It’s been a few days since the announcement and I’ve been trying to process how I feel. It’s complex. Difficult. Messy. And it’s taken time. But I’ve had some good conversations and I think I’ve got it now. I’ve been listening to other people too and I think some of you might be in the same place so I thought I’d share.
Relief. That’s what Wednesday was about. Relief. That was the overwhelming emotion we felt in the moment we heard the result. We cried – some of us uncontrollably – because we were relieved. Not tears of joy. Tears of relief. Because we knew that a win for No would have been catastrophic for us. That it would have destroyed us. That going to work the next day would have been crippling. That telling our kids would have been unthinkable. That facing friends or family or colleagues who voted No would have been unbearable.
That No would have left us lost, ashamed, subjugated.
That was why, for about half an hour before the announcement, my hands were shaking so badly I could barely hold my phone, let alone respond to texts.
But we won! And that was an extraordinary moment. And when I stopped crying, I punched the air and felt jubilant and victorious and proud and tall. And I loved that moment and I will cherish it always. And I danced in front of the State Library – two glasses of Champagne on no breakfast – and there was joy and laughter and rainbows everywhere. And that moment was rare and special and I will never forget it.
And now, people are planning their weddings! How fabulous is that? Couples who have been together 30 or 40 years or more who never thought this day would come, and young loves caught up in the moment and announcing it to the world. I am happy for you all and I hope you have enormous fun planning your day and if any of your invitations end up on my fridge I’ll be delighted and I’ll be at your wedding with bells on!
Yes! 61.6% said Yes! That’s fantastic . That’s a great win. Victoria was 65% and my electorate was 73.7% and that means the majority of people I’m going to bump into on any given day support my right to be treated equally under the law. And that is a huge thing. Truly. An important thing. It says my country is not going backwards as I feared. It says, finally, it is moving forward and about to catch up with the rest of the world. And that brings me enormous comfort.
But notwithstanding all of that, something’s not right with me – and I certainly don’t feel like celebrating. In fact, if I’m honest, what I actually feel is angry and sad and defeated. I feel like crap.
I’m tired. Really tired. Drained. Spent. Physically and emotionally. I lay on the couch most of Saturday, following a thread on Facebook. That’s as much as I could manage. And that’s how I know you might be feeling like this too. We’re exhausted. Worn out. Emotional. Bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. We are tuning out, escaping, switching off. We are struggling.
I am struggling.
A fried of mine, a therapist, talked to me about trauma and, if you think that might be an exaggeration, look it up. It isn’t. Twelve months of attacks on our families, schools and community left us diminished. Twelve weeks of public debate – of judgement, criticism and hostility – left us traumatised
We have re-lived the bullying and abuse of our adolescence. We have been denied by people we cherish and love deeply. We have endured countless horrible and hurtful conversations. We have listened to outrageous lies about us. We have been polite and held our tongue. We have sheltered and cared for our vulnerable. We have broken down and picked ourselves up. Over and over.
None of that goes away because more people voted Yes than No in a postal survey. It’s all still there and it makes us feel weak and tired and lesser and crap. My therapist friend says it makes us feel numb. That’s the word I’ve heard more than any other in the last three months, she says. Numb.
Look that one up. Deprived of feeling. Paralysed. No wonder we’re a mess.
This wouldn’t matter so much if we were done. If this nightmare was over. But it isn’t. We still have to face another month of this, of people loudly proclaiming why it is that they have to be protected from us. Because being protected from us is their human right. And it’s all bullshit. And I’m over it.
And as I read the papers this weekend I tut and huff and swear. I am MRS ANGRY FROM KEW! and I am living my life in UPPER CASE. I have no calm, no reasonable, no patience. Blah, blah, blah, exemptions! Here are the many and varied ways you can get out of treating us equally. Blah, blah, blah. And I am over it.
I’m MRS ANGRY OF KEW because Sarah and I have been campaigning for marriage equality for 14 years – since we ran our case in the Family Court – and at the end of this 14 years we won’t actually get marriage equality, we’ll get a compromise. And I’ve worked too hard for too long for a compromise. And that really pisses me off.
And apparently (according to this weekend’s papers) not-actual-marriage-equality is brought to us by a small group of Liberal politicians and a handful of Johnny-come-lately campaigners. I thought it was down to a messy mix of community groups and union organisers and grassroots activists and parents of gender diverse kids, and queer clubs, and people of colour, and local mums and dads, and drag queens, and straight colleagues and rainbow families and trans activists and moderate Christians – and led by someone who’s been at the forefront of LGBTI campaigning for about thirty years. But no, apparently not.
So I’m angry and tired and fed up and I’m not sure where to go with that, but I know – for now at least – that’s OK. I’m just going to let it sit. I’m going to take a deep breath and be OK with that.
But today I spent the day exploring Werribee Gorge with a fantastic group of good people and fabulous kids from the Melbourne Q&A Bushwalkers, and this evening I feel better. Thanks guys.
So do whatever you need – curl up into a ball, listen to Same Love on repeat, burst into tears at work, disappear for the weekend, take extra-long naps, hug your kids a little tighter. This is tough. We’ll get through it. There will be the other side.