Since the day she was born 22 years ago, my sister Lola has known how to love with all her heart.
She loved me when she was still a little grinning pile of pop-art leggings and wispy baby hair, giggling as I blew raspberries on her tummy. She loved me when she was a little naked-bottomed sprite, galloping across a beach toward me.
She loved me as a rashie-clad, primary-aged sandcastle-builder, though I was a distant and moody teenager.
Lola has always wholeheartedly loved other people, too. She loved our Nanna, when her hearing, sight and memory went. She loved the children with autism she looked after in her part-time job. She loved my parents, through their divorce and re-partnering.
Lola’s love was deep and simply communicated. She was always the cheerleader of our accomplishments, the first one to cheerily place her hand on ours, and the one to curl up like a puppy on our laps during movie time.
And when she grew older, Lola loved a girl.
Lola didn’t make her relationship public at first, because she knew that saying it out loud would make the reality of sexuality official. She intuited that the world would not treat her as softly and kindly as she treated others.
But when Lola finally did say she’d met someone — and that the someone was a girl — I hugged and high-fived her. Her girlfriend came to family dinner the next week. The globe kept spinning, the only difference being the gentle glow Lola developed as she blossomed into who she was always supposed to be.
I couldn’t have been prouder of the person she’d become.
It was only when an acquaintance of mine asked, “Is the family… okay with her coming out?” that I realised some siblings aren’t ‘okay’. That, by virtue of being straight, some siblings think they have the right to pass judgment on a core part of their brother or sister’s identity.
Sydney woman Christine Forster has one such sibling.
Christine is engaged to a woman called Virginia Edwards, but her brother Tony Abbott does not want them to get married. In fact, Mr Abbott has told the entire country he does not believe his sister’s relationship is worthy of legalisation in the same way his own, straight marriage is.
In his role as most powerful man in the country, Tony Abbott has also described his sister’s wish to marry as “the fashion of the moment,” suggesting that while he’ll attend their wedding, he does not really believe it will be a valid union.
Tony Abbott’s words are not meaningless. They have a far-reaching legal impact for millions of Australians.