Dear Margaret Court, this is what it's like to be gay
This piece is part of a body of work by Sherele Moody that won her a Clarion Award last week.
As tennis legend Margaret Court continues her opposition to marriage equality, journalist SHERELE MOODY urges her to look at life through the eyes of a gay person.
Dear Margaret Court (and any other Australian who opposes gay marriage).
I respect your right to have an opinion and I hope you respect my right to disagree.
As a woman, a lesbian, a feminist, a journalist and an ethical human being, I think your belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman is homophobic. As is your claim that gay people should not raise kids.
By making these pronouncements you automatically lift straight people and their families onto a higher plain than the rest of us.
What you say is: "This is how God and the Bible wants it".
What I hear is: "You and your family are not worthy of God, the Bible, my community and me. You are lower than your straight friends, colleagues, neighbours, family members and everyone else who is not gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual".
By aligning marriage and child-raising with straight relationships, you tell us that a lesbian is not a capable or whole human being without a man; a gay man is not a capable or whole human being without a woman; and their ability to love and nurture others is deficient compared to the abilities of heterosexuals.
Perhaps over time, you and I will find a middle ground. One where you won't feel the need to rail against people of a different sexuality and one where I won't feel the need to ask why it is you consider myself and others like me as second-class citizens?
Please think about what it's like to be constantly derided because you were born different and you will never fit the heteronormative mould.
Have you heard the sayings: "I don't mind if you're gay, as long as you act straight in public" or "God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve"? I've heard these and many others in my 46 years. And let me tell you, each time someone says something like this, they steal a little piece of my soul.
Do you know what it's like to have a father who thinks all queers should die or be locked up because they are "sick and disgusting perverts", up there with "pedophiles and rapists"? Or to hear your mother announce she will wash her hands of any of her children that turn out gay?
Do you know what it's like to spend your adolescence trying to make your masculine features more feminine? Hating how you look because your face screams "lesbian"? Yes, I was born female but I have my father's looks. That meant people handed me all sorts of horrible transphobic and homophobic labels throughout my childhood and youth.
Do you know what it's like to be bashed up by the school bully because you're different; or to seek solace in the library because it's the one place you're safe from taunts, beatings and boys grabbing your breasts to see if in fact you are a girl?
When was the last time you spent hours tossing and turning at night, weighing up the best options to end your own life? You may not realise this, but dying is the first thing that comes to mind after that dreadful realisation, "Yes, I am gay". Better to be cold in the ground than hated by so many others.
Do you know what it's like to let men handle your body because it is the only way you can see to make yourself straight? Sex with someone you have no attraction to is more palatable than the other option.
Do you know how hard it is to grow from adolescence to adulthood and to never see or know anyone quite like you, to not have anyone re-assure you that you're not abnormal?
Have you ever fallen head over heels for a woman who will never reciprocate your feelings because she isn't gay and to fear talking about your feelings with her in case your world implodes if she despises you over your sexuality? Do you know what it's like to hide those thoughts in the deepest darkest recesses of your mind. And as you grow older, you add more and more faces to your heartbreak collection?
Have you wished you had a magic wand to wave over your kid sister when at 15 she comes out? You actually want to "pray the gay away" for her sake. You would rather she stay in the shadows - to live a lie - than endure what you have been through?
Do you ever want to touch your partner in public but stop yourself because someone else might see and call the woman you love names? I'm not talking about sex, I'm talking about simply holding hands and putting your arm around their shoulders or their waist, just like all the other couples can?
Have you felt the inner turmoil when someone calls your female partner "him". Do you correct them or do you pretend that you're heterosexual because you don't want one more person to think less of you?
Have you been harassed by strange men throughout your life, calling you all of the homophobic slurs you've heard a million times before because you look gay?
Do you know what it's like to be told over and over again that being gay is a choice. As if this weird way of being, that attracts bullying, abuse, denouncements, discrimination and doubt, is a cloak that any sane person would want to wear?
Have you ever tried to convince someone else that you can no more control your sexuality than you can control the colour of your skin?
Have you made the choice to live your life openly and honestly with the woman you love and risk spending eternity in purgatory; rather than legally marry someone of the opposite sex and raise children in an unhappy environment just to ensure you have a chance of going to heaven?
Do you know what it's like having to write these words because after 46 years of feeling different you'd just like for the day to come when everyone sees your gayness as nothing other than normal?
Yes, Margaret, if we do have this conversation I hope you will listen to my words. And that you will give me the chance to listen to yours, because I do believe we can help each other reach a middle ground.