America, Your Australian Sisters Need You!
How you can support the fight for marriage equality Down Under.
The past few weeks has seen the ongoing campaign for Marriage Equality in Australia take an unpleasant turn as our ruling party decided to shy away from their responsibilities and instead have the citizens of Australia do their job for them; all Australians will now have the opportunity to take part in what I like to call the national 'do you hate gays?' survey, a postal plebiscite that will cost taxpayers $122 million to tell us what we already know—that around 70% of Australians support marriage equality.
So what does this have to do with us Stateside, I hear you cry. Well, read on my friends and I will have you reaching for your Uggs and rushing out to picket your local Aussie Embassy in a frenzy of rainbow rage (an oxymoron, I know). Whilst we Aussies were delighted (and, we'll admit, a little jealous) by your marriage equality victory in 2015, and also immensely grateful that we can now plan destination weddings on the Instagram-worthy beaches of Hawaii and California, we are still a few steps behind and that affects all of us, regardless of the color of our passport.
Portia and Ellen's marriage is not legally recognized or binding in Portia's home country, Australia
We've all experienced or heard about the impact that living in a country or state with laws that discriminate against us can have on our individual and collective health: increased rates of self-harm, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse—the list goes on. Much of the research on this comes from the U.S., so I know you know what I'm talking about. If your government says that who you are is wrong, accepting yourself will always be a struggle, particularly for our LGBT youth.
So when a marriage equality victory is won, whether in Brazil, Ireland or on home soil, we all have something to celebrate. It signifies that we are one step closer to a world where no one has to suffer discrimination and hide who they are just because of who they love. But does that mean the victors can simply hang up their banners and wait for the resulting wedding invites—and maybe even the odd proposal—to come flooding in? The answer is a big fat NO.
And so to Australia, the land of sun and surf; birthplace of Portia de Rossi, Ruby Rose and the Ugg boot. With five of its state capitals ranked in the top 20 most livable cities in the world (including Melbourne, which has been No.1 for seven years) and as home to arguably the world's greatest Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, many outsiders are surprised to learn that we're one of the few western nations not to enjoy marriage equality. I won't go into why—I imagine the Australian anti-equality lobby's arguments will seem all too familiar to our American brothers and sisters.
Right now you have your rights and we don't. But is it really that hard to imagine the reverse? In just a few years you might be looking to us for support when an unexpected political upheaval suddenly comes your way. Having our backs right now will all but guarantee that you won't be standing alone the next time you have a fight on your hands.
You may have the right to say I do to your beautiful bride today, but as we know from past experience, that right is only a legal challenge away from being taken away. Political uncertainty is the new normal. The Handmaid's Tale may seem like a tale of dystopian fantasy, but perhaps one reason we binge-watched a drama about modern women caught and kept like medieval sex slaves (with the lesbians rounded up and purged) is we secretly fear that not everyone watching is quite as horrified as we are—could this actually happen?
But I live over 6,000 miles away and I don’t even know what vegemite is, you exclaim! What could I really do? Quite a lot in fact. Trust me when I say: if America speaks, Australia listens. The U.S. is by far the largest foreign investor in Australia; we greedily devour OITNB and Game of Thrones (and pretty much anything else you export), and if Kim & Kanye are trying for baby number three, then we definitely want to know about it.
So make your rainbow rage heard across the Pacific: write to your local Aussie embassy (here), email our Prime Minister (here), and if you work for a company that does business in Australia, tell them to use their influence to support your Aussie brothers and sisters. If you are a writer or blogger, then write about this, anywhere you can! On a more personal note, reach out to all the Australians you might know, friends, or friends of friends, or even your ex-girlfriend's Dad's cousin twice removed who you think might once have visited Sydney back in 1998.
They tell us it's going to be a hard slog of a campaign. And the response from the LGBT community here in Australia has been phenomenal. I have been receiving messages every day for the past few weeks from gay news outlets, campaigners, community groups, sports teams and film festival organizers (to name a few) and the message is clear—"it's going to be a rough ride and people are going to say some mean shit about us in the coming months—so look after yourselves and look out for each other."
You guys know only too well what we're going through; we're going to need all the support we can get.
And when the nasty plebiscite is over and we've finally won our rights (and we will!), we can focus even more energy on gaining rights for our trans brother and sisters, and supporting our gay neighbors (gay-bors?) in Asia and beyond, until one day we can all sit on the beach sipping cocktails remembering the crazy world we used to live in where some people were treated like second class citizens just for who they love.
About the author:
Joanna Lamb is an Australian writer and the creator of Voices from the Well, the story of her journey across the world collecting stories from women who love women.