The wedding was outside. It was a crisp autumn afternoon; the loved up couple were under a huge Moreton Bay Fig exchanging tender hand written vows. A lady with blue hair was singing a song that seemed to be called “I choose you.” I was holding back the tears as something sharp was pressed into my hand. I looked down and my hand was full of coloured sequins, too many for me to hold. A small blond child was weaving his way through the crowd dispersing little rainbow handfuls from a large plastic bag of confetti.
I turned to the couple behind me to share. “Do you need some?” I whispered. There was a shuffling and a smile as the man responded “We brought rocks.” My eyes expanded and my eyebrows hit my hairline before I saw his big smile. I collapsed into laughter as his wife rolled her eyes. This was my first same sex wedding and I was navigating new territory. I later found out he was the bride’s brother, from a place near Tamworth, I imagine after years of brotherly teasing and jibes, it wasn’t his first rodeo.
This couple are courageous, honest and full of love and support. They come up against prejudice daily. I didn’t understand how difficult it was for them, thinking that most of the country now supports same sex marriage.
I didn’t understand until recently that often in order to retain employment, friendships, or status in family or society, many LGBTQI people let harsh judgements or jokes slide, rather than rising up and facing the inevitable ugly backlash, sometimes violence and often social exclusion.
Reflecting on my own experience and watching the Netflix series Sex Education, I began to realise a lot of the prejudice comes from my generation or beyond. The generation below me are much more socially savvy, accepting and brave. I watch in admiration as students come out in school, inspired by celebrities, musicians, YouTubers or Vloggers and often supported by their families. They are braver than we ever were.
I think about the same sex marriage vote where the majority of Australia voted (61%) for same sex marriage. It seems to me like a basic human right, you get to love who you want and marry them if you want, or don’t want. My daughter didn’t understand why it was even something we needed to vote for. “You should be able to marry whoever you love.” She said. Yep, simple. Some couples I know don’t want to be married as they see it as too mainstream or they don’t feel they need rigorous rules to govern them. Gay or straight. It’s now at least, a choice.
A few hundred years ago, marrying for love wasn’t a choice. We were indeed a minority group. Marrying for property, trade, social status or bloodlines was more common. Marrying for love was rare and often condemned. Couples eloped, if their families didn’t agree to the union, fled the country or even took their own lives Romeo and Juliet fashion. So marrying for love was seen as strange and against the norm or counter cultural.
Now we see this as normal, traditional and pretty much bog standard. Man and women marry to raise nuclear families, two kids in a suburban block. Bob’s your uncle. Or brother-in-law in my case. Correction, ex brother-in-law but still included in our messy mix of a modern family, because families are changing.
Things have shifted dramatically in the last thirty or so years so to make the nuclear family a rarity. With contraception more readily available there are less adoptions, divorce is more attainable meaning more blended families and step siblings. IVF allows previously infertile couples or gay couples to have children; surrogacy in many countries makes it easier for women to have children whether in a partnership or not. Single parent families are supported in a way they were never before, allowing women to escape domestic violence or to separate without becoming destitute. Families are multi-faceted and diverse. So is life and that’s what makes it beautiful. It would make for a very uninteresting life if we were all the same.
As much as families are changing, attitudes seem to be a little slower to catch up. Some hold fast to the shelter and protection of religion and to archaic texts which also advise stoning adulterers, sacrificing one’s own children and cutting the hands off thieves. If only we updated our thinking as often as we updated our phones. If only we could plug in for the night and wake up with the 2019 revision and not 1950. The one thing religion taught me was to love they neighbour and to be kind, tolerant and inclusive. I don’t know if I believe in God anymore but I still believe in values and I still pray for a better world.
I wonder about how we select our clothing and food from organic, free trade suppliers, we recycle to try to save marine life, the trees, the planet, and yet we show such harshness to each other. Whether you believe in it or not, the polar icecaps are melting, our resources are dwindling and all we have is ourselves and each other. In my final hours when I take my last breath on earth, if there is one hand outstretched for me to hold, I don’t care if it is male or female. It is a hand. I choose compassion. I choose you.