Lost in the Post(al Survey): Part I

On a warm sunny afternoon in week 10, on the same day that the fluff began to fall and signal the looming exam period, we met with Ariel Scott at the Pop-Up Village to chat about the postal survey. When not involved in duties as Queer Officer, Ari is undertaking a sociology and environmental studies degree. Ari identifies as agender, aromantic and asexual.

Ari seemed conflicted over what marriage equality might mean for different groups of Australians. On the one hand, they stressed the importance of a ‘yes’ outcome as part of a concerted and long-term fight for queer rights. On the other hand, they wanted to make it clear that “queer people aren’t going to be equal after this survey [because] there’s still so many battles that need to be fought and won.” These include queer youth homelessness, trans surgeries, Safe Schools, and access to hormones – just to name a few.

Ari is worried that because the ‘no’ campaign has focused so heavily on trans people and Safe Schools (think of the ‘no’ advertisement where the mum is worried about her son wearing a dress to school) and the ‘yes’ campaign is fighting primarily for cis gays and lesbians, that no one is really fighting for the rights of gender diverse and trans people. They are anxious that these less-normalised or -accepted queer groups may be forgotten after marriage equality has been achieved.

Ari was also concerned that the ‘yes’ campaign has mainly featured middle-class, white, gender-conforming couples, which Ari suspects may be a tactic to maximise votes by representing groups who are already ‘normal’. They seemed disappointed that there hasn’t been more of an effort by the ‘yes’ campaign to breakdown queer stereotypes, or give airtime to those with less normalised identities or those from diverse religious or cultural backgrounds.

For Ari, this has led to them feeling underrepresented in the postal survey. It has also strained their relationship with both the ‘yes’ campaign and marriage as an institution. Ari said that the solidarity shown by many groups over marriage equality was nice, but that “you sort of wish the solidarity was there all the time.” They then admitted that they wished they had been given as much support as over marriage equality at other times in their life – like at high school as a non-cis youth.

When asked about the impact of the postal survey on the mental health of young people who may be struggling with their sexuality, Ari pointed to the recent spike in calls to suicide prevention and counselling hotlines like QLife. For Ari, while achieving marriage equality might be beneficial for the wellbeing of future generations, at the moment, the focus should be placed on young people who might not have any support or those who, even with a ‘yes’ outcome, might not feel included by society.

This led to the question: was the Government’s decision to hold a postal survey a good idea?

Ari said with certainty that the postal survey “was a terrible idea”; personally, they would have preferred to wait a few years for marriage equality over allowing a ‘no’ campaign to occur. Ari exasperatedly stated that the Government could have spent the $122 million on so many other things. As an example, they mentioned an Australian Queer Students Network project on queer youth homelessness, which could have used $122 million more productively.

About the people who are voting ‘no’, Ari said: “It’s sort of like [they] don’t really respect me at all, or a lot of people.” Ari has reservations about remaining friends with ‘no’ voters.

Ari instructed the ‘undecided’ to “just think about all the queer people in your life” and consider how not being able to get married or being seen as equal under the law might affect people. Ari emphasised that “it’s really important to vote just so that we become more equal.”

Looking to the future, Ari’s greatest concern is that the rights of queer people who are not cis gays or lesbians will be left behind.

When asked how marriage equality could have been achieved without excluding these members of the queer community, Ari said: “The Liberal Government could have just voted on the floor and done it without spending $122 million and subjecting us to this campaign.”

Despite this, however, Ari calls for people to be engaged with the postal survey because “anyone should be able to get married regardless of their sexuality or gender.”