A Letter To My Son: I’m Sorry Our Very Existence Is Now Up For Debate

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Amy Coopes is a journalist, medical student and, along with her same-sex partner, the mother to a young son. Here, she writes about the effects of the marriage equality postal survey on her and her family.

If there is one comfort in anything, it is that you won’t remember this time. That you were born into confected tumult about the right of your family to exist, to call itself thus, to be worthy. I am so glad you won’t remember the fact that, as we celebrate your first birthday, there are people campaigning – publicly, furiously – for our lives and our love to hide in shame, away from public view.

Every child has a story and this is yours. We met on a dance floor and fell in love, watching rosellas herald the dawn in blooming bottlebrush as we held hands on the weathered boards of some backstreet bench. It was October, we were young and everything was heady and sweet. October, too, when you arrived, all eyes and limbs and loveliness into the world. You were no accident – how could you be? As longed for and dreamed of and cherished as you were, as you are, as you will always be.

Your family is as infinite in its permutations as there are ways to understand love. We are three: you, your mother and me. Some days we are four, sitting with the man who helped you to be. One day you will have names for one another, a shared language, a history of knowing and belonging. Other days we could be five, or six, seven, a dozen, counting doting godparents, aunts and uncles, grandparents. There is very little question that you are loved. It takes a village, and these are your Village People. They’re of a strength that comes from triumphing in spite of the odds, of living openly and defiantly in a world that prefers them in a closet. You have such a proud history, my love, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

I thought I would be afraid, when this time came. There were days I felt sick with worry as we prepared for your birth, wondering how I could endure the hatred when it was directed at you, desperate to shield you from it. I blamed myself, already, and you hadn’t even been born. I was heavily pregnant in election season and can still feel the sick fear, the hot tears on my face, as the fundamentalists rushed at me with their pamphlets declaring me a sickness, a danger to you. “Think of the children” they shouted, vowing to pray for me as I pushed them aside, urging them to think of mine.

We are labelled paedophiles, molesters and abusers. Debunked studies are trotted out to demonstrate how dangerous we are. The only damage these studies demonstrate to our kids is that they are bullied, vilified and discriminated against by people told that our families are abnormal. That our families are less. People like the self-proclaimed Christians – extremists, in truth and act – who harass pregnant women, stuff our mailboxes with their vicious propaganda, incite hate on national television and call it free speech. I was afraid at the prospect of a national vote on our relationship because I knew, for the cowards, it would become about you. I didn’t know how to protect you from that; I still don’t.

I never truly believed that it would happen, in 2017. That our government would actually bring this down upon us, invite 16 million people to debate our lives and our love for a bit of sport. And that they would unleash this without any kind of protections on what could and couldn’t be said. There are no limits to what lies are being peddled, nor to the terms in which we are permitted to be discussed. I want you to know, though, that I’m not afraid anymore. I’m ready to fight for this, and I’m ready to win.

For those who rail loudest against our rights, we simply do not exist. We’re an abstraction, a political point, a demagogue’s diversion. We’re a cipher for a receding paternalistic order, an emblem of Australia’s parochial culture wars. This was always going to be about everything other than the simple question – should two consenting adults be allowed to wed – because every poll across the political spectrum shows this is a foregone conclusion: the answer for many is yes, of course, yes. The naysayers are desperate to dehumanise us, to imply that we are a radical and remote minority because it’s so demonstrably untrue.

We are already here, monogamous or not, in civil unions or wed overseas, happily single or hoping to meet that someone who makes our heart leap. We are someone’s daughter or son; an aunt or uncle, a sister or brother, a cousin. We are someone’s mother or father, and always have been, Marriage Act or no. Like everyone, our lives are about the simple things – we drop our kids at daycare, we go to work or school, we do the laundry and pay the bills. We count your teeth, your accomplishments, as they grow.

You crawl, learn to clap, to wave. Soon you will walk, talk, you will run and sing and there will be no stopping you. We amble along the river and stop to inspect a leaf, you point a chubby finger as cyclists fly by. Your hand warm in mine, we are anything but an abstraction. We are as real as anything can be, and far removed from the tabloid talkback arc of vitriol and hate.

You won’t remember this time, but I will, and it will be such a part of your story. That we marched, with our heads held high, and humanity triumphed over hate. Love, we said. And they voted yes.

Amy Coopes is a journalist, writer, editor at Croakey.org — social journalism for health — and is in her fourth year of medical school. Follow her stream of consciousness at @coopesdetat.