Hedda Murray

TBS Boomers: What I’ve learned as a 50-something lesbian

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Approx Reading Time-11I’m a 50-something lesbian and have been with my partner for 31 years, but when marriage equality rolls around, I won’t be getting married. 

 

 

 

I’ve been “out” for about 30 years now. I’ve never thought of myself as an activist. I just quietly get on with my life with my partner of 31 years (count one year spent in the closet). We live in a suburb near the city. We have a home, a car, a dog, and a fat little goldfish called Goldie that does laps in its bowl by the kitchen sink. We’re just like most other people: we’re all for marriage equality and we’re so over this never-ending debate.

But one thing I know for sure – attitudes and perspectives on marriage equality have changed with time. Take us for example. If I go back a number of years, I can point to a time when we didn’t support marriage equality at all.

In about 2009 we were mooching around in the local mall, doing the shopping and pushing our trolley. When we emerged into the sunlight we heard a bit of a demo going on, so we turned our trolley toward the crowd to find out what it was all about. It was a marriage equality demo and the square was full of bright young things, loads of lesbians, gays, queer folk with earnest calls for action.

Rudd was the prime minister at the time. Bumping along the edges of that demo, pushing our trolley and trying not to run over anybody’s toes, we felt somehow old and jaded. Why on earth would these young people want to sign on to a conservative, heterosexual institution? We scoffed, thinking how conservative young people are these days. Marriage is such an out-dated institution. “Why not,” we asked ourselves, “ban marriage itself?” We would all be equal then and it would sure cut the divorce rate.

Our position is about choice. With choice comes dignity, respect, and validation: courtesies not yet extended to lesbians and gays under the law. If people want to get married it should be up to them, who are we to stop them?

In 2013, Gillard as PM came out claiming that she didn’t believe in marriage either. “Ahh, a woman after my own heart,” I thought. But by now, momentum for marriage equality had grown and many argued that she rejected marriage equality because she was tangled in a mire of Right factional politics and feminist ideology.

Nothing wrong with feminist ideology I say, yet there were cries that she was standing in the way of progress. Maybe in my small way I was standing in the way of progress, too? Nevertheless, I still had a niggling feeling that some part of her argument was not to be dismissed.

It was at about this time that I had an irritating encounter with a GP. It was an incident that drove me to write to a local gay magazine in outrage. I had gone to see him over a sore throat but the first thing he enquired about was whether I was married. I said I wasn’t but had been with my female partner for decades. He told me, and I quote, “If you are not married to a man then you are a single woman and that is what I will put into the computer.”

The law insists I am de facto, that GP insists I am single – what’s a girl to make of it all, and where was my voice in this matter? Where was my choice? It was somehow outrageous that I was to be “told” what my marital status was and that it could vary depending on some third party’s standpoint.

Life was moving rapidly and that same year we had Abbott as PM. There was soon to be a ruckus: marriage equality was to momentarily exist in the ACT – 27 lesbian and gay couples got married. I felt strangely chuffed until the Attorney General stepped in and the marriages were made invalid.


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Interestingly I can only remember those married couples being older. Of course, that may just be the impression the media gave us, or perhaps my memory is selective. But it was obvious at this juncture that this was not just a cause for young people. People my age and older were wanting to get married.

But even as those ACT marriages were overturned by the High Court, it made me sit up and pay a hell of a lot more attention to what was going on. And what was going on was that, like many Australians, we were changing our perspective.

We had no burning interest or desire for marriage – still don’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support marriage equality. I know, I know, it sounds weird and somehow contradictory, but our position is about choice. With choice comes dignity, respect, and validation: courtesies not yet extended to lesbians and gays under the law. If people want to get married it should be up to them, who are we to stop them?

Yes, we totally support marriage equality now. And as the plebiscite is dead in the water, we hope that Turnbull, or whoever’s next, can resolve the issue in a just and non-discriminatory manner sooner rather than later. I sure don’t want to be writing about this again in another three years’ time; that would be too tiresome.

When marriage equality comes, and come it will, we won’t be getting married. But we will be celebrating with friends and family that we are able to finally choose a de facto lifestyle. Heck, we might even have a cake but we won’t insist that any reluctant baker make it – that would be just too controversial!

 

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