Cortney Hendrix and Jason Carrion in the American version of 'Married at first sight'.
I know all the arguments against writing this article about same-sex marriage. I know that a lot of queer and trans people around the world are suffering fates much worse than not being allowed to marry. I know that some queer people think marriage is an institution that LGBTQI people shouldn't expend energy fighting to be a part of anyway, and there are also some that think marriage should be abolished altogether. I know that a majority of people in Australia are already in favour of marriage equality, and there's an idea that complaining too often about small things will start to undermine that support. I understand all of these points, and I agree with a lot of the arguments. I know it all, and I can process all of that logically using my lesbian human brain. And yet.
And yet, there are moments when it's more difficult for the logical part of your brain to maintain control. It can be hard not to flinch a little when at weddings of people you love, and having to hear the mandated "Marriage, according to law in Australia is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life" line over and over again. I am there to support the couple getting married, and I never want to be taken out of that moment, their moment. But I am, every time I hear that line. It's not a situation that I can reason my way out of, it is just emotion. It is the knowledge that you are part of a group that is being excluded, very deliberately.
So when I first saw that Channel 9 would be airing an Australian version of the show Married At First Sight, I was mostly able to rationalise my way out of it bothering me. But the more I read and saw about it, the more I struggled to stop my emotions overpowering the more reasoned part of my brain. Married At First Sight is exactly what it sounds like. Well, that is unless it sounds to you like people marrying the first person they see directly after they recover from cataract surgery. It is not that. Instead, it is a six-part reality show where men and women are matched together by 'relationship experts' and then meet for the first time at their very own staged wedding. Thirty days after the 'wedding', they sign the papers to make it official if they have decided to make a red hot go of it. How very romantic – I think Jane Austen must have come up with the original idea.
Michelle stars on Married At First Sight. Photo: David Dare Parker
This is not the first terrible show to venture down the undermining-the-sanctity-of-marriage path, and it most likely isn't the last. And that's partly the point. Yes, it is just one silly trashy reality show, and of course it shouldn't be taken seriously. That's the logic, and it's correct. But again, the logic doesn't really help when you are sitting in an exclusion zone. It doesn't really help when you can look at wonderful same-sex couple friends in your life who are raising children together, and who, despite the arguments against it, would love the chance to be able to have a wedding. Not a wedding at first sight, but a wedding at tens of thousands of sight. A wedding at ten years of seeing someone's face every morning beside you. And that opportunity is denied.
Don't get me wrong; it is not just this one show that has suddenly flipped on a switch and caused the realisation that things are unfair. The fact is that 'marriage as entertainment' has been an ongoing and consistent theme for a long time. And same-sex couples in Australia are still stuck in this same old place where nothing is resolved, everything is stagnant, and they still cannot get married if they choose. But 'participating in marriage as a game just because you can' isn't stagnant – it has evolved from dating shows, to competition shows where the aim is to find someone a potential wife, to now marriage at first sight. And same-sex couples are still here, stuck watching this mockery of an institution we aren't even allowed to partake in solemnly.
And the people who fight vocally and tirelessly and viciously against same-sex couples having equal rights tend to be silent here. Surely this kind of show undermines the concept of 'traditional marriage' just as much as same-sex marriage would. The fact that you don't hear a peep from the usual suspects like the Australian Christian Lobby (who seem singularly obsessed with making sure same-sex couples aren't given rights) speaks volumes about the real motivation behind their arguments.
Roni on Australia's Married at First Sight.
I personally have conflicted feelings about prioritising the fight for marriage equality over other serious health and safety issues that disproportionately affect LGBTQI people in Australia, and worldwide. Even so, it can be hard to keep your reactions in check when it feels like discrimination is being waved in your face over and over again. It is difficult to stay rational when you feel like you are being treated unjustly, and you can't see a time when things will change. Your emotions may take over when you are given tenuous reasons like 'sanctity of marriage' to justify why you can't be included in marriage, but then people who allowed to be included flout those reasons, and flaunt it in front of your face in more and more unashamed ways, televised to the country. What it comes down to is that it all starts to feels very personal; and that can be hurtful. It is yet another way that the society you participate in equally in all other areas informs you that your relationship simply isn't worth as much as heterosexual relationships are. And there's no amount of logic that can make me feel okay about that.