07/09/2017 08:20 BST | Updated 07/09/2017 08:50 BST

A Heartfelt Open Letter To Australia: Voting Gay Will Be Okay!

Imagine, women were denied the vote not too long ago.

Jason Reed / Reuters
Volunteers talk in call centre for the Yes campaign in Australia's gay marriage vote, as Australia's high court continues a hearing on the validity of a government plan for a postal vote to legalise same-sex marriage, in Sydney, Australia, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Dear Australia,

Your government ruled this morning that every Australian will get the chance to have their say on same-sex marriage. It will take the form of a highly controversial postal survey, with the question, "Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?" being sent to households across the nation on September 12. Now, the question is, how are you going to vote?

South Africa would like to let you know that voting gay will be okay.

You see, South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1993, the fifth in the world to legalise same-sex marriage and the first (and only!) country in Africa to do so. And somehow, 26 years later, our country is still standing.

People are still getting married in much the same way they've always done. Amazingly, there has been no calamity of morals that has befallen our society. People are not marrying horses. Children are not facing existential crises. Women still marry men, and women, and men are still finding wives to love them. Actually, I don't think you'll find many South Africans who'd say anything in their daily lives have changed. Except, of course, the lives of LGBTQI people.

Some context: When democracy came to South Africa, our elders decided that, after so many years of inequality, the law should ensure equality for every citizen. Of course, this doesn't mean that we all live in wonderful, gay bliss. Quite the contrary, in fact. Homophobia, corrective rape and institutional discrimination are still daily struggles in the lives of our queer community. But can you imagine how much worse it would be without the protection of our Constitution?

Perhaps you don't. Perhaps you don't get what it's like to love someone all your life, and not be able to have your partnership legally recognised. Perhaps you don't get what it means to always feel unequal to the rest of "straight" society who can choose to get married, or not. Perhaps you can't get it, because you've never had to.

So, ya, we don't understand why this is still such a big deal to you in 2017.

The decision to make life more equal for all citizens shouldn't be so tricky, especially considering that Australia is home to one of the largest LGBTQI communities on earth, and Sydney -– as I'm sure you know already -– tops the world's most queer-friendly cities.

Your own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that "Lucy [Turnbull's wife] and I will be voting yes and I will be encouraging others to vote yes." Opposition leader Bill Shorten tweeted, "Let's win this", but warned of a "booby trap", referring to your government's decision to hold a second, private parliamentary vote if the same-sex marriage postal survey returned a yes result.

Change, as our forebears knew all too well, can be scary. But really, there are many changes in history that have made the world a better place, which at the time might've seemed hard to contemplate. A world without smoking in airplanes, for instance. A world without slavery. A world where women could work, or, more radical still –- vote!

Yet, somehow, here we still are.

The decision, of course, is yours. But think of the others, the ones on the outside of the law, who are looking to you for a life as privileged as yours.