CANBERRA -- Both Tony Abbott and Lyle Shelton this week denied homophobia exists today, but LGBTQ Australians have flooded Twitter with stories of vile abuse and harassment they have received just for going about their day-to-day lives.
Comedian and writer Josh Thomas kickstarted the #TheyGetToVote hashtag on Wednesday after replying to a (since-deleted) tweet criticising his contributions to the marriage equality survey debate.
SORRY IF MY SWEARS HURT YOUR FEELINGS IT'S JUST ONCE 4 GUYS KICKED ME UNTIL I BLED WHILE SHOUTING 'FAGGOT' AND THEY GET TO VOTE ON THIS https://t.co/yDToJqCT5B— Josh Thomas (@JoshThomas87) September 13, 2017
New hashtag: #TheyGetToVote. Where you say the homophobic abuse you've received or witnessed and remind the 'no' people what team the are on— Josh Thomas (@JoshThomas87) September 13, 2017
Thomas said the "they get to vote" hashtag came from the idea that people who dished out homophobic abuse and violence would be among those who have the opportunity to vote on whether the right to marry should be extended to the LGBTQ community.
Within hours, the hashtag was filled with people around the country sharing their own horror stories.
I held a boys hand at school and was pelted with rocks then they threw me in the urinal. Teacher told me to, "be more aware." #TheyGetToVote— BM (@macleanbrendan) September 13, 2017
The guy who yelled "fag" from the window of a moving car as he threw a whole orange at me. I was 17. #TheyGetToVote— "Author" (@CAricHanley) September 13, 2017
Head shoved into toilet wall, called a faggot and stalked by threatening school bullies who wanted to beat my brains in. #TheyGetToVote— Matt Bachl (@mattbachl) September 13, 2017
The hashtag has been mentioned hundreds of times since Wednesday, with a number of disturbing and upsetting stories being reported.
#Theygettovote i had rocks thrown at me, knocked down beaten and pissed on. Had a dead rat put in my school bag— Don Mackellar (@DonMackellar) September 13, 2017
Because my own grandparents and aunties and uncles rejected me and i was banned from going to their funerals .. because #TheyGetToVote 🌈— Mark (@bundybear2913) September 13, 2017
Having drinks poured on me in disgust the first time I made out with a boy in a club #TheyGetToVote— sidney prescott (@jamesllley) September 13, 2017
First & only time I held another boys hand in public I got bashed by a group of guys only the security guard stopped them) #TheyGetToVote— Sean P (@patullose) September 13, 2017
I was king hit in broad daylight for being a "filthy faggot", they got away without punishment.— ⠶Joshi Rose🌙 (@Beardedmom) September 13, 2017
While many of the stories featured vile abuse and actual violence, a number of others shared more emotional forms of discrimination and marginalisation they had experienced in their lives.
A whole class peer pressuring a girl into wearing a dress to the formal bc a girl in a suit would have "ruined the picture" #TheyGetToVote— JustineRose (@justinerosieee) September 13, 2017
Job listenings having "traditional family values" as a requirement as subtle a way to weed out gay people #TheyGetToVote— pastel homosexuality (@monicaaquirk) September 13, 2017
#TheyGetToVote My old school principal and archbishop etc gave everyone in my school a small booklet on how being gay is a sin and bad— #DEFENDDACA (@LovelessSid) September 13, 2017
You can see more on the #TheyGetToVote hashtag on Twitter.
The push comes in a week when prominent marriage equality opponents Shelton and Abbott claimed homophobia did not exist in Australia.
Shelton, the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, used his National Press Club address on Wednesday to claim it "doesn't exist much" and was used as a "convenient slur" by marriage equality advocates.
"I don't think it exists much in our country," Shelton said.
"Maybe there's some people who have that, but I think the vast majority of people that are engaging this debate from our side who are concerned don't bear ill will or animosity towards their fellow Australians regardless of their gender or sexual identity. I certainly don't," Shelton said.
"Homophobia implies irrational fear. That's not where the Coalition for Marriage is coming from, it's not where I'm coming from, I have been involved in this debate for a long time and I just think it's a convenient slur often used to try and intimidate people like us into silence."
The claim, in the face of much evidence, that homophobia was not an issue in Australia echoed comments from Tony Abbott in a newspaper opinion piece on Tuesday where he too claimed "it's a long time, thank God, since gay people have been discriminated against".