“MAKE SURE YOU RAISE YOUR VOICE AND MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT”
Darren Palmer, interior designer
I’m gay and I’m married. Even though I’ve been married for six-and-a-half years, I hadn’t felt comfortable talking about my relationship in public for the first three. Fear was the main issue – fear of vilification, isolation and loss of income should any of the businesses I had worked with feel I no longer represented their brand or their audience. It was a fear long held and fostered in my youth, because when I grew up in regional Queensland in the ’80s and ’90s, I was different. I wasn’t like my friends or my family. I liked design and my mum had called me a yuppie from about the age of 10 because she knew I was interested in things other than what was within our sphere of reference in Gladstone at the time.
I knew from puberty that I was gay, but it was such a scary prospect I closed the very thought of it down. I pretended and fit in, but from the outside it just looked like I wasn’t very good at relationships because I never had a girlfriend or, at least, not for long or to any great extent. I did that to belong. I did that – lied to myself and my loved ones – because there was a very real chance I would be alienated from my family or my friends, verbally or even physically abused just for being who I was born to be. I was fortunate that my family and friends all supported me. I’m one of the lucky ones, but unfortunately due to the messages that perpetuate society about what it means to be gay, there are many young people who aren’t safe to come out, or get vilified or harmed if they do.
A same-sex relationship seemed scary to me as I hadn’t had all the time as a teenager to date and build emotional intelligence, so marriage certainly never occurred to me as an option. As a young gay man, there was never any way I could marry, so the thought of it was the furthest thing from my mind. I dated and did everything teenagers do, but in my twenties, trying to get relationship experience to emotionally get up to speed. Then, in my thirties, I met a man who I admired. We were acquainted for years and one day we both found ourselves able to have our first date. We knew each other and had enough common friends to do background checks and on date number two, four days after our first, I can honestly say I was in love. For Olivier, it was exactly the same.
We’d been dating for just under two months, and one day I was driving and a song came on the radio and I thought, “I’d like this to play at our wedding.” That thought caught me off-guard as I’d had a long-term relationship previously and never thought about marriage. But with Olivier, it was different. Olivier is the great love of my life. It seems he was thinking the same thing, because he proposed to me a few weeks later.
We were going to South Africa a few months after and decided that, as we couldn’t marry here at home,
there was no reason to wait, so we’d get married in South Africa where it has been legal since November 30, 2006. I have great memories and pictures of our ceremony on the cliffs of a ruggedly beautiful nature reserve in Paternoster, north of Cape Town. We have memories of friends, laughter, tears of happiness and signing the wedding certificate.
You see, I’m already married. I’m legally married in every one of the countries around the world that has seen the truth that all citizens of a country should be united by the rights they share, and the postal vote and the change to Australian law isn’t going to change my marital status. What it will do is give me the same legal rights as every other married couple in this country and open the door for those among us who aren’t able to travel to a country where they have the right to join together in matrimony with another consenting adult.
It saddens and bewilders me that the majority of people get to give their opinion on the rights of a minority, but unfortunately history has shown that human rights often have to be fought to be won, even when it’s plainly and obviously the right thing to do.
It’s harmful to gay people to be made out to be “less than”, to be marginalised, demonised or invalidated. It’s dangerous and terribly unjust to publicly scrutinise whether one set of people’s relationships are as valid as any others. The “debate” and the words and actions around it will harm people deeply and the reason the vote is being done the way it is, is precisely why we need to vote and vote in numbers. Even though you may not agree with having to give your opinion or having an opinion given on your relationship, if you disengage you won’t be heard, so make sure you raise your voice and make your vote count.
I am gay and I am married and have been for a long time, and not one thing has happened to the marriages of others here at home. Nothing that takes from anyone has occurred and none of the things that have been touted as risks have been a consequence of my marriage or any of the marriages that have been conducted in all the countries that have already passed marriage equality laws across the globe.
The only thing that has occurred is that our family is fortified by the bond that our marriage gives us. Our son knows we’re in it for the long haul and our relationship is strengthened in the hardest of times. Nothing but good has come from my marriage, not just for my family but for the community. There is one more committed, stable relationship in existence and that is just what we should all be trying to encourage.
“VOTE ‘YES’ AND SHOW THE BULLIES UP!” THELMA PLUM
“BECAUSE ANY LOVE THAT EXISTS BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE IS VALID.” MIRANDA TAPSELL
“THEOUR FELLOWLIVES OF CITIZENS COUNT – THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE AGAINST PREJUDICE.” TASH SEFTON, THEY ALL HATE US