Today is a day of action for Australian Marriage Equality. This amazing organization is taking to Canberra 60 representatives from around Australia to meet with more than 40 MPs as part of the Real families, Real stories – Marriage Equality goes to Canberra campaign. To support their phenomenal work and commitment, today I wanted to tell my story of why marriage equality is so important to me.
Like a lot of gay men, especially older gay men, I grew up knowing I was different. I knew I was different to the other kids but was never sure why. I always inherently felt that my life would be different without ever knowing or understanding how.
When I came to know myself better as a young adult it all became a little clearer. I was different because I was gay. A minority. A minority that a lot of people in my community knew little about other than the Are You Being Served stereotype. The less accepting were even threatened and therefore vocal against people like me.
But as is the human way you learn to surround yourself with people who understand you, accept you and want you to be happy with who you are. You build your own community. For me, I took great comfort and strength from the acceptance I found in the later years of my university life and then my move to the ‘gay ghetto’ of inner Sydney. Here I was embraced by people who understood men like me.
I cruised along blissfully for a number of years, rejoicing in being surrounded by like-minded people and men who loved other men. It was one of the happiest times of my life. Then something really weird happened that, with the benefit of hindsight, proved to be the final piece in the St. Murphy puzzle.
My mum rang me one day so excited and happy that my beautiful cousin was engaged to the man of her dreams. I was ecstatic, screamed like a 12 year old girl. In the hours after the call I started crying like a baby and I didn’t stop for days. I really struggled with the conflicted feelings of being so happy for my cousin but so sad I couldn’t stop crying. I found it really hard to talk about and it was quite some time before I understood it myself.
It simply came down to this – I would never be able to share with my family the joy and happiness that comes from marrying the love of your life like my brother and cousins could. It was heartbreaking. I was shell-shocked that my reaction was so deep-seeded. I finally understood as clear as day how my life would be different. That intuitive feeling I’d had since a child was finally explained.
Marriage is a fundamental part of our society, there is no denying this. We are taught from a very young age, both directly and indirectly, that central to your adult life will be to find someone you love and make a life together. Marriage is a key component of these learnings. I believe that for those growing up knowing they are different there is also the subconscious understanding that the ideal of marriage will not be a part of their adult life. What makes them different, their homosexuality, makes marriage an impossibility.
Many years have passed for me since my first true grasping of how different my life will be. What was originally an emotional outpouring has now evolved into profound anger. And certainly an element of bitterness. I’m nearly 40 so I’m mature enough and with enough life experience to understand that my happiness does not and should not depend on finding a life partner. Also, that making my family happy is not at all dependant on being able to share a wedding with them. My anger and bitterness has absolutely nothing to do with the romantic notion of marriage.
At the core of my anger and bitterness is the inequality of marriage. My government does not recognize me or my relationships in the same way it does my brother, my cousins and most of society. I do not have the same rights. I do not have the same choices. I do not have the same options available to me to celebrate my love for my partner. In 2011 there are still laws that discriminate against me because of how I was born. This INFURIATES me.
This makes me crazy angry for the gay community. How dare the Australian government tell us we are less deserving. Surely the choice to marry should be an individual choice, not one made by your government. This inequality also makes me incredibly sad for young kids growing up knowing they are different. In 2011 we are still saying to them ‘not only are you different, but you are also not equal’. Surely there is not a parent in the country who wants there child growing up feeling they are an outsider, that they don’t have every chance at happiness available to them, that they will be discriminated against.
This is why I’ve come to see marriage equality as so much more than a gay issue. Gay adults tend to be strong people. There is a certain amount of conditioning that comes from being a minority that gives you a tough skin. And we draw great strength from our community. The young do not have this sense of camaraderie available to them yet. As a society we should be providing for all our young an environment where they can feel comfortable to be themselves and free to share their love. Our Government needs to lead the way.
People from all walks of life need to band together on this issue as it has the potential to affect everyone. Gays, lesbians, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, friends and families. Basicly, anyone human. Yes, the gay community are central to the fight, but it is the wider community who can really help to bring about change. I want everyone to believe in this need for change so that future generations grow up knowing that no one is discriminated against in this country and that it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with.
A change to the Marriage Act to recognize homosexuals is a message to all Australians, young and old, that all love is equal.
It will be a very clear message that discrimination against gays will not be tolerated in our society.
It’s a beautiful message to all who feel they have been born different that they have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Bringing about Marriage Equality has the ability to change the lives of so many.
And for purely selfish reasons, I want everyone to help bring about change so that if I meet the man of my dreams one day I can invite my family and friends to celebrate our wedding.
I passionately believe I should have this choice available to me.
If you want to learn more about how you can help make a difference…
Read my post from a few weeks ago
Join with us on DEC 3 for CAAH Equality Rally
Spend some time on Australian Marriage Equality website
Share your marriage story in a show of support at mymarriagestory.com.au
Share the ‘I Do’ video message and sign their petition