I remember the first time I came out, it was to my closest friend. It was night time on a Saturday, and it was like I reached breaking point.
Through tears I messaged my friend. I was lucky and felt immediate acceptance, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I then planned how to come out to my mother. And the next day I did. It was an awkward tear-filled sad moment and for a while it was difficult for either of us to even look at each other.
But I can say that our relationship is now much stronger than it was before, I feel like I can confide in her and I feel safe to talk to her about things that teenage me would have never dreamed of.
After coming out I lost some friends and family but ultimately the people who stayed with me have made my life better. Despite the hardship and sadness, I wouldn’t change it if I had the opportunity.
Since the marriage law postal survey was announced my morale has been boosted even further. A number of people have contacted me asking to send them ‘vote yes’ badges. People who in the past had considered themselves apolitical have now started to show an interest and offer support.
It has been fantastic to see the overwhelming positivity people have towards LGBTIQ rights. I’ve even had strangers come into the shop I work in wearing the Socialist Party ‘vote yes’ I designed!
Everywhere I go people are still wearing the rainbow ‘vote yes’ stickers that they got at the rally held in Melbourne weeks ago. The sticker is peeling and faded but people are still wearing it with pride and in an act of solidarity.
The Socialist Party has been doing ‘vote yes’ street stalls in the Melbourne CBD several times a week. The support we have received has been overwhelming. Hundreds of people have stopped to get information to take to their friends, buy a badge, or donate so that we can print more material. Hundreds more have smiled and thanked us for what we’re doing.
Very rarely have we had people come up to the stalls and say something nasty. When they have it has generally been while running away.
Even those who support discriminating against LGBTIQ people seem aware of what I’m aware of – that they are in a minority and that the tide is turning against them.
The few people who have actually engaged me saying they are voting ‘no’ have not been able to put forward a solid argument. A number have even admitted that I have changed their mind. While some of these conversations were hard and emotionally difficult, they have been worth it as we are talking about whether my friends and I deserve the same rights as our cisgender and heterosexual friends.
In many ways, I have been completely blindsided by the positivity and love I’ve experienced as its in stark contrast to what most people said would happen.
There is no doubt that many of us have come across homophobia, and that some people have used hate speech against LGBTIQ people in recent weeks. But this didn’t start when the surveys were sent out. This has been happening for years.
My experience is that because of the strong support for the ‘yes’ vote the homophobes have been overwhelmed.
All the attempts by conservatives to win support for a ‘no’ vote have been pathetic. They have constantly come up against walls and the town has quite literally been painted rainbow!
Being involved in the ‘yes’ campaign has allowed me to experience so many positives, like being on one of the biggest LGBTIQ rights protests in Australian history! But not every LGBTIQ person has access to positive and safe environments. Our hope is that by winning equal marriage rights one bit of discrimination will be diminished and we will be one small step closer to real equality.
Homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia has been prevalent for much longer than the debate about equal marriage rights. Unfortunately, it will also continue afterwards. That is why we need to take the fight for LGBTIQ rights beyond marriage equality.
Let’s continue the fight for safe public housing for all LGBTIQ youth, affordable access to medications such as PrEP and PEP, improved mental health services, and for a society that does away with all forms of bigotry and discrimination.
By Kai Perry