… and share part of my Marriage Equality submission to Select Committee.
I tried to end my life when I was 15.
I first held a blade to my skin at age 11. Eleven. By the time I was 22 I’d been waging a war against myself for half my life. I can’t imagine how many hundreds of scars I have; I’ve never wanted to count. Stitches and bandages and hard plastic chairs in hospital waiting rooms. Weeks in hospital and months in rehab and prayers spoken over me to break curses that weren’t really there. I was different, and that was not okay.
I’ve been different for as long as I can remember. As a little kid I didn’t think too much about it, but as soon as the girls started talking about going out with boys I knew that this thing in me was not the same and it was not okay. No one taunted me, nobody bullied me, I wasn’t teased. I was a cute, intelligent kid with a bunch of friends. Everybody liked me. Nobody knew.
I won’t say that this war I waged was brought on solely by internalised homophobia, because a lot else happened in those fragile years, but it certainly underpinned everything I knew about myself and drove me to behave in a way that began a long, steep downward spiral. I knew, I knew. I wouldn’t be bringing a boyfriend home to meet the parents. I would never get married or make a family. I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye. I was terrified of myself.
This is the environment in which I grew up. Everybody liked me, but there were boundaries that weren’t to be crossed and topics that weren’t to be discussed. The thing with boundaries, though, is they’re sometimes so arbitrary, but to those they’re fencing out they can mean life or death.
In this country the laws we pass go on to set the tone for our society. In 1986 homosexuality was decriminalised and in 1993 the Human Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. Equality ventured a few steps forward; communities didn’t collapse; nothing imploded.
In 2004 the Civil Union Bill was passed. I was in year 13 and a prefect at my conservative christian high school, having hidden any trace of difference under so many layers of pain. A petition was handed around opposing the Bill. I signed it. I was so scared that if I didn’t, one of my layers might peel off and everyone would see I was not the same as them.
And then one day, several miserable years later, I fell in love with a girl. I wasn’t looking; in fact, I spent a lot of time trying not to look. You’ll laugh. I met her in church. I … just wanted to hold her hands all the time. She was not that into it. At first. (I’m a sweet talker.)
And I thought, is this what I’ve been so afraid of? Because, this? This is the happiest I’ve ever been.
But of course I was afraid of my difference. See, the society in which I live still tells me I am different on a tangible level. It’s not just in my imagination. There’s a law for the general population and then there’s a law for … the gay population.
Over 550 young people killed themselves in New Zealand last year. LGBT young people are nearly four times more likely to attempt suicide. I was that four-times-more-likely. I don’t want to live in a society where cute, intelligent kids waste half their lives in utter torment because they don’t feel they are as valuable as everyone else. I don’t want to live in a society that tells them that being different is not okay.
So I’ll support the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, as will I support any movement that aims to uproot arbitrary boundaries and spread out equality instead. I’m not afraid of myself anymore. Turns out I actually do just want to love someone and marry them and make a family someday. Fingers crossed.
EDIT: If you’re in pain like I was, please, please reach out. The world’s a better place with you in it. Call 0800 OUTLINE and talk to someone who can help. Be safe x