On November 15th, 2017 I woke up at 5:00AM to join a crowd of people around the Northbridge Piazza in Perth, WA. The occassion? The announcement of Australia's marriage equality postal-survey results. For those who don't know, this wasn't a vote to legalize marriage equality. It was a voluntary postal-survey to gather public opinion on the issue of whether or not to change existing marriage legislation. From talking to LGBTIQ Australians, the process was emotionally taxing. Instead of the government legislating swiftly on marriage equality, which countless public opinion polls had already shown that the nation was in favor of, they decided to open up a "national debate" about it. This led to "yes" and "no" campaigners hitting the ground running with rallies, forums, television ads, fundraisers, and voter registration efforts, among other tasks. Many felt the survey to be unnecessary and a waste of money, as the official "yes" vote simply reflected prior public opinion polls.
Despite the controversy over whether or not the "yes" vote should've happened the way it did, it was pretty awesome to be there surrounded by fellow LGBTIQ people at the time of the announcement. There was free coffee and donuts, heaps of cute doggos, and a crowd of like-minded people all anxiously awaiting something momentous together. They had a great MC who had been working on the "yes" campaign for the months leading up to the results, and they had a couple of guest speakers who shared their stories. When the results were being televised, it was so silent you could hear a pin drop from a mile away in the city. Then, when the good news was delivered it was happy chaos. People were screaming, jumping, hugging, kissing, and yes - I was crying.
When marriage equality happened in the U.S., I feel like it wasn't so much of a celebration. It was almost like it happened overnight. I woke up one morning to a news notification on my phone about the Supreme Court decision and then naturally social media was blowing up, but it wasn't like this grandiose countdown to the results. Which, in many ways, I think is for the better. In Australia, LGBTIQ people had to endure tireless ridicule and harassment at the hands of "no" campaigners throughout the months leading up to the "big reveal." On top of that, the "yes" vote wasn't even legally binding. So now, LGBTIQ people will have to continue the fight for Parliament to act swiftly and pass the Dean Smith Bill for marriage equality to actually become law.
Throughout this whole experience I've noted the difference in my personal identity development. Back when the U.S. decision was announced I was just kind of coming to terms with my sexuality. I definitely didn't celebrate openly. I shared a picture on Twitter of a rainbow flag as if I was an ally instead of an LGBTIQ person myself. TONS of stuff has happened since then. I gradually started coming out to friends and went to therapy to get help with my depression. Then Donald Trump was elected and that's when I decided that I needed to come out en masse. I needed to feel like I was in control of something good in my life despite everything that was falling apart. I received a lot of support and I also received a lot of silence. Despite all of it, today I feel that I am a very proud bisexual woman. Living this truth in Australia throughout a contentious fight for equality has been a challenge but also has made me that much prouder.