Coming Out

by Elmari W of Of Beauty Rich and Rare

 

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, up to 11% of Australians are “of diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity” (https://goo.gl/R76v1V). That is, approximately, a quarter of a million people. Many of those have not publicly acknowledged their sexual identity, making it all the more difficult to determine accurate numbers.

Regardless of the exact figures, statistically the vast majority of Australians have never had to “come out” to their friends, family or wider community.  While many have walked closely with a loved one on that journey, few have undertaken it themselves. We could share in Penny Wong’s tears when the result of the Same Sex Marriage postal survey were announced last week, as we can only imagine what the symbolic and practical significance of the outcome means to her. But most of us can only imagine.

In contrast, over half of the Australian population identified as Christian in the last census.  Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country since its colonial inception.  It has enjoyed a position of privilege, power and entitlement that has remained largely unchallenged. Until recently.

Defining Love, Defining Marriage

In Australia, the relationships of committed same-sex couples have been recognised and imparted similar legal rights as those of heterosexual couples in de facto partnerships.  They could enter into a civil partnership, but they could not marry.  Despite having rights akin to those of married couples, issues still arose around, for example, adoption and access to a sick or dying partner in hospital.

Homosexual couples wanted both the legal and symbolic recognition of their relationships’ equal status to that of heterosexual couples by being able to endorse it through the highest form of personal commitment Western law and society allowed two people – marriage.

Over my decade living in Australia, I have seen the tide shift from a slight majority either undecided or opposed to the notion of same sex marriage to a palpable, undeniable support for it. As more English-speaking Western countries started legalising same sex marriage, Australia’s refusal to do so saw it increasingly marginalised. All the while increasing the anger and heaping more pain on a group of people that have been subject to the kind of mental anguish most of us can only imagine.

The Place of Religion in Australian Society

In Australia, as in other similar countries, the greatest push-back against changing the traditional definition of marriage came from the conservative, usually religious, sectors of its society. But, unlike other similar countries, the debate threatened to become an all-out war.  As much as the war was about the equal rights for same-sex couples, it was a war about the place and future of religion in Australia.

Australians pride themselves on belonging to a country that is superior to its much-loved American cousins in many ways.  Universal healthcare, better social services, gun control, and no Bible belt of religious conservatism that wags the dog of our national politics. The same-sex marriage debate challenged the latter assumption in a big way.

The Turnbull government opting to outsource the decision to the Australian people rather than take direct responsibility for it within the decision-making apparatus already available for it, opened the floodgates for just the kind of vitriolic attacks it was predicted it would. On both sides.

As a mostly conservative Christian with fairly liberal political views, it was a difficult place to navigate.

Neither Here Nor There, But Both

The purpose of this post is a highly personal one. It is admit to my Christian friends and family that I voted “yes” in the postal survey, and proudly so. That I cried and was genuinely happy for what it meant for us as a country and the individuals impacted by the outcome. And it is to admit to my very liberal academic friends, colleagues and Twitter audience that I am a Christian. And not just any Christian. I’m one of the those Christians – the evangelical, happy-clappy type.

And, it is to show to everyone out there that we do exist: Politically liberal conservative Christians. We’re a rare breed, but we exist.

It is also the ask the question: When did we all suddenly turn into George W. Bush in front of that hanger post-9/11? Why must we either be for something or against something? Why do we keep participating in the perpetuating of false dichotomies we know we ourselves don’t prescribe to?

  • I am for gun control, but I’ve shot a gun (in a controlled environment!) and enjoyed it.
  • I am pro-choice in that I want women and girls to have access to safe abortions, but I am pro-life in that I want abortion to be a last resort and for us to create more viable options between raising the baby yourself and terminating the pregnancy.
  • I write about the deplorable treatment of ‘maids’ and ‘servants’, historically, which still goes on today, but there are days when I would love some cheap domestic help!

Most of us are only black and white on a handful of issues in our lives, and many might change those positions over the course a lifetime. Let us stop forcing that tapestry of gray into either a black box or a white one. Part of celebrating diversity is allowing for diversity and even contradictions within the same person, not just the broader society.

My greatest awe for my late father-in-law was his ability, even at the age of 92, to change his mind. He was never too old to reconsider a position he had held for longer than I’ve been alive. In that was his youthfulness, and also his zest and love for life. He held strongly to his principles, but loosely to his judgments. We can all learn from that.

 

 

I am a Coloured South African woman, best described as Cape Malay with some European thrown in for good measure. I’ve lived in Australia for over a decade and, during that time, have had the ridiculous privilege of becoming the mother to two feisty, beautiful, bright female souls. They are a proud mix of Anglo-Australian, Chinese and South African.

I am a political scientist (in international relations) by training, but have only recently started considering myself a historian. As I started my PhD in History in 2013, it was probably about time. My thesis considers domestic service in Australia and Britain from 1914 to 1945, with my research interests covering gender, labour, migration, and Aboriginal history.

 

Written for Rage Against the Machine Month.  If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here.   But first, leave a comment and let Elmarí know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Of Beauty Rich and Rare when you’re done.

 

 

Featured Image via http://www.wallp4desktop.blogspot.com

 

 

6 Comments

  1. I find myself in a similar space, being conservative in my own life but as liberal as possible when it involves others. It feels ridiculous that as a species we are still not able to acknowledge each others basic humanity. The fact that we have to not only talk about, but fight for all something called equality, or equal rights for all people, is disturbing, as it just seems like it should be passé, from a time before we possessed the means for cognitive thought. Thank you, Elmari, for shining your light in the dungeon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You touch on one of my pet peeves about the nature of political debate these days and you did something I hadn’t thought of before — tie it back to GWB post 9/11 and his challenge that you are either for us or against us. I argue regularly with people on both the right and the left, argue against their need to cast everything in black and white terms. Those on the right, as soon as they find out I call myself a liberal immediately blame me for Hillary Clinton — a candidate I have never voted for and whose campaigns I have never supported. On the left, when I plead for some sanity and rational thought, I am immediately relegated to being pro-Trump. There are many more examples. Black and white means you can put people in easy to understand boxes that allow you to stick with your preconceived judgments and biases. It makes the world an easier place to “understand.” What it doesn’t do is help anybody to actually understand the reality of other people or of the world we live in.

    But here’s the thing, I compare it to what I deal with in my professional life. I work for an elected official. When we started to worry about whether something might appear in the paper, the calculus is always the same. The allegation that may be made and reported on is easy to make and easy to understand. It is the explanation that demonstrates the allegation is untrue that is hard to make and harder to understand. It’s the same with a black and white world. That’s easy. It’s the shades of gray that are difficult to paint into the picture. Those of us who believe in gray will always be battling from behind as a result.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for your excellent article. This was such a powerful addition to the Rage Against the Machine event. I related to a much of what you said. For a lot of my life I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere because I was too conservative in some crowds and too liberal in others. I have learned over time that those designations were mostly judgments I put on myself rather than people putting them on me. While I am generally more on the liberal end of the continuum I have been able to be comfortable in either world. I’m not sure I can say that now though, especially when it comes to politics. I’m pretty riled up right now.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I appreciate your perspective and transparency. I am inspired by your 92 year old late father in law and his openness to changing his mind. To be fluid and flexible rather than anchored in beliefs is something I strive for.

    Liked by 1 person

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