It was recently announced that a marriage equality bill moved by Liberal MP Warren Entsch, seconded by Labor MP Terri Butler, and backed by a multi-party grouping, may be introduced to Parliament when it resumes in August. Many people saw this as a big step forward in the fight for marriage equality, and felt momentum building after the religious bones and complex legal system of the United States managed to push equal marriage through. However, it remains to be seen if the Australian bill will even reach Parliament, or if the pressure will be enough to force Prime Minister Abbott’s hand on a conscience vote. One outcome is already certain, though: Australia will definitely be subjected to weeks of unceasing debate about the merits of marriage equality. Not that this debate has ever really stopped, but it will be further intensified, as every Tom, Dick, Harry, Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce, Internet Commenter, Your Grandmother, and Anonymous Troll shares their opinions.
I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos[i]. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured.
Having grown up and gone to school in regional Queensland, I didn’t even know queer people existed until I started hearing descriptions of them used as common insults. I don’t know if it’s possible to adequately describe how that feels – the sensation of finally discovering a description for the kind of person you think you might be, and that description turning out to be the worst thing you can call someone. The identity you are clinging to used as a word to hurt people, to embarrass them. A simple word that somehow makes people reel back in disgust. It was soul-destroying. It was also exhausting, spending every day tensed and expectant, waiting for someone to inevitably say something that would shatter the fantasy that I could ever be accepted and safe.
And now, as a comfortable, confident adult all these years later (albeit one who still hears homophobic slurs often), those old feelings came flooding back when I read the news about the marriage equality bill. It will inevitably cause weeks of debate. The government will drag out the continuing fight for marriage equality, refusing to just legalise same-sex marriage so we can move on to more important things like the treatment of transgender people or homeless queer youth (for example). Instead, we will have to endure a torrent of uninformed opinions. No matter what opponents might claim, there is no way for most people to argue against same-sex marriage based on the common reasons without making it personal. Sure, people in the public eye can no longer get away with arguments like, ‘I don’t think fags should have rights because I hate gay people.’ Instead, they’re forced to use coded language and false logic, while people in comment sections, on Facebook and on Twitter continue to spout blatant homophobia.
Although the latter group are more honest about their motives for dissent, the comments and debates around same sex marriage have begun to all feel the same. After a while, it’s too much. People constantly debating your rights, insulting people like you, explaining why you should or shouldn’t have equality, why you should or shouldn’t be allowed to have children, explaining how you are damaged or wrong, debating semantics, saying vile things, forcing you to defend yourself when there is no reason you should have to do so. It is harmful, it is exhausting, and it is still soul-destroying. As a member of the LGBTQI community, I’m sick of being ‘tolerated’. But perhaps more importantly, I’m sick of tolerating others. I’m tired of having to act reasonable and rational and fair when people are arguing about the very basis of my humanity.
I’m tired of watching allies and other queer people making arguments on our behalf. I’m sick of the energy and attention people are pouring into this debate; on both sides. Even if you don’t think that marriage equality is an important or pressing issue, or even if you think marriage itself should be abolished, the fact remains that the pro-equality movement is not going to stop. Progress is not going to stop. The only way for this ceaseless argument to end is to grant all Australians marriage equality, and move on. I don’t want to endure hateful language and insufferable arguments for the weeks leading up to August, and undoubtedly after August, for God knows how long. I am exhausted. But I also know that nobody will stop fighting for progress no matter how tired we are, and so on and on it will go, and we will stomach it, until one day it is just done. So let’s just fucking do it now.
[i] May not technically be a scientific term.
Image credit: William Murphy