It’s been a rough few months for the LGBTQ+ community in Australia. We’ve seen a debate happen that really didn’t need to, and we’ve been made to fight, for some because this debate chose us, for others because this debate is something they have chosen.
Personally, it’s been challenging. I am proud, resilient, lesbian woman and there have been multiple times where the debate has brought me to tears. Whilst my partner, Arlia and I spent time rallying for our rights at public events, events where we felt supported and loved it’s been in our own home where the weight of the ‘No’ campaign held strongest. It’s been in the place where we share our lives, behind closed doors, a place where we should feel safest that it has been the hardest.
The day of the announcement of the results of the Marriage Equality Survey Arlia and I sat on beach together awaiting the results. It was tense. Not only were we about to find out how the public had voted on our relationship, but we were about to find out the percentage that didn’t think we deserved equality rights in the eyes of the Australian Government.
It’s hard to articulate what that moment felt like. We sat, in each other’s arms for 10 minutes before we could speak. We cried, and we cried a little more. Happy tears, tears of relief and tears of overwhelm.
Marriage Equality was always something that I knew was important but, like many things in life, didn’t really acknowledge the full weight of what it meant until it directly affected me. As Arlia lay in a coma three years ago after a Traumatic Brain Injury I was told that I was considered family. As she lay in a coma and I sat by her bedside 18 hours of every day, I was assumed Arlia’s sister. Hours before Arlia was induced, we had sat and watched the sun setting and discussed eloping. We wanted to be together, and married, regardless of what the legal status was. I was her family, I was her wife to be.
Having Marriage Equality in Australia is more than just the legal right to marry the woman I love. It’s a catalyst. A catalyst for social change. For attitudes to shift and for people to start seeing people for something more than just the sexuality and gender in which they identify with.
It’s the beginning to the end of social, cultural and legal stigmatisation of sexuality, gender and body diverse people within the Australian community. Whilst the law might change overnight, social attitudes won’t. I’m not naive to know that we might still be a long way from true equality for our community. I know that heteronormativity will still be prominent. I know that assumptions will be made on the gender of my partner and about our sexuality. But, I hold hope that these, often stereotypical, assumptions will be a thing of the past. It’s an opportunity to have open conversations about gender and sexuality and how it affects people.
It’s a time for Australia to celebrate. It’s a time where we need to reflect on the LGBTQ+ elders past and present many of whom died fighting for their legal rights to marriage. It’s a time to hold each other close.
This week I’ve personally been anticipating for a long time. I teared up at the thought of that moment our Government votes in favour of a change in law. It was an incredible moment. A moment that might be overdue, but it was welcome.