What It Was Like

In the beginning, everyone broke.

That first fortnight, living under crushing shock – and a fear that had almost been forgotten, that alienness somehow always part-and-parcel of being queer, yet, in 2017, comfortably shoved aside as we blended in.

Then just as suddenly found ourselves singled out, subject to an excruciating examination of our humanity. Did we deserve this?

We did not ask for this. In fact, we implored for any other path than this. We promised to wait, patiently, for the inevitable change of government that would do what Parliaments do as their essential function — legislate. A function which somehow Parliament had forgotten, or had been led to forget, as a false consciousness of direct democracy supplanted the operation of representative government.

We did not ask for this, yet were asked — by other queers — to advocate. To embrace this fundamentally homophobic debate, one that situated the petitioner firmly among the other, the outcast, the undeserving, endure the unendurable — and do all of it with a smile on our faces.

That’s a lot to be asked to swallow.

It never sat well. We all struggled with it. Private messages from queers utterly outraged that their human rights could even been contested, considered, weighed, as if something that could be bestowed, rather than just recognised by the blind straight public who from their view feel as though they’ve righted an injustice rather than simply complying with that injustice.

I’m not saying there were any good choices here. Indeed, all the choices were bad, and the least bad was simply to hold one’s nose, mark the ballot YES, then drop it in the post box. To assent to this subjugation out of fear of something far worse.

Fear: because it crystallized, as the howling demons of hatred found their voices and their fists and their pocketbooks, renting time in the Australian psyche on broadcast television and Facebook and explored in detail every aspect of gender that might make someone who lives a more binary life recoil in horror.

They knew what they were doing. They found the heart of darkness and drove straight in, conflating that fear with everything else, spreading it so thickly that the most innocent among us — the newly arrived — grew rigid with fear.

We faced that fear — and will face it still, for fear leaves a mark on the soul which can not easily be forgotten.

So now, in the aftermath, when we can only feel relief at the result, we also feel precarious and radicalised and unwilling to put up with any more of this shit. This is the silver lining: a generation who had never understood that to be queer is to be outcast, they understand that now, viscerally, a knowledge that will never leave them.

It means we can never entirely be at home, even here, in our home. But it may be better this way. For this battle is not over. It is not even fairly begun. This victory, in the passage of time, will never loom large. But our hearts, tempered and resilient, beat stronger now.

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