Imagine that you’re watching your child in class.
Imagine that your child is being denied the opportunity to be who he or she is; denied the chance to participate in a certain playground activity. Imagine if, growing aware of the kerfuffle, your child’s teacher decides to intervene – not by enforcing a fair set of inclusive rules, but by holding a popular vote among your child’s classmates.
Some children are nice and vocally supportive of your child. But others are bullies. As a parent, how does it feel to watch your child be subjected to such unproductive, unmoderated discussion? To have their sense of value dependent on the results of an old-fashioned schoolyard pick?
I’m guessing your maternal instincts are kicking into overdrive, that you’d give anything to intervene. But you can’t.
All you can do is watch.
Attending the Marriage Equality march in Sydney last weekend, my mother and I came face-to-face with a small-but-vocal group of bullies. You know, the grown-up kind.
Truth be told, they were the closest to an Aussie version of the Westboro Baptist Church I've ever encountered, chanting slurs through their megaphones and carrying signs that labeled homosexuals as pedophiles and the Safe Schools program as abusive child grooming.
Now, such hateful displays would normally be ignored by my superhero mother (“you can't argue with stupid”), but, perhaps in a testament to the emotional stakes of this weekend's election, on this occasion she wasn't having a bloody bar of it.
Watch the Mamamia team show their support for marriage equality. (Post continues after video):
You see, this group of people might've been executing their democratic right to freedom of speech, but in doing so they were attacking my mother's family. They were attacking her child. They were attacking me.
Frighteningly, this is only a small taste of what we can expect if Malcolm Turnbull moves ahead with the proposed $160 million non-binding plebiscite later this year – a small but telling snapshot of the Australian social landscape willingly fertilised for hate-speech and prejudice.
I'm worried. Not for me, but for young people and their loved ones.
You see, the LGBTQI community is full of tough cookies. Sadly, most of us have already survived the cruellest of social isolation and torment, forced to develop thick skins and sturdy senses of self.
But our families? The ones who have been dusting off scraped knees and shouting support from the sidelines since we were tripping over ourselves in Under-7's soccer? They're the ones truly set to suffer.
The proposed plebiscite will impact young people and everyday Australian families, perhaps more than it will the LGBTQI community. It will impact the same-sex parents who will have to explain to their children why the city is littered with “NO” posters and billboards labelling their families less-than.
It will impact the working class folk in quiet rural towns – those like my partner's parents in Far-North Queensland – who will have their private lives pried open for public debate in less-accepting communities.
It will impact the busloads of parents who make-up brilliant organisations like P-Flag – parents of gay children who have already taken the fight for equality all the way to Parliament House and fought tooth-and-nail against the most unthinkable ignorance.
And it will impact mothers like mine; those who are fiercely proud and protective of their queer kids, those who are repeatedly hurt, bruised and provoked by the hate-speech a plebiscite will not only give license to, but actively encourage.
“This isn't about ridiculous advertisements with rainbow nooses or a giant metaphorical icebergs – this is about whipping up a debate on whether same-sex relationships are valid and worthy, and it's completely unacceptable.” Says GetUp Campaign Director Sally Rugg.
“Mental health experts and a Senate committee have urgently warned of the dangers a national debate on same-sex marriage will pose. In particular, for young people, transgender people and people who are already struggling to reconcile their identity with homophobic attitudes in society. The rights of a minority should never be up for debate.”
“Real leaders know what's right, and get it done.”
The last thing this country needs is a teacher who is afraid to intervene; someone more interested in maintaining a crash-and-tackle approach to education and schoolyard politics.
We need a teacher who is both able and willing to settle and reason with a rowdy classroom of disproportionately loud voices and opposing views. Someone able to assess the situation and discipline when necessary. Someone unafraid of enforcing an inclusive set of rules – one that gives every student equal ground on which to stand and thrive.
Surely that what you'd want for your child.
Don't you want the same for your country?
Feature Image supplied.