Tasmanian Times

Health

Marriage equality not the main issue

While I am a Deputy National President of the Australian Democrats, I highly doubt that any of the membership would agree with what I am saying here and as such, this opinion is entirely my own.

I am beginning to feel incredibly separate from the vast majority of the GLBTIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer for those who are unfamiliar with the acronym) community. Today, there was yet another media release about Marriage Equality. It is now estimated that 68% of Australians support marriage equality (Matthew, 2010). What a statistic! How about the Equality in Marriage movement has made well over $100,000 in several causes? Both are incredibly impressive.

How about we try this one: Up to 42% of all Same Sex attracted men between 15-24 years of age will attempt suicide at least once (Quinn, 2003). Or, how about 62.5% of all men that attempt suicide are same sex attracted? (MacDonald & Cooper, 1998). How about the 20-29 age bracket has the second highest incidence rate of HIV/AIDS at 24%? (“HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report,” 2010). That’s a lot less impressive. And it scares the shit out of me.

What the hell are we doing? When will we, as a community, realise that while marriage is important to some, if these statistics keep up, or goodness forbid, increase, there will be no one left to get married!

There is an argument that by legalising same sex marriage and thus minimising discrimination we may curb the high rate of suicide. However, the logical argument is that heterosexual people can get married and yet there is still an incredibly high incidence of suicide in this population. Consider that the biggest cause of death for all people age 15-19 is suicide. I think it is fallacious reasoning to suggest that marriage plays any significant factor in this. The discrimination extends much further than just to marriage.

I am not suggesting that Gay and Lesbian people (let’s not forget that most people are suggesting that this legislation will only incorporate gays and lesbians and not Transgender) should never be able to marry, what I am suggesting though, is that as community do we not have bigger issues?

Changing the marriage act is an easy problem dressed up as a huge problem. Tackling youth suicide is not easy. It is hard, it is emotive and it is confronting. Does that mean we should run from it?

Most of the people who are campaigning for equality in marriage are old enough to remember the so called war of the 1980’s. It wasn’t a war. It was a battle. HIV is again on the increase. Education is failing our younger people. It is time to prepare for another battle. As a community it appears that there is a lot of complacency. How will marriage equality help with this serious issue?

These issues shouldn’t form an all or none deal. But they do. While there is an easy problem that looks big we can feel good about ourselves that something is happening, and there is real action. All the while, my friends, my family, my community, are dying. I do not want to devalue the work that anyone is doing in the realms of marriage equality. Rodney Croome is almost an idol of mine. I have the utmost respect and adoration for him. Alex Greenwich has achieved so much for someone so young and I respect him completely. But, while society is focusing on this issue, people are dying. And these are just two names from the top of my head.

I’m sick and tired of fighting. I’m sick of hearing that Such and Such and want to marry each other. That’s great for them, but what about the young guy who is so confused about his sexuality that he is standing on a bridge somewhere? What about the transgender person from regional Australia who is too busy trying to just survive each day to even think about possibly marrying someone, one day? What about the 21 year old who just got a positive HIV diagnosis? What about the families of these people? How will marriage benefit them?

References:

HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report. (2010). Darlinghurst: The Kirby Institute University of New South Wales.

MacDonald, R., & Cooper, T. (1998). Young gay men and Suicide: A report of a study exploring the reasons which young men give for suicide ideation. Youth Studies Australia, 17(4), 23-27.

Matthew, P. (2010). Same Sex Marriage Study: Galaxy Research.

Quinn, K. (2003). Rural suicide and same sex attracted youth: issues, interventions and implications for rural counsellors. The International Electronic Journal of Rural and Remote Health Research, Education, Practice and Policy.

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