Five years ago I proposed to my partner in front of the country and today, Australia has RSVP’d ‘yes’ to our wedding invitation! So exciting!!
Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s and be a gay man. Would my choices in the way I expressed my sexuality be different? Would the impact of ‘gay hate’ felt in that era and the suppression of my true self, have made me different?
Then I think about the 80’s and 90’s, the decades that I grew up in, and how I was affected. At school, the teachers were just as damaging with their comments as the students. I learned to lie about my truth and mastered the art of hiding my sexuality. Inadvertently I taught myself that lying was okay because it was about protection. More importantly, I masked my private self-loathing which made me not believe in myself. Still, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as what I imagined it had been for the gays before me.
Then I think about the following generation that grew up with Glee and Dawson’s Creek; where girls had the gay best friend at school. It felt like the world was changing and in some ways I was jealous.
I can tell the difference between the way I was affected by homophobia compared to my elders and I know my story is different to how Graham Kennedy felt years ago and how Joel Creasey feels now. Different battles at different times and we are making progress but it has been a journey.
Today I found out that my country will allow me the right to marry my fiancé. The marriage equality debate was served, like a final dish in Masterchef.
My partner and I have been together for eight years, engaged for 5. I have had offers from magazines to pay for my wedding due to the fact I stumbled across some media notoriety with my winning of Big Brother in 2012. You may not have watched the show but you probably remember the ‘gay proposal!’ Yet I said no to those offers because I wanted to wait for my country to give me their blessing. I am a patriotic Australian and I love my country. In some ways I could have just had a party and said it was marriage but it didn’t seem right, not without a certificate and official recognition. It was no longer about marriage; it was about equality.
In some ways I wonder if we hadn’t exploited our sexuality with explicit sexual content (like in Mardi Gras) and we had focused on words like ‘love’ and ‘equality’ earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have repulsed people so much? Which makes me realise how much this journey has really affected me, looking for blame within myself, within my community. So I waited for the answer, not wanting to be too loud with my inner monologue because I couldn’t bare to be hurt and I wouldn’t leave myself open to do so.
The plebiscite was put in place and I was mortified about what my country was actually going to say about my sexuality. It’s a direct example of my upbringing and the scars of being treated unfairly in my young adult-life. I watched on as they wrote ‘no’ in the sky and people fought aggressively in the streets, as a basic civil right was discussed openly- like a reality TV show ‘Who is going to win?’ I heard someone say.
I asked myself, why I am so scared? I asked myself, will this be our Brexit or our Trump?’ Why had I lost faith? As a breakfast radio host, I was told I was too gay by senior management. I was asked to tone it down. I cried for two weeks and tried to push it aside. I thought my sexuality wasn’t something of an appropriate conversation. I felt like a freak and I began to overthink everything. How had I allowed myself to be so badly hurt? It took months to lift my head to face level with other Australians. My confidence rocked to the core. My partner at times saw me reduced to a shadow in a room full of people. I had fallen apart.
Will the same-sex marriage result bring me happiness? I hope it will… today I feel like I could fly. I will never forget that time I didn’t know if Australia was willing to say that I was equal and I will wear these scars for my lifetime. However, I will continue to remind myself that is was worth it. So many people played a role in that and I thank everyone, LESBIANS, GAYS, BISEXUALS, TRANSGENDERS, INTERSEX and QUEERS. Also those allies. I just hope that my tears and my struggle will mean that your children won’t hurt the way I did. Most of all I hope Australia realises that I waited for their ‘yes’ and now I invite you all to my wedding and this new beginning. The beginning of acceptance. What we fought for was equality and love won.
Benjamin Norris is a reality TV star known for winning Big Brother in 2012. Ben has gone on to have a successful career in radio with a number one show in Queensland. He’s a serial blogger and has had TV roles on Foxtel and channel Nine as a guest presenter. Catch Ben next as he embarks on a 16-part podcast series interviewing LGBTIQ influencers on Joy Fm 94.9.