Pay it forward: Helping the less privileged in the fight for marriage equality
It isn't that Nic Holas is opposed to marriage equality, but he believes our energies could best be directed to other endeavours, such as breaking the stigma of HIV and paying forward some of our good fortune to the plight faced by less priviliged LGBTI people in communities worldwide.
When you go on national television in front of one million people and throw around words like heteronormative, you’re bound to get some pushback. Let me say that straight out of the gate: I’m not opposed to marriage equality. Despite what some lovely people on Twitter have been telling me, I’m not standing in anyone’s way on this issue. What you want to do with your life, and how you want to celebrate love, is fine by me.
There was a time when I was quite opposed to marriage equality, politically. I still believe it has taken a lot of resources, money, and energy from other important causes like LGBTIQ mental and sexual health. Personally, I disagree with the institute of marriage and do believe it is leading to a deceptive straightening of the queer community. Increasingly though, I feel we are wasting time by turning on each other, when there are far worse opponents to LGBTIQ equality and for us to be picking away at each other is exactly what these conservative forces want, because it takes our energy away from fighting them.
So our civil right to marriage is not my current priority, as my passions are the long list of human rights that are being denied to LGBTIQ around the world, and outdated HIV/AIDS myths and stigma that need busting. However, if marriage equality is your passion, I fully support your right to fight for it; to march down the street or the news feed and have your voice be heard.
Our common ground is the same: when we are denied rights, be they civil or human, we become second-class citizens, despite contributing equally to the same society via taxation, community/military service, and as active participants in democracy. It is unfair that some people can celebrate their love through a secular legal procedure, while others cannot. I hope that inequity is addressed, and soon (as it’s taking up a lot of community time and energy we could be using elsewhere).
If and when marriage equality is achieved, and I believe it is inevitable, my challenge to those passionate about it is this: leave no one behind. The ACT marriage equality success last year was a hollow one, as it excluded trans* and intersex people, and I believed it deserved to be overturned (although sadly it was not because of these exclusionary policies). A victory for some is actually a defeat for all.
In the same way, successfully obtaining equal rights here in Australia is not a victory at all if we don’t use that success to help others elsewhere. Homosexuality is outlawed in at least parts of 81 countries, and punishable by death in nine of them. People are being sent to jail for sending text messages to their boyfriends, raped and killed by police and left in ditches, unclaimed by their families out of shame. Women are gang raped in an attempt to correct their sexualities, arrested, kicked out of school and home. This is the world for LGBTIQ in 2014, and we’re a part of it.
Our fight for equality can't forget these people. While it may be difficult to know what to do when we’re so far from these problems, there are ways we can pay our own good fortune forward.
Imagine receiving a wedding invitation from your two best gal pals. At the point of the invite that usually links you to the gift registry, you notice they have instead called for donations to the Kaleidoscope Trust, an organisation working in to decriminalise homosexuality in the developing world. They’ve also forgone a truly lavish wedding and instead have made a donation as well.
Obviously, not everyone can afford to do this, but for many of us living relatively set up lives in domestic partnerships, do we really need Aunt Joyce to buy us a new toaster? This “Pay it Forward” model is just one suggestion of how we can recognise the plight of LGBTIQ elsewhere whilst still celebrating the progress made by our community, and our love for each other. Whatever cause you are passionate about, there will be ways to use your newly-established rights to get married as a platform to help those less fortunate than you.
I will say this: when we arrive at marriage equality, you dare to just put your feet up and say “what else is there left to do?” that’s when I’m coming for you and your matching blue suit, Macklemore and macaron wedding. Not all of us as out gay people in Australia are privileged, but a lot of us are. The fact that we have the time, freedom and drive to fight for symbolic gestures like marriage equality is in itself a privilege. Let’s show the rest of the world we were right to earn that privilege by paying it forward.