MAFS remains an insult to marriage

 

I used to wonder if I was one of the only people in Australia who refused to watch Married At First Sight (MAFS) on principle.

Now I simply wonder why anyone watches it in the first place.

I totally get that, in today's doomsday-ish world of coronavirus, bushfires and Trump's likely second term, we need some escapism in the form of trash TV.

But there's trash, then there's get in the bin - and MAFS is undoubtedly the latter.

For gay people like me, here's why.

In 2020, people like me can finally, one day, marry the person we love in a same-sex wedding. It's still quite new; I've only been able to share in that fairytale dream for a couple of years.

My entire life, I wasn't able to participate in the same cosy ambition of tying the knot surrounded by loved ones and living happily ever after.

For a long time, I'd just resigned myself that my life would be nice, different, unusual.

Except, I didn't always believe it'd be nice.

Sure, I convinced myself it'd be OK, if unconventional. But in terms of romantic aspirations, I accepted that loneliness, lack of security and inequality were probably part of my future.

When gay people can't share in the same dreams, hopes and privileges as others, their relationships suffer under the stress. This is why stats show higher rates of substance misuse and suicide among LGBTQI people.

People celebrate the result of the same sex marriage vote. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty
People celebrate the result of the same sex marriage vote. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty

But then, the option of same-sex marriage was finally on the table.

It was on the table in a format we begged it not to be: a nationwide, public postal vote. LGBTQI people, who implored our elected representatives not to put our human dignity up for public debate like this, were ignored. So we had no option but to fight like hell for that yes vote.

And fight I did. Often using this column, and squarely facing the online trolls, I laid myself bare. I shared the deepest intricacies and poignancies of my personal life - sometimes uncomfortably so - and those of people close to me, like my late nan. I did it to show just how much this'd mean to gay people like me and those who loved us. I did it to show people why we were so deserving of equality, and the bruising, damaging effect of continued inequality.

Part of that fight included stating clearly just how demeaning and gloating MAFS was in an unequal Australia. During a major marriage equality rally, my tweet about MAFS went viral. It depicted a sign saying: "Strangers can get married at first sight on TV for $. But I can't marry my soulmate." It nailed it.

Now, after exposing so much of our personal lives - much more than we ever wanted, in a desperate and ultimately successful attempt to win hearts and minds, gay people like me can finally marry our soulmates.

And let me tell you, the equality is glorious. I walk taller. I hold hands with another man with less fear. I feel more included in the same hopes and dreams of my heterosexual peers. Aged 37, my bones are finally filled with the single most important feeling since this world began: optimism.

David Cannon and Hayley Vernon were booted off Married At First Sight due to their toxic behaviour. Picture: Supplied
David Cannon and Hayley Vernon were booted off Married At First Sight due to their toxic behaviour. Picture: Supplied

But I shrink every time another episode of MAFS airs. The equality I now enjoy doesn't suddenly make MAFS OK. In fact, it makes it worse.

I put myself on the line to campaign for the right of LGBTQI people like myself to get married. During the debate, politicians and no campaigners vilified us by telling us same-sex marriage would destroy the sanctity of marriage.

After the personal cost and pain of all the campaigning we were forced to do to be let into this institution, it's highly degrading that we have to watch couples demean marriage in this way for entertainment value.

This is what we fought for, tooth and nail. That blood, sweat and tears only stings when I see contestants blindfolded and grinning in the MAFS marketing materials. Same-sex couples waited 30 or 40 years to tie the knot. Many never got to do so before their loved one died; a tragedy they'll never truly get over.

Married At First Sight’s Mishel and Steve are hard to watch. Picture: Channel 9
Married At First Sight’s Mishel and Steve are hard to watch. Picture: Channel 9

Every single person who claimed that the sanctity of marriage was their primary concern should join me in condemning MAFS as the very worst type of scrape-the-barrel reality TV of a society that prioritises entertainment value over any moral values whatsoever.

Marriage is a deep, serious and solemn commitment made between two people whose love is profound. Not some tawdry, frivolous game for a low-rent TV show.

It's not the contestants or even the viewers I blame. It's the cynical program makers, who care about nobody and nothing except their own viewing figures.

Now, as LGBTQI people, we, too, want to protect marriage as something deeply meaningful and sacred to us - all the more so because of the cost and losses we endured in trying for so long to secure it.

If the conservatives are true to their word, they should too.

Gary Nunn is a RendezView columnist

@garynunn1



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