We’re accepting and progressive… but don’t push us18 April 2016
This year people around the nation celebrated the Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras despite the recently defeated same-sex marriage bill. In light of this, I wonder whether marriage equality is the biggest issue facing the LGBTQ+ community or one that the Australian people need to fight for. My answer is a flat ‘no’.
Before you fellow social progressives out there bring out your torches and pitchforks, let me explain for a sec.
As a university-aged gay bloke, it is somewhat of an expectation to weigh in on the marriage equality debate. Failure to take part in such a debate is sometimes perceived as sacrilege to whichever god all the gays pray to: Buddha, Allah, (the) Madonna… Gaga? The fact is though, I have bigger rainbow fish to fry.
You may label me as a hipster advocate but gay marriage is the only mainstream issue that is palatable for the wider non-straight community. My fear is that once gay marriage is passed, any vestigial awareness of the issues facing gay youth, the trans community or any number of the LGBTQ+ communities, will disappear from the consciousness of the majority.
When marriage equality is passed, there will no longer be any room on the agenda for our policy makers nor their constituents to make real change for the widespread mental health issues, trans discrimination and gay youth suicide rates. These problems riddle our community every day. A sentiment of “We passed gay marriage so we’re accepting and progressive… but don’t push us” will run through the veins of Capital Hill and bleed out into the community.
More support should be committed to addressing the daily discrimination faced by the trans community. Where feeling invisible and being denied of their right to be their authentic selves is a daily challenge. Trans and non-cis people are the victims of the bitter fruits of deeply institutionalised transphobia that exists in our community. But it so often goes ignored and dismissed as too uncomfortable. It is incomprehensible that, in 2016, this is only now slowly emerging as a mainstream issue.
While I support gay marriage like any other rational human, more support should be committed to providing education and support to under-aged, closeted LGBTQ+ people. This is particularly salient in light of the Liberal Party backbench movement moving to claw out the Safe Schools Coalition’s Federal funding. We must foster the same vigorous support to curb the ever increasing suicide rates of gay youth. We must address the mental health problems the LGBTQ+ community face so that once gay marriage is passed, there will be people alive to enjoy this new right afforded to them.
Without sounding too sanctimonious, my argument for gay marriage is not for my sake. It is for the generations of LGBTQ+ people who came before me, who have faced so much more adversity than any millennial could imagine. My argument for supporting same-sex marriage is for the countless LGBTQ+ people who lived through the AIDS crisis, while facing the risk of criminal charges for just being. It is because of both their valiant fighting and silent suffering that we can hold the hand of whomever we want, without the fear of legal retribution.
We should pass marriage equality to give back the dignity that was stripped from our predecessors and their countless loves lost and found in the fight for decriminalising homosexuality. We should not pass marriage equality for the sake of my generation’s keyboard-warrior, lounge-chair activists, shielded by the blue-light of their device’s screen.
I encourage everyone to look deeper into the gay rights movement and see it as the broader LGBTQ+ rights movement. This way, we can reconsider our reasons for prioritising same-sex marriage over other issues non-straight people face. Much of the rhetoric around gay marriage calls out our government for withholding a human right from us. However, I would take a step back and look at the primary human rights that are being regularly violated by institutional homo and transphobic discrimination: the right to feel safe, the right to work and the right to live.
It is only if you understand with utter clarity the more pressing issues that all non-straight people face that you can claim “I support equal rights” and from there, you can start to make a difference.