Culture

“This Plebiscite Is FUCKED”: Hannah Gadsby Warns Of The Harm This Debate Will Do To LGBTIQ Youth

"This will not only ruin young lives… it will end some of them."

Stand-up comedian and Please Like Me star Hannah Gadsby has written a compassionate public post on her Facebook page overnight, condemning the upcoming marriage equality plebiscite and warning of the dangers it will pose for LGBTIQ Australians.

“This plebiscite thing is a very bad idea,” she said. “The very idea of an ongoing debate around marriage equality makes my stomach turn… I am very concerned that the plebiscite debate is going to be another open season for hate.”

Gadsby is by no means the first person to make this argument, but her words have struck a chord. In the past 12 hours, the post has been liked by more than 9,000 people and shared more than 3,000 times.

Though debate around the plebiscite has been around for ages now, the idea has been under particularly intense scrutiny this week. Last weekend, the PM tentatively locked in the date of the vote for next year, we’ve seen the first drafts of the question that will be asked, and campaign material from each side has started to surface. With public polling showing Australia wants change, and $160 million of taxpayer money on the line, many are asking why we’re not just having a vote in parliament. A free vote, as many have noted, would also cut down a lengthy public campaign that could cause many Australians great distress.

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Speaking to the latter point, Gadsby drew from her own experiences:

“I don’t want young kids to hear the kind of horrific bile I was forced to listen to in the 1990s when Tasmania debated on whether to legalise homosexuality,” she said. “For many, the debate was theatre. For me, it made me hate myself so deeply I have never been able to develop an aptitude for relationships.

“In the mid-’90s I was the age when I should have been learning how to be vulnerable, how to handle a broken heart, how to deal with rejection and how to deal with all the other great silly things about young love which helps pave the way to the more substantial adult version. But instead I learnt how to close myself off and rot quietly in self-hatred. I learnt this because I learnt that I was subhuman during a debate where only the most horrible voices and ideas were amplified by the media. These voices also gave permission for others to tell me that I was less than them, with looks, words and on one occasion, violence.”

The vote to decriminalise homosexuality in Tasmania was not a plebiscite, but it did come with significant drawn-out public debate. Though the rest of the country had made reform up to two decades prior, the change in Tasmania only came as a result of gay activists pushing the issue to the High Court. The repeal of the criminal code regarding homosexuality was eventually only passed by a single vote.

Gadsby, who grew up in Tasmania, has frequently talked about how difficult this period in her life was. While dealing with plotlines around sexuality and mental health in Please Like Me last year, she joked that public hostility towards LGBTIQ people is what led her to study the boob-filled oasis of art history.

In her post last night, Gadsby expanded on this, saying this time caused her significant “anxiety and low self-esteem”. She suggested, the best action going forward is to spread as much support as possible — particularly to those in regional communities.

“If this plebiscite has to happen then let’s try and drown out the hate-filled commentators. They might not have the numbers but they will no doubt be handed a megaphone in the name of entertainment. But this kind of entertainment will not only ruin young lives… it will end some of them. Speech is not free when it comes at such a cost.

“This plebiscite is FUCKED.”

If you feel the need to talk to someone after reading this piece you can contact Lifeline 24 hours a day on 13 11 14 or QLife 3pm-12am on 1800 184 527.