What a no vote really means
For those reading abroad, or for some incredibly unlikely reason without any connection to the internet bar this page - Australia is currently in the middle of a controversial campaign about marriage equality, and it's been fantastic to see how many companies have openly thrown their support behind marriage equality. Every voice helps, and I'd like like to use ours to highlight something which we, as a company, believe is incredibly important in this survey.
I wrote a personal Facebook post recently, in no way related to my role with Churchill Gowns. I called upon any of my friends who might consider voting no for reasons of religion or tradition to re-think their vote. I knew this would be a touchy topic, but I wanted to make one thing clear: this should not be considered 'just an opinion poll'. I wrote:
"To any of my friends that have liked this or similar posts, because of your religion or simply because of tradition.
You are not expressing your opinion on what you think marriage should mean. Despite this being a survey, you are voting to deny a group of people a basic right.
You are contributing to their ongoing persecution, bringing people pain and suffering.
Please do not take this vote lightly, as the opinion poll it purports to be. This is a vote with real consequences that affects your and my friends. A no vote will break people's hearts, and continue to encourage the kind of bullying and discrimination that drives countless young people into despair.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Think hard about what your vote really means, and the consequences it will have on real people in our lives.
Before you vote no, ask yourself this: are you OK contributing to all that pain? I hope not."
It was an impassioned plea to think beyond how you, the reader, might feel about the topic, and to really think hard about how your vote affects other people. I have friends that are opposed to same sex marriage because of their religious beliefs; others because of tradition, and others who just feel uncomfortable about the idea of LGBTI people getting married because, well, they're just uncomfortable.
I respect that feeling of discomfort - we're all uncomfortable with unfamiliarity - and I don't want to tell people how they should feel. But I do want them to understand that they're not just shouting their opinion into the void. Their opinion hits someone out there very hard, whether they see the feedback or not.
This facebook post of mine quickly received some very negative comments from people I don't know. One person in particular referred to the "perversions" of LGBTI people, saying "harden up princesses... Enough of the self-pity, for goodness sake!". When I asked whether it bothered her that comments like this are what contribute to higher rates of depression and suicide in the LBGTI community, another reader responded with, "...if they are that unstable that the words of a random stranger on facebook is going to tip them over the edge then they need to get some help... Lay off the guilt trip".
If you're considering voting no, please recognise this: it won't be the voice of a random stranger. It will be the voice of millions of people shouting at the LGBTI community, telling them they're not equal. It will be the chorus to a song that's been playing their whole lives, built upon a seemingly endless stream of bullying and hate.
Can you imagine how awful it is having people tell you regularly that you're perverted? Can you imagine how depressing it would be when, after it becomes too much and you break down and cry, they just tell you to harden up? It may not be your opinion and you may not be the one saying those words, but that is what will be heard by so many people.
LGBTI people between the ages of 16 and 27 years old are five times more likely to commit suicide. They are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. A majority no vote will be a message condoning all those bullies that have brought so much pain into their lives, whether that is your intention or not.
So before you vote no, ask yourself this: are you OK contributing to all that pain?
If not, then perhaps it's time to put your discomfort aside.
Director, Churchill Gowns