This is my first ever blog post, so be kind my dear reader. The reason you have me and not the eloquence and wit of our series writer, Trish, is because she asked me to pen my thoughts after I posted this good old Facebook status:
Right now you might be thinking “Why does this affect you so much?” and “Trish is a much better writer…” Well, (a) thanks for asking, and (b) whomever added that last comment can STFU, she’ll be back in the next blog….
So, why does this affect me? Like Trish, I’m an Australian who believes in equality in all forms. The hateful rhetoric this debate has caused so far has brought us both to tears, made us both mad and left us feeling pretty helpless, because even a tick in the ‘yes’ box of this non-binding poll really means nothing to advancing the cause for marriage equality in our country. We fear for the effect this debate will have on GLBTIQ people both young and old. But the thing that makes me uniquely qualified to talk about this is the fact that I’m a big old lezzo, and all this talk is making me personally feel like shit.
I love love. I love the idea of marriage. I dreamt about my wedding day when I was a little girl (see photo) – the dream of really partnering with someone, giving them my heart to love, protect, encourage, inspire and to do the same in return (and my mother has dreamt of an occasion where she once again gets me to wear a dress). But when you’re gay and you live in Australia you soon come to realise that that idea is nothing more than a dream.
But before you feel too sorry for me I’ll put things into perspective for you. I’m not like many of my friends, in long term relationships, desperate to marry the love of their lives. I’m a single lady. “What, no way?! I can’t believe it, she’s so good looking and talented!” I hear you exclaim. I know right? It’s a mystery… But seriously, unless I meet someone in the next few days, go on two dates, call a U-hall, move in, get a pet, a sperm donor and engaged, this isn’t an issue that’ll immediately affect my life. PS: if you don’t get this joke, you need more queer lady friends, but here’s a translation – lesbians have a reputation of moving fast in matters of the heart. PPS: I’m currently in Holland, where they already have marriage equality, so this hypothetical scenario is null and void, but let’s not get too technical…
Look, I have friends who are legally married in other countries. THIRTY actor Helen Stuart married her wife in America and their wonderful marriage is not recognised in Australia. Or I guess I could always do what so many of my other friends have done and hold a ceremony of some sort. But the truth is, and although it can be a beautiful option, a commitment ceremony has never really been my thing. I think this has something to do with being an actor – for me the idea has always felt a bit like putting on a play. I want the wedding and I want it to mean something more than the words I say and the promises I make.
I should note here… I came out before Ellen. I’ve been out for a while. I am used to a homophobic society. I am used to my government telling me I am ‘less than’; that my love is ‘less than’; and so over the years my skin has become thicker and my heart a little more impenetrable towards the homophobia and the hate.
I’ve lost friends, been kicked out of school and fired from jobs due to homophobia. I’ve been told by a church that I was possessed by a demon. I’ve been yelled at in the street. During the filming of THIRTY, I was called a “Faggot!” by a passerby. I told him the word he was looking for was probably “Dyke” and commended him for not conforming to gendering his insults, but I felt his hate. I mean, I should be used to feeling this sort of hate, right? And things are getting better, right? I mean it’s uncool to be homophobic these days. These days, there are laws to stop people from getting fired and kicked out of school because of their gender identity and sexual orientation right? Right? Things are getting better right? Right? RIGHT?!
I really wish I could believe this and until recently I probably would have. I thought we lived in a progressive society, but the look of shock on the face of the cute Parisian woman at the lesbian bar in Paris last week when I informed her that Australia doesn’t have gay marriage was a devastating reminder that what I’ve come to accept as ‘normal’ about my country’s politics is actually shocking homophobia to someone who has lived in a country where marriage equality has been a thing for almost five years. The look of shock on her face broke me.
It’s hard being away from home when I know my community is facing such an awful time. When the Australian government is giving a voice to an ethically wrong conservative minority and throwing an issue into debate which shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. When I wrote that FB post in Scotland I was literally in tears. If the rhetoric around a vote on the legitimacy of my love could squeeze tears out of this tough old lezzo, how must the queer young people of Australia be feeling? Most of them have grown up with a lie from our government that I had only recently been sold. Our government has told us we will protect you; we have set up anti-discrimination acts; we have diversity schemes; we attended the gay and lesbian Mardi Gras; you are important; you are valued; you are equal in all things… except for how we view your love. Literally, loving someone of the same sex is the one thing that makes me different to my straight friends. Well, that and my impeccable sense of style.
And yet, the way I can show and declare my love is up for a public vote. Does that sound strange to anyone else? Neither of my brothers asked everyone in the country for permission to marry, but I have to. My older brother married a Japanese woman (and one of the most amazing humans I know). Imagine if their love was put to a public debate. Some people are racist. Some people wouldn’t be cool with that. There’s probably even a passage in the bible about mixed race relationships. Racist hatred would be flung at them and they’d be made to feel that their love was ‘less than’. Their self-esteem and sense of belonging would be shattered and our government would just let it happen as part of a “civil and respectful” debate. It seems crazy right?
This debate has been anything but civil and respectful. The sheer fact it’s even happening is disrespectful. Honestly, I wish I was tougher, but it really is affecting me. I feel the hate. I felt it when just recently a beloved uncle posted an anti-gay marriage video on his Facebook wall. I feel it when I see advertising vilifying gay people and when I turn on the Aussie news. And over the last week, I’ve felt that hate with an unbridled wrath – that same hate I felt as a young girl in the 90’s – it’s back in full force. This thick skin feels like tissue paper and this impenetrable heart is absolutely broken.