Following the brutal murders of 49 people in Orlando, Australian singer Darren Hayes has written a powerful open letter to the Prime Minster, Malcolm Turnbull urging him to grant same sex couples the right to marry.
Writing about the legal and social inequality members of the LGBTI community still face, and the issue of same sex marriage, Hayes shares poignant moments from his personal history and asks, “Why not be a hero? Why not join right side of history now?”
The letter comes at a critical time for the PM, with the federal election just weeks away and polling numbers between he and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten growing tighter every day.
With a $160 million plebiscite for gay marriage on the table, Hayes speaks for many when he writes, “lead your party to come up with 160 better uses for 160 million dollars.”
Read the full letter below…
Hayes today. Source: Facebook.
Dear Prime Minister
You are the leader of one of the most progressive and fortunate nations in the world and yet your government still denies equality to LGBT people.
You are about to waste 160 million hard earned Australian tax dollars on what is essentially an opinion poll even though you’re aware, as are all Australians, that an estimated 72 per cent of the nation is already in favour of equal marriage. Imagine what you could do with that money instead? For starters, you could spend it on mental health care — for all of those people who are depressed or suicidal as a result of living in a world where they are considered second class citizens.
I know you are aware that in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 44 and that same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14 times higher rate of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. I also know you’re aware this is deeply rooted in the sense of shame and rejection that comes from living in a society where being LGBT is considered ‘less than’.
A vigil being held for the victims of Orlando. Source: provided.
As a gay Australian who has proudly represented his country globally, it saddens me that my marriage is recognised both in the United Kingdom and in the United States but means nothing in my country of birth. I wish I could use my good fortune and the attention my career has given me to be an example of hope for young LGBT Australian youth. Instead, the message my marriage and my coming out sends LGBT Australians is — if you want to be equal you’ll need to live in another country. That is not a message I want to send.
I can tell you first hand — being able to marry the person I love and to live in countries where my marriage is recognised — probably saved my life. I struggled tremendously with anxiety and depression related in part to my sexuality and growing up in a time when to be gay felt to me like a death sentence. I was bullied, I was tormented and eventually I convinced myself the person my Mother gave birth to was something to be ashamed of. I buried my sense of self and in turn developed a sense of self-hatred and shame that almost cost me my life.
Hayes in LA, where he lives with his husband and dog. Source: Facebook.
Through therapy and the support of family and friends I am one of the lucky ones. I survived. I learned to accept who I was in spite of living in a world that did not feel accepting to me. That time has passed. It is 2016 and it’s time for Australia to get on the right side of history too.
When I married my husband Richard, I experienced a true sense of peace. It was not just a piece of paper. It was validation, support, acknowledgment and recognition from my community. Getting married had an instant and profound affect on the way I felt about myself, about how my community saw me, and on my own mental health. Most LGBT Australians do not yet know what that feels like. I am here to tell them it is liberation itself.
Hayes with his husband of ten years, Richard. Source: Facebook.
In the week the world is mourning the death of 49 LGBT souls in a horrible hate crime in Orlando Florida, you must surely see the connection incidents like this have with how society views and treats LGBT people. Denying equality at the highest level implies a tacit support of discrimination which trickles down to all. I understand you personally support equal marriage and you have condemned and sympathised with the victims of these recent hate crimes and I commend you for that. Unfortunately you also lead a government who to this day refuses to grant equality to all. While you have expressed a desire to change this — the reality is LGBT Australians are suffering daily from discrimination which fuels hate ideology and by default — a deep sense of shame and rejection. This profoundly affects their lives negatively on a daily basis — whether that be their mental health or their physical safety.
Why not be a hero? Why not join right side of history now?
Hayes has continued his singing career overseas to live legally with his partner. Source: Getty.
Leadership comes from the top of society and carries with it an obligation to protect and serve all of us but especially those with the least power. Perhaps young Australians like Michael Maynes or Kyle Sears might be alive today if they lived in a society where they felt loved, accepted and safe for being exactly who they were. They did not. You have the power to send a message to every confused teenager, every bullied kid, every suicidal LGBT person — that they live in a society where they matter. You have the power to tell those who wish to harm LGBT people they are in the minority and that society at large does not support hate.
You have that power.
I am sure you are a compassionate person. I am sure you are a smart person. I urge you to combine those qualities to lead your party to come up with 160 better uses for 160 million dollars than to ask a redundant and quite frankly insulting question the nation and much of the world has already answered. You yourself have already answered it.
The answer is YES. Yes to equality.