An LGBTQ+ Person's Thought on Marriage Equality in Australia
My name is Melodie, & I’m a gay South African-born woman who moved to Australia as a child.
Growing up as an LGBTQIA+ immigrant in Australia has been an interesting experience. Throughout my life (albeit only 18 short years), I have shifted through a variety of environments & paradigms about my sexuality. These experiences have left me with a unique perspective on the future of LGBTQ+ Australians.
Thoughts From An LGBT+ South African Growing up In Australia
My Childhood & Growing up Christian
When I was 5 years old, I moved to Australia from South Africa with my parents & two older sisters.
My family was, & is, a family of devout Christians. My childhood here consisted of attending church every Sunday, being taught about the Bible in Sunday school & listening to my parents argue about every kind of organisational task under the sun they were involved with at Church.
This environment led me to become obsessive about my religion. I prayed every night & read the bible more than any 12-year-old probably should. Eventually, as I became more in touch with my inner-self, this obsession began to conflict with my homosexual feelings & desires.
I was constantly sick to the stomach with anxiety about this issue. At the age of 12, I told my father about my sexuality-related anxieties, & he laughed & said “That’s impossible Mel, you like boys too much!”
Little did he, or myself for that matter, realise that my ‘attraction’ to men was merely a farce I used to convince myself that I was normal, that I was okay & that the essence of my being did not conflict with my religion.
This was a very difficult time in my childhood filled with frustration & repression. Then, as life seems to go, everything suddenly changed.
My lucky coming of age
At the age of 14, I moved to Brisbane (which was the ‘big smoke’ for little Central Queensland me!)
Here, I attended an art school that was built on values of inclusion & respect. From then on I was exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints - ranging from sexuality to philosophy to art, & my worldview began to exponentially expand!
I began to drift from organised religion, although I was still very much spiritual & faithful. I was free from the prison that being obsessed with religion had placed on my mind. I began to discover my sexuality, in an environment that was entirely accepting.
I am eternally grateful for this experience, but of course, all good things cannot last forever.
Exposure to the real world
At 17 I decided to take a leap of faith & moved to Canberra to study my passion of politics.
Although most university students are extremely accepting, moving here & having my first serious relationship has truly shown me that not the whole world is as ‘rosy’ as my inclusive art school.
My girlfriend did not come out to her school friends or family members until the age of 19, whereas I had been out since 16! Her constant awareness of the gazes of judgemental people on the street when we hold hands & her high school experience has made me realise that not everybody feels safe & respected.
Up until that point, I was very naive.
I believed that Australia had moved beyond bigotry because of the school I attended & the people I knew. Having these discussions with my girlfriend, & making the painful realisation that she is not always comfortable holding my hand (& more scarily so, that this is often because she is worried about my safety), has made me realise that we, & many of our LGBTQIA+ friends do not feel safe, & with good reason.
Although most Australians support LGBT+ rights, there is a loud minority that do not. Worse yet, this lack of inclusion is affirmed by Australian marriage law.
So, what? Why Should this Matter to You?
These experiences throughout my life - the conservative environment I grew up in, the unequivocally accepting school I attended, & the realisations I’ve had in my relationship - have shaped my perspective on LGBTQIA+ life in Australia. I think that many LGBT people & allies incorrectly assume that our fight is almost over, that the only thing we have left to do is get gay marriage legalised.
I believe there is a deeper problem, & we must ensure that we do not stop fighting now - we must continue to actively teach our peers & younger generations to love, to respect & to value ALL Australians, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or religion.
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About The Author - Melodie Van Wyk
Mel is an 18 year old South African expat.
She’s a full-time student of politics at the Australian National University, who loves annoying her friends & family with politically-charged rants whenever she gets the chance. In her free time, she likes to read articles & watch dog videos.