Best of 2017: Postal survey ends don't justify means



I woke up anxious. I got on the train and met my sister and we talked about what the result was going to be. My sister was sure of a yes; I wasn't so confident.

xxxxx'People thought Hillary was going to win and the UK was going to stay in the EU,' I reminded her. My sister bought me a dyed rainbow rose from Flinders Street Station, 'for the symbolism. So you'll have something physical of this day.' I smiled at her and twirled the rose over and over on the way to the tram.

In an article for The Age, Premier Daniel Andrews told LGBT+ people to 'keep standing up and speaking up ... keep telling us what you go through day-to-day'. For me, I've been doorknocking, calling, gone to rallies and written articles. I've been living my life; finishing one university program that I loved and applying for another one, checking in with friends, dealing with my mental health. I'm happy to report there were days that I didn't actively think about the postal vote, though most days I did.

When I wasn't thinking about the postal vote, I thought about how on Manus, there are 400 refugees who are still without water and food. I thought about Indigenous Australians still are fighting for recognition and how this year the Elijah Doughty demonstrations had hundreds of protestors while the same sex marriage rallies had thousands. The LGBT+ community didn't want this vote to happen, but I still feel guilt all the same that the same sex marriage debate has overshadowed these issues.

Every day, in the back of my mind, I thought about queer youth and marvelled how they could even be upright, let alone go to school or take exams. According to ReachOut, the user rate of youth hotlines has increased by 20 per cent in the last few months. I thought about how almost every LGBT+ person I talked to said how they felt like they are back 'in the closet' or 'in high school'. How I felt the same way.

So standing in front of Melbourne's State Library, I was near tears as the minutes ticked by. Five minutes, four, three ... the live stream that the yes campaign had set up kept glitching, so we only heard snatches of what was being said. What if it glitched on the announcement? A few people around us made jokes about 'bloody Turnbull's NBN'.

As the minutes wound down, pre-emptive tears started filling my eyes. Another crackle, then we heard that there were 7,817,247 yes votes, 'representing 61.6 per cent'. Everyone started yelling and crying. I hugged my sister and sobbed. Glitter bombs went off. The song, 'Celebrations', started to play. We stood amid the joy for a moment. Then it was over. 'Want to get something to eat?' my sister asked me.


"I don't think it will help Australians to whitewash over how terrible this actually was."


We walked around and I knew I should be happy, but I hadn't stopped feeling nervous. All the fear and anxiety that I had been carrying suddenly rose to the surface. Eventually I ran for the bathroom. When I was finished, I told my sister, 'I just threw up, how's that for symbolism?'

While I am relieved that the result is a yes, I agree with Andrews when he urged LGBT+ people to 'get mad'. I'm angry. I'm angry that the postal survey has, in some ways, consumed the last few months of my life, as well as all of Australia's attention. I'm angry that LGBT+ people were forced into the position of defending their own worth. I'm angry that when my mother and I sat down to do the survey, I was scared to look over at her paper.

And I'm angry because I've been tired and worried for months over something that could have been resolved years ago in parliament.

In the ensuing debate and talk about how love wins, we shouldn't let ourselves forget that this postal vote never should have happened in the first place, and nothing like this should happen again to any minority group. The public voting yes or no on human rights is not what democracy looks like. If we're the country that we say we are, we need to recognise that the postal vote was wrong and damaging to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

In Ireland, people from the yes side said the turmoil was worth it, to get a yes. And maybe I would feel differently if Australia had to do a referendum. But I think we shouldn't sell ourselves short. We should be better than 'tolerant' and better than treating others like second class citizens. I don't think it will help Australians to whitewash over how terrible this actually was. To me, the ends did not justify these means. 



Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

This article was originally published on 14 November 2017.

Topic tags: Neve Mahoney, marriage equality, asylum seekers, Aboriginal recognition


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Existing comments

Congrats. Neve on this article being selected, rightly, as 'one of the best' for 2017. Your equality, dignity and worth are given and the postal vote was an affront to all three. I'm sure your writing will continue to be as keen-eyed and passionate. Well done.
Pam | 10 January 2018

I agree with Neve, the LGBT+ people should never have had to endure a referendum experience about their born identity. There are more than two genders in this world and it was a demeaning, demoralising and discriminating decision to ever put the understanding of this knowledge to a postal vote.
Linda Rees | 12 January 2018

Dear Neve. I can't understand how people felt so emotional about the marriage issue. The prevote polls said 75% would vote yes so you should not have been worried, even though it came down to 61%. More important is not to be angry with the 5 million NO voters, as they are entitled to their opinion and like YES voters, they won't change. I voted No, as I recognise the difference between types of so called marriages, they are different but equal. Regards
Adrian Harris | 15 January 2018

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