When I was 21, I met a woman. I wasn’t afraid to come out. I was giddy with new love. I had only known acceptance and love from my family. My childhood had been a cocoon. I was lucky.
When I was 21, I learned that cocoons are fragile.
I learned that who you love is enough to cause people to turn their backs on you. I discovered that acceptance is conditional. I learned that people can say they love you and show you how they don’t in the same moment.
I found that silence is painful. It can create a burning desire to grovel for affection; a grovelling that disgusts you but you can’t stop.
I also discovered that sometimes silence is better than the words that people say, cutting your soul and infecting your self worth.
I learned that my self worth should never be held in the love of a parent, a sibling or a friend.
When I was 21, I came out and it felt like the whole world rejected me for loving a woman, even if it wasn’t the whole world.
When I was 27, I was pregnant with my first child.
I discovered that people are curious about families with two mums, but it’s safer to let people think you are sisters not lovers.
When I was pregnant, I never held my wife’s hand in public. You have to keep your guard up at all times when you have a baby to protect. When you’re Queer, harassment and violence are always one stranger and one moment away.
When I was 27, my first child was born.
That morning, I experienced a love unlike anything else. A confusing mix of exhaustion, fear, compassion and wonder. I experienced the joy of my family to meet their new grandchild and nephew.
I learned that love and joy are bittersweet when you are still seeking approval from people who can not see past their own beliefs to welcome a new baby.
When I was 27, I learned more about love than I had before. I experienced the love of a parent for a child. I learned about giving love freely without exceptions or limits.
My own rejections hurt more.
When I was 32, I eloped to New Zealand to marry.
The woman whose smile captivated me at 21, still has my heart. We have three children.
We eloped because we still can not marry in Australia. We eloped because we were tired of waiting and tired of fighting. That’s what we told each other and that’s what we told our family and our friends who were sad not to be there.
Honestly, I eloped because I was afraid I would be rejected again.
I was afraid that people who say they love me would show themselves as unloving once again.
When I was 32, I learned that running away doesn’t stop the pain. I discovered that you can still want for love and acceptance when you are a grown woman.
Today I’m 34.
I still can not marry. I still can not hold my wife’s hand in public. I still let people think we are sisters. I still want to run away from ceremonies and milestones that trigger my deep need for acceptance.
My country get to vote on my right to marry a woman who I have already married. A little slip arrives in people’s letterboxes and with a tick they cast judgement on my rights.
My self worth is no longer tied to the love of a parent, a sibling or a friend.
But the pain of the past can not be erased.
I can not read the news. I can not talk to friends about it.
Fear is creeping and tightening its grip around my throat. I can barely breathe. Will our love be rejected again?