Growing up, we lived our life fairly simply. I didn’t realize that at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate that the summers were a time to be outside playing with your friends, reading a good book out in the back yard under the plum trees, and walking to the fish and chip shop for potato cakes and dim sims. Simple.
Another part of growing up was the lack of bigotry that was evident in our town. I may have been naive and unaware of its existence, but there wasn’t a mentality that we were different from the other kids, or they were different to us. I had friends whose heritage came from Greece, Italy, England, Asia and Indigenous Australia. Having a different background or cultural genome, didn’t mean that much when you were playing football or other sports with your friends. Unless you were gay (or what others labeled as gay).
The reality is that when I look back at school photos, I now see those who were different much more clearly, but what stands out to me are the guys who were the bullies. The guys who I feared getting too close to for fear of being attacked, or the guys who made the threats somewhat loudly, but often in whispers as you were held against a fence or a wall. And what I notice is that they appear to be the same: white, academically challenged and – what I now know – full of self loathing.
I escaped the country, went through some challenges with “finding myself” and realized that being gay was okay, and that I could have a life that resembled normalcy. I didn’t look back, or give much thought to those bullies that I left behind in that town. I do wonder about some of these guys when I hear they have died (it is kind of weird to write that), and their struggles with their own issues (maybe their own sexuality), and whether that was a factor in their decisions to leave this earth; but it is only a fleeting thought. I’ve moved on.
But today, I am reminded that those bullies still exist, and I cringe a little (well, maybe a lot). What concerns me is that some of these people are in politics, and are in positions to bully a country. “What the hell is he talking about,” some of you may ask.
Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the debate about allowing marriage equality in Australia. In Australia, the federal government “controls” the laws relating to marriage and has the power to make changes to the Marriage Act that would permit the recognition of all marriages (including same-sex marriages) and would permit Australians from marrying the person they love regardless of each other’s gender.
Unfortunately, the bullies that are in power are ignoring the pleas of the Australian people (between 62% and 70% of Australians support marriage equality). They have the option to allow a vote in the parliament, but they are choosing not too. These bullies are so fearful of something they don’t understand (or agree with) that they want to keep it from everyone. They also threaten their colleagues that if they try to support it, they will be punished. Let me spell it out B-U-L-L-Y!
Today, I am in a unique position where my marriage to Chris is fully recognized in every state in the United States, but I’m still a legal stranger in my home country. This reality is too surreal for me to fully comprehend. Sure I am provided many of the legal rights of other married couples, and I used to think that was enough, but it’s not. Not anymore. I’m disappointed in my own country for failing to live up to the standard (of my youth) of “live and let live.” I’m embarrassed that people that I grew up with and were involved with in my young political life are not fighting harder to bring this issue to the floor of the Parliament. If they did, they would win. And that is how you teach a bully a lesson. You take away their power!