Somewhere, over the rainbow


I thought I was doing ok during this ridiculous, divisive debate in which my “fellow’ Australians are being asked to make a decision about my life, my rights as a fellow Australian citizen, and therefore give their opinion about my relationship and my family.  The survey arrived the other week and I left it on the table for days, I couldn’t bring myself to complete it.  It felt like I was in denial and I kept asking myself “how can this be happening”?

We eventually ticked the boxes and posted them off. I didn’t feel the least bit celebratory, though we took the obligatory photo of the pieces of paper that asked us to validate our own existence; these expensive pieces of paper that have been delivered to millions of strangers so they can pass judgement on us.

Anyway, I thought I was ok. I had been buoyed by the polls in the last few years that told me 75% of my fellow Australians thought same sex marriage was long overdue. I was hopeful that our elected representatives would do what they were paid to do – lead the country, make decisions for the good of the nation, refuse to allow hatred and discrimination to inform their decisions.

Yet no, here we are with a non-binding, non-compulsory, astronomically expensive postal survey that has been shown to have no integrity (think stolen surveys, undelivered mail, envelopes dumped in the rain) and that has revealed a dark and hateful side of our populace. Sanctioned by a gutless government that refused to show leadership, a hypocritical government that refused to stand for equal rights.  We’ve quickly became an Orwellian nation: all citizens are equal, except well, obviously, the gays are not as equal…and don’t get me started on those transgender ones…

I tell myself everyday not to read the newsfeeds and definitely don’t scroll down and read the comments, but it’s compelling stuff. Maybe I’ve been naïve living here in the bubble that is the Republic of Canberra, surrounded by people who are loving, kind, open-hearted, progressive and fairly egalitarian.  The news, the posts and the comments devastate me. I read about people being bashed, being yelled at on public transport, I hear the “No” campaigners whine about being bullied (I mean, really? Really?). I read about people’s houses being vandalised, rocks thrown through windows, and vile language used to describe gay people – disgusting derogatory terms I haven’t heard for a very long time. I see how sad my friends are, I see how their mental health suffers and I feel how hurt we all are.

Every day my heart breaks a little bit more. I love my partner; we chose to commit to each other and we have built a life together; we celebrate and cherish all that we have. We have family and friends who love us.  Yet there is this seething underbelly in the community that hates us, loathes our very existence, makes a seemingly simple question give them permission to spew vitriol over us.

What are they so afraid of?


*Photo credit: Google

When my grandmother died

When my grandmother died not long ago, at the ripe old age of 97, I was very sad. Here was a woman who had loved me all my years, a woman who I remember with every cell in my body, who was the linchpin of my large flawed family and had the sweetest Geordie/Irish accent you’ve ever heard.  I posted a picture of her on Facebook, with her twinkling, smiling eyes.  “At least you had her for so long”, commented one friend.

“At least you had her for so long”!!  Just because she was a great age when she died?  Does it mean I should love her less? My 1 year old cousin only had her for a year. Would you say at least you had her longer than he did, that somehow one year of love is worth less than fifty? Does it mean I won’t miss her as much? Are you envious because your grandmother died sooner than mine?

When my best friend died, an acquaintance said, “Oh at least you got to see her a lot before she died”.  And if I hadn’t, what then?  “At least you got to have dinner with her six months ago, before she got sick, before she died” (Oh yeah, great. Lovely). “At least you didn’t lose more than one best friend” (Oh but I did). “At least she died with her family around her” (um, no, we weren’t all there). “At least you have shared memories with others (no, she held the memories). “Well, at least…” Jesus Pollyanna, shut the hell up with your platitudes and ridiculous “at leasts”.

You hear it a lot in the face of tragedy and sadness. “At least he was unconscious”. “At least you got home in time to see your father, (ravaged with disease and delirious with pain)…before he died”. “At least her daughters were in their twenties when she died. At least they had a mother to grow up with”. “At least they had wills…imagine if they didn’t”. “At least the baby was born and you got to hold him…before he died.”

“At least”…. It’s a term used to add a positive comment to a negative situation. People like my acquaintance, Pollyanna Perfect, say it all the time to make people feel better. It’s part of her stock standard patter.   But you know, it also means “at the minimum”. You should clean your house at least once a week. You should service your car at least twice a year. At least I saw her once before she died. At least I saw her when she died. At least I went to her funeral. At least I remembered her birthday.

“At the minimum, you saw her (once) before she died”. “At the minimum, you got to hold the baby (once)”. “At the minimum, you got to the funeral (once)”.

“At least” diminishes. Repeated and repeated, statements lose all meaning.  At least you saw her before she died. Why is that comforting?  Why do you assume that comforts?  It doesn’t.  I want to see her now, alive, talking, laughing. I want her to remember me. I want to make new memories with her.

At least you have old ones.