When we hear about marriage equality, the first thought is always of the couples who have been unable to celebrate their love and solidify their commitment in the way they want to. It is of people who have struggled to get society to accept their identity and their relationships because the law does not recognise their legitimacy. We should be so very glad these relationships are finally going to be recognised properly. Today is truly a momentous day.
But with marriage equality finally passing the parliament, there’s another group who will be quietly celebrating. The children being raised in same-sex families, and the adults who once were.
For these children, their whole lives what they have been raised to know as normal, the love and security they get from their families, has been coloured and tainted by the way the rest of their society views them. Views their mums, or their dads, or their mums and their dads.
We already know from the research that it’s not same sex parents that harm children. We also know that these children are more likely to be sad or depressed, or bullied by their peers. None of that is because their parents are LGBTIQ. It’s the by-product of how our society has until now, made their families seem like weird anomalies. It’s the social rules that say their family is different, their family is wrong, their family is unnatural, that lead bullies to pick on the girl with two mums or the one with two dads.
And when these same kids see their families discussed in the news and in advertising as different, as abnormal, as detrimental — like what happened during the marriage equality survey — that’s what causes damage. It doesn’t just harm small children and teens, it can also effect the grown-up children of same sex parents.
I know, because I am one.
I felt an aching knot in my stomach every time I logged onto social media during the postal survey. I read the articles that discussed us children as though we were prizes in a tug-of-war between what has always been and what should be. I stopped reading after a while.
I volunteered for the yes campaign, and helped field questions online from Australians who, for the most part, just wanted information on how to have their opinion counted. I tried not to burn with anger at the comments filled with hate and bile, that spat poison at my family, and the families of so many other Australians.
You cannot erase the children of LGBTIQ parents. They will not disappear because their parents cannot marry who they love. During the survey period I felt a deep sadness every time I thought about the children who were still children through all of this. Who were going to school or kindy or day-care and hearing the whispers about their families, emboldened by the idea that Australia should publicly debate their family’s right to exist.
I thought about how, when I was a kid, my friends weren’t allowed to visit me at my dad’s house, how I never knew why, how I always felt there was something other people thought was wrong with my family. I don’t ever want another kid to feel that way again.
Marriage equality is so important for LGBTIQ Australians. It will save lives. It will create new and beautiful bonds in a rich and caring community. And it will stop dead in its tracks any state-sanctioned denial of the legitimacy of LGBTIQ families.
LISTEN: Mia Freedman interviews Janine Middleton. Post continues below.
That’s huge news for the children in those families. They’ve always been just like everyone else, with parents who love them and hopes and dreams for their own futures, but now the law will treat them as such. Justice is blind, the philosophy demands. Because justice must see every person who comes before her as equal. The law must see all people as equal.
Finally, LGBTQI Australians will have that justice. And in the school yard, the effects will tumble into the everyday. What is currently not “normal” will become it. Your two mums are the same as that boy’s two dads or your best friend’s mum and dad, or that girl in the year above you who has a step-mother and a step-father.
We will all be the same. Finally, the law demands it.
Every family is equal. All love is equal. What a thing to celebrate, what a joy to finally be here.