CEO Update - Guest Blog Marriage equality through their eyes
Thank you to all the guests who contributed to this blog in recent weeks and thank you also to the staff at Mental Health Australia for keeping things moving in the right direction.
Returning to work this week, one email stopped me in my tracks. It highlighted just how the marriage equality debate is affecting Australian families. The email was from a good friend of Mental Health Australia and the mental health sector, a friend who wants to remain anonymous to protect the children who are mentioned, and a friend who encourages us all to look at the current marriage equality debate through the eyes of the next generation.
As I catch up on all that has happened over the six weeks I have been on leave, and in the light of the decision taken by the High Court of Australia yesterday, I thought it was timely to share with you.
Marriage equality through their eyes
To say my children are the next stolen generation is completely offensive to Indigenous people, my partner and I, and my children. They are not growing up without either a mum or dad, rather they are lucky enough to be growing up with two mums and two dads. And grandparents and cousins and aunties and so on. They are surrounded by people who love them and want only the best for them. Surely children only benefit from more people loving them?
It was no accident we had our children - it was well planned, negotiated and thought out. This doesn’t make it easy of course. All parents know the juggle and struggle day-to-day parenting entails. However we do have another layer of complexity. “Why can’t you and Mummy get married?”, “Is there something wrong with our family?”, “Why don’t those people like our family?”
Each child has a different response to this issue. The oldest has written to the Queen, Prime Minister, and to the Archbishop, unprompted by us, to outline how unfair this is. (The Queen and PM wrote back, Archbishop did not.) The youngest thinks if we just play dress up weddings enough then sooner or later we’ll get to wear a tiara and a fluffy dress and marriage will magically happen.
What they share however is a burning sense of “unfair!” They want their wedding thanks very much and can’t wait for the laws to catch up.
I can’t wait for the law to catch up with them either. Not because of the tiara, but because it will be another step closer to removing the stigma and discrimination LGBTIQ people experience every day. And we do. You’ve seen the stats so I won’t repeat them. I don’t have to. I have only to think over the past month and come up with a list of small things we face and which can’t help but affect each of us, especially our children:
• Which one is your real mum? (“Mumma, what do they mean?”)
• That’s so gay! (Not in a fabulous way.)
• Scanning ahead at the shops for anyone likely to comment on our family. This happens rarely but when it does the girls are perplexed and hurt. Most people don’t face verbal abuse at the mall simply for walking together as a family (not even holding hands with my partner). Most kids in Australia would never face this.
This stuff is insidious. It gets in your head and in your psyche regardless of how much you might try not to let it. It does impact my, our and my children’s mental health and wellbeing. It does make us feel lesser, different, vulnerable.
Is marrying my partner of 19 years really only a step above marrying an animal? What do you think that says to us? Makes us think about ourselves?
I care about marriage equality for my community, my friends, my partner, and for myself. But mainly I care about it for my children. If we can’t get this right, we will have failed them. And all the LGBTIQ families to follow. They deserve so much better. I deserve so much better.