Next month, I'm getting married.
This is something that most people take for granted when they can legally commit to each other, but for me, my government says that I don't have the same rights as some others in this country. So next month, I'm being forced to have an intimate 'get together' with close family and friends.
I've been with my partner for four years, in a same-sex relationship. It's been an incredible journey of laughs, tears and travelling to exotic destinations together. In fact, I've travelled to more places in the last few years than I have in my entire life, and to many countries where same-sex marriage is legal (they haven't burnt to hell, for the record). I'm the happiest I've ever been. He is my world.
But lately there's one thing that's really starting to make me feel unsettled and upset.
Over the past couple of weeks, since the government announced a vote on same-sex marriage, there has been an increase in hateful and unfair comments against the LGBTQIA community. Most of these comments aren't even factual. We've heard most of them before, however this time is massively different. The Australian government has given these leftists a voice through the excuse of 'freedom of speech' for the no campaign.
In the past week I've read that gays shouldn't be allowed to have kids because they are all paedophiles, children who grow up in rainbow families are more likely to turn to drugs later in life, letting gays marry will open up marriage to animals, there will be an increase in women being raped, radical teaching of same-sex education within schools with parents not having a say, as well as schools telling boys it's ok to wear dresses (we've all seen the commercial).
Then there's the more extreme vitriol. People demanding that the LGBTQIA community should be made to wear badges to identify them from the “normal people”, put onto the sex offenders register, should be shot or hanged to 'cleanse' this country, made to use separate toilets so that it stops the spread of 'gay' disease, fags should have no rights because they are lesser human beings to those 'normal' people, and the list goes on of vile and ignorant comments that I've seen sprawled on social media since the postal vote was announced a couple of weeks ago.
I'm lucky to have a very supportive family and group of friends who love me for who I am, however there are some people within the LGBTQIA community who aren't as lucky.
I grew up in a small country town in Victoria where any feelings of being different weren't allowed. This wasn't any fault of my parents, but it just wasn't spoken about because it wasn't who I was meant to be. I would spend 22 years of my life 'in the closet' – unsure and ashamed of who I was, and having these feelings that were deemed as not 'normal' within the community that I lived in.
Struggling through my teenage years, I started acting up and getting into trouble, sub-consciously trying to take the focus off what was really going on in my mind. When I was 17, I had suicidal thoughts after I confided in a close school friend about the feelings I was having towards other guys. He threatened to tell the rest of school about me. Needless to say, I went through a pretty dark period of my life. I was scared of what would happen to me. I can only imagine what someone struggling with those same feelings today would be dealing with, especially with disgusting comments being made across social media platforms throughout this campaign.
Hateful and hurtful comments aside, there's a simple personal question to the 'no' campaigners. Why do you think you have the right to deny me the same rights that you have, and be treated like a second-rate citizen?
Why do we want to get married, and have this same right as many others in this country? Under law, a legal marriage offers equal protection and rights over material things that we build together during our relationship, I'll be my partners next-of-kin and able to make tough decisions if he ever was unable to, it's immediately valid - unlike de-facto rights, the marriage cannot be denied by blood relatives who may have an issue with us being together and it's a legal and binding contract that can only be broken in a Family Law court.
But the main reason we want to get married? Because we love each other, and want the same rights as those who can do it legally.
I don't want anyone's pity. I just want to get married to the person I love most in this world, and want to spend the rest of my life with. I don't think that's a big ask. So next month, I'm having that 'get together'. But it's not quite the same as if I could say that I'm married, and be able to tick that little box next to 'relationship status'. And that does hurt.