For pretty much our entire lives, we’re forced to think about the version of ourselves we put across in public.
As LGBTQIA people, we’re burdened by a supposed need to modulate our behaviour, our speech, our looks. Don’t dress too queer. Stay in the closet at work. Better not hold hands on this street, just in case.
Unfortunately, this is the reality we must contend with: one in which we battle to be seen as human so we can express ourselves and live authentically.
The marriage equality debate has delivered a concentrated assault on our collective personhood, but in more insidious forms than ever before.
Those who advocate for a No vote are mortally offended at the suggestion that they might be doing so out of thinly-veiled bigotry when they consistently insult our ability to love, to parent, and to exist.
Conversely, many on the Yes side insist we need to handle these people with kid gloves, to concede to their right to hurt and harm us with.
Newspapers publish insipid think pieces where people say they might vote No just to make a point, or conservative ideologues blathering about the sanctity of “traditional” marriage as though Elizabeth Taylor should have more of a right to be a seven-time divorcée than I should.
Keeping this in mind, I’ve reached a point where I simply don’t give a hot, steaming shit about whether or not someone is offended by our demands for equality.
I’m sick of feeling like I should keep being some faggy Oliver Twist begging the hetero sirs for more scraps.
I’m utterly exhausted by the notion that my elders spent so long fighting against the scourge of respectability that caged them for so long, the kind that forced them to stay in the closet, or found them on the receiving end of violence both unprovoked and institutional.
The insistence that we respect people who would fundamentally prefer we disappear so they don’t have to think about us anymore is as hurtful as it is infuriating.
Yet even if we get to hold a Mardi Gras once a year and live relatively freely, attacks still happen.
Drag queens still come to the rescue of men being attacked on Oxford St. Queer people still take their lives, and still can’t overcome the anxiety of the closet. Young people still find themselves homeless because of their sexuality or because they identify beyond the archaic boundaries of the gender binary.
Let’s be clear: this shit is fucked. It makes me apoplectic. But we’re not supposed to say that; the oppression of respectability is still there, it’s just more underhanded than before.
Of course, it’s fine if marriage equality is your personal endgame. If the right to marry means equality for you, more power to you. But don’t hang up your rainbow flags if we achieve it.
There is so much more that needs doing and we still don’t have the privilege to leave anyone behind.
The American political establishment’s horrendous assault on trans rights is a good indication of just one thing we’ll have to contend with if and when marriage equality is finally put to rest.
Ultimately, “respectful” is no longer something I can be.
If you’re voting no, fuck you. If you’re using the marriage equality debate to denigrate the validity of any identity that falls under the rainbow banner, fuck you. If you’re voting Yes but still plan to vote for anyone who foisted this postal survey upon us at the next election, fuck you.
Otherwise, we’re just playing into the hands of a system that still has a desire to minimise the visibility, equality, and happiness of queer people rotting its foundations.
If being “respectful” means Australia will drag its feet on other rights battles as much as it has marriage equality, will it really be worth it?