“I AM NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT, I AM A PERSON”
OKENYO (Zindzi Okenyo), musician
When tending to a child, you watch and listen. In that simple act you become quiet and humble. There’s growth right there before your eyes because you are allowing something or someone to just be. I watch my nephews who have only been alive for one-and-a-half years and they’re so utterly themselves. They don’t know anything really, but in knowing nothing they know everything. They listen and learn. Simple. So many people have forgotten how to listen. If you heard, and I mean really heard, the countless stories of teenagers wanting to commit suicide because they felt they wouldn’t be accepted because of their sexuality, then how could you possibly vote “No”?
I was brought up feeling loved and appreciated. Of course I knew I was different in a few senses, but I liked it and didn’t see it as an issue. The older I get it seems these points of difference are what have become the most challenging for people. My blackness is confronting, my femininity is threatening and my queerness is somehow political. To use my sexuality as a point of debate seems absurd to me. I don’t really care who you sleep with, who you marry or even who you decide to hold hands with on the street. I’m really glad if those things make you feel safe and loved and accepted, but it really doesn’t impact my life. It’s none of my business.
So why is it that in my lifetime (not to mention the years of repression before me) I have felt shame around kissing my girlfriend in public? Why have I allowed myself to be hidden in relationships and not introduced to parents, accepting that this must be part of what it is to be queer? For someone who genuinely loves themselves, I seem to have to do a whole lot of thinking about why I may not be lovable.
I read a story about a black man who’s dedicated his life to befriending KKK members with the ethos: “If you don’t know me, how can you hate me?” Through friendship, many Klan members have left their racist ideology behind. That takes an exceptionally patient person to spend direct time in the face of your oppressor; it takes a strong person. But not everyone, in fact not many people, are capable of this – they’re already so worn down. It’s the same in the queer community. We’re tired. We just want to be able to love whoever we want. This is not us “complaining”, it’s just us wanting to live our lives.
I am not a political statement, I am a person. I am not a bunch of labels or names, I am a person. I am not a topic of debate. Nor am I a tick or a cross or a “Yes” or a “No”. I was once a child and now I am an adult and am still, in fact, a person. If I marry, it will not affect your own marriage. If it does, maybe see a counsellor. To the Australian government and to anyone who is considering voting “No”, take a minute to stop and really look at me. What is it you are so afraid of?
AMANDA SHADFORTH, ORACLE FOX
“IT’S IMPORTANT TO SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE TO OUR POLITICIANS THAT NOW IS THE TIME.” NICOLE DA SILVA
ISABELLA MANFREDI, THE PREATURES
JACK MOFFITT, THE PREATURES