The rule in the business world is, when you get an email that makes you mad, you don't reply immediately. You sit on it. Maybe you sleep on it. Maybe you mutter all kinds of epithets about the pain who sent it to you. You only respond when you're calm, and you have removed all emotion from the equation.
When the news broke about this government's same-sex marriage postal vote, I tried to apply this principle. Although the story was at its most newsworthy last week, I couldn't bring myself to write about it. I was dumbfounded that the whole country had been invited to vote on my rights. I couldn't marshal my thoughts. There was so much noise coming from my silent laptop screen as I read all the vitriolic screeds in the press.
And there was a lot of noise coming from my own heart. Shock. Anger. Hurt.
So, I tried following Corporate Etiquette 101 and just held my tongue. I flagged Malcolm Turnbull's email to be actioned another day when I was less upset.
A week on, I've realised that day probably won't come.
What I keep coming back to is this: some bloke named Malcolm who I've never met, from some town I've never visited, is actively screwing up my life.
The sense of injustice is incomprehensible. I seesaw between rage (wanting to break stuff) and fetal-position withdrawal (letting the world break me). And on top of the rage and chaos is a looming pressure, because Turnbull's postal vote manoeuvre (which is a bit of a set up anyway) forces a choice.
Should I boycott the vote as being a total waste of time and money, as High Court Justice Michael Kirby considered doing?
Should I support the judicial challenge to the postal vote, like former national director of Australian Marriage Equality Rodney Croome?
Should I follow the leads of MP Alex Greenwich and Olympian Ian Thorpe and comedian Magda Szubanski and countless others and just start campaigning for the 'yes' vote?
It took me a week, but I've decided to campaign for my rights. It is so far below my dignity -- below all our dignity -- to do this. I don't like that I have to, but in the words of one of our greatest philosophers, Ice-T, 'don't hate the playa, hate the game.'
You may not agree with homosexuality, but this doesn't mean you should vote against our rights to be together and be equal. It doesn't affect you in the least if my partner and I get married or not.
For people already in the 'yes' camp, you already know the drill: enrol to vote, don't stuff glitter in your envelopes, campaign hard. Thank you for being deadset champions.
But I really want to speak to people who are thinking of voting 'no'.
If you're opposed to same-sex marriage, I'm not going to call you a bigot. Whether you are a bigot or not is kind of beside the point; the point is, if I call you a bigot, you'll react as defensively as I do when you call me a faggot. And that defensiveness only makes it easier and easier to breed contempt for one another.
Let's not do that dance today. We can't talk to one another if we're shouting each other down.
So, if you're wanting to vote 'no', for any reason, I want to recognise that you're a human being. That I probably have little to no insight into your journey, because I don't know you. I don't know why you tend to take a conservative stance on social issues. I don't know what pain or plight you've gone through in your life. I don't know how you came to be religious, whether it was your upbringing, or whether you found strength from a belief in God later in life and that helps you through your quotidian struggles. I can assume that -- although your stance on same-sex marriage differs from mine -- you ultimately want to do good in the world and do as little harm to other human beings as possible.
I am a human being, too. I've had a journey into which you have had little to no insight, because you don't know me.
Well, let me give you just a little insight.
I was born into a Catholic, Sicilian-Australian family and raised in the country town of Geraldton, WA. Gay people might as well have been unicorns when I was growing up. I didn't know any existed. I certainly didn't see any around. I remember my mates in Year 8 discussing gay guys, and someone asked me if I'd have a problem being friends with one.
"No way," I said, staunchly. "I couldn't be mates with someone like that."
Then puberty hit me like a storm front, and didn't I look like an idiot? I turned out to be a massive horse's hoof.
It wasn't a choice I made. Just a genetic reality. Something happened, beyond my control: I grew up liking boys, not girls. I tried to be straight at first. I contorted and bent myself to try to be normal, until it drove me to the point where I didn't want to be on this planet anymore. At that point, I realised I would rather be alive than dead, and so I accepted who I was.
I came out in 2008. I was lucky that my parents accepted me, but it's not the case for everyone. There are a lot of gay and lesbian people in Australia whose families completely reject them. The family's moral disgust doesn't make them straight, of course. They just go into hiding for the rest of their lives: unhappy and distressed, leading sad and aching double lives.
I met a guy at uni (he's awesome) and we've been together more than nine years now. In 2013, we travelled to Paris and, after a candlelit dinner cruise on the Seine, I proposed marriage to him. He said yes. It was ace.
We look forward to having a big party with our friends and family. To having our love recognised by the law of the land and celebrated the way all beautiful love should be celebrated in this world of war and strife and gloom and discord. A union of two loving souls: a wedding.
In 2013, we figured marriage equality was around the corner, but four years later, here we are, dealing with old mate Malcolm's Australia Post fiasco. This wasted time matters. It affects lives. Our parents are getting older. We fear them not being able to come to our wedding, like what happened to one of my Twitter pals, whose parents passed away before being able to see him walk down the aisle.
The reason I've told you my story is because of a text message I received yesterday. In fact, that message was the catalyst for this entire article. it was from one of my brother's mates. This man is a patriot, a soldier and a man who cares about family values. We like each other well enough, though we don't know each other well -- our interactions are through social media -- but he was driven to make contact.
And what he said blew me away.
He admitted he was once against same-sex marriage -- views he now calls 'archaic'. He said he now supported it and wished for my partner and me to stay together forever.
I was floored. I didn't realise that just being openly gay could have an effect on other people's views on homosexuality. That it might influence their views by osmosis.
But then it got me thinking about how people in their 50s and 60s and older have said to me that I was the first gay person they had ever known. How they once would have been against marriage equality, but knowing me and my partner, they just wanted us to be happy and if that meant we were married, what did they care?
They realised their lives would go on, and they could continue to hold their own morals and beliefs about homosexuality without stopping us from living our lives fully.
So I'm reaching out to you today with a suggestion: let's see each other as humans, and tolerate one another.
I don't subscribe to religious dogmas, but I would never vote against your right to practice your religion. It doesn't affect me in the least if you go to church every Sunday or not. Bully for you.
You may not agree with homosexuality, but this doesn't mean you should vote against our rights to be together and be equal. It doesn't affect you in the least if my partner and I get married or not. Bully for us.
You may see same-sex marriage as an idea you don't like, but it is more than that. This issue is about people. This issue is about me. If you vote 'no', you aren't voting down a theory or a policy. You are voting to stop some guy called Holden getting married to his fiancé. You are telling our parents they can't see their sons get married. You are voting to physically impede the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Australia -- and their families.
You don't have to vote 'no'.
I'm not suggesting you vote 'yes' to something you don't believe in, either.
I'm suggesting you consider abstaining from the vote altogether -- it's voluntary, after all. Get your ballot from the mail box and chuck it straight in the bin where it belongs.
You can maintain your moral beliefs without physically impeding our freedom and our happiness. You have the power to do some good here.
Marriage equality will eventually happen in Australia. None of us want this bitter argument to drag on any longer than it needs to: a 'no' vote in November won't stop us. We will keep campaigning until we have equality -- but why spend all our time and energy on arguing for longer than we need to?
Let's get it over and done with now, and move on with our lives.
If you're opposed to same-sex marriage, abstain from this vote, and let's make this country a more tolerant and happy place for all of us.Suggest a correction