“I AM NOT A PO­LIT­I­CAL STATE­MENT, I AM A PER­SON”

OKENYO (Zindzi Okenyo), mu­si­cian

ELLE (Australia) - - This Month -

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

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