By Michael Donnelly
As you can see by my picture, I am a man with a disability. I was born with this disability and from the very beginning, my life has been an uphill struggle. As a newborn, some doctors wrote me off – too difficult to help. Professionals advised my parents I’d be better off in an institution. From then on, despite that, I continued to thrive. I was forced to attend a school that was named “Crippled Children’s School” because they were the attitudes of that era.
I have been laughed at; I have been stared at; people purposely cross the street to avoid walking passed me; the seat on the train next to me is always the last to be taken; I have been mocked; I’ve been bullied by children at school and by adults in the workforce; I’ve been spat on; I’ve been blocked on social media – all because of my disability.
Yet, despite all of those actions and more, I sit here writing this with feelings of betrayal, anger and sadness. None of my feelings are because of the above. I have been betrayed by my government and by the very community who would otherwise stand up for me as a disabled person and slap down the bullies, slap down those with intolerance, heckle the haters, and would pick me up and comfort me and support me in my fight to be treated fairly.
I’m angry because in the next four weeks the entire country holds the power to make a decision that could change my life forever, and it’s out of my hands – if you’ll excuse the pun. I’m angry because this sad state of events should, quite frankly, never have reached this point.
“Lady, I have an extremely good understanding of what discrimination feels like – and this is discrimination!”
I am sad, and not because there is a chance that my life won’t go the way I would like it to, but because there are so many people out there who cannot see how their words, their actions, their beliefs, their hatreds, and their closed mindedness will not only affect my life in the future, but will one day affect the lives of some of their own future loved ones as well. And for all the wrong reasons they simply cannot see this.
If you haven’t worked it out by now, I am gay. At this point in time I am a single gay man. The primary reason I am single is because of that disability. And for that, my part of the community still has a lot of growing up to do. And yet – even after being out of the closet for 25 years and single for approximately 23 of those, I pray (yes, I said that word) that if the man of my dreams walks into my life that I will be able to have that man as my next of kin, as my legal beneficiary, and for he and I to share all of the wonders of a fully recognised and fully legal relationship.
Yesterday, a woman told me that I was not being discriminated against by not being able to marry a man. Well lady… I have an extremely good understanding of what discrimination feels like – and I can categorically tell you this is discrimination and inequality!
I implore each and every person who reads this to help me have my prayer answered. Please vote YES. Please don’t be swayed. For me, for your children’s children, and for all the other everyday Australians who just happen to be gay, lesbian, etc – allow us the very same wondrous right that you were born with.
From the bottom of my heart, vote YES. Thank you, Michael.