November 16, 2011

Marriage Equality. It Really Should Be This Simple.

Yesterday I chatted to my ten year old daughter about gay marriage.

"What do you think about it?" I asked her. We'd listened to a news story about the PM's proposed conscience vote on the issue and I was genuinely interested to hear my daughter's opinion.

"I think gay people should be allowed to get married," she said, and I agreed. And then she continued.

"Eli's mums are gay, aren't they?" she asked, referring to a school friend of hers.

"Yes," I told her.

"Well, at first when I met them, I thought it was a bit weird, but now it's just normal to me." I nodded.

"You know, Australia still won't let gay people get married," I said. My daughter frowned.

"But Mum," she asked, "isn't not letting gay people get married just like not letting a black person marry a white person? In the old days black people and white people weren't even allowed to sit on the same bench. Now we'd think that was terrible!"

And I looked at my daughter and I thought, why? WHY can't adults think the way she does? Why can't adults be as clear and untainted and as lacking in prejudice as a child.

There are two sets of lesbian parents in my daughter's year at school, and to the best of my knowledge they have been as warmly embraced by the school community as any other set of parents. And whilst some of the kids may have initially thought it was 'weird', that sense of difference faded incredibly quickly.

I genuinely believe that kids are born without inherent prejudice. They will notice differences - different colour skin, scars, disabilities, family structure - but they don't attach meaning to those differences like we do. They may notice that their Asian friend has different shaped eyes, but they don't make assumptions about their friend's personality or attitude to money or ability to drive based on that eye shape. They may notice that their classmate has two mums, but they don't make judgements about the morality of that situation - they are far more concerned with what treats the mums keep in the pantry, and whether they let them stay up late during a sleepover.

We are the ones who pass on moral judgements to our children. We are the ones who teach them what is 'right' or 'acceptable' or 'normal' or 'appropriate' or 'God's will. Which means that if we stop - if just one generation stops indoctrinating our kids into believing gay marriage is 'wrong', or people wearing burqas are 'dangerous', or that refugees are 'criminals' - we can begin to eliminate prejudice.

Sure, this is simplistic, but you don't see a lot of kids from open, accepting homes wanting to ban the burqa, or stop the boats. We need to listen to our kids, and stop filling their heads with prejudice. And maybe one day, what was once as 'weird' or 'scary' to us as blacks and whites sitting on the same bench will be completely normal.

31 comments:

  1. Oh Kerri, I read your daughter's words of wisdom on twitter yesterday and cried. I'm so upset and angry that Julia Gillard is making this so difficult - when it should be so simple. By not allowing people rights we're making them different - the 'other' and that's where prejudice, alienation, fear and hatred step in.

    I haven't been game to speak to my daughter about this latest development. How can I explain that the people we've elected to govern this country can't see right from wrong and are pandering to a prejudiced minority.

    Beautiful, beautiful post. x

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  2. Your daughter's comment is so spot on. I got all Bolshie on Twitter yesterday and made my feelings known. 

    I find it an unacceptable double standard in the EXTREME for Julia Gillard to refuse to share her right to choose marriage with the gay community. The fact that she herself enjoys this freedom and has the power to extend it to others but will not, will never compute in my mind.

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  3. Brilliantly put Kerri. 

    It really should be that easy. All this political posturing is doing my head in.

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  4. Kerri, this is a beautiful post; your daughter's comment made me cry. You're right, it really should be this simple. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Kerri, I just can't understand why the politicians can't understand what my daughter did at 3 (one of her friends had 2 mums) - that it isn't important who loves you, so long as you are loved.

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  6. I agree 100% with you and your daughter. Marriage is about making a commitment to the person you love, and it shouldn't be restricted only to opposite gendered couples.

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  7. You have written alot and I have read almost all of it ... but I think nothing you have written before has made me want to stand up and applaud as this has xxx

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  8. So, so, so true. And so important! Fabulous post... and fabulous parenting. xx

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  9. Exactly. And I can't understand either.

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  10. Agree. It is awful to be ashamed of one's government.

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  11. Hi Kerri,

    Thanks for this post.  I have recently been concerned by my 8 year old daughters comments regarding gay people.  It scares the bejesus out of me what kids talk about in the playground at lunchtime.

    The first comment was:
    K: "ew?!  A man cant love another man!!!" 
     me: 'eh why not?"  
    K:  "cause thats gross!!!"
    Me: "Who says? you cant help who you love.  What does it matter if it's 2 ladies, 2 men or a man and a woman who love each other??"

    Was clearly a satisfactory response and I heard no more of it until last week when she was relaying the day's 'stories' and referred to one of the boys not doing something cause he didn't want to look gay.  WTF?! 

    At no point have we offered up any opinion against homosexuality!  Even though our upbringing was of a prejudicial nature my husband and I consciously 'neutralise' those ingrained assumptions to instil tolerance of everyone in our children.  I guess what other people teach their kids will still filter down through the peers and be accepted/rejected accordingly.  Jesus, I tell you I just want to home school at times!!

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  12. i totally agree with you on this one. as a Muslim mum in Australia i have come across some nasty people. from the elderly to the young and in the work place. i was rejected to work in one place after being accepted for the job cause the picture i put up with an introductory of my self (i work in child care) the parents were all "funny" about. they told me they cant hire me cause the parents felt weird. this was in a highly richy area. then when i got a job one of the parents at my new place actually admitted to me that she used to feel weirded out by me but not any more. 

    the children on the other hand, not even a hint of any prejudice. the older children did ask why was i wearing the "head thing" and i tell them in simple terms and they would understand why and they were fine with that answer and never asked again. it was the norm for them to see me. even at the shops i get kids smiling at me and wanting to play but their parents cant even look at me or think i cant speak English but to their surprise i speak perfect English cause i was born and bought up in western sydney. 

    kids see no differences and adults shouldn't either. i really dont care what you guys do celebrate christmas, shopping centres can have their christmas songs playing, gay? why not. be happy with who u are who am i to judge. just as long as no one is judging me for my choices in my life and what i do with and for my children then i cant really judge.  

    ok rant over. i talk to much. 

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  13. This is beautifully put and so true.  Adults create silly barriers out of fear and yet when they're finally torn down we wonder what on earth we were thinking back then in the dark ages.  Hopefully we can 'move forward' into a less stereotyping future soon.

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  14. Stuff this government's last century thinking on gay marriage. Why not put it to a referendum, and let the people who matter, make the decision ? It's not rocket science, Julia.........

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  15. Children are smart. It's up to us as adults to not dumb them down.

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  16. Fantastic post.
    Honestly, if the country was run by kids we'd be a-ok.
    Ridiculously sugar high - but a-ok.
    This is why I choose to spend my working day surrounded by children and their perspective.
    I love the way you articulated the difference between 'noticing' and 'prejudicing'.
    :-)

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  17. That's exactly why we should have people of different faiths, colours etc in child care - so the kids can teach their parents acceptance. X

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  18. It's so true. Your kids didn't have any ingrained prejudice till they were taught. SUCH a shame! But you can break it down. Keep at it. Maybe talk to the school about what's going down in the playground? X

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  19. Wonderful words coming from the lips of a ten years old child. I agree we still have lots of things to learn from kids amazing common sense.
    The world will be a better place ^_^

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  20. Well said Kerri.  I read your blog but have not posted a comment before.  As a mother in a same sex parenting family, I applaud you and I feel comforted by your daughter's words.  My children are only 2 and 4, and whilst my 4 year old knows his family is different, no-one has told him it is 'weird' or 'wrong'.  He loves that he has two mums, as do all his friends. I wish it would stay that way when he starts school next year but I am prepared for the tears now...

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  21. Fabulous post! I so believe that love should be able to be recognised equally. It is completely galling to me that if I ever got married, the ceremony would have to include the words “marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman”. Why is my love for my partner of the opposite sex so different that the love my gay friends have for each other?

    My parents have gay friends who have been together for 25 years, I have some straight friends whose marriage didn’t last one year! We have long passed the time when marriage was a contract about property protection and heir production. As far as I’m concerned these days marriage is a formal ceremony of commitment between two people who love each other. Why those people should be of opposite genders makes no sense at all to me.

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  22. Truly Celia, there will be so many kids with separated or divorced or single parents, your family will just be another non-traditional family. Just make sure your house is stocked with lots of delicious treats - that is all the kids care about when coming for play dates!

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  23. Live and let live!  We all live in one world, breath the same air and mostly strive for the same things.  Love is love is love!

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  24. Good post and it's weird government are driven by dodgy focus groups. Sometimes government should just introduce things for the greater good and to hell with narrow minded focus groups. Hell, if we listened to the 'people' we wouldn't have decimal currency or the metric system, as there were plenty of people who had decided the world was going to stop turning if those things were introduced! 

    Bring in gay marriage as at least they would respect the institution more than some heterosexual celebrity marriages that last about 5 minutes!

    I think I've out-ranted myself and I was going to follow your blog, but it's got 666 followers and I didn't want to muck up the whole 'number of the beast' thing. This of course makes no sense if someone else decides to follow you before I post this lengthy comment! 

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  25. love your entertaining blog, have an amazing day =)
     
    -Mia xoxo
    http://naturezfinest.blogspot.com/

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  26. Emma Odette BarnettNovember 22, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    Boo is brilliant. Genius. 

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