I hit the refresh button, 9.59am, no update; 10.00am, it is a YES from the people.
My pride was held low these past few months. I would have imagined all the weight had been lifted simultaneously with the announcement of the positive results following the national same-sex marriage plebiscite held in Australia this year. But it still partially continues to drift, keeping low for the moment being.
Over the past few months the LGBT+ community has been feeling heavy, uncomfortable emotion and pressure; specifically since the commencement of the same-sex marriage plebiscite in September. It was a moment that sent the nation into a spin and tore the society into two, a divide of yes and no voters. Conversation was on fire, comments were thrown out on the streets, posters plastered the walls, and social media flooded with yes voters. Skywritten clouds of YES aligned with the naturally formed clouds, I would gaze up at the Melbourne skies, with a gentle rub to my eyes to ensure I wasn’t just daydreaming, piecing together the dotted clouds correctly. The following day my eyes traced the letters NO in the same spot where the yes clouds had dispersed through the skies of yesterday’s pride.
This was a phenomenally disappointing moment for me; the full realisation that, the city I have moved to, where I am free from judgement while walking hand-in-hand with my same-sex partner, there also inhabits individuals and organisations that have strongly opposed opinion to allow my community, my friends and myself to make our own choices – to have equality in the country we live in. A place that I had thought of as generally socially progressive and accepting was now seen in a different light.
These opposing views continued to filter through as we went about our days. Torn-down yes campaign posters and pride flags outside of the local stores, schools and LGBT+ friendly churches, and conservative anti-gay propaganda sent out a very strong message. These are just a few of the many hurtful voices heard. As much as the yes voters attempted to ignore them, it was impossible not to let these messages affect us deeply.
The staggering emotional exhaustion from the past few months was pushed aside momentarily during Melbourne’s results street party. We were welcomed to the sight of a united community; the yes voters.
With an overwhelming sense of joy, acceptance, and gratitude everyone held each other strong, attempting to fully celebrate the result of the people’s vote; but there was still an underlying feeling of segregation and hurt that loomed over the community following the past few months that it had taken to get to this day.
For now, our celebrations await the same-sex marriage bill to be passed through Parliament; when equality is redefined to include the LGBT+ people of Australia, and a clear level of segregation between one nation is not evident.
The plebiscite may have been a positive step toward equality, but it has taken its toll on the LGBT+ community. Nothing before has divided the nation quite like this for the millennials of this country. As a New Zealander living in Australia, I am grateful and relieved that my friends and community back home did not go through the same level of public discussion and uncertainty that those here in Australia have endured.
I look forward to the coming days when Australia can proudly say they recognise marriage and equality irrespective of sexuality or gender, race or religion. Where I can walk down the streets again, hand in hand with my same-sex partner, and know that my sexual orientation and gender identity does not dictate how equal I am in the country I reside in.