a) Gay Tasmania
Personal stories make the difference
This article was published in the Tas Pride newsletter in october 2010.
In September the Tasmanian Upper House passed a new law recognising interstate and overseas personal unions including same-sex marriages, as state Deeds of Relationship.
This is important because it means couples travelling in, or moving to, Tasmania will have full legal protection without the need to re-register their relationship.
It is important because Tasmania is the first Australian state to provide this level of respect and recognition to out-state partnerships, confirming the fact that we lead the nation on LGBTI human rights.
It is also important because it shows how far Tasmania has come since the days when we were one of the last places in the western world to criminalise homosexuality.
Back then the Upper House angrily rejected gay law reform with some members calling for gays and lesbians to be "tracked down and wiped out".
Now, the Upper House has not only allowed same-sex marriages to have standing in Tasmanian law. It has done this unanimously, after an informed and sensible debate.
What was, for me, the highlight of the Upper House debate, also illustrates what has driven this amazing change.
Many Upper House members quoted from the letters they had received from same-sex partners.
These letters outlined the legal hassles and social prejudice couples have experienced and the hopes they have for their lives.
The letters did this simply, without rancour, pessimism or jargon, in a way most other people can easily relate to.
They told a compelling, human story.
As Liberal Shadow Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin, said during the debate, these individual stories were much more compelling than the form letters that were received opposing reform.
Throughout the generation-long struggle of LGBTI Tasmanians for equality and respect, the telling of personal stories has been the key to changing hearts, minds and laws.
Of course, media articles, parliamentary debates, court cases and government liaison have all played a role too. But more often than not, that role was as a medium through which personal stories can been told and heard.
Tasmania still has a long way to go before it is a society truly inclusive and equally respectful of LGBTI people.
There are still unacceptable levels of prejudice, discrimination, violence against LGBTI people, and appalling levels of self-hate, self-harm and mutual hostility among us.
But I am confident the solution to these problems is the same solution that has helped remove discrimination from the law and overt hatred from public life: the telling of personal stories.
Of course, for many LGBTI people there is nothing harder than baring oneís soul to others. Being open about who we are has often caused us great pain and trauma.
But that is precisely why talking about what our lives are like is so important. It directly challenges all the invisibility and silence that keeps the prejudices and stereotypes about us alive.
We tell our stories because we believe we deserve the same rights and respect as other people.
We tell them because we believe other people will share this aspiration once they see how regularly our claim on equality is not respected.
Letís foster that faith in ourselves and others, for it is what makes real change.
And letís never, ever stop telling our stories.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group
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