Dear fellow Australian,

There’s a lot of noise being made around the ‘gay marriage’ debate. You’re probably sick to death of it. I hear you.

You might be aware that we’re about to have a plebiscite (that is, a public opinion poll) on whether Australians in a same-sex relationship should be granted the same rights as their straight counterparts. Yes, this is an expensive and arguably pointless exercise on the government’s part, and one that stirs up some pretty strong emotions in all kinds of people.

If you’re done with this political chess game, you might feel like simply voting ‘no’ on this ridiculous saga and moving on with your life. I can see how this would feel like a proactive stance against a world gone mad with political correctness, and you are more than entitled to do so.

If you don’t mind though, I’d like to open my heart a little and share a few thoughts.

Sometimes, I wish I could get married. Sometimes, I begin relationships, then end them because I’m still trying to heal. Sometimes, I forget that I’m not an abomination, but that I am in fact worthy of finding that special someone.

Yep, I’m one of the gays.

I’m also one of six kids, growing up in a conservative Christian family. I played piano at my brother Dan’s wedding. It was a special day. At Simon’s wedding, I was honoured to be his best man. I wrote and performed a song at Sarah’s wedding, I was filled with joy at Matt’s wedding, and sobbed like a baby at Caleb’s wedding.

Yet, throughout these five wonderful weddings that celebrated my five wonderful siblings, I was harbouring some deep-seated hate. I hated that I wasn’t attracted to women in the way I knew I should be. I hated that I could never conduct myself with integrity, because there was a secret looming beneath the surface. Ultimately, I hated myself.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn is that ‘hate’ is like a cheap, flickering neon sign. It’s a sign that’s plugged into the power socket of fear. A sign that’s supercharged by the threat of the unknown.

Fear powers hate.

So, if you use your neon sign to proudly profess that you ‘hate the sin’ you see in me, I understand. I know that sneaky circuitry all too well. I once feared a lot of things too.

I also understand that, by saying ‘no’ in this same-sex marriage poll, you’re probably not trying to intentionally hurt me. You’re taking a stand on something that you believe is your truth. In fact, there is an element to this that I applaud. We must all fight for our thoughtful convictions.

Here’s the bigger truth, though. Excluding same-sex couples from a legal union that’s identical to the legal union afforded to straight couples — in other words, marriage — is incredibly hurtful. Hurtful to me, hurtful to my future partner, and hurtful to countless Australians who have been told their whole lives that they simply aren’t as important as the powerful majority.

I’m not trying to bully you into anything. If you decide to place your personal convictions above the dignity of LGBTQ Australians, I’m not going to call you a homophobe. Labelling, finger-pointing and shaming doesn’t really help anyone. I’ve been to enough well-meaning churches to know what unnecessary judgement feels like.

Moreover, if you do happen to have an irrational fear of homosexuality— the very definition of homophobia — I want you to know that I also understand. I understand, because I used to be the most homophobic person I knew.

Because of my irrational fear, I was incredibly confused about where I fit in this strange world. Where I fit between the mystical words of ancient scripture. Where I fit as a beloved child of God. This internal homophobia caused me to say and do some pretty hurtful things to other people. Like that neon sign powered by fear, I was unconsciously flickering a message of hate towards the people around me.

As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.

Now, Australia gets to have a say on whether or not I’m worthy of getting married. (Ouch.)

Every Aussie has been given an opportunity to release their hurt, whether for or against, by putting forward their personal opinion. I’ve recently been making a conscious effort to remember that who I am is more than the tick of approval on anyone’s postal vote. Some days I’m better at this than others.

So, I want to ask you a question. I feel that I’m being honest with you here, so I’d like you to be honest with me, and with yourself.

Are you a hurt person?

If so, you have my sincere empathy. Truly, you do. The world is not a fun place to be when you’re feeling hurt, no matter what you believe.

If you’re a hurt person who opposes same-sex marriage, you should probably go ahead and vote ‘no’. Stand your ground and voice your fears about the negative effect this might have on you as you move through life. Your heart is most likely healing from a deep, personal wound that I will never fully understand. It is not yet ready to open up to all Australians, and no one can force you to do that.

However, as someone who has kept my heart tightly closed for most of my life, I want to offer out an invitation. Feel free to take it or leave it. I invite you to consciously move beyond your fear. To move beyond the limiting mindset that, over the years, has convinced you that opening your heart will only bring you more hurt. Once you take this step beyond fear, there’s something pretty extraordinary waiting for you on the other side.

It’s called love.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It’s the exact opposite of fear.

But it’s certainly not easy. Love takes intention, with all the bravery you can muster. I’m telling you this because I’ve had to learn it time and time again. I’ve had to look people in the eye who tell me I’m less than equal, and find the courage to love them. It’s been a process, and I’m still learning. We all are.

If you feel that you need to vote ‘no’ on same-sex marriage, please know that you have my love. I don’t say this lightly. I’m actually crying as I write these words.

But this is what love is. It’s daring. It’s outrageous. It’s everything.

My hope for you, and my hope for Australia, is that we can someday move beyond our fear and say a resounding ‘yes’ to our same-sex attracted citizens. No matter our sexual orientation. No matter our faith. No matter how much it hurts.

Until then, I’ll find my hope in the only thing that matters.