LOV­ING STU­ART

Un­able to save the man he loves, Daniel Lam­min dis­cov­ers that the pass­ing of mar­riage equal­ity into law means more than just civil rights. It’s a mat­ter of life and death.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT - by Daniel Lam­min.

Let’s start in 2009. I’m about to turn 23, and my boyfriend Stu­art is about to turn 19. He is tall and lanky with a slight lisp, very young and very wise. We are hav­ing an ar­gu­ment with his house­mate about mar­riage equal­ity. Maybe it was the ig­no­rance of youth, maybe it was our own per­sonal hang-ups, but we were con­fused about why thou­sands of people felt the need to march in protest about it, and why friends of ours were hav­ing mar­riage cer­e­monies that weren’t ac­knowl­edged by the govern­ment.

“Why not just wait?” we said. “It’ll hap­pen even­tu­ally and the more noise we make about it the less likely the people who are in­tim­i­dated by the idea will ac­cept it.” His house­mate couldn’t have dis­agreed more and this ar­gu­ment went on for an hour or so be­fore we all de­cided we weren’t go­ing to con­vince any­one other­wise.

It’s now 2014 and my opin­ion of mar­riage equal­ity has changed com­pletely. Where once I wouldn’t have stood up and de­manded my right to marry who­ever the bloody hell I want, now it is some­thing I see both as an in­evitable right, and a vi­tal one. I have Stu­art to thank for chang­ing my view. I want to share how he did that.

I met Stu­art in 2009. He had just started at uni and I had just fin­ished. It wasn’t love at first sight, be­cause when I met Stu­art no one knew he was gay. In fact, when his sub­tle flirt­ing stopped be­ing sub­tle and we started see­ing each other, it was only un­der the cir­cum­stances of us be­ing to­gether that he fi­nally came out to his friends and fam­ily. We ut­terly adored one an­other, not in that first love kind of way, but in that much more fright­en­ing, deeper con­nec­tion where you love one an­other so much you would do any­thing for them. I’d get a tight feel­ing in my chest ev­ery time I’d see him and be­gan to re­alise what it was like to think you couldn’t live with­out some­one.

That isn’t how he changed my mind, though. I imag­ined I’d prob­a­bly marry Stu­art if the pos­si­bil­ity came up, and he felt sim­i­larly about me. He was hand­some, strange, funny, in­tel­li­gent, charm­ing and beau­ti­ful. Even his short­com­ings had my heart flut­ter­ing.

What I didn’t know about Stu­art, and what I dis­cov­ered as our re­la­tion­ship deep­ened, was that he was very trou­bled and very sick. He suf­fered from an in­tense de­pres­sion, one he was too fright­ened to do any­thing about. There were a num­ber of rea­sons for it (most too per­sonal to go into) but one of the most po­tent was his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. He had known he was gay since his early teens and had in­stantly la­belled it as a neg­a­tive, as some­thing wrong with him. He was al­ready a tar­get for bul­ly­ing at school be­cause of his lisp and his lanky build, but as he reached that age where call­ing some­one a “fag” or “gay” be­came a stan­dard teenage in­sult, he started bury­ing it as deep as he could in blind fear that some­one would find him out. By the time he reached univer­sity, he had spent years try­ing to con­di­tion him­self into be­ing straight, con­vinced that if he worked hard enough he could change, re­gard­less of whether or not it made him happy. For Stu­art, be­ing gay was be­ing in­valid, ir­rel­e­vant, an il­le­git­i­mate mem­ber of a so­ci­ety where lov­ing some­one of the same gen­der isn’t ac­cept­able. On a log­i­cal level he un­der­stood this wasn’t the case, but the heart never thinks log­i­cally. When the brain is pre­dis­posed to

“For Stu­art, be­ing gay was be­ing in­valid, ir­rel­e­vant, an il­le­git­i­mate mem­ber of a so­ci­ety…”

hat­ing it­self, a thou­sand log­i­cal thoughts can’t do much to stop it.

When Stu­art and I fell in love, he had be­gun to ac­cept that lov­ing an­other man and be­ing loved by one was some­thing he wanted, but he couldn’t shake the idea that he shouldn’t have that kind of love. As our achingly short re­la­tion­ship moved to­ward its end, he be­gan to slip back into de­pres­sion and tried to dis­tance him­self from the world around him. When we broke up, it was a mat­ter of ne­ces­sity for him. He wanted to spare me what was com­ing and how sick he knew he was get­ting. I was dev­as­tated and tried des­per­ately to hold onto him, but his re­solve, both that I shouldn’t be a part of his de­pres­sion and that he didn’t de­serve to be happy, was as strong as iron.

In the months fol­low­ing our break-up, I tried to make him seek help but he was ei­ther pre­vented from do­ing so, or gave up the search. There was lit­tle I could do ex­cept to tell him, when I could, that he was a good man and that he was bet­ter than he thought he was. Even af­ter we had bro­ken up, he knew I still loved him just as fiercely, and ev­ery­thing he did sug­gested he prob­a­bly felt the same about me.

Very late one night, around nine months af­ter we broke up, I got a text mes­sage from Stu­art. I’d come to ex­pect late night mes­sages from him, par­tic­u­larly if he’d had a bad day.

“The heart never thinks log­i­cally, but when the brain is pre­dis­posed to hate it­self, a thou­sand log­i­cal thoughts can’t do much to stop it.”

This was an un­com­monly nice mes­sage (he had a very black sense of hu­mour), and we texted back and forth for a while. I didn’t think any­thing of it and even­tu­ally fell back to sleep.

The next morn­ing I woke up to find that Stu­art had taken his own life. The text mes­sages had been his at­tempt at a good­bye. I hadn’t re­alised. The shock of his death hit me like an as­ter­oid hurtling out of nowhere. The pos­si­bil­ity of this hap­pen­ing had crossed my mind, but I had never un­der­stood how in­cred­i­bly lost he had been. I loved Stu­art more deeply than any­one else I had ever met, and now he was taken away from me and from the world that was so ready to em­brace ev­ery­thing he would have be­come. I re­mem­ber stop­ping in the street, con­fused as to how the world was still go­ing on around me, how it could pos­si­bly go along as if noth­ing had hap­pened, when my whole world had just come crash­ing down.

As the grief started to sub­side, I was left with a need to un­der­stand why. And this is where I re­turn to mar­riage equal­ity. As the pub­lic dis­cus­sion in­ten­si­fied and coun­tries around the world be­gan to ac­cept that the union be­tween two people of the same gen­der was some­thing worth cel­e­brat­ing, I be­gan to see the other reper­cus­sions of such de­ci­sions. As I be­gan to un­der­stand why Stu­art did what he had done, and as my anger started to bub­ble and build, I be­gan to un­der­stand why we in Aus­tralia need to ac­cept mar­riage equal­ity and em­bed it in our cul­ture.

I don’t need to go into the sta­tis­tics of how many young people in this coun­try take their lives ev­ery year, or what per­cent­age of them are from a sex­ual mi­nor­ity. We know they’re hor­rific. Four years ago, Stu­art was part of that statistic. And when I zoomed out and saw him as part of a much darker whole, I had to ac­cept that he wasn’t a spe­cial case or an anom­aly. What hap­pened to us wasn’t un­usual, and I was fu­ri­ous. As cam­paigns all over the world at­tempted to give hope to youth in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, I wanted Stu­art’s death to count some­how. I wanted to take this loss and this pain and make it mat­ter. For some­one like Stu­art, for ev­ery young per­son con­fused about their sex­u­al­ity or their gen­der, imag­ine how in­cred­i­ble it would be for their coun­try to make a state­ment and take an ac­tion that says that how they feel, who they love, who they are, is not un­usual, de­viant or wrong. A bold state­ment that the way they are is le­git­i­mate, that they are cel­e­brated and ac­cepted. For a young per­son on the verge of giv­ing up on be­ing who they are and con­sid­er­ing ac­tions too ter­ri­ble to com­pre­hend, pic­ture how much it would mean to hear their coun­try say that their love is wor­thy of mar­riage, and is no dif­fer­ent to the love be­tween their own par­ents.

Mar­riage equal­ity isn’t just about say­ing vows and sign­ing a piece of paper. It’s an of­fer of hope for people who can’t ac­cept who they are. It’s a state­ment to this en­tire coun­try that it is bet­ter to live and love than to bury their feel­ings or have their fam­i­lies bury them.

Los­ing Stu­art filled me with a white-hot need to un­der­stand why this was al­lowed to hap­pen, why we weren’t try­ing as hard as we can to make some­one like him feel val­ued, loved and ac­cepted. His fam­ily had tried, his friends had tried and I cer­tainly had tried, but it just wasn’t enough. We are mak­ing baby steps in Aus­tralia, and I wish ev­ery day that Stu­art could have been here to see them, that maybe it would have been enough to change his mind and for him to give an­other day a chance. But these baby steps are not enough. At some point they need to turn into a run, be­cause we’re al­ready out of time.

I don’t want sym­pa­thy or at­ten­tion. This isn’t a sap story to make you emo­tional. This is a de­mand, a call to ac­tion and a plea for change. My love for this beau­ti­ful young man is so strong that it de­mands his death mean some­thing. We tell these kids “it gets bet­ter”, but it’s time for us to make it hap­pen, and le­gal­is­ing mar­riage equal­ity is a greater step to­wards that than most people imag­ine. It’s more than just a hu­man right. I be­lieve it is a mat­ter of life and death, es­pe­cially for those too young to fully un­der­stand what their heart is telling them.

I feel I owe it to Stu­art to tell our story. Hope­fully it can be a legacy de­serv­ing of him.

“My love is so strong… it de­mands his death mean some­thing,” says writer Daniel Lam­min of Stu­art (pic­tured here y Sarah al er .

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