As marriage equality lumbers inevitably towards becoming a reality here and in other parts of the developed world, elsewhere the situation remains dangerous and life-threatening for LGBTIQ people. The recent murder of Cameroon activist Eric Ohena Lembembe, along with the alarming state-sanctioned human rights violations in Russia, shines a light on the global inequality gay people and their allies face. It’s an upsetting, unfair situation in which many countries still prosecute people for their sexuality; resulting in persecution, violence, and death.
With this in mind, just how vital does this make symbolic movements like marriage equality here in Australia? When the day finally comes, should you feel guilty for walking down the aisle with your partner, for bringing together your loved ones to celebrate your new life together? Until recently, I would have told you “yes.”
I’m one of those pesky ‘against equality’ types who doesn’t believe in normalising the queer community. However, I have come to understand that most people aren’t into that argument and anyway, who am I to tell you how to live? I’m positive that just because proponents of marriage equality fight hard for their beliefs, they are not deaf to the plight of their international brothers and sisters. So what can we all do, regardless of which side of the argument we’re on?
I cannot expect every gay person to storm the Kremlin and glitterbomb Putin, or rush off to sub-Saharan Africa to scream in the face of every corrupt lawmaker or poisonous Western missionaries spreading misinformation. Like you, I’m sitting here in my comfortable home, trying to figure out where to from here. How can we pay rent on our privilege? In what way can we recognise that the freedoms we enjoy are miles ahead of LGBTIQ people elsewhere?
What if we celebrate each marriage equality victory in a manner that supports the cause of global equality? If I asked you to match every dollar you spend on your big gay wedding, and donate it to the fight to liberate imprisoned or persecuted gay people, would you consider it? If that’s not feasible, would you tell your guests, your beloved family and friends, not to buy gifts (how many Nespresso machines do you need, really?), but instead donate to human rights groups fighting to end global persecution?
As much as we’ve all faced stigma, loss, and persecution in our community, we also must recognise many of us sit atop the pecking order in terms of freedom and visibility. I check my privilege as a white gay man, and own that I’ve had it easier than many other colours in the queer rainbow. I still fight my battles, particularly as a newly diagnosed HIV-positive man, but I won’t run headlong into a fight without knowing I’m bringing as many others with me as possible to victory.
Every success in the march towards equality stands upon the long history of fallen LQBTIQ people who suffered unfairly, or in silence. Our resilience is testament to our ability to unify loudly, and a relentless, capital “P” Pride. However, victory for some is no real victory. Marriage equality is a symbol for your right to love however you choose. Why not take that power and turn it into a signal boost for those who need it most?
Nic Holas is a Sydney-based writer and blogger. Follow Nic on Twitter at @longlivecanapes.