I’m 23 weeks pregnant. In about four months, my wife and I will be pushing a pram down the street, looking like we’ve just stepped off a long-haul flight.
I’m heavier than usual, I cry a lot, and I’m very stretched – in terms of my skin as well as my capacity. It’s a tender time to be facing this postal vote.
I use the term “wife” consciously: my partner and I got married in Vegas, at the same chapel as Britney Spears, in a country where two women getting hitched is legally binding, and socially accepted.
When we landed at LAX a month earlier, the customs lady glanced at us, flicked through our passports and asked a string of bored questions: “Are you planning to work while you’re here? What’s the first address you’re staying at? Are you married?”
That last question caught me off-guard. I responded with excitement (an excitable “No! We’re not!”) because my female partner and I don’t get asked that question at home. We don’t get asked if we’re engaged, or where we’d go on our hypothetical honeymoon.
That simple question felt like an incredible offering of respect, validity and support – that same delighted feeling when your best mate approves of your new partner, or when your parents say you make a good couple.
Two years later, in Australia, we still don’t get asked that question.
When my wife and I tell our friends we’re having a baby, we’re often met with inquisition: where has our baby come from? Who is the father? Which is its mother? Did you use a turkey baster or what?
If there’s curiosity around the process, I can accept that. If it’s a quiet question from a close friend, after the customary “Congratulations! How wonderful!” of course, that’s fine.
But the level of interrogation has been extreme. People think it’s okay to ask about the details of my insemination, how much contact the baby will have with its “father”, and, incredibly, which implements I had to insert into my vagina.
One person asked me off-handedly whether there were any statistics on the welfare of children who grow up with same-sex parents.
Making a baby with my wife – and be assured, it is our child; we are both its parents – has taken creativity, energy and navigation, and an absolute shedload of unconditional love and desire for its existence.
The subtext of these invasive questions is, at best, a pointing-and-staring at the oddity of our situation and, at worst, a raw uncertainty about whether our child will be okay. Whether it will survive and live well, being parented by us: by me and its mother.
This sense of entitlement to our intimate lives is a reflection of our society’s attitudes to same-sex couples. How can we expect the public to understand that these questions feel invasive and reductive, when the whole of Australia is being compelled to debate the legitimacy of our relationship?
Our bodies, sexuality, lives and relationships are water-cooler conversation, like interest rates and reality TV.
How can I see marriage equality as an issue of tradition, faith and sanctity, when we are the last western country to make the public declaration that my little family will be fundamentally included in and accepted by our society?
Seeing the word “NO” in the sky above Melbourne yesterday was not like reading a campaign for a politician, or an argument for an outcome in a referendum about the monarchy. I felt it deep in my heart.
In retrospect, I wonder how a person could plaster the sky with two letters that would bring so much hurt, humiliation and fear to so many people.
I saw the same two letters scrawled on the post-box at the end of my street on the day I posted my ballots. I instantly felt unsafe in my neighbourhood, and hyper-aware of how we must look walking down the street: two women, one visibly pregnant; her face a mixture of elation about the coming months, and constant vigilance at her surroundings.
I’m told that a baby’s first experience of emotion is the taste of the amniotic fluid, which changes depending on how its mother is feeling. I hope every day that this little baby doesn’t taste the hurt, anxiety and fear I experience around homophobic rhetoric, reports of violence and attacks plastered over billboards.
I’m okay with crying about the usual things pregnant people cry about: money troubles, or bad birth stories, or the horror of an empty ice-cream tub. I really didn’t want to be crying about this.