Peta and Sian Gammie are best friends. They laugh together, cry together and they’ve always had each other’s back, especially when they’ve been unlucky in love.
It’s the usual sister stuff – the parallels of upbringings helping to nurture bonds that only siblings understand.
But today, Peta feels helpless. She can’t take away her sister’s heartache.
‘’My little sister is going through something that I can’t ever truly understand,’’ the Wollongong mum explains.
‘’Although I am a great ally, I am not actually part of the minority community that is nationally being discriminated against.
‘’My sexuality is not discussed in the media. My worth as a parent has never been questioned.’’
Ever since politicians first suggested a postal vote on equal marriage rights, Peta has been sick with anxiety about what is in store for members of the LGBTI community.
I am one of four girls. From the moment my two little sisters were born, I was hooked. They became my light, my joy, my dolls, my fascination and obsession. I remember from a very young age feeling so personally outraged if they were in trouble or if I thought something unjust was happening to them. I could never say no to them and made it my mission to be there for and with them, to understand and listen and hopefully (though not very achieveably) also to fix.
"So even if you can’t bring yourself to vote yes, ask yourself if you can really bring yourself to say no.’’- Peta Gammie
Not everybody is lucky enough to have siblings they adore, but we are - we are each other’s best friends, we make each other laugh, we support each other and we understand each other in that unique way that you understand someone with whom you entirely share background, circumstance and history. We have so much in common: we’re all women, we’re all feminists, we’re all university educated and have moved out of home, we’ve all fallen in love with at least one idiot, we’ve all had our hearts broken and, so far, we’ve all been able to support each other, fully, knowing that we have a pretty parallel idea of what the other is going through.
Now I find myself lost. My little sister is going through something that, try as I might, I can’t ever truly understand. The fact is that, although I am a great ally, I am not actually part of the minority community that is nationally being discriminated against. My sexuality is not discussed in the media. My worth as a parent has never been questioned. Yet hers is, daily.
Since this postal vote has been suggested I have been sick with anxiety about what is going to face the LGBTI community, about the effect it will have on the vulnerable, the young. I am heartbroken and outraged. I am sad and so disappointed in our spineless governments, all of whom could have made this a quick decision and not opted for this drawn-out process. But I realise that I am feeling these things from a point of such privilege. I am feeling these things with acute empathy, but these terrible things are not happening day in, day out to me. Can you imagine how it would feel if your worth were up for debate nationally? If for some reason the government decided that that was okay too?
I know there are people who are compassionate yet confused about why this issue really matters (“it’s just marriage!”). This is not just about the physical act of marriage. It is about being fully included in society, it’s about being recognised as equal. And if you’re thinking “they are equal except ...” then stop yourself there because that’s exactly it. That “except” excludes, degrades and diminishes - it sets us apart when we should be together and makes difference where there should be sameness.
I can understand that for some people this is a difficult thing to support; perhaps it doesn’t exactly align with some of your own beliefs. Perhaps it’s just so far out of your experience that you can’t comprehend it. But ask yourself how much of an effect it will have on you, truly. Okay, so you don’t think it’s ‘quite right’ or maybe you think it’s ‘weird’ but is this an issue that is keeping you awake at night? Is it an issue that makes you so sad that sometimes you don’t feel like going to work/out in public? Is it an issue that stops you from doing any single thing in your own life?
If the Government were to grant equal rights for marriage, literally nothing would change for all us privileged folk.
Just like me, my sister can already have and raise children, she can get a mortgage with her partner, they could commit to each other with a ceremony of whatever grandiosity they choose. The only thing that changes is that my sister would be told finally and officially, you are equal. You matter. You are as much a part of our society as your sisters, as all other Australians.
So even if you can’t bring yourself to vote yes, ask yourself if you can really bring yourself to say no.
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