Hannah Gadsby pictured opposite Debra Lawrence in Josh Thomas’ ABC comedy Please Like Me
Credit: Screen Australia

Comedian and actor Hannah Gadsby has added her voice to a growing chorus of those standing in firm opposition to the harmful, archaic, unnecessary and extremely costly plebiscite on marriage equality now slated for next year. 

In a Facebook post published overnight that has since gone ~viral~, Gadby – who is perhaps best known for her role in the ABC comedy Please Like Me – condemned the plebiscite and likened it to her experience growing up in Tasmania during the debate to legalise homosexuality. Tasmania became the last state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997, and earlier this month Tasmania’s Upper House backed a motion giving in-principle support for marriage equality.

“This plebiscite thing is a very bad idea,” begins Gadsby’s post. “The very idea of an ongoing debate around marriage equality makes my stomach turn. It’s not a pleasant turn either.  Let me be clear. I don’t care about marriage equality for myself because I do not have an aptitude for relationships.

“The reason I care about this is because I don’t want young kids to hear the kind of horrific bile I was forced to listen to in the 1990s when Tasmania debated on whether to legalise homosexuality. For many, the debate was theatre. For me, it made me hate myself so deeply I have never been able to develop an aptitude for relationships.”
This past weekend, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hold a $160 million plebiscite in February of next year, despite previously stating that it was his preference to hold a vote this year. In the days since, former high court judge Michael Kirby warned against the hate speech and division the plebiscite would create, while also stating that it would set a political precedent for this kind of (in)action.

“In the mid-nineties I was the age when I should have been learning how to be vulnerable,” continues Gadsby, “How to handle a broken heart, how to deal with rejection and how to deal with all the other great silly things about young love which help pave the way to the more substantial adult version. But instead I learnt how to close myself off and rot quietly in self-hatred. I learnt this because I learnt that I was subhuman during a debate where only the most horrible voices and ideas were amplified by the media. These voices also gave permission for others to tell me that I was less than them, with looks, words and on one occasion, violence.”

“Every day of my life I deal with the effects of anxiety and low self esteem. It is not nearly as debilitating as it used to be but I don’t imagine I will ever be truly free of it. Just imagine how brilliant I could have been if I hadn’t been given such a shit show at such a vulnerable time in my life. I am very concerned that the plebiscite debate is going to be another open season for hate. I fear for those, particularly in regional Australia, who are isolated from positive voices.”

Current polls suggest that 72% of Australians are in favour of implementing marriage equality. Australia’s last plebiscite was held in 1977 on the topic of a new national anthem that would be played at civilian events to replace God Save The Queen; even after the plebiscite as part of a referendum, it would take a further seven years (and a change of government) before change took effect. 

“If this plebiscite has to happen then lets try and drown out the hate filled commentators,” Gadsby concludes.

“They might not have the numbers but they will no doubt be handed a megaphone in the name of entertainment. But this kind of entertainment will not only ruin young lives…it will end some of them. Speech is not free when it comes at such a cost. This plebiscite is FUCKED.”

Tile image: Courtesy of Screen Australia