Two young, queer Aboriginal women have taken up the fight to make sure Australians get marriage equality.
Edie and Tarsha formed Blackfullas for Marriage Equality ahead of Australia’s postal survey on the issue. They women want to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are engaged in the debate around marriage equality.
‘We self identify as Blackfullas and this is an empowering term that we use to identify ourselves to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,’ they told Gay Star News.
For one month from mid-September Australians will receive a postal ballot to share their opinion on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. Both sides of the campaign have mobilized with advertising and media strategies to get their messages across.
Edie is a Wiradjuri and Ballardung woman and Tarsha’s people are the Palawa people from Tasmania. The women know all too well how public debates can expose hateful vitriol. They want to make sure their mobs are protected.
They recall how Aboriginal people were forced to ask for permission to marry until the 1960s. For them the postal survey is a reminder how ‘marriage (was) used as a weapon to subordinate’ Indigenous Australians.
‘As Blackfullas, we know full well that debates about marriage are never just about the act or institution of marriage alone,’ they said.
‘The validity of the LGBTIQA+ existence has been again thrusted into public speculation and ridicule.
‘When you intersect that with the experience of being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people’s who experience institutional racism and discrimination regularly, this is heightened.’
One of the aims of Blackfullas for Marriage Equality is to educate Aboriginal people about the postal survey. Another aim is to also protect the LGBTIQA+ Indigenous community from the negativity of the ‘no’ campaign.
They plan to be ‘louder, prouder and more prominent within community’.
Being LGBTI and Indigenous
Both the LGBTI community and Indigenous people experiencing some of the highest rates of suicide in the Australia. People who belong to both communities are at significantly higher risk of suicide and mental health issues.
Even though there is no specific data on the rate LGBTI Indigenous suicide, anecdotal evidence and comparative data from Indigenous Canadians suggests it is dangerously high.
That is why Blackfullas for Marriage Equality will work to make sure Indigenous voices are represented in the campaign.
‘When these identities intersect as they do for many young black people in this country these (negative) experiences are amplified,’ Tarsha and Edie said.
‘And for all the good work that organisations are putting into ‘Yes’ campaign, just as with so many progressive causes, Aboriginality and our narrative is often left unspoken.
‘Rather, it’s about working with other groups to ensure that a Blackfulla narrative is authentically part of the story.’
The announcement of the postal survey has been particularly hard for both the women of Blackfullas for Marriage Equality. For them, the fight is personal.
‘As two young, black, queer women, we were feeling particularly vulnerable with the plebiscite announcement,’ they said.
Tarsha says she will wants to protect her mob from the ‘poisonous ‘no’ campaign’.
Edie has lost someone close to her from homophobia. She will ‘never stop fighting tooth and nail to drown out hate and discrimination’.
‘As a rainbow baby myself (Edie), I know first hand that the gender of your parents has absolutely nothing to do with the happiness and wellbeing of children and young people,’ she said.
‘I’ve also lost someone that I loved and cared for to homophobic hate and bigotry. It can take mere seconds to lose a life.
‘Together we can drown out the hate, and we will win.’
Yes, yes, yes!
Blackfullas for Marriage Equality is part of the ‘YES’ Alliance and will be tapping into its campaign strategies.
They’re putting together a working group and already have 20 people ready to campaign in communities. The women are also partnering with Indigenous health organizations to make accessing support services easier.
‘We’ll be campaigning in the same ways as everyone else – phone banks, door knocks, street stalls, all of it,’ they said.
‘We’re currently finalising resource kits to go out to mob who want to do something in their communities.
‘Finally, we’re collecting stories from proud, LGBTIQA+ blackfullas, and will be publishing them to show both our community and the wider world that it is okay to be all of those things, and that our pride is our strength.
‘This is for our LGBTIQA+ brothas and tiddas, our sistergirls and our brotherboys. And this is about standing in solidarity with the broader LGBTIQA+ community – we’ve had enough.’