WHEN I was in year eight, I fell in love with a boy. His name was Brayden. He was beautiful, with amazing green eyes and the softest of blonde hair and at a time when I felt like everyone hated me, or didn’t even notice I was there, Brayden smiled at me every morning, and asked how I was. We never really had those deep conversations I longed for, but we did play dodgeball together and we were an amazing team at dodgeball.
Then, at the end of year eight, I switched schools, starting year nine in a different town with different students. It was there I met Venetia.
Venetia was small and had hair like fire. She moved like a ballerina and, when she smiled, it was like the sun had just peeked through a cloud on an overcast day – unexpected and bright and warm. She had braces and wore scarves and didn’t particularly like music class but loved to play the guitar.
She was shy, though, and when she laughed, she covered her mouth with her hand and tried to hide it, but her laugh was so lovely, I purposefully made myself somewhat of a class clown just so I could hear her laugh more often.
I do, in some ways, accredit my sense of humour to Venetia, and my aim of making her laugh.
I left school in year ten, and after that I never really stayed long enough in one place to fall in love with someone. I did have crushes, I did fancy people, but it was never one gender, or even one type. There was a world of beautiful people out there and I could fancy whomever I pleased.
Even so, I did not come out of the closet until a couple of years later. My father and I had just got home from dinner at a neighbour’s place and we were in the lounge room watching The Avengers on TV. Dad was on the couch, and I was standing with my back to the heater.
I took a breath and said: “Dad, I need to tell you something.”
Realising that this was serious, Dad muted the TV and looked over at me. I counted to three in my head and then finally burst out: “I’m bisexual".
Dad stared at me for about 10 seconds. Then he smiled and replied: “I don’t care. You’re still Mikhaela".
He unmuted the TV, Loki bragged “I have an army”, Tony Stark replied “We have a Hulk”. And life went on.
There was no fuss, no cussing. I was out and proud and able to embrace all that I am. Society did not crumble. I did not burst into flames. I did not turn into a pillar of salt. I did not become a drain on resources or cripple the economy.
Instead, I felt like I was able to be more of myself. I was able to point out the women I found attractive in movies and not just the guys. I was able to say “I’m over dating men” and still have a viable option for relationships.
I was able to be me, all of me, without fear, without remorse, without hesitancy.
It was because of that feeling of freedom that I became an activist. I wanted other people to feel as welcomed and loved as my father had made me feel that day. I wanted people to be proud of who they are and proud of all the differences that make them unique and beautiful and human.
I wanted people of all sexualities and genders and races and religions and creeds and abilities to be able to go out into society and not be afraid of what other people were thinking and not be restricted in what society allowed them to do. I wanted freedom for my fellow humans, the kind of freedom that comes from realising that you are accepted and loved and beautiful, just as you are.
And then came the marriage equality plebiscite/ survey/ poll – $120 million of wasted money.
Suddenly, there was a platform for hate. Suddenly, bigotry and homophobia were allowed in the name of “balanced media” and debate and free speech. Suddenly, right-wing conservatives were allowed to call me and my friends and my community unnatural.
Suddenly, people like the True Blue Crew and Tony Abbott were allowed to have a vote on my human rights.
Some people say that if marriage equality goes ahead, people could marry cats or dogs or horses or the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Society will crumble, the economy will collapse and Armageddon will begin.
That hasn’t happened in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Finland or France. Or Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands or South Africa. Or Spain, Sweden, the UK, US or Uruguay.
Thes are some of the places that don’t recognise marriage equality: North Korea, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Such wonderful places to ally our country with.
Yet, through all this hate, lies and fear-mongering, one thing remains the same: love overcomes hate.
I went to the rally in Melbourne for marriage equality, with my father, younger sister and 20,000 other people. After the march through the CBD, we assembled in front of the State Library and watched a mass illegal wedding.
For some, it was their first illegal wedding. For others, their fifth, 10th or 20th. And for a few, their 30th illegal wedding.
One such couple was Ron and Antony. Watching this, my father began to cry, because he had gone to their first illegal wedding. Dad has often spoken about it. He says it was the best wedding he ever went to. He was one of a handful of straight people there, and every guest agreed they could not see Ron and Antony with anyone except each other.
Thirty years later, for the 30th time, at the rally for equality, on that dais, in front of 20,000 people, they once again promised to love each other forever, and they meant it. The vows they made to each other were palpable, beautiful and inspirational.
And illegal. Not recognised under the law of Australia.
I have met many people my age – some from atheist families, some from Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu families – and in all those people, I have met maybe three whose straight parents are still married. Most of their parents are separated or divorced; some are remarried, some several times remarried.
Some of those parents are Catholic and remarriage in the Catholic Church is a major sin, yet I have never heard a Catholic talk about “sanctity of marriage” to a remarried straight person.
We are not asking for churches to marry us. We understand that for some religious people, that is a step too far. That’s okay.
All we want is for love to be accepted, to be welcomed, to be celebrated and enjoyed. We just want the ability to look at the person we love and declare our love for them in front of our family and friends and for that to be recognised in law, recognised by our government and recognised by our friends and our community.
If I meet up with Brayden in the future, and we fall madly and hopelessly in love and decide to get married, we can do that.
But if I meet up with Venetia, and we fall madly and hopelessly in love, all we can do is have a commitment ceremony.
Please, vote for equality. Read the question when it comes in the mail and make the choice for equality.
Please, choose love, so I can choose love too.
Somewhere over the rainbow
June 3, 2017 - After 47 years with her partner, Phyllis Papps would like her relationship to be given the same respect as that of any heterosexual couple.