Hooray Fuck for the Yes Vote - an Open Letter from Members of the Disability Community

Two women are laughing.  One is a wheelchair user.  They are standing in puddles of different coloured light in the colours of the rainbow, caused by spotlights.

Dear LGBTIQ+ Community

I would like to extend our love, support and solidarity today, the day after a decision where sixty one percent of our nation voted for you to have the same rights as other Australians.

I am fifty. The year I was born, 1967, was the last time that the rights of a group of Australians were voted on.  But on that occasion, it was a referendum, not a plebiscite, which is effectively an opinion poll - which government are not obliged to act upon.  The referendum asked whether Aboriginal people should be included in the census and whether the Commonwealth government should make laws for First Nations people.  That included the 'right to marry freely'.  Three states voted against that right, and the Territories were excluded. 

But that was fifty years ago, and this is 2017.  

I can't help but wonder how it must have felt for those Aboriginal people to know that about 10% of the population did not regard them as human and deserving of the same rights of other people, in the land which they owned (and still own).  Just as I cannot imagine what today feels like for those who do not know who the forty percent of Australians are who voted against their rights.  

Like other members of the disability community, I do know what it is like to be excluded and to feel like a second class citizen.  I think today of those members of my own community, those who are queer and also disabled, who face the double disadvantage of exclusion, discrimination, ableism, homophobia and ableism on a daily basis.  

I wonder what your today feels like, because it is very much a Hooray Fuck situation - my personal analogy as a wheelchair user is that when we vehemently campaign for a ramp to be put into a building, it's about just giving us the same right as others to have access to something. 

We're often told that it is 'too hard', that the way an aesthetically pleasing building looks is more important than our right to access it, that it's 'unfortunate' but just one of those things.  Or they do not care.  Disabled people in this country are still paid as little as .33c an hour.  People regularly campaign against our rights.  We're also told on a daily basis in discussions about issues like eugenics and euthanasia that we are an aberration, an abomination, that our lives are not worth living. 

Our community shares the effects of trauma, discrimination, bigotry and hate speech with you. 

Those things happen and are still happening, but yesterday the majority of Australians rejected those ideas and voted yes.

Hooray Fuck.

It still feels very much like 1967 and I do not know how your community has dealt with the past few months.  But I would like to offer a few reassuring and hopefully comforting thoughts as a measure of solidarity.

1.  You now know the best places in Australia (well, the least homophobic) to visit.  The mapped results on news sites read like a slightly less fucked up Queen of the Desert Virtual Tour. 

2.  What a fabulous sense of pride those 'pink towns', the electorates who delivered a resounding YES, must feel right now - not to mention a feeling of comparative safety and acceptance for the LGBTIQ+ population who live within those boundaries.

3.  It's of some cold comfort, but thirty nine percent of the population are allies.  Perhaps more, as twenty percent did not vote, for many reasons.  There may be a bunch of people in that crowd who don't think you deserve the same rights as they do, but if you're in that crowd, you know that a large proportion of us have got your back. We won't stop fighting alongside you until you have the same rights as other Australians.

4.  Peer pressure is a thing.  It's a clear message to that thirty nine percent that they are in the minority when it comes to popular opinion and doing the right thing.

5.  We recognise your trauma and know that it is real.  The toxic campaigns that have been conducted against members of the LGBTIQ+ community, as well as the plebiscite itself, have impacted the community with lasting negative effects, including on children and members of the trans community.  LGBTIQ folks have significantly poorer mental health and higher rates of suicide than other Australians. 

The inquiry into the plebiscite included a submission from the Australian Psychological Society, who offered compelling evidence about the increase in mental health issues amongst the LGBTIQ+ population and their families.  We offer our support during this time.

6.  What a fabulous sense of pride those 'pink towns' must feel right now - not to mention a feeling of comparative safety for the LGBTIQ+ population.

7.  Our people are predominantly allies, despite many of us being ineligible to vote on the grounds of disability.  The issue of not being able to vote has meant that our people have lobbied vehemently for voting rights for the disabled.  

The electorate of Brand in WA had the highest number of yes votes in the state, not least through the lobbying efforts of people like Rockingham Marriage Equality co-convenor and new Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, whose public commitment to marriage equality has been vehemently expressed.   The Senator is 23 and is a vocal member of the disability community.   Senator Steele-John also spoke about the bigotry expressed towards members of the LGBTIQ+ community, the resulting effects and what needs to happen next.  

8.  Gen Y got it.  The participation rate of 18-19 year olds – 78.2% - was almost as high as that of the whole population, 79.5%. The participation rate among Gen Y’s (18-34 year-olds) was above 75% overall.  And conservative voters are more likely to be older - that signals a less bigoted world for a future Australia.  The world that our children and yours will be born into and a less stigmatised world for rainbow children.

9.  Not everyone voted no on the basis of bigotry and homophobia.  Hard to believe, I know, but there were many people with spiritual beliefs who genuinely struggled with the conflict between following what was dictated by their religion and their desire to make sure LGBTIQ+ couples were able to access the same rights as other Australians.  Many Christians and others Only 18.7% of Australians identify as having 'no religion' - that's almost eighty percent who were possibly influenced by their spiritual beliefs. 

10.  You won.  We won.  That's the first step toward making a more inclusive world, where our existing rights are upheld.

The next fight is to make this real.  They know what the Australian people want, there's a looming election and there have been public commitments made, including a Bill introduced on the same day as the result and a public commitment from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  Today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate.  Together.


If you or someone you know needs help, call:

NB  The terms 'we' and 'us' in this blog post also recognises queer crips and disabled people from the LGBTIQ+ community all over Australia. 


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