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By Erin O’Loughlin

Australia is voting over same-sex marriage and people are complaining they are being discriminated against for their views

In an article in an Australian newspaper on Saturday, a Mrs Karina Okotel is bemoaning the “vitriolic abuse” she’s received for airing her views against same-sex marriage. I’m going to go ahead and assume she’s a Mrs, because she talks about having had three children, and we all know that children should only take foetal form within sanctified marriage between a man and a woman.  Anyway, Mrs Okotel is upset because people think it’s acceptable to “vilify, mock, abuse and shame” her and her friends, because they publically air their view that same sex marriage shouldn’t be legalized. That is, she’s upset that people are using their freedom of speech to object to her using her freedom of speech. Just imagine—copping all that verbal abuse, simply because of your beliefs about human sexuality.

Oh wait… like every gay person ever, you mean?

But see, people against same-sex marriage are the new victims. And that’s because we’ve solved homophobia, thank god! Earlier this week, Tony Abott, Australia’s least popular ex-prime minister, said that gay people are basically not discriminated against anymore. And yes, he really did thank god, as if Old-Beardy-up-in-the-sky had anything to do with it.

You see, far from being victims, gay people are the new bullies, all unloving to anyone who disagrees with them. In fact LGBTQ supporters have been quite vociferous against people who say that gay marriage will destroy the institution of marriage and bring about social collapse just because they love someone with the same private parts as them. It’s hard for me to believe that Tony is not secretly indulging in some sort of satire, but sadly, no, he believes himself. Look at the double-think being employed there for a moment—gay people aren’t discriminated against anymore so we can rest easy about discriminating against them by not letting them marry. And could they stop saying mean things about me please?

Of course, it would be easy to dismiss Tony and Tony’s cronies as the irrelevant voices of bigots, if I didn’t have the creeping, gnawing fear that, in the same topsy-turvyness we’ve seen in politics recently, the anti-same-sex marriage group might prevail. In a world where people I know voted for Brexit and Trump, surely anything might happen. I’ve had my bubble well and truly popped. Which is why I don’t mind that the anti-same-sexers are being shouted down every time they open their little-minded “I’m not homophobic but…” mouths.

It doesn’t matter how many times we tell the “No” group that same-sex marriage has been allowed in other countries and civilization hasn’t collapsed, they believe that Australia might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Mrs. Okotel isn’t homophobic, but, she’s worried that we simply don’t have enough empirical evidence yet to show that same-sex marriage is in fact undermining the very fabric of existence in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.

What are the consequences, the real consequences, that legalising gay marriage has had in other countries? Oh, those tricky left-wing liberal-hearted sodomists always say that the sky won’t fall in, don’t they? But has anyone actually checked? For example, in Massachusetts, innocent children (won’t somebody please think of the children!) were shown a picture book with a same-sex couple kissing. And when parents complained, the school said they would continue to show the picture book! The horror. Imagine if little Joey and Madge actually grew up understanding that sometimes men sometimes kiss other men and that the reason Tilda has two mommies is because they love each other and not because they’re god-defying harlots?

She also cites the shocking example of the baker in Ireland who refused to bake a cake with the words “Support gay marriage” on it and was found guilty of unlawful discrimination. But guess what? Refusing to serve someone because they are pro-gay marriage is not freedom of expression, it’s discrimination. Freedom of expression is saying “I don’t agree with your opinion”, not “I refuse to serve you because of your (lawfully held) opinion.” What’s with the baking world anyway? There seem to be so many cases of bakers refusing to bake “gay” wedding cakes that I’m starting to think it’s some sort of apocryphal urban legend. The bigoted baker lurking in wait for an unsuspecting bride and bride to enter his bakery, ready to deny them his fondant-shaping skills… I digress. The point is, Mrs Okotel wants to know, can we live in a world where innocent bakers are held accountable for the fact that their behavior discriminates against a traditionally discriminated-against minority group?

Somebody call Chicken Little…!

“What happens,” Mrs Okotel asks “when a whole generation who have grown up with same-sex marriage and gender theory as the norm become the legislators?” Good god, can you imagine? They might legislate that cakes can have any old thing written on them! They might grow into accepting, open-minded, loving individuals, who are curious about the spectrum of human sexuality that exists and all the ways in which we can love and be loved. Or grow into boys who wear dresses, of course. There’s always the worry that boys might want to wear dresses.

Mrs Okotel then introduces her friend Cella White, a “courageous woman who spoke out about her son [allegedly!] being told he could wear a dress in school as part of the Safe Schools program on the Coalition for Marriage’s television advertisement.” Never mind that the school says that never happened. Apparently, the school supports the Safe Schools program, and it is “clear” that the Safe Schools program encourages children to wear the uniform of their choice.

Leaving aside the idea that anyone could object to a program called “Safe schools”, designed to make school a safe environment for non-binary identifying children, let’s break that down a bit. Because this is the nub of the “No” argument—not whether one man can marry another man, or a woman can walk down the aisle towards her blushing bride—but the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage will create a society in which children are offered choices their parents don’t agree with. Adult choices, that will “confuse” them (i.e. trick them into thinking they are gay, when they would have grown up straight if you hadn’t talked about gay sex all the time!) and expose them to ideas that their parents don’t agree with.

But guess what, again? When it comes to your children’s sexual preferences, you as a parent don’t get to choose.

You get to support. You get to make judgement calls. You get to offer your own advice and experience and beliefs. But you don’t get to “choose”.

Cella White alleges her son was told he could wear a dress to school “if he wanted”. But she is basically saying that she doesn’t care what her son wants. She doesn’t want her son, or other boys, to be able to wear what they “want”, she wants boys to adhere to a strict heteronormative dress code that makes her feel comfortable, even if it is not what they themselves want to wear. Because somehow by wearing a dress if they want to, something terrible would happen. To them. To society. To her.

At the heart of this, as at the heart of so much of the opposition we’ve seen, is the cry to think of the children. Perhaps because No-ers somehow think that this is unanswerable. Who would want to harm children, after all? (Perverts! That’s who!) For Mrs Okotel, it is the irreparable harm done to the children who may never know their biological roots because they are raised by gay couples. It’s such a strawman argument that I’m not even going to bother to stutter out “But… adoption… and bad biological parents… and lesbians who are birth-mothers and gay men who use their own sperm… and families with three parents because there are two biological parents plus a gay partner… and what… the… fruitcake?”

Because I feel a little sad for Mrs Okotel and Mrs White, and I feel true sorrow for their children. I really hope that they grow up to be happily heteronormative. Because if not, they’re going to need the Safe Schools program, and they’re going to need parents who believe that Love is Love no matter what, no matter whether your grandkids share your genes, your son likes boys, or your daughter feels like she might be trapped in the wrong gender.  And if their kids turn out to be straight, heteronormative, CIS-gender identifying children, I hope they are nice people. Because if they taunt my beautiful five-year old son who quite likes to dress up as Princess Leia, or the gorgeous little girl next door with two mommies, or they become bakers who refuse to decorate a cake with “Long Live the Drag Queen!” for my next Ru Paul’s Drag Race party, then don’t expect me to feel very loving. I may even get a bit vitriolic.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have issued the same-sex marriage postal survey papers in which more than 16 million voters are eligible to vote. The form asks ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’

Everyone on the electoral roll should have a form by September 25.  The final deadline to return your vote is 6:00pm on November 7.

The result will be unveiled a week after that deadline passes on November 15.

Erin O’Loughlin is a writer, translator and self-confessed foodie.  Originally from Australia, she has lived all over the world including Japan, South Africa and Italy.  Her work has been published by Leopardskin & Limes, Brilliant Flash Fiction and FTB Press. She lives in Berlin, Germany.