We met once. Twice, actually. I was working for the Education Minister in Queensland and you were the Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Education Minister. We were on the same page. Your Government had siphoned off more than $100 million for our most disadvantaged kids. The ones who were born into the poorest areas with the least opportunity. But you were resolute. Demography should not be destiny, you said. And I could see it in the glint of your eye that you meant it. I could see that you hated the circumstance these kids found themselves in. That they felt inferior. The very idea of it ate you up inside. And you wanted, at least to try, to fix it. So they wouldn’t feel broken in the future. I believed you.
As I write this, there is a whole new generation of kids growing up thinking they are broken. They’re from all walks of life. Rich, poor, athletic, bookish, black, white, brown. I’m talking about gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and intersex kids. You know the group. You’ve heard a lot from them. They’re growing up and falling in love in a country that has legislated their flaws in the marriage act. They are ‘queer’ and the others are not. The others can marry, the queers cannot. And it’s you, Prime Minister, the woman I watched defend the very idea that the world into which we are born should not define the world in which we live, lead the charge to ban them from access to the most routine aspects of love itself. Marriage.
I’m one of ‘them’. The gay one. The one by the very dent of your ‘traditionalism’ you deem unworthy of an institution that rightly belongs to everyone else, be they religious, atheist, with kids or without. And you may think this is an argument solely based on those of us who want to marry. It’s not. It’s about the message you willingly broadcast to the world when you say it’s OK to segregate one part of the public from another. Tradition is no argument, it never should be. You’d never be in this position if it were. And anybody who stands on that side of the divide is complicit in the suffering that stems from it.
If tradition is your thing, the ‘normalcy’ of the everyday, let me show you what is ‘normal’ for gay, lesbian and queer people. Suicide, for instance, is quite normal. Shocking, isn’t it? Suicide is the leading cause of death of young men aged 12-24 in this country. It’s even higher for gay men. Bullying is more common still. The lives of queer kids everywhere tend to bear the tragic hallmarks of emotional trauma from an early age. Kids can be nasty, sure, but where are they to draw their inspiration when society itself makes a distinction between ‘gay’ and ‘not gay’? What example are you setting, Ms Gillard?
We draw our values from the world around us. The kind people we meet, the vicious people we don’t want to become. And, yes, the rules and ways of the country we live in. Leaving the marriage act as it is, to the exclusion of queer people, might seem a simple enough act to you, but it green-lights the nastiest of attitudes. It excuses homophobia. It lends credence to the views of the bigoted. It’s a legislative tick to the darkest of our human qualities; those that seek to divide and conquer. Those that seek to sniff out the elements in our characters that make us ‘different’ and squash them, with your permission, because the very highest tier of this country validates it all. From start to finish. Just like that.
I wrote about my coming out story once, so I won’t review it too much here. But it hurt. I was bright and bubbly and happy in every manner and then I wasn’t. Because of who I was. I felt shamed, to the say the least. I don’t want to live in a country that does that to its kids. Or even its adults, some of whom tragically go on to pretend they are something else. An act of constant, forced acting that slowly steals the mind.
There will be a vote this Saturday. An historic occasion when the ruling party gets to make some small amends to this situation. It won’t fix it, but it will help. And it will cost practically nothing. A conscience vote will fail. But when did we leave the fundamental rights of our citizens up to the whim of the individual anyway?
Now is a time to lead. You can help us, Ms Gillard. You can make a grand gesture that tells everyone in Australia we are not broken. That we, are part of the ‘us’. That whatever this erratic dishwasher we call life brings us, we’re in it together.
For better or worse.
If you believe, as I believe, that changing the marriage act to include same sex couples is the right thing to do, let’s march. Let’s shout it from the rooftops. The nation’s biggest march for equality is being held this Saturday in Sydney and will finish just outside the Labor conference as the voting takes place. We need your support. Gay, straight, black or blue. If you care, make this the one day you show it publicly. It’s time. 12pm, Hyde Park North (at the fountain). Bring everyone you know.
Please, if you agree, send this letter to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Send it to your local MP. Let them know. Be loud. The Prime Minister’s contact is right here. Now’s the time to say something.
Anything to add? What does changing the marriage act say to you?