Once again, I’m very honoured to be a nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. So many of my favourite children’s authors are featured on the list that I feel thrilled and very humbled to see my name in the company of writers that I have long admired.
If you are considering a ‘no’ vote in the plebiscite on gay marriage, imagine walking into an average Australian classroom – hypothetically, 25-30 small children. In that room there are, statistically, at least three children (11%) who cannot be party to the story you are about to tell them.
Here is the story you will tell:
“Twenty-seven of you here today will grow up to be legally entitled to marry and live happily ever after. Three of you will not, because three of you will not be entitled to have your love recognised under law. But that’s okay. Because you three must understand that the other 27 will love in a way that allows them to be privileged to the protection of the law and the love the three will feel will not be equivalent. The families of the 27 deserve the full protection that the law can offer, if they choose to avail themselves of it. For the three (and for those who are already the children of gay couples), their families are beneath the law.”
You, the story-teller, may then feel a need to apologise to the three, but, you will say, those three children must understand, they are not like the other 27, not full citizens of their own country.
Perhaps the three do not yet know that they will be gay one day but when they realise who they love, they will remember your story and it will torment them.
Three (or more) children in the classroom are not given your respect, your acceptance, or the privileges you will grant the other 27 under law. This is a hard story to tell the three, but it is also a cruel and destructive story to tell the 27. Some of those 27 children will feel ashamed and embarrassed for their three friends. Some of the 27 will assume that the three don’t deserve their friendship and respect, some of the 27 will see your denial of the three as a licence to abuse them. Every child in the classroom will be damaged by your ‘no’ vote.
I will vote yes for the sake of the three and for the sake of the 27 – because every child deserves full access to society, because I believe in the very Australian value of a ‘fair go’, because love is love and legal rights are legal rights and all our children deserve to live in a free and equal society.
Last weekend I returned from nearly a month in the USA.
It was the kind of adventure that shifts things. It shifted the way I think about America, the way I think about diverse books and our urgent need for them (the shortage is chronic), and the way I think about story.
While I was there I did three events to celebrate the release of the US edition of ‘Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean’, visited twenty-one bookshops, and attended the fabulous Bindercon.
I also sailed around San Francisco Bay, ate a crazy number of tacos and met a stellar array of Californians who inspired me with their energy and optimism. When you realise that San Francisco sits along one of the great fault-lines in the crust of the planet, you can’t help but be impressed by the millions of people who live there and embrace each day as it comes yet still plot and scheme for their futures.
Before I left for the US, a number of people asked me if I was afraid to travel there. When I mentioned this to friends in California, they were amazed and alarmed to realise how much Donald Trump’s election had frightened the rest of the world.
Fear is at the core of most of the stories that dominate world news. And of course there’s plenty to inspire fear in the current state of the world. I love that the US publisher made that the shout line on the cover ‘Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean’ – tales of imagination and daring. In an age where fear is crippling so many people, more than ever we all need stories of imagination and daring.