How in the space of twelve years have we moved from opposition to overwhelming support for marriage equality? Community – that’s how.
You could almost hear the cheers and shouts of ‘YES!’ right around Australia – when the decision was announced. When the Australian Labor Party indicated that it would not support a marriage equality plebiscite.
Now undoubtedly some of the cheers were from the anti-LGBTI people among us but they’re not my main focus here.
Rather, I’m interested in the building of a strong, united Marriage Equality movement in Australia. A grass-roots campaign that is advocating for a free vote in parliament, not a public vote on our rights as citizens.
How in the space of twelve years has this movement shifted the population from clear opposition to marriage equality, to overwhelming support?
‘We’ve done it.’ I said to my partner. I couldn’t quite believe that the push for the plebiscite might be over.
The plebiscite, a key part of the leadership agreement made by our conservative Prime Minister, has been a vehicle for unrelenting abuse and lies over the past twelve months.
For many LGBTI people and their allies, it’s been incredibly difficult to be part of (as I’ve written before).
Yet throughout the bile and bigotry, LGBTI people and their allies have stood together united, saying:
- Our dignity, our love, our rights, our family, and our safety matters;
- No, we will not put our human rights up for a public vote. We want our rights to be accorded through a free vote in parliament;
- No, we will not allow the abuse, the demeaning, the endless targetting of our community to go unchallenged;
- No, we will not accept the condescending ‘straightsplaining’ of mainstream heterosexual journalists’.
In 2004, the Australian Parliament legislated to define ‘marriage’ in the Marriage Act.
With the two major parties in lockstep, they defined ‘marriage’ as the ‘union of a man and a woman…’
It was a move that was supported by the majority of the Australian population. Nowadays though it’s quite the reverse, with majority support for marriage equality.
A key change, I believe, is the increased visibility of LGBTI people within society – whether it be through media, our local communities, our families, our workplaces…
We’re telling our rich and multi-faceted stories. We’re reaching out and connecting – helping people get to know us.
We’re building bridges where opposition once lived.
More of us are living our queer lives openly.
There is though I recognise much work still to be done on this front – in terms of the isolation, bullying and discrimination within the LGBTI community.
So when vile comments are made about us. When stereotypes are trotted out. When lies are told – it’s not about a largely invisible, hated community anymore.
No! When that nastiness is unleashed, that’s about the people we love and care about, our friends, our family, our colleagues…..
AND it’s NOT okay and we won’t have it.
When the lies are told – they don’t stack up. We can see through them because of the open LGBTI people in our lives and media.
That’s why it’s crucial that we support initiatives like Safe Schools (also listen here) that promote the well-being and safety of LGBTI young people so they can be open and visible if they choose to be.
That’s why we should promote and amplify the voices of LGBTI people within the circles we’re part of.
Challenging – Not Settling
Since the ALP formally announced their opposition to the plebiscite, there’s been quite a few mainstream journalists, telling us (the LGBTI community and its allies) we’ve mucked it up big time.
We’ve supposedly ‘missed our opportunity’ for equality, and will now have to wait years for it.
We’ve also been described as ‘naive’ in terms of the political process.
Interestingly, we’ve not put up with it. There’s been a consistent push back and challenging of this condescending, ‘talking about’ not ‘talking with’, colonial style of journalism.
We’ve returned to our core messages (as indicated above) asserting the rights and dignity of our communities; communities who can speak for ourselves.
And what’s been marked during this campaign has been the difference between community-based reporting and reporting for the mainstream – on marriage equality.
The former (community-based journalists) are part of LGBTI communities themselves – or at least strongly connected with such – and they know what’s going on in our worlds:
- They use the language of the community;
- They understand the histories and the research associated with LGBTI people;
- They understand the lived, complex realities of LGBTI people;
- They investigate the foundations and practices of hate-based groups (that target LGBTI people);
- They stick with us over time, not just when we’re the ‘hot-button’ issue.
By contrast, other journalists tend to stand separate from us – writing about us without including us.
They pump up their credentials (their long standing support for marriage equality, or diversity).
They dismiss us, put us down, give regular space to right wing extremist organisations, and tend to get hostile or condescending if they’re challenged by us.
This ‘straightsplaining’ form of journalism had less competition in the past, particularly when so many of us were hidden in the closet and the laws were against us.
Now though with a diverse array of social media and citizen based blogging and journalism, we’re not taking it. We’re not settling.
We’re standing proud, speaking for ourselves, and our communities.
And that’s bringing about change – at a fast pace.
People and organisations that have inspired this post:
- Community-based reporting: Laine Sainty, Farrah Tomazin, Jill Stark, Alastair Lawrie, Josh Taylor
- Community advocates: Felicity Marlowe, Nic Holas, Jo Hirst, Dameyon Bonson, Rodney Croome, Shelley Argent, Senthorun Raj, Kerryn Phelps, Rodney Chiang-Cruise
- Community organisations: Rainbow Families, PFlag Perth, Gender Help for Parents Australia, Australian Marriage Equality, Just Equal
Community Research & Unity – on the Plebiscite
- Large scale survey on LGBTI Australians – on the Plebiscite
- Joint statement from LGBTI community organisations opposing the plebiscite
Plebiscite-related articles worth reading:
- Pride, Pressure and Perseverance by Alastair Lawrie
- Marriage Equality has been Delayed and LGBTi People are Cheering by Laine Sainty
- We don’t want a plebiscite by GregBCurran
- Rodney Croome’s response to a journalist’s article about the plebiscite decision.
— Jill Stark (@jillastark) October 18, 2016
LGBTI-related posts and podcasts:
I host the podcast, Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran, where I chat to educators who challenge the status quo relating to social justice and innovation in education.
– Listen in ITUNES or your favourite podcast app.