Cathy McGowan has paid tribute to 12 of her young nieces and nephews who helped her understand the concept of gender fluidity on the road to supporting marriage equality.
The Indi MP used her speech in Parliament on Wednesday to say “yes” to marriage not just between people of the same sex, but to those who identify as genders of all forms.
“I thank you for your patience and tolerance as you’ve taught this old aunt a great deal,” she said.
“As I’ve gone on this journey and the young people, not only in my family but the gender identity group in Wodonga and the other young people who have taken me into their confidence, I’ve begun to understand how complex this is to manage gender fluidity.”
Ms McGowan said she had become more tactful in asking transgendered people what pronoun they preferred to be called.
“This legislation is not only about same-sex, it’s about two people – however they define themselves – and my learning as I’ve moved through this is it’s not up to me to do the definitions, it’s to respectfully ask the people I’m talking to,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the debate where the LGBTQI community know that they are accepted, they can choose the pronouns that they want, and that they would be welcomed into our community not as ‘they’, not as ‘other’, but as ‘us’.”
The MP reflected on her battle growing up to not be seen and treated differently as a girl or a lady.
“The idea of defining someone by their gender still irks me - I don’t like it when people say ‘boys and girls’, or ‘men and women’ - I really want to be accepted for myself,” she said.
A letter from Wangaratta Anglican Bishop John Parkes support marriage equality was read to the Parliament.
“It is fair to say that we have not always undertaken the task of sensitive listening well across our church. On occasions, we have been more ready to talk to - or perhaps at - rather than listen to those, our brothers and sisters, and some of our language has been less kind, less respectful and less dignified,” he said.
Ms McGowan said the letter was written “with great wisdom” and called on churches to adopt a “love thy neighbour” approach, despite their differences.
“I would like to think we could let the argument end and and we can move onto a place of choosing our words carefully and actually listening to and with each other,” she said.
“I will work with you to create in our communities love, understanding and tolerance.”
A vote on the marriage legislation could occur as early as Thursday.