Sally, a registered nurse who works in a Sydney tertiary hospital, is one of the faces of a beautiful new campaign for marriage equality in Australia. You can watch the ad, which features a surgeon, firefighter, member of the defence force and lifesaver as well as Sally, and then read about what drew Sally to participate in the campaign.
I was approached to help with the Marriage Equality campaign in January. I had a few discussions about the campaign and the reasons they wanted nurses, doctors, fire fighters, and I was excited and very honoured to be selected to help out.
I wanted to be a part of the campaign for lots of reasons.
When I was younger I was always hesitant to come out to people in my social and professional life. I was fearful of the reaction, scared I would be judged, treated differently, face discrimination and homophobic abuse. I didn’t want to be known as ‘Sally the lesbian’ but just Sally. I wanted people to judge me on my actions, not my sexuality. My sexuality doesn’t define who I am and I was worried that that was all people would see.
As I got older I felt it was important to start being honest with the people around me, both socially and professionally. I was proud of the person I was and I don’t want to hide it any more. It also helped that I had amazing family and friends – I am very grateful for that. I know that not all people are that fortunate. Coming out helped me to be more open with people at work and socially, it led to strengthened friendship bonds as I wasn’t hiding a part of my life; but more importantly it demonstrated that I was just a normal person who happened to be attracted to people of the same sex. I was a part of the diverse community in which I lived and worked just like them and this was not something to be feared or concerned about.
When people are exposed to different experiences and people it helps create understanding. This leads to acceptance and normalisation of that person’s race, belief, sexuality, gender identity, etc. I grew up in regional Queensland. There was no acknowledgment of homosexuality, let alone positive role models – I thought it was weird or somehow subversive to be gay. That can have an incredibly damaging effect, particularly during adolescence. Understanding of, and acceptance of, our unique differences must come from a platform of equality. If LGBTI* people are seen by their own government as unequal, how then can we expect people to accept us for who we are? How can the teenager or young adult feel that their emerging sexuality and feelings of love for whichever gender is valid and not something to loathe within themselves? How can that person have the bravery and confidence to come out, be proud and comfortable in their own skin? How can we expect the high suicide and mental health problems in LGBTI teenagers and young adults to improve? How are the children of LGBTI parents, who care for and love them just as fiercely as heterosexual parents, supposed to feel safe and equal to their peers? When your government, who is supposed to treat the community it represents fairly, legislates that you’re not equal, it gives voices to bigotry and discrimination.
Marriage recognition is also an enabler of other rights that only become apparent at your hour of deepest need. For example, access to your partner in hospital when they are unwell, resolution of wills and joint assets after death. These are the issues that nobody in government wants to discriminate on, but I see loving couples tormented by these barriers – it’s unnecessary and it’s cruel.
This then leads onto the specific of marriage equality and why it’s so important to me. Marriage is a union of love, commitment and security, not genders. Love is a personal and valid feeling no matter your sexuality and must not be defined by government. When a government bases marriage on gender and sexuality it is saying to all LGTBI people that our rights are not the same, that our love is not as valid and that we are incapable of making the ultimate commitment. By not having the choice to marry, we are unequal – there is no social equality, there is no legal equality.
I am a nurse, a friend, a daughter, a sibling, an aunt, a cousin – I am many things. I am an ordinary Australian, who pays taxes and works hard. I treat the patients equally, that’s my job. I want to be treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law, that’s the politicians’ job. I want the same freedoms and choices as the majority of other Australians. I want the legal and social protection that you receive if you choose to marry. I want to be able to make the ultimate commitment to the person I choose above all others and have it be seen equally as my heterosexual friends. My choice to marry should be mine and mine alone, not defined by something that is not my choice, my sexuality.
I am grateful for a supportive workplace that values my contribution.
I want to thank all the people who work and have worked for Marriage Equality. They are the real reason we have come so far and why this campaign is going to be so successful in making the politicians take note. I had the privilege of working and meeting them for the briefest moment and their passion, dedication and selflessness blew me away. In particular I want to thank Helen for giving me this opportunity. I am so proud to be a part of it.
*LGBTI = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex.
Nurses & midwives for equality is on Facebook.
Previously on Nurse Uncut:
- Josh: young nurse speaks out against discrimination
- ‘It all fell apart’
- When I am old and gay (or lesbian and trans)
- Protection from discrimination in aged care
- Life during wartime – nursing on the AIDS ward part 1
- Life during wartime – nursing on the AIDS ward part 2
See also the ANMF position paper on marriage equality.