want similar things.
I found that normal – the thing I had never felt I was, wasn’t even really a thing amongst humans. Normal was a thing people said about themselves even though they were wildly different to me and to each other.
So I found I didn’t need to be normal, I just needed to be myself. I was different from other people, but that was okay.
For a lot of people normal means normal ‘For Them’. My normal is different to your normal, or other people’s normal. They are all valid ways of living.
I look at other people and I wonder what their lives are like. I wonder what their normal is. What it would be like to be an only child. What it would be like to be homeless. What it would be like to be paralysed. What it would be like to be the old married couple across the road with the large Italian family, two cats, chickens in the garden and Foxtel.
A lot of the time I see that people want to be loved: they want companionship, they want family, they want kids, they want close friends. Basically they want people around them that appreciate them and care for them in ways that strangers don’t. We all want a closeness with other human beings.
Now comes the tricky bit, because some people don’t think other people should have that basic human feeling, because it’s not the same arrangement as theirs, or it’s not the way that they understand it.
And honestly that’s fine for them. Again part of the human condition is to think that what you want and what you feel is ‘normal’.
And it is normal, For Them. But when they look at someone else’s version of normal and say that it is shameful, or wrong, or dirty, or evil, or gross, or perverted, or any other number of deplorable things… well they haven’t lived that life or felt those feelings so they have no say in what is normal For Me.
What I’m trying to get at here is that marriage equality won’t be a popular thing among people who really don’t get other human beings. But for the people that fight for marriage equality, it is a fight to be normal. To be everyday. To be able to live their life in the same way as everyone else.
I have not yet met a man that I am certain I want to spend the rest of my days with leading a normal life, but when I do (and I’m sure he feels the same) I’d like to get down on bended knee and make it official.
And at that time I would like the freedom to make that actually happen.
Everyone wants to be able to lead their lives and love their loves without restriction by others. Everyone wants to be free.
Please allow a free vote in parliament for marriage equality so every Australian can be as free as each other. It’s only fair.
Darren Ballingall, Victoria
Darren raises some important points about the internalised shame that young LGBTI people might feel, which leads me to the following question:
- What advice have you received from the Minister for Health and Aged Care with regard to the positive mental health benefits the affirmation of marriage equality will bring for LGBTI people?
This is my fifth letter in a series calling for a free vote on marriage equality in the parliament, and in your current term. A free vote is the correct way to legislate for marriage equality. You could allow this to happen today.