I came for the respectful debate…

Originally Written By Samuel Leighton-Dore

Nobody was calling for a respectful debate back in 2004, when I was thirteen-years-old, being beaten up on the schoolyard during my first day of high school. Boys were shouting “faggot” across the schoolyard and I was being held by my neck against a brick wall by one of the school leaders, who punched me and spat in my face.

When I reported the incident to my school principal, he called the bully into his office. I recounted that I’d been beaten and called a faggot.

My principal looked me right in the eyes and asked, sincerely, “well, are you?”

I remember, that same week, reading in the newspaper that more Australians were against marriage equality than for it.

I remember how sad that made me; a sadness compounded by my fear of coming out and the complete inaction of my teachers and leaders.

There is no respectful debate because there never has been.

The age of consent for all forms of sex had only been equalised the year before I started high-school, in 2003.

“Buggery” had been criminal “with or without consent” until 1984 — and while those words may sound fucking ridiculous, they were spoken by the former NSW Police Commissioner Colin Delaney.

There is no respectful debate, because LGBTIQ+ people have never, ever been viewed as equal; murdered with little consequence well into the 1990’s, when I was a toddler, their bodies beaten and thrown off cliffs.

There is no respectful debate. There is only one argument; one driven by immense love and a desperation to be included as part of society’s fabric.

I understand the fear of change, but marriage equality will not bring change to those who fear it. It will only bring change for those who need it.

I plead that those who feel nervous or uncertain choose to err on the side of love, not oppression.

The first fortnight of this so-called respectful debate has already taken me right back to the schoolyard in 2004.

The whole country looking me right in the eyes — “well, are you?”

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