Same-sex marriage: My family isn't a threat, but the postal vote is a threat to us

Cathy Brown
Topics LGBTIQ+

On Monday night I was lying on the floor in my kids' bedroom trying to convince two small people to go to sleep. A pretty normal evening in our house.

My kids are three and six, so bedtime can be a drama.

But lying completely still, in a darkened room, not making a single sound for fear the whole routine would have to begin again, gave me a lot of time to think about the day's events.

Time to think about what exactly it is that the Liberal Party finds so threatening about my family. So menacing, that they came up with a plan so convoluted and ridiculous just so they could bypass Parliament, to stop me and my partner getting married.

In my spare time, I am a marriage celebrant. I love weddings. But every time I perform one, I have to repeat the "man-woman-marriage" words (the words introduced in 2004 specifically to exclude me) over-and-over again to hide the stumble in my voice. Every time I say it, I want to die a bit inside. It's the same for a lot of LGBTIQ people, hearing those words at weddings. It's personal, and a slap.

Now complete strangers are going to vote on my right to marry. By post.

As Penny Wong said on Tuesday, it's not going to be unifying. It's going to be divisive and nasty.

Attacks have already started

Already on day one, the opponents have wheeled out the usual tropes of bestiality, bathroom attacks by trans women, and gender ideology destroying the fabric of our society.

And because this is some weird postal vote experiment, the usual campaign rules about advertising material needing to be factual won't even apply.

For me the worst part is that my eldest is six, and now old enough to understand the things people say about her family. Our family, a family that is loving, like any other. We do things like soccer, swimming and gymnastics. We live in fear of her starting recorder. But at the same time, we also experience things other families don't have to think about.

She's lucky enough to go to an incredibly inclusive school. Still, discrimination, exclusion and harassment shouldn't be something that rainbow families like mine just have to live with.

But the reality is that it is something most of us have experienced.

Barriers at every level

The organisation Rainbow Families in NSW recently undertook a consultation with our community. We spoke to children and parents about their experiences accessing state government services. What we heard was that there were barriers at every level.

Something we heard repeatedly was that a lack of training about family diversity was standing in the way of LGBTIQ people receiving equal treatment.

From simple things like forms that don't reflect our families to prospective foster parents being turned off because of the way they were treated.

And worse. The report quotes one woman who was initially denied access to her dying wife in hospital. This is heart-breaking and cruel, and demonstrates the risks and human consequences of failing to understand LGBTIQ family structures.

There are so many things governments could do to be more inclusive for LGBTIQ families.

Make forms gender neutral, introduce family diversity training (it's relevant to single parent families and other cultures too), recognition of the diversity of our families, repeal archaic rules that demand trans people have surgery to be recognised for who they are and, most importantly, protect our kids through programs like Safe Schools.

I realised I was gay when I was 14. But I was so scared my gayness would be obvious that I mentally resolved to push it so far down inside me so that no one would know. Despite the fact I was at a pretty progressive school. And I have amazingly supportive parents.

It's been a bruising week for LGBTIQ people, and our kids. The postal vote is due to close on November 7, so we're in for a long ride.

Cathy Brown is a member of Rainbow Families and a member of the Labor Party.

First published on 10 August 2017 on ABC News: 

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