My name is Joshua, I’m 24, and I live with my two mums – my birth mother and her partner of 15 years. In 2011, after several years of fostering 2 girls, they became one of the first same sex couples to adopt in NSW. My sisters and I have known nothing but love, support, and compassion in our home. Our mothers have provided us with everything we could ever need. Driven us to and from everything; school, scouts, horse riding lessons, camps, the list goes on and on. They’ve sat by all our bedsides when we’ve been sick, and sat in the crowd when each of us have taken our turn to shine on stage, or on the field. They’ve been woken up at 2am to deal with everything from vomiting to my near full respiratory failure after my second heart surgery.
They’re quite possibly the strongest and most loving couple I’ve ever known, and will ever know. Two women who have given everything to ensure we know we are loved and safe, and ensured we had/have the most normal upbringing. The only negative I’ve found so far is being stuck in an endless loop of “go ask your mother.”
And I know I’m not unique in my upbringing – on my street alone are 5 rainbow families, all wonderful people, living wonderful, happy, healthy, safe, love filled lives.
I was brought up to accept individualism; from a young age I had a strong understanding that each human is different, and this is what makes us all unique and special. I was never ashamed of my parents, I just didn’t see any reason to be. When I first started at my new NSW school, people asked about my family and I would reply, “I have two mums who I live with, a birth father I choose not to see, and a stepfather who is my dad.” It was simple for me and many of my peers to comprehend at age 10.
But it hasn’t always been easy, and not everyone always got it.
When an episode of Play School aired in 2004 featuring a girl with same sex parents, not long after we moved from SA to NSW, I thought I finally had proof of just how normal my family was. Shortly after that, John Howard amended the Marriage Act to exclude my parents.
My parents did their best to protect me from the true extent of the national backlash, but they couldn’t be in the classroom, and children can be cruel, even if they don’t do it consciously, or even understand what they are saying. Conservative media outrage about a play school episode on inclusivity, followed by a national act of discrimination, formed a sea of radio sound bites, news headlines and dinner table buzz-topics, all projected into the playground via the prism of preteen understanding. As the child of gay parents, I suddenly became a trip wire for all of it.
That set the tone for my teenage years. I was bullied for things that other kids are bullied for, such as my weight and appearance and being the teacher’s pet, but every time issues of equality came up in the media, it felt like someone had just hit ‘repeat’ on all that bullying.
However hurt I got, however upset I got, I never stood down in my support for my family, and others like us, or the fight for their rights.
It’s the torch I still carry. I’m tired, it’s heavy, but the flame is far from out. I still hope I’m a guiding light for other young ‘gaybies’ in regional areas, living in communities in which their existence may go unnoticed, or worse, noticed and unwanted.
Prime Minister, you’ve given us one of the longest campaign times in Australian history, and unlike an ordinary election where many issues are up for debate, the entire nation is focused completely on one issue, every cent of funding, every bit of energy, every fiber of people’s beings are being channeled into ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
You’ve re-created what I lived as a young child, however unwittingly, but this time you’ve placed it inside an envelope and stuck it in every mailbox, and there are going to be gaybies going to school over the coming months who will be subjected to the same bullying, incubated with the same warped access to the debate, that the kids at my primary school had.
Sadly some will say this letter provides more evidence that gay people can’t and shouldn’t raise children, it does neither, it’s not the children’s fault, or the parents’, or even the bullies’. It is yours, Prime Minister; you have opened the floodgates once more to an avalanche of hate, with what appears to be little thought to the people, especially the children, who are on the receiving end.
I’ve accepted the postal vote will very likely be a thing now. I just wanted to take this time as we await the High Court ruling to tell you my story, and express my concern for the children of gay families, like me, who have been dragged unnecessarily on to the national stage once more and placed in the stocks for certain elements of the public to fling hatred and intolerance at like so much rotten fruit.
Prime Minster, don’t just stand with us, stand in front of us, and call out the hate, bigotry and discrimination, when it inevitably begins again, or in many cases so far, continues.