With the conversation raging once again about marriage equality and dear Malcolm offering us the most watered-down version of a plebiscite he could muster (his preferred option was not actually a postal vote, it was carrier pigeons. Just tie ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a pigeon’s leg and release. Of course pigeon legs aren’t binding. Unless you tie them together, which is also coincidentally Mr T’s preferred approach to birth control.)
I contemplated what it must feel like to have an entire country vote on your right to love who you love. I imagined how I would feel about myself, my life and my choices if my sexuality wasn’t deemed Government Approved. What does it feel like to live on the margins? For those straight people who seem to spend a lot more time than they should worrying about how other people live their lives, perhaps they should try this empathy extending exercise to see if they can, if only for the duration of this article, imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. So let’s turn this world inside out, where being gay is ‘normal’ and straight is the ‘deviant’. Okay, so you’re straight. It’s not something you can even trace back to a time. It’s something known since you were born. Before you had words, really. It was just something you felt inside. You can’t remember when you weren’t opposite-sex attracted. When the other kids played kissing games you always found yourself squirming when you got a same-sex kiss. All the fairy stories you read are about same-sex-attracted people. Princes fall in love with princes, two beautiful princesses ride off into the sunset. Nowhere do you read a story of a princess falling in love with a prince. So by the time you are five it’s clear that your happy ending isn’t part of the bigger social narrative.
Your parents are same sex. Their friends are same sex. Your uncle who you don’t see that often is opposite-sex attracted, but he doesn’t get invited over much. Last time he came he brought his girlfriend and it made your two mums feel weird when they held hands. In fact your mums had to ask them not to kiss in front of you kids. Of course your mums told them they are fine with it but it’s just really hard to explain opposite-sex attraction to children. You’ve heard your mums boast about the ‘straight’ uncle to friends because it made them seem a bit edgy. Your uncle and his girlfriend understand, and promise to keep their distance when they’re visiting. But you love them. When they come over you have your first sense of belonging. Like this was who you were. When you watch movies, you don’t see yourself anywhere.
The love stories are always the same – men with men, women with women. You wonder where your story is told. Very occasionally, a gay person will play a straight person in a movie and people will remark how meaningful it is to see a straight story. And how good the gay person was at acting as a straight person. Very convincing. You wonder why a straight actor didn’t get to play that role, but there aren’t many openly straight actors out there. There are rumours that one of the famous gay actors in Hollywood who everyone loves is straight and they just have a gay partner as a cover. Everyone knows straight actors don’t get jobs.
People can’t relate to them in roles as gay people if they go home to an opposite-sex partner. A swimmer who everyone loves is rumoured to be straight. People just don’t seem to love him as much any more. It seems weird because you can’t work out what sex has to do with swimming. At school the other kids have always picked up that you were a bit different. You listen to them insult each other with phrases like ‘OMG Jaydn, that is so straight. I can’t believe you are into that.’ It’s an insult. If you call things ‘straight’ it means they’re stupid. It means you are stupid. You feel really alone. Different. And scared. You wish you weren’t straight. It would be so much easier to be gay like everyone else. You try but you can’t do it.
So you hate yourself more. You don’t really tell anyone how you feel. You listen to music, but it’s men singing of their love for men. It’s women singing of their love for women. But one day it’s too much; the pressure of pretending is taking its toll. Everyone asks when they get to meet your partner; you’re 25, so why no love interest? Someone at a party jokes ‘You’re probably straight!’ You say ‘Yes. I am.’ So you come out, as opposite-sex attracted. Everyone has to be told. It’s a thing to tell people. You tell them that you do have a partner, but of the opposite sex. You met at a club where opposite-sex-attracted people go. Your family says they accept you. That they always suspected you weren’t same-sex attracted. It feels weird to be ‘accepted’ for who you are. Like it’s something you’ve earned.
Of course you’ll never be able to get married. At least not to someone you love. Your family may accept you, but your country doesn’t. Universal human rights don’t extend to you. Your exclusion tells you that your choices make you different. They make you the ‘other’. Marriage Equality shouldn’t be a postal vote, or a plebiscite; it should be a right. So in support of the LGBTIQ community I challenge the straight married Australians to file for divorce on the grounds of having irreconcilable differences with their government. UNMARRY AUSTRALIA until ALL Australians can marry who the F they want!