AS the coalition tries to work out whether a plebiscite or referendum is the best way to vote on same-sex marriage, a Hallidays Point man has said the ongoing rhetoric often hurt regional teenagers who were coming out.
Kade Denton, who now studies agriculture in Sydney, said the biggest challenge he faced when coming to terms with his sexuality while growing up was anxiety.
This was because there was no information or conversation on homosexuality to reassure him that it was ok.
Mr Denton recently sent a letter to the editor to the Great Lakes Advocate about his experience growing up and how he saw the marriage-equality debate.
“What is relevant to regional areas like the Great Lakes, is the only time homosexuality is discussed is in this negative way,” Mr Denton said.
“From my own experience going to school in Tuncurry, I can count the number if times homosexuality was discussed. Once in Physical Education when we watched Philadelphia. That was the only time in six years of schooling.”
Mr Denton said to someone coming out, this meant all they heard from politicians was same-sex marriage was not ok.
For someone in a difficult mental state, that translated to being gay was not ok, even if that was not the intended message.
“There is never any talk about how you fit in, the rhetoric is always how you are different from everyone else” Mr Denton said.
“In Forster Tuncurry when you have someone representing the community talk about homosexuality in a negative way it goes further than whether you can get married or not.”
As Mr Denton grew up, he said he did not know if it was ok to be homosexual because all he had to go off was ‘whispers from society’ and stereotypes.
“I was scared of what could happen,” he said.
“I thought, ‘does it mean I’ll get bashed on the bus? Will everyone shun me? Will I have to move?’
“That was fuelled by not knowing how everyone stood.”
But when he did come out, Mr Denton said he found the community was caring and supportive.
When it came to same-sex marriage, he said he found people did not care that much and supported it.
Mr Denton said the same-sex marriage debate did not usually motivate him to write letters to the editor.
What got to him this time was members of parliament from the Great Lakes and Taree said they supported the status quo which was a traditional concept of marriage.
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Mr Denton believes that is not an accurate reflection of what the community wants.
“The community is open to everyone and our politicians don’t represent that.
“The second thing that motivated me to write the letter was recent a prayer breakfast with religious leaders who spoke up about young homosexuals taking their owns lives.
“The impact is greater than whether two people can marry. “
Beyondblue reported in a 2013 paper the mental health of LGBTI people was among the poorest in Australia.
The paper said at least 36.2 per cent of trans and 24.4 per cent of gay, lesbian and bisexual Australians met the criteria for experiencing a major depressive episode in 2005, compared with 6.8 per cent of the general population.
Mr Denton said he hoped his letter communicated with teenagers that being gay was ok.
“I want to encourage people to have conversations with teenagers that are meaningful, and that you are welcome to be different to the mainstream.
“Being yourself does not need to be this serious.”