Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Price of a plebiscite is too high for LGBTI young people

  • 31 August 2016


The same sex marriage plebiscite is a hot button topic. The Greens and Nick Xenophon have decided to vote against a plebiscite. Labor have unofficially officially made the same decision. As a young queer woman, I believe blocking the plebiscite is the right choice for reasons both practical and emotional.

The major arguments are well documented. A plebiscite will be, according to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, 'the nation's most expensive opinion poll' (the estimated cost comes to about $160 million), since the outcome won't be legally binding. And history has shown us that on the rare occasion we've implemented a plebiscite, it can still years to take effect; changing the national anthem after the plebiscite in 1977 took seven years.

Apart from Ireland, in every country where same sex marriage has been legalised, it has been done by parliamentary vote. And importantly, both Australian and Irish LGBTI+ activists have warned of the negative consequences of a public vote to the mental health of LGBTI+ people.

It's that last argument I want to emphasise here, because often when you haven't experienced a certain kind of discrimination, it can remain an abstract concept for you. If you're a cisgender straight person, the Irish vote 'no' poster, like 'Children need a mother and father', may not seem like a big deal. You may even agree with it.

However, if you're a LGBTI+ young person who might be going through a process of denial and self-loathing about your sexual orientation or gender identity, it's just another reminder in your daily life that there are people who think you are wrong for being who you are. It's a sign that says you're not welcome or wanted here.

I remember one time in class when the subject came up of some young girls, several year levels below my classmates and me, who identified as lesbians.

I had spoken to these girls before, and it was a really wonderful and rare experience to see young women with no internalised homophobia, who spoke as openly about their crushes on girls as others would talk about boys. Though I was still in the closet at the time, these young girls inspired me to be comfortable about who I was.

It was an experience that was to be marred by my classmates, who yelled in the classroom how these young girls were 'just experimenting' and 'too young to know' that they were same sex attracted. How it