I will not be excluded.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I care what people think of me. It is not a well kept secret, in the slightest. I worry constantly if I am being the nicest person, the kindest, the smartest, the best, always worrying if I am being the purest version of myself. It is not necessarily a self consciousness, but a general concern, a gentle cloak that weighs over every decision I make.
But there are some things that this idiosyncrasy does not penetrate, one being the way I dress. Nothing excites me more than going to my wardrobe in the morning and picking out the best outfit to capture my mood for that day. Although when people see me out, they probably have no idea how much thought had gone into choosing what I wore because it can often come across as an absolute disaster. But when I have on an outfit I am truly proud of, you can see it in my demeanor, in my posture, in my smile. Such satisfaction comes from my self-expression through my fashion (the word fashion being used rather softly). Another aspect of myself that does not hold any worry or discomfort is my sexuality.
My sexuality, has never been something I have stressed over. For a long time I didn’t know that my sexuality branched further than the straight axis, but once it did, once I realised, there was no sense of worry. I did not even think that I was going to be a social outcast. I did not think my parents would disown me. I did not think that anyone would see me any differently. Although this is probably a testament to my parents and my upbringing, or whether it was the environment I had cultivated around myself, I had not a worry in the world.
Coming out to my parents was a celebration, I was so excited to tell them that I had found a love that felt true and right. They welcomed this with open arms, with no real difference in when I bought boyfriends home. How I saw it, was last year I was dating this wonderful man, and this year I am dating this wonderful woman. I could not see a difference in myself, other than that I was so in love with being in love with a woman.
But sadly a lot changed. I was no longer just Toni, I was Toni the lesbian. People asked questions, questions that never would’ve been asked when in a relationship with a man. People were confused and trying to label and decipher what was going on. I would get comments; “but you’re so pretty”, “but which one is the man?”, “does this mean you are a lesbian?”, and to my horror more personal questions like “how do you have sex?”, “were you abused, is that why you are this way?”. These questions confused and upset me, as I would never think to ask anyone such personal questions. Nor had I thought that there had to be a reason why I was suddenly in love with a woman.
Everything had changed. I was stared at when I walked down the street holding hands, I was cast aside by friends who could not understand my relationship. I was mocked, and sexualised and my relationship was now point for discussion. This has been something I have had to get used to; the constant questions, the confused looks, the intrigue into my personal life. But I don’t mind because I see it as a way to help people understand that people don’t have to fit into a box, that they don’t have to be labelled. Just like not all bikies are criminals, not all lesbians dress like men. And if I was to dress like a man, cut my hair short and do everything else that was expected of me as a lesbian, that would be my self-expression.
It would have nothing to do with wanting to be a man, it would be finding comfort in dressing in a way that felt right to me, in that moment. I am happy to talk to people about it, because there is not a doubt in the world that I am exactly where I am meant to be, I am in love with the person I am meant to spend the rest of my life with. I am happy to be an open book and show people a new world where there is no place for hate, and no place for labels and putting people into a box. But I am not done, this is not enough for me. Because although I may see myself and my relationship as normal, my own country does not. How am I to be expectant of others to accept my relationship with as much validation as their own, when my government doesn’t.
Recently, I got engaged. Amelia asked if I would spend the rest of my life with her, and the answer was a forever and always yes. We were in Paris, we walked down the street hand in hand, we stopped and kissed because we could. Returning to Australia, we were welcomed by our family with excitement and love. I also wanted to give Amelia a special day, so a few months later, I got down on one knee and asked her the exact same question. My dreams as a little girl were just like any others, of getting married in a white dress, surrounded by my friends and family. I have been making a wedding day mix of music for as long as I could remember. These dreams did not change once I bid farewell to my heterosexual life. Although sometimes I get frustrated with the societal expectations of women in Australia, I never lost sight of this one particular childhood dream. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have a monogamous relationship, with foundations of love and respect.
I am sure a lot of you are thinking “you don’t need a piece of paper to do this” or “you don’t need to be married to have that”. But it is more than just a piece of paper. It is recognition. Recognition that my relationship is normal. Recognition that my relationship is NO different to your relationship. A marriage celebrant is obligated to say the phrase “marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” I would like to point out the most painful word in this sentence; EXCLUSION. We are literally excluded from marriage, excluded from having the same rights as everyone else in Australia. Marriage equality is not simply allowing us the right to marry whomever we choose, it is acknowledging love and the different forms it comes in. By not allowing us to get married it is cultivating a culture of exclusion and hate in Australia. It is further cementing the idea that our love is any different to the love between a man and a woman.
The message we are sending the young kids struggling with their own sexuality, is that their love is worthy of exclusion. That they do not deserve the same rights as that of their peers. There is only so much that I can do, talking to those around me, normalising homosexuality within my circle. It is time that something changes on a national level. Marriage equality is a human right.
Every day I am asked by people who see my engagement ring, “when is the big day?”. Every day, I have no answer to this question. Every day, I watch my friends plan their weddings, and I just have to wait. I am sick of waiting, Australia. Do it for the kids who are afraid to come out. Do it for the couples who have to fly overseas to get married. Do it, so we can be proud to be a country that accepts diversity. Just do it.
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