Life

Marriage Equality | Guest post from The Legacy of Leo

The marriage equality debate has been heating up here in Australia. As someone who is not as personally affected by this debate as some others are, I thought it would be a good idea to get the perspective of someone who’s life was changed by marriage equality laws. So I asked Jess from The Legacy of Leo to write a few words about how marriage equality has changed her life and why we should legalise it here. Australians, remember to mail your ‘yes’ vote back by October 27 to make sure your vote counts!

For some reason, I’ve really struggled to write what I want to write about equal marriage. It’s a topic so close to my heart and home, yet I’m lost for words. I guess, trying to ‘defend’ or ‘explain’ something that is just a part of you and who you are, and what your family is, is a difficult thing to do.

Watching Australia become one of the latest countries to debate equality in marriage, and asking the public to cast a vote on it – a vote that doesn’t even change the law – affects us all, globally. Many people in the UK may think that the equality campaigning is done now that we have marriage, yet there is such wide variation across the world. Not just in marriage, but in all forms of LGBT rights and legalisation. And in an increasingly global community, what one country does, affects us all. Its heard, its seen, its read, it echoes into the thoughts and minds of people across the world, and all sides of the campaign.

Equal marriage came into the UK several years after Civil Partnerships. Me and my now wife, became civil partners in 2011, and converted that partnership to marriage as soon as the law allowed, in 2014. Whats the difference? For me, the difference between a Partnership and a Marriage is language. My access to things hasn’t changed, yet I now get to tick the same box on forms as all my other straight married counterparts. I get to call my wife, my wife – legally, and with right. The difference may sound small to some, not worth the political hassle of countless debates and upheaval of historical meaning, but the difference really is huge to those whom it affects. It’s more than a word. No longer does our language or description of our relationship separate us. And that’s an important thing for me.

I remember all the debates. In Parliament, on television and in the paper. The slippery slopes, and cries of the children, the needs for fathers, and the fear that people will be marrying their brothers and sisters for tax breaks, the insistence that homosexuality is linked to beastiality and paedophilia, the reminders that we create all of the world’s storms, and that children will be taught how to be gay. All of that, just because I wanted to say ‘I do’. Doesn’t that all sound a little far fetched?

From what I can see, in my almost six year marriage, the main overarching impact of being able to get married, is that I got married. Full stop. I got married. Isn’t that something that most children grow up thinking they will do one day? What most people start to visualise in their late teens, and start questioning whether they are ‘the one’ soon after, until they find the actual one? Isn’t that all quite… normal and expected? Yet, for a huge proportion of people, they are denied the fairytale told to them when they are young.. based purely on who they want to marry.

I guess my point can be better explained in an exercise of empathy. If you’d just like to imagine the scenario from the other side of the fence? If you are straight and questioning the purpose of equal marriage, just visualise your loved one, your spouse, your wife, or husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend, real, current, past or imaginary. What does the future look like with you and them? Will there be a wedding? A honeymoon, marriage, gifts, the long haul of relationships, the middle aged you, the pensioner you, your retirement, your forever home, your pets, your potential children. Visualise it all. Feel it all – the rush of love, the excitement, the wedding day jitters, the perfect dress, the new home purchase, the arguments, the petty disagreements, the seven year itch, the love and the loss of a marriage. The fairytale you’d heard about as a child. Then imagine being denied it based purely on the gender of the person that you love.

Then imagine the decision of whether you can marry that person being up to every single other person in the country of which you live. People you’ve never met, and will never meet. Most likely if you are straight and you wish to marry someone, the only two people involved in that decision, are you and the person you wish to marry. Not the entire country, debating it for years, taking a poll, and then maybe, just maybe, considering changing the law.

I guess what I wish the world to know about the other side of introducing equal marriage is that by doing so, you allow people to fulfil that fairytale. That is all. That is the disastrous consequence of equal marriage – the thing really to be feared. Is that people, normal everyday people, living normal everyday lives, will be able to fulfil the fairytale childhood dream of marrying the person that they love. What’s fearful about that? This debate doesn’t need to go wider than that. A marriage doesn’t have many other consequences really on other people. But the consequences are huge for that couple, that family, those very real, very normal people. Legislation doesn’t stop people being in long term, committed relationships, having children and being gay – but legislation preventing equal rights has far wider, greater negative repercussions on society and the next generation.

“But think of the children?” is often what gets thrown around as the main reason to prevent marriage, and a lot of rights progression. My answer – Exactly! Think of the children. Legalisation changes don’t make more people gay. It just affords equality. Or at least progress towards equality. I’d absolutely want people to think of the children. The children that have to listen to the abuse that their parents are receiving, being told that the family is not equal or worthy. Or the children having to listen to the misguided debates about sexuality, just as they are starting to figure out their own.

Show the children tolerance, kindness, compassion and love. Show the children that their families are just as important and valued as any other. Show the children that they live in a progressive country that values its individuals. Show the children that they are allowed the freedom to be whoever they are. Yes, absolutely, when you debate marriage, love and sexuality – think of the children.

*Featured image courtesy of The Legacy of Leo, also special thanks for writing this guest post! 

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Babyloss, Life

Stillbirth: A Feminist Issue

I have never thought of stillbirth as a feminist issue before today, after reading an article by Kristina Keneally. But it makes so. much. sense.

Stillbirth doesn’t happen to men the same way it happens to women. It would be wrong to say it doesn’t happen to men at all, of course, they are losing their children too. But for women, it doesn’t just happen to us, it happens inside us. We are the unwilling accomplices in our children’s deaths. It is so much more than something that happens to us.

And in a world run by men, it makes sense that the rate of stillborn births has literally not changed for decades. In Australia, 6 babies die every day in their mother’s womb. That is 2,200 mothers every year suffering the loss of their baby. Of course their families cannot be forgotten, there are fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, suffering the loss too. But none of them are as intrinsically involved in the loss like the mothers are. None of them are forced to physically take part. Giving birth to a baby that has already passed is something that only women experience.

Historically, stillbirth was a shameful experience, and blamed on the mother. In modern times, while this has somewhat changed, women can still be marginalised in their own stillbirth experience. I could not count the amount of male medical professionals who told me things along the lines of “sometimes these things just happen”, or even the occasional one who implied that the blame laid with me. The fact of the matter is that healthy babies do not just die. But there hasn’t been enough research into the incidence of stillbirth to even scratch the surface of why it happens, and this is probably because most of the researchers and medical professionals are male. Most of the people funding the research are male. We are living in a male-dominated world, and the finer points of women’s rights often don’t get a look in.

The medical profession is male-dominated. Women in the profession earn less then men. These are important feminist issues, no doubt about it, and apply to many other professions. But when it comes to the silence surrounding stillbirth, something must be done. Men aren’t speaking for us, because quite frankly a man has never truly experienced stillbirth the way women are forced too. Feminists need to realise that stillbirth is their problem. We are a sisterhood where 6 of us (in Australia) lose our much-loved children every day. As a feminist, it is your responsibility to fight against it.

So many women before have fought for us not to experience the things that they had to. I fight today so the women who come after me might not have to experience the loss of their child through stillbirth.

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Life

Life is a busy mess…

Life has been pretty busy lately. I know I said I’d write more, but writing is a bit of an indulgence when you’ve got so much going on.

I’m studying right now, for the first time since I left school 5 years ago. It’s hard. I’m struggling with it a little bit. I’m insanely excited about it all, but I’m not entirely sure I’ll succeed. I can barely get through the reading material – the language is heavy! – and I’m a big reader, so that took me by surprise.

Speaking of reading, I just bought a fascinating book – Mother’s Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters by Susan Forward, PhD. I’ve barely cracked the cover but I can’t wait to read it. My relationship with my mother has always had ups and downs, but lately the downs are getting to me more than ever before.

I’ve recently joined a support group for people with parents like my mother, and it’s been immensely helpful. Honestly, just being able to put a name to what she is has really helped. But right now I’m just moving forward and trying to figure out ways to heal without getting closure; because I know my mother will never accept nor apologise for what she has said and done. This has always been my reality, a mother who can’t love, who uses fear, obligation and guilt to manipulate the people she “loves”. I’m not expecting her to change. But I hope I can finally learn how to cope with it all.

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Life

Back In Action!

If anyone out there actually follows my blog, you will have notice I have written anything in a long, long time. I have a few excuses: I’ve been really busy, my laptop has been broken, and my phone screen is smashed to pieces so blogging from my phone hasn’t been fun either.

BUT I’M BACK! I got my new laptop today. Just in time for me to blog about my sons’ upcoming 3rd birthday / ‘angelversary’ and my rainbow’s upcoming 2nd birthday. They’re 6 days apart. It’s an emotionally draining time. I’ll tell you all about it next week.

I’m also starting university next month, and I’m hoping my blogging will help me in that regard. Writing is an invaluable talent as a student and I’m afraid I’m a little bit out of practice. I am, however, incredibly excited to be studying again – it’s been so long since I’ve felt like I’ve done something productive (besides raising a child of course).

Let me know what you’ve been up to lately in the comments. I’ve missed you! Will be back soon.

 

*Quick footnote: we’ve raised $2,690 for a Cuddle Cot through Bears of Hope! You can donate here.

 

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Babyloss, Life, parenting

Fundraising Update

Yesterday I received a phone call from my local hospital in regards to my Cuddle Cot fundraiser. 

It was a bit out of the blue. Obviously I have spoken to them before and when I first started fundraising actually received quite a few calls from them, but I couldn’t think of a reason why they would be calling yesterday. Except perhaps in regards to my upcoming community event. Nope.

They actually called me to let me know that someone from Newcastle had just contacted them, with 3 Cuddle Cots ready to go, wanting to donate one of them to Tamworth within the week. Which is fantastic news, really. But the hospital aren’t sure they’ll need another one – the one I’ve been fundraising for. I must admit I got off the phone and cried. 

It just meant so, so much to me to donate a Cuddle Cot in my sons’ names to the hospital they were born in. The people who would have used that Cuddle Cot might’ve recognised my boys names, knew their story. And I feel so connected to that place, I held my boys there, my boys existed in that hospital – sometimes it feels like it’s the only place they did exist. 

I’ve already raised $1,400, and my first community event is only weeks away. But now I’m not sure exactly where the money raised is actually going to go. I might have to find another home for my boys’ Cuddle Cot, and the community will then no longer get the satisfaction of knowing that their donations are actually going to help local families, which has honestly been a big driving point for my fundraiser.

Obviously I’m glad my local hospital is going to have a Cuddle Cot – and sooner rather than later means more families will be helped in the long run. I just can’t help but feel sad that my sons’ legacy might not get to live on in the local area.

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Babyloss, Life, parenting

Twins: Together Forever

One of the advantages of having two babies at once is that they have a built-in playmate, a friend to learn and grow up with. It’s something everyone said to me when I found out I was having twins, that they would never be lonely. And it’s one of the consolations I have about losing them. That they have always been together, and will always be, even in death.

When we first lost them and were “doing the rounds”, calling everybody to let them know, one of the first things people said was ‘they couldn’t even save one?’. It’s hard to explain why, but this question made me hurt even more. If I couldn’t have them both, why could I only have one? How could I have chosen between them? How could I separate my boys like that, when they had only ever known each other?

The only, tiny comfort I had when their hearts stopped beating was that they stopped together. That even in the afterlife, they will always have a friend. They naturally shared a coffin at the funeral, and we released two blue balloons, tied together, after the ceremony. One balloon dragged behind a little bit – I know this was simply the helium starting to run out, but I like to think of it as my little boy Eric reluctant to leave us, and his bigger twin brother gently guiding him to a better place. Helping each other just the way they would have if they had lived. 

It must be nice to watch your twins grow up together, knowing they will always have a friend. I don’t get that. It is admittedly painful for me to see other twins displaying that connection.

I do, however, know that that special twin connection is a beautiful thing; and that it can’t be beaten by death. My sons will always be twins, and always have each other. Even if one had lived and one had not, I have come to realise that that would always be true, just in a different way.

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