My future has changed. After four years building a life with my fiancé – one of the loveliest, kindest, and smartest women I know – I fell in love with someone else – a beautiful, intelligent, incredibly talented, and annoyingly well-read man. The future we had constructed collapsed and, as I wonder what lies ahead for me now, I can’t help but worry.
Every member of my family abandoned me for falling in love with a man. Their change towards me was simple, immediate, a foregone conclusion determined by their interpretation of Biblical scripture. The fact that being with my boyfriend has brought me greater joy and contentment than I have ever felt is irrelevant; to them our relationship is wrong. Though I have always been honest about my bisexuality – my first article for Lot’s Wife loudly proclaimed it – they have decided that I have now ‘chosen to be gay’, and I was immediately informed that I could never see my four-year-old nephew again, because they didn’t want him to think that my ‘lifestyle’ was acceptable. Nor would my ‘friend’ – a euphemism so retro it’s hilarious – be welcome in my parents’ home.
It is easy for me to disregard their disapproval, I’ve had it often enough; because my first article spoke openly about my sexuality my mother told me I needed to get my mind out of the sewer! Yet, while I can easily proclaim that one must do what is right for oneself and not what is right for one’s family – that if my own relatives can’t be happy for me, accept me, or love me for who I am – then they do not deserve to be in my life, their easy invalidation of my entire existence has me worried.
The kind of willful ignorance and religiously motivated bigotry they displayed is a global problem. There are 77 countries in the world where being gay is still a crime, 10 in which it is legal grounds for imprisonment or execution, and only 17 in which marriage equality is recognised. In fact, in my emails this morning, as well as learning that my account at gaytorrent.ru was about to expire (I must get on that), I had an email informing me that the president of Chad wants to make being gay punishable with twenty years in prison. ‘Gay cure’ clinics persist – even though they are based on the disturbingly primitive notion that being gay is a choice – and it has been proved that they are extremely damaging for LGBTI people. Several of the largest have voluntarily shut down over the last few years, and apologised for all the harm that they have caused. Even in this country we have a Prime Minister pushing for a school chaplain program that has been harmful to LGBTI youth in the past, and heteronormative sex ed programs still reign supreme in high schools.
It is hard not to be scared when you see this kind of government-sanctioned homophobia in Australia, especially in light of the current backlash against LGBTI people across the globe. Can we look at this violent, aggressive intolerance as the last push of tyrannical right-wing conservatives, desperately trying to maintain an inequitable stranglehold on our lives and loves? Or are we headed to a darker place altogether? Will the progress towards equality, long fought for and hard won, slip away? I look to marriage equality as the magical answer to my fears.
I like to believe that, if same-sex marriage became a possibility, it would solve all of the world’s problems – that it would show everyone that being gay is okay, that it is accepted by society, thereby quashing bigotry in all its forms and ushering in a new era of peace and love and unicorns. But, like a parent revealing that Santa Claus is a lie (did that need a spoiler tag?), my editor pointed out that I was only deluding myself. Marriage equality won’t lower the alarmingly high rate of suicide among LGBTI youths, or provide housing for homeless queer teens, or lower instances of drug abuse, or diminish the disgustingly high murder rate of trans people. So what do we do? How can we attain the future we deserve? The answer is that we must fight for it.
We must fight bigotry, ignorance, and hatred, whenever and wherever we see it happening. Stand up to your family at the dinner table, to the teen you overhear declaring that this of that is ‘gay’, to the moron taunting a queer person on public transport, to the parent who tells her son to ‘be a man’ and not cry, or her daughter to ‘be a good little princess’ and not be aggressive to the boys. We must fight to be free of such people – and the structures and stereotypes they would impose upon us – because if we can only get rid of these arbitrary and shifting categories then we will create a utopia where everyone is finally free to be who and what they are. I want a future where same-sex teens can date in school without fear, where trans and intersex people are treated with understanding and respect, where a boy can wear a skirt and a girl can have masses of sex without being judged for it. We must fight without fear for what we might lose; because just as I risked everything, and lost a fiancé, a future, and a family, in doing so I gained the future I deserved.