Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

pic: Tanya Plibersek

30,000 people rallied for equal marriage today in Sydney, the biggest single Australian demo for gay rights ever. 

At the same time, my Facebook feed is full of people withdrawing from the fight, even moving overseas, temporarily or permanently

A lot of people are hurting because of this damned stupid survey, and if you are one of them, take the time and space you need to protect yourself and your loved ones.  You’re more important than any temporary loss or victory we might achieve this time.

Because even if we ‘win’, which is by no means certain, it could well be a shallow victory. I can hear some people spluttering in amazement, even outrage, but it’s true.

pic: Equal Marriage Rights Australia

  • The entire process is so flawed, and so unrepresentative, that whether the result is Yes or No will tell us nothing whatever about what the public thinks
  • The people taking part will not be a representative sample of the electorate
  • There is no bill, so we do not know what we’re voting for
  • The survey question speaks of same-sex marriage, not marriage equality
  • Dean Smith’s bill, on the other hand, says “two persons” without regard to sex or gender, but will that essential clause survive?
  • The government will merely ‘facilitate’ a private members bill (which everyone assumes will be Dean Smith’s): the government will not put it’s full weight behind it
  • There are already religious exemptions beyond the necessary protections for clergy in the Smith bill, but our opponents will be slavering to stuff in more: given how craven this government is, they could succeed
  • If they succeed, the bill may become so stuffed with exemptions and conditions that it becomes a Marriage Apartheid Bill instead of a Marriage Equality bill. and if that happens, it must and it will will be voted down.
  • If on the other hand the godly crew fail to cripple the bill, there may be enough of them in both major parties to prevent a true Marriage Equality bill passing.

So, if it’s too much strain and heartache, don’t knock yourself out. It isn’t worth it. A bit like those letters from the Readers Digest that start “you may have won $50,000”, but you more than likely haven’t.

It’s a rigged game we’re being forced to play, with no guarantee of a worthwhile prize, or any prize at all. Those of us who can, will keep up the fight, but if you need to take time out, go with our blessing. You are precious, and way more important than this silly business.

Don’t worry if we lose the vote: a loss will be meaningless. Do you think the other side will accept a loss? And don’t worry if we win the vote but fail to get a decent Marriage Equality Bill passed. There will be another time, and if Bill Shorten is elected, it could be quite soon.

I have had my moments of boiling anger. I have found myself inexplicably in tears. I have had my moments of happiness and my moments of fear, during this ridiculous, demeaning and degrading process. And I have no doubt there will be more. But I have survived worse.

Looking back on my life as a gay teenager and young man in England in the sixties, seventies and eighties, none of this surprises me, or even hurts me much. Those wounds were all cauterised a long while ago.

In a way, although I’m sad and angry for what those of you born more recently are having to face, I am also glad the process has ‘lanced the boil’ and released the pus hiding under the thin bandaid called “tolerance”.

I have never had any time for “tolerance”. Because I know what “tolerance” is really worth. F-ck all.

Don’t get sad. Don’t get mad. Remember it all, and when the time is right, get even.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)