How My Life Has Changed Since Australia Voted YES

Equality feels bloody great.

I didn’t want to cry when I saw the ‘yes’ vote come through last November. For one thing, I still subconsciously think it’s unmanly to cry. For another, I wanted to inoculate myself against getting too excited. I wanted to wait until good ol’ Queen Liz had given it her royal OK.

But when the result broke, a cloud of endorphins and adrenaline and pent-up pain cut loose on my nervous system. There I was, sobbing into my morning oats like a total lumberjack.

My fiancé and I stood in the lounge room, hugging and crying. Finally, after 10 years together, we could get married.

Six months has passed since marriage equality became law across Australia, so it seemed like a good chance to reflect on how, as a gay Aussie, the yes vote has changed my life.

The Anger is Gone

The most immediate impact of the yes vote was to my mental state. We were all so angry for so long: a sustained, barely-tempered rage was the white noise in the background of our lives. The injustice of having to put our lives on hold, ad infinitum, was intolerable and yet inescapable for so long: part and parcel of being gay in Australia.

The yes vote was the beginning of our healing. We can lay down arms and move forward with our lives (and our wedding plans).

"Our wedding is no longer a pot of gold at the end of a distant rainbow" Image: Supplied.

Equality Feels Bloody Great

Okay, you could argue it’s just a piece of paper. But now we can actually get the piece of paper, it feels bloody great!

As much as I’m proud of being different, it feels very comfortable to be treated like every other human being in the face of the law. I don’t feel inferior to my straight mates. I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with me. I don’t feel like I have anything to be ashamed of.

I feel like a full citizen.

Hate is Easier to Tune Out

You know how, every so often, some nimrod burrows their way out of the woodwork to make some batshit crazy claim about homosexuality?

This used to hurt a lot. Sure, we learned to laugh off the uber-silly Margaret Courts and Cory Bernardis of the world. But it was one of those ‘laugh, or you’ll cry’ deals. Because it wasn’t funny to be told, for the umpteenth time, that being homosexual made us morally compromised, or sick, or evil.

Homophobia is still damaging, but it can no longer be employed to withhold our right to marry. It’s empty, and it has no power over us anymore.

Israel Folau can spout his nonsense until he's Twitter-bird-blue in the face, but I won’t hear him over the sound of wedding bells.

 My Love Is No Longer Political

Before marriage equality, mentioning I was engaged to a bloke was fraught, especially at work.

If my colleague was pro-gay, a 10-minute diatribe would ensue about how it was ‘sooo ridiculous’ that it wasn’t already legal. And I agreed, of course, but it rapidly became exhausting getting sucked into political conversations half a dozen times a day.

And if my colleague was anti-gay, they would go deathly silent and quickly abandon the conversation. From that day, they would avoid me the way most people avoid those annoying salespeople flogging Himalayan salt lamps in shopping malls.

Since marriage equality became legal, people actually ask me about my wedding, and I’m given space to talk about it – like everyone else.

Moreover, I now hear people talking about their gay mates getting married, even at work – and nobody bats an eyelid. It’s normal.

"When my fiancé reaches for my hand now, I don’t feel I need to check my surroundings are safe." Image: Getty.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

My fiancé and I have always walked hand-in-hand at the shops. It’s the most normal thing in the world because it’s what couples do, but we always felt our skin prickle with judgment. Our families would caution us to be careful: the spectre of gay-bashing lingered in the air; the prospect of personal menace was the perpetual threat for living openly.

And because of this, a loving action felt politicised. The world told us we were making a gaudy statement, drawing attention to ourselves, when we just wanted to hold hands like every other couple we passed.

Since the ‘yes’ vote came in, it’s comforting to know two-thirds of people we pass in the street support our right to marry. There’s also been an increase in nods and smiles from passing strangers. It gives the public domain a sense of safety and acceptance it didn’t have before: we have quantified Australia’s opinion of homosexuality, and it is vastly approving.

So when my fiancé reaches for my hand now, I don’t feel I need to check my surroundings are safe, or that there aren’t too many people watching.

My hand feels free to embrace his.

We Can Actually Get Married – And We Are

I proposed to my boyfriend in 2013. He said yes (phew). Five years on, with marriage equality now law, our wedding is no longer a pot of gold at the end of a distant rainbow. It’s real. Our ‘someday, hopefully’ has become ‘one day in 2019’.

And now we’re mired in wedding planning chaos. Sketching out the guest list. Sussing out venues. Scoping out caterers. Choosing a song for our first dance.

Of course, like any self-respecting homosexuals, the first thing we did was pretty obvious. Within hours of the vote result coming through, we went straight to church.

By which I mean gay church.

By which I mean the gym.

After all, we’ve only got a few months to get into shape. Homos wanna look good in their tuxes.

"I do." Image: Getty.