When I grew up I had no idea that homosexuality existed. How would I? Elton John was marrying some lass in Sydney and George Michael was dancing around with a whole lot of chicks singing "I want your sex". Sure, the Village People existed, but to me they were just some characters who liked to dress up and sing catchy, wholesome songs about staying at the Young Men's Christian Association. There were certainly no gay characters on the Cosby Show, Family Ties, Different Strokes or any of the other crap American 80's shows I watched.
We did use the word "gay" a hell of a lot but never did I realise it meant homosexual. If we liked something it was cool, ace, tops, rad or wicked, but if we didn't like it the only adjective we ever used was "gay". Thus playing catch and kiss with the girls would be considered gay, while playing bullrush was considered ace.
When I went to high school there were no gay kids. I'm sure there were, but sensibly they stayed well within the closet because had they come out they would have had the living snot beaten out of them on a daily basis.
The first time I ever saw anything gay was one day when I was about 13 and I was going in to HMV in the city. There were two dudes on the elevator in front of me holding hands. It was so weird and alien to me that I actually remember it to this day.
I also remember my dad when he was about 50 telling me he'd never met anyone who was gay. I am sure he had appalling gaydar but for people who lived in the suburbs in that generation it really wasn't something you came across that much.
Considering my upbringing and the upbringing of generations before me, I am actually pretty amazed that society has managed to change so much in the past 30 years and I think gay marriage is probably important for a reason other than equality.
Any kid who goes to their gay uncle or gay auntie's wedding is going to see a whole lot of people happily celebrating a normal relationship. I think that is really powerful. It means when they find themselves attracted to people of the same sex in a few year's time they won't have to battle the same levels of mental anguish that other generations have. Hopefully kids won't get bashed up in schools, disowned by their parents or forced to suicide because of something they have no control over.
It's not the 80's. Surely it's about time we legalised gay marriage.