Thom: For many, myself included, the postal survey was a really tough time, and has left a scar that hasn’t healed quickly, if at all. What was your experience of the campaign like?
Paul: I remember people at the start of the survey process saying that this would be a hugely traumatic period for many in the LGBTQIA community. I don’t think I quite appreciated the gravity of that until it was brought to our home. I didn’t know that that level of anger, fear and violence intertwined with religious belief even existed. For me and my housemate, that resulted in very real feelings of fear for safety, panic attacks, and depression. The absolute euphoria of the positive result was quickly smashed by the events that followed it, in our case, becoming a target for a lot of anger.
That’s my experience, but also there are so many stories of others who have told me of house attacks, angry confrontations when campaigning, divisive political strategies fuelling the fire and families becoming estranged. All of this was so unnecessary when we now realise that the moral tide had turned and the majority of the population around the nation supported it all along. That is the only compensation I can take from all of this. It was shitty, painful, hurtful and unnecessary, but at the end of the day, we are making progress and slowly, equality is a goal that we are moving towards.
Lachlan: I was never a huge advocate for marriage equality. I am not religious and feel resistant of the type of hetero and patriarchal conformity it symbolises. People should be allowed to be queer and feral and many of us have identities that are not tied up in monogamy. I was in Mexico the day marriage equality was passed there [well before Australia did it] and it changed my view because I saw how important it was to my brothers and sisters. I also watched the campaign in Ireland because my long-term partner is Irish and was aware of how sweet and symbolic such a victory could be.
So, in the end I did a lot of work for the campaign, mainly for humanitarian convictions and because the smug righteousness of the NO campaign pissed me off. I did a lot of door knocking and volunteering at public places to encourage young people to get onto the electoral roll.
It was a horrible time for me because my long-term relationship was disintegrating so at the same time I was door knocking I had a very heavy heart. Most who door knocked had doors slammed in their faces, and that hurt. It also hurt to see that while most people were enjoying their day there were people marching around with YES t-shirts on spending hours trying to convince people to vote yes in the most absurd exercise in Australia’s democratic history. A postal plebiscite? I still cannot fathom it. It makes me so angry to hear Turnbull take credit for the plebiscite when he showed no spine at all. What a disaster he was as a leader.
Sadly, my relationship ended just before the plebiscite result was announced and that was tough. The whole period was a pretty blue time for me since I was writing a play about the gangs who had bashed and killed gay men in the 80’s and 90’s of Sydney’s coast, and also doing a lot of work with playwrights in rural Australia and seeing the type of vilification that they were subjected to during the campaign.