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I’m processing some big stuff that happened over the weekend. These are some of the words that I’m trying to squash into a Digital Story, to follow...
On Saturday, my girlfriend and I got (illegally) ‘married’ in a Mass Wedding in Adelaide - part of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) campaign.
It was a pretty big deal for us both. In the week leading up to it, my anxiety levels rose. I reflected upon the things I hope for... and the things I love about she and I as a team. We each wrote vows and, after much trepidation, we allowed one another to read them. Her words are poetic and effusive... although not the promised limerick! Mine are sincere and a bit ‘academic’. Both very ‘us’, and therefore meaningful...
After a fair bit of ‘milling’ in the park, the fantastic Sue Wickham, lesbian Reverend of the Uniting Church, read from a children’s book in which a green frog and a white duck overcome their differences to celebrate and understand their love for one another. There were speeches from supportive MP’s and a rendition of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’. I have a dimmish, slightly surreal, memory of reciting vows while holding hands, gazing into the eyes of my ‘wife to be’ (W2B)... while keeping an eye on my toddler and somewhat embarrassed nine year old. My daughter made us ring sculptures out of alfoil and none of us knew the right time to perform this part of the ritual!
If you’d been there you would have seen 18 other couples looking similarly overwhelmed. You might also have noticed the arrival of the impostors. We didn't. I remember looking around in a daze and seeing a massive banner headed with the words 'GOD HATES...' ‘Hello!’ I thought, ‘where did THAT come from?’. The audience, peaceful and goofy faced moments before, arose...
A scary looking guy with an excellent amplification system was prowling around offering ‘You must repent!’ and ‘Homosexuality is a sin!’. I realised there were about 10 of them... At first they seemed kind of stupid and it was almost fun to try and sing over their words. My daughter was fascinated. I followed her into the gathering throng and filmed some young Queer people working together to cover the offending banners with rainbow flags.
Finally the march set off for Parliament House. We were hampered by pram and toddler so fell behind the main group... and suddenly we were trapped between two groups of rabid Christians. The irony... crashing our protest, while offering a brilliant demonstration of why the rally was so necessary.
I’ve never felt such a muddle of anxiety and anger. Part of me wanted to slap my hand across the loudest mouth so that the kids couldn’t hear their homophobic ranting... Part of me just wanted to escape, to march surrounded by friends and allies rather than enemies. We ran... and, while I don’t always love protest slogans, ‘Gay, Straight, Black or White! Marriage is an Equal Right’ sounded sweet to my ears.
When we got to the steps of Parliament we sat down and watched the fracas unfold... The Christians, even in their tiny, angry minority were overwhelming. They had better speakers than us, making the ‘You will go to hell!’ mantra hard to ignore. Our heroic, Uniting Church Reverend addressed us with a hand-held loudspeaker, affirming that the crazies didn’t represent the views of ALL Christians.
The most vehement among them was weaving through our people, shouting ‘You must repent!’ close and directly in our faces... He seemed like an automaton, devoid of all humanity, certain in his conviction that he, alone, was right. Someone tried to pull his banner down and the pole swung dangerously close. My ‘wife’ and I circled the kids, like mother hens, as pushing and shoving engulfed us... A bag fell out of the pram and the camera crashed to the footpath. My daughter looked at me in horror, her face clouding with tears... the toddler started crying because she was crying... and then I was in tears too. How can I explain what it feels like to be the target of such hatred? We stood weeping, snuggled in a ‘sandwich cuddle’ ... and I realised cameras were rolling on us.
When a close-up of my tearful daughter appeared on the news I struggled with the understanding that, as their mother I was responsible for exposing them to this ugliness... then I began to grasp that I actually owe the rabid Christians a ‘thank you’. They made visible the homophobic bigotry that breathes quietly all around us... in Parliament, in mental health facilities, in classrooms and schoolyards, in Churches... and in families. They made it clear that this IS a crusade we’re on... it’s NOT just being ‘over-sensitive’ or ‘lacking a sense of humour’ as we’re sometimes told. My children have a right to be open and proud of their family... and to feel safe.
And what about this notion of ‘everyday activism’... ordinary people like us trying to break down prejudice by ‘making it personal’? I’m not sure actually seeing us made any difference to the crazies... and they certainly weren’t taking the time to hear our stories of love... or stigmatism. Maybe a handful of the people who saw the news were affected, but the coverage was brief and sank into the 24 hour news cycle all too quickly. Some of them, without context, may have even felt sorry for the weepy little girl who has the misfortune to have a lesbian mum.
How do we speak back to that? I’ve sought appointments with Members of Parliament who’ve been tasked with getting feedback from their electorate on the subject of gay marriage. I’ve received polite impersonal ‘too busy right now’ e:mail responses from them all...
Sometimes it’s hard to find the time, or invest the energy in something that can seem so abstract. Now I think of my child’s tears and it’s not abstract at all. One of my friends, also a mum and a Digital Storyteller, went home and pulled together a Digital Story that night... you can watch it here. As I was writing I received a link for another inspiring story here. I’m working on my own version now. Can these stories offer us a chance to communicate the complex landscape of our struggle? If enough people see them and share them online can it make a difference?
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