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Like the rest of Australia, our community here in the Hawkesbury is diverse, and not just in the ways people immediately think of when they hear the word "diverse".
Diversity can also refer to the diversity of sexuality and gender identity that we all have, and even if a certain category of people might be low in numbers, they are still a very important component of our community who should be celebrated, appreciated and afforded the same human rights as everybody else. Differences between people make our Hawkesbury an interesting and wonderful place to live.
When it comes to the human right to get married, it can seem really confusing when the government of an entire country is breaking its own law to open a decision on human rights to voters, when the lawful thing to do would have been fairer, less damaging to LGBTIQ+ young people and a lot cheaper, too! But if you're not sure how to vote in this thing, perhaps consider the arguments I'm presenting in the above video.
I'm a student of the beautiful differences between humans. I love to learn about these differences and think about them and celebrate them. Today, I voted yes.
I hope you too believe in upholding human rights and togetherness in the Hawkesbury.
A transcript of my video is provided below for those who may be hearing impaired or wish to use a quote for education or media purposes.
Whether you’re in the affected population or not, this is a really important time for Australia. That means it’s an important time for us. Here in the Hawkesbury. Let’s take this chance to examine our own community, and have the courage to confront our own identity, our own history, and our own future. No matter what your vote is in the postal survey, I’m sure you feel that this matter is in some way deeply personal to you. That is something we do share on all sides of the discussion. I’ve come across very few people who are completely apathetic about this. There is ambivalence but I have found in my discussions with all kinds of people that most of us, on some level, care what happens here. That’s a good thing.
We’re in the middle of a discussion this week about whether EVERYONE in our community is legally recognised in a civil marriage. Not a religious marriage. A civil marriage. We’re deciding whether we acknowledge that there are innate differences between people regarding sexuality and gender, and that those differences have always existed regardless of which box we tick.
Let me phrase this in my own way: It’s not about whether we think the same-sex attracted people around us are worthy of the right to marry. We actually don’t get to decide that.
We do not get to pick and choose the human rights afforded to others. Nobody does.
Human rights are RIGHTS.
So the reason why people like myself are opposed to the postal survey to begin with is that it is based on an assumption that the human rights of those who share citizenship with us in Australia are actually subject to the approval of others. It’s simply not the case, and what a lot people don’t realise is that we already have law in place to protect LGBTIQ+ individuals and rainbow families from discrimination; laws which came into effect in 2013, seen below:
“From 1 August 2013 it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status under federal law.
Same-sex couples are now also protected from discrimination under the definition of ‘marital or relationship status’.
The Australian Human Rights Commission
Discrimination of course can mean directly attacking people or somehow treating them unfairly. But it can also encompass the act of excluding someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. You can be discriminating against someone by simply LEAVING THEM OUT.
The right to marry and the right to have a family is backed up by Article 16 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Google it!) This says, and I quote, that the family is “entitled to protection by society and the state”. So when someone at any level of government tries to tell you it’s not their job to act on social issues, they are actually telling porkies. They might not be doing that intentionally; they might really believe it’s not their job to comment on social issues or create change around social inequality.
But actually, at every level of government, there’s so much more to governing and leading than just fixing roads or building new suburbs. There are all kinds of families and they all are entitled to recognition of their family unit, socially and under the law. If you don’t celebrate and include EVERY family unit in our community, there is no community. It’s just an exclusive club. That’s not the Hawkesbury I think I want, and I’m pretty sure there are a good many out there who agree with that. I like that there are all kinds of different families in my community. That’s what makes it so much fun!
Reminding EVERYONE that we are a COMMUNITY and deserve equality takes a lot of work sometimes, and it takes LEADERSHIP. Because let’s face it… there’s not great money in advocating for those who are somehow left out or fall through the cracks of the system. But if just enough people care and just enough people unite and organise themselves, we can make sure that those smaller voices are heard.
Bodies like Amnesty International and the United Nations, for example, make their positions very clear. And I think they probably know what they’re talking about.
“Decades of research confirms that children do best in a family with loving parents, regardless of whether those parents are straight or gay. And lesbian and gay people have been successfully parenting in Australia, including adopting, for many years. Marriage equality won’t change this but will offer stronger security and belonging to all families.”
Amnesty International (link here)
“The Australian Human Rights Commission considers that the fundamental human rights principle of equality means that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission (link here)
The right for same-sex attracted human beings to marry belongs to them, and of course they know it, and of course our legislation and discussion just needs to mature and catch up. It needs to mature. I think anyone with any sense of social justice is most disturbed by the fact that this postal survey is making people think they have the right to interfere with that all-important agency of others. They don’t.
A government has commissioned this survey. But governments have been known to stuff up. Also, so have churches. Voters are also mere mortals. They’re going to be influenced by each other. They’re going to be very reactive and go with the herd. But this is a real illness in our community and there are people who still don’t even accept that sexuality is innate. Something that you’re BORN with.
That’s accepted science, now. How much science do you need? How much proof do you want? Maybe it’ll never be enough. But I like to think that Hawkesbury voters are better than that.
I feel compelled to spend a large portion of this presentation discussing the faith-based reasons why people may be voting “no”. That can be so fraught with danger, but I’m going to try.
I know people close to me who feel strongly that in actions that come from a place of mere prejudice they are actually serving God. They really feel they’re carrying out the mission and yet I’m not sure what part of the New Testament actually directs them to do that. There’s a massive difference between religious marriage and civil marriage, and another massive difference again between the Word of God and the word of church. (gasp!) I’ve been through Christian ministry training in more than one institution, and I still can’t find the bit that says I get to tell others they’re not allowed a civil marriage.
A church can refuse to marry based on its own doctrine, but to vote to disallow a secular celebrant from marrying a couple who love each other and take seriously their relationship? I’m sorry. I don’t get it.
People are also voting “no” on the belief that it is somehow their mission to protect the children being raised by two mums or two dads.
These children are already being protected.
They are being protected by their parents.
These are children who – by all reliable measures - are doing as well (or better) than the children of heterosexual parents. The only thing that will prevent them from thriving is the discriminatory acts of others who do not accept them as families or even as people worthy of physical safety. So let me challenge you with this: When you are using a vote to protect something, what are you really protecting?
Do you feel defensive, or fearful that the family unit - or YOUR family unit - is somehow compromised by marriage equality? Can you tell me exactly how this will affect you, and give me a timeline of what exactly you foresee? Seek good information, and don’t make a decision out of prejudice or out of fear.
I’m with a man right now, but if I was to marry a woman, I’d hate to think that I’m hurting anyone. Tell me, without nastiness. Without insults. Stay calm. If I marry a woman instead of a man, what will become of your family unit? What will become of my daughters? Will the excellent men in their lives…. my brother.. my brothers in law… will they cease to exist?
Do you still believe that same-sex attraction is something that can be “caught” or “taught”? Do you accept that people who are waaaaaaaay better at science than you or I have concluded that same sex attraction is inherent?
Why do you feel upset? What is that gut reaction that swells up within you and causes you to passionately (or not so passionately) oppose marriage equality? Alternatively, if you’re more the calm, “just vote no” kind, I want to understand that too. If you are voting no, why, and do you think that gay people will vanish because you ticked a box? They won’t cease to exist just because you don’t like them. Or because you still have a “disgust” reaction because all you think about when you see a same sex couple or trans person is their genitalia or their private sex life.
I want to tell you something. There’s just so much more to this discussion than your immediate, unfiltered reactions to homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender people, intersex people…. people who are somehow nonbinary. Queer. Somewhere on the rainbow.
Different to you. Different to your family. Outside of your current understanding.
They just want legal rights as spouses. They never asked for your opinion on children. “No” campaigns are the ones making it about the kids. So I guess we have to go down that low road with you and give you the answers you demand, even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with the postal survey.
I’m absolutely not trolling, here. I want you, “no” voter, to distinguish the line between impulsive, hurtful Facebook comments…. between stigma, prejudice, fear…. and the reality of what marriage equality means. How are your choices affected by your gay nephew’s marriage? Are you convinced that you are upholding your faith by voting no? How convinced are you? What’s Jesus really going to say to you?
The results of this survey will speak volumes about what kind of human beings we really are. I’m optimistic. But the hurtful and careless dialogue on social media – specifically local social media – is the reason I sat down to put this presentation together. We cannot allow ourselves to unthinkingly discriminate and just leave a comment on Facebook that may be seen by a young, closeted and afraid young person.... and then just walk away with no accountability. It’s not okay.
What “no” voters have neglected to consider is that their own families, workplaces and social groups actually contain people of diverse sexualities who are not out, or are only partially out. You don’t know where they are. You do not fully comprehend the extent of the damage that comes of homophobic words and actions. Facebook is somewhere that people may see truly awful things said about who they are and who they love by people they may or may not know, but whose sentiments set them apart as unacceptable, unlovable, subhuman. Worst of all, it may stop them from seeking the support they need to be okay.
This is a great shame that I have experienced, not just upon witnessing the way people are speaking to each other here at home, but all over Australia. You do not simply get to drop hurtful comments and walk. Facebook, cafés, school, work… anywhere. Let’s not fade into a crowd anywhere and each gleefully pick up rocks to hurl at their most hated minority. Let’s do better.
Are you a follower of Jesus? Ok, so even Jesus, who was pressured by a large crowd to endorse the stoning of a woman (whose sexual conduct was deemed by the standard of the day to be immoral), turned his attention to the crowd, and challenged them not to keep collectively projecting their own self-loathing onto the woman, but to instead look inward.
He asked them to stop lusting after this woman’s punishment and examine their own sin. This too was a dilemma of law and people’s sexuality, where the line between law, society and faith was incredibly blurred, and Jesus still told them to drop their frickin’ rocks and take a good look at themselves.
I don’t know what part of the Bible other Christians are pointing at and why they interpret ANY of it as an excuse to exclude and hurt others, when they tell me their “no” vote is about Jesus. But I know Mary went on to be his number one fan.
What does your faith say about you? The most important thing was love, right? Is there a part of you that exudes hate because of a discomfort or a dissonance within yourself? How many “no” stones will there be? How many children will take the impact of your stones for your lack of self-awareness, before marriage equality is brought about anyway? And it is coming. My daughters’ generations will see to it.
If we are holding a position of power to make legislative decisions that affect people outside of our own category, will we use that power to make our community fairer, even if we don’t yet understand the differences between us? Will we use this as an opportunity to open our own personal and most private thought life into a more honest existence…. one that is self-aware and distinguishes other peoples’ families from our own, but acknowledges that those families are no less loving, safe and valid?
An existence that sheds all the things we’ve been taught about people DIFFERENT to ourselves. A mentality that just sees every person walking our streets as human beings. Humans like you, who deserve to feel safe to be themselves and make choices about marriage that it is their RIGHT to MAKE. Whether or not you tick “no”.
How much science and how much sociology and psychology and well… decency…. do you really need to understand that even if sexuality was a choice, other people are still free to make that choice?
It turns out that it’s actually not a choice. And it also turns out that you don’t need any education to still arrive at the conclusion that kindness and understanding and togetherness is a good thing for a community to have. It’s still better.
So are you basing a lot of the things you say on things that you heard from your parents? From the way you’ve seen others treat those who are different? What’s it like at your school? Your workplace? What shaped your view? What shaped your “no” vote?
Is it the just the way things are, or can we be the generations that worked together across the barriers to make our community safer?
What does it take, to make a fair judgement? I think that seeking perspective and truth has to be at the heart of this search, inside every one of us, whether we’ve been given that power in a postal survey form or not. If you’re still in school, and not yet able to vote, I’d like to think that you’re at least having a little think about how you WOULD vote. If you’re a young person in the Hawkesbury, you’re the people who will shape our community going forward. What do you want it to look like? You have more power than most of you realise yet. That’s something to get really excited about.
I grew up here. I know what it’s like. When I was a young(er) person, I moved from Castle Hill to the Hawkesbury. I lived in Geakes Road, which is kinda between Wilbo, Freemo and Glossy. I grew up with church in my life. I grew up like so many people, but what I experienced that may be different to your experience was discrimination. The discrimination I faced each day as I walked into school was based on my race. I have mixed Asian heritage. But something I know from those experiences is that excluding people based on differences is wrong, and it can have consequences for that person that the perpetrator does not consider. Consequences that last long into adulthood and can even make them really sick. If their feelings don’t matter to you, maybe their health could. These consequences can impact on their self esteem, their identity, their family life, their health and also their future in education or work.
It’s very rare that you’ll come across someone who actually thinks they’re a bully. It’s rare that someone bluntly admits to being racist. Or homophobic. You’ll just hear those phrases that we “different people” know as red flags that signal danger. Phrases like “political correctness gone mad”, “I’m not homophobic but….” and “commenting on social issues isn’t the job of Council”.
This is a real dilemma that we’re facing, and with real casualties. People die because we are still not accepting that sexuality is diverse and it is innate. It’s just not good enough.
Someone said to me in a Facebook comment last night, verbatim: “Look how angry the yes voters are getting, and what they are saying. Think about it.”
She was pretty narky at me but I looked past that as much as I could.
Privilege means it's difficult for you to understand the perspectives of those who are not afforded the same privileges. Also, maybe after generations of murder, homophobic bashings, workplace or other discimination, unchallenged stereotyping and unfair categorisation you might also feel angry. Sometimes, people get angry and it inspires them to unite and organise to challenge long-standing inequality. It's bad enough that every "no" voter actually now thinks that their reply on a badly-organised postal survey determines the human rights of their fellow human beings, but now that it's here, people who understand ALL of the factors involved will make clear their position. It's not about you, it's not about your marriage, it's not about your children, or even your personal spiritual choices. It's about what's right.
Most of all, I hope to reach anyone else out there who has only ever been partially out or not at all out, or you might be out but not getting the support you need. I hope that you have a support network you can go to for comfort and safety, and I want to tell you that you are absolutely normal, you are absolutely lovable and you have people around you right here in the Hawkesbury community who can help. Please don’t be afraid to reach out. These people are safe people, and there’s heaps of info on this link to help you to find the right support.
This is something that has always existed.
This is something that has always been innate.
It means you’re born with it.
It is the way you are, and it's okay.
Do get your votes in. Vote yes.