The days are ticking along quickly, now. And as I am almost two thirds of the way through, I’m keen to talk about other countries who have passed equality. Today includes reference to Ireland’s referendum on marriage equality. Something that was necessary, as marriage was defined in the Irish constitution. But also something that resulted in much pain and consternation for LGBTI people in Ireland, though the result is amazing and we all bask in its wondrous good vibes. Reports since the result came in have been that it was tough, people suffered abuse on the streets and the no campaign affected the mental health of the community. Certainly, we shouldn’t go down that path when it is completely unnecessary.
Today’s submission is from Aussie Author, Lincoln Law who shares his thoughts on the reality of life for LGBTI people in Australia, and how marriage equality could reduce that burden, even just a little.
Link’s submission made me think of Panti Bliss’ own speech on this subject at the Abbey Theatre, which is ESSENTIAL VIEWING (see below):
You can make your submission and help me keep this project going for the full 30 days, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
2 December 2016
#DearPM: Marriage Equality (18 of 30)
To the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP,
It is day 18 of this project, calling on you, Prime Minister to take a stand and allow a free vote on marriage equality in the parliament.
Today’s submission is from Lincoln Law, an Australian author who raises the experience that many LGBTI people go through when they look to be themselves in public. A problem that may never go away, but it could be helped by equality.
Link’s submission reminds me of a speech at the Abbey Theatre by Panti Bliss, acclaimed drag queen and the driving force behind marriage equality in Ireland. Panti says: “I do know what it is like to be put in your place. Have you ever been standing at a pedestrian crossing, when a car drives by and in it are a bunch of lads, and they lean out the window and they shout ‘Fag!’, and throw a milk carton at you? Now, it doesn’t really hurt. It’s just a wet carton, and anyway, they’re right – I am a fag. It doesn’t hurt, but it feels oppressive. And when it really does hurt, is afterwards. Afterwards I wonder and worry and obsess over: what was it about me? What was it they saw in me? What was it that gave me away? And I hate myself for wondering that … The next time I’m at a pedestrian crossing, I check myself, to see what it is about me that gives the gay away, and I check myself to make sure I’m not doing it this time.”
I could go on. Panti’s speech is echoed so honestly in Link’s words, and I want you to take them seriously.
To Prime Minister Turnbull,
As a gay man, my reasons for wanting marriage equality are intrinsically linked to my identity, but with one small caveat: I don’t intend to marry any time soon. Obvious legal reasons aside, I am not ready for it. But I would like to think that when the time came, when I found someone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life with (or at least until divorce—damned be sanctity of marriage and all that), I can get married and live happily ever after. I don’t think this reasoning should come as a surprise, and that’s not what this letter is about. Because whether I get married or not has little to do with the rest of the nation.
Like many young gay men, I grew up questioning myself. I came from Coffs Harbour on the NSW Mid-North Coast. I spent my life there until I turned 19 and moved away to go to the University of Newcastle. About six months later, I came out to my friends as gay. About 12 months after that, I came out to my family. It wasn’t an easy path, though it was surely easier than some have faced, but I got through it. There was teasing and bullying, people who ridiculed me about being something I hadn’t even accepted I was, but I survived it, and heaven knows there are some who don’t.
Now 6 years on, I have grown a lot. I’m a lot more comfortable in my sexuality. At lot more comfortable than I was at least. If I could have filmed my very first date I ever went on with another man, you would have seen me terrified out of my wits that someone would judge me, or see me, and call me out for what I was. Now years on I’ve grown a lot easier. There’s a lot less weight to the event, but they’re still tricky for a number of reasons. Imagine for a moment I’m on a date, and it’s going well. I’ve finished my meal with this person, and we’ve begun a slow walk together along the waterfront. I feel the magnetism that comes from mutual interest and I want to express my affection with a small, intimate gesture. I want to hold their hand.
Now were I dating a girl, I may go in and take her hand in mine. The hesitation may be there for a moment, but I lose myself in the action. Her hands are freezing. She mutters something about how warm my hands are and that’s that. We travel up the street, and any nervousness about her not being interested is gone. This gesture is small and free and welcome. But for me, walking with another man, there are steps I have to take. I have to check my surroundings, read the crowd, see who may take issue with us holding hands. Will anyone feel offended by this action, or want to display genuine malice towards the entirely innocent, small and intimate gesture.
Maybe I take his hand. Maybe I deem the location safe, or the walk short enough, that taking it will mean nothing. But my eyes, and probably his eyes, are constantly scanning and checking for anyone who may have a problem with two men holding hands. I see people walking towards us and I come up with some excuse to unlatch my hands and the moment is gone.
I know this seems unrelated to marriage equality, but something so simple as holding hands would become easier with the recognition of a gay couple’s right to marry. It wouldn’t change overnight, and perhaps it wouldn’t affect me still—I’ve been conditioned to expect the furtive glances and looks as I defiantly hold my partner’s hand—but in the future, maybe it’ll be different. Maybe those two young men, or those two young women, who’ve just had an excellent dinner and feel the need to express their affection, will be able to take one another’s hands without it being loaded with political defiance or personal anxiety. Maybe, just maybe, it will make everything easier for those who are still searching to understand who or what they are, because they are born into a society that recognises what they are is as equal and as right and good and real as their heterosexual counterparts.
Like I said, I have no plans to marry for a while, so my hope for marriage equality, at least for now, has more to do with its auxiliaries than the actual event itself. You have the opportunity, Prime Minister, to make a real change and leave a legacy. I hope you will push Marriage equality forward so that change can begin now.
I thank you for your time.
Lincoln Law, New South Wales
- What advice have you received about the rate of instances of LGBTI verbal or physical abuse for expressing public affection?; and
- Was there an increase in these instances that correlates with the increased discussion of the plebiscite by the government, and in the media?
This is my eighteenth 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.