Caitlin is a 15 year old who lives in regional northern NSW. She has a passion for art, music and writing, as she believes they all have great power to create change. Here, she talks about how the marriage equality survey affected her small town.
Small town life makes access to services tough
Growing up in a small town of just 2000 people has its upsides but also its difficulties. People look out for each other and lend a hand in times of trouble, but people can also be quick to judge, gossip and spread rumours.
During the last few months, as the marriage equality survey has played out, the isolation of my community has become very apparent. Due to a lack of services and resources in regional, rural and remote areas, the effect that isolation can have on the mental state often has detrimental effects.
Surrounded by conservatives, I wasn't feeling very hopeful
I held on to hope for a ‘yes’ result from the electorate but the long conservative history of the area made me doubtful. I have, on multiple occasions, seen people excluded from community activities, such as the football club, because they are gay. If you are tolerated in an organisation, it is at the price of never being openly gay or publicly acknowledging your partner. These conservative ideas embedded in the culture became obvious as the ‘No’ campaign started being introduced. I still held on to hope for equality and progress.
Waiting for the results, things were pretty tense
On the day the results were to be released we sat in class, repeatedly refreshing and intently listening to the statistician. With the announcement of the result a gush of relief was felt by all. We released our clutched hands to find fingernails imprinted and some of us even excused ourselves from class to cry tears of relief and joy in the bathroom. While we all knew that it was not yet law we realised that our country had just taken a giant step in the right direction.
A surprising 'yes' from my community
When news came that our electorate had a majority ‘yes’ vote, we were yet again celebrating. In rural areas, being LGBTQI+ can bring some extra challenges such as decreased services, isolation and deeply engraved conservative views. Having the same rights to marriage has huge symbolic value to people in my community with dated views, and will make LGBTQI+ relationships more acceptable to these views.
Australia voted for equality and love
All Australians, from all areas, had a chance to give their opinion on a major social issue and we received a result that must be celebrated. We have made it clear that we want marriage equality because love is love no matter who it is between. I now know that my wider community is not as conservative as I believed and that is encouraging for the future. Australia voted for equality and love and that gives me strength, encouragement and a hell of a lot of pride.