Adam Niewand, a rural gay success story, pleads to Malcolm Turnbull
A businessman raised on a farm at Minyip, who also spent his teenage years in Horsham, has written an open, heartfelt letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the distress a debate about same-sex marriage is causing.
Adam Niewand, 37, a gay man who runs an event-management business in Sydney, called Mister Milford – named after the family farm at Minyip, said he wrote the letter, which he published on social media, in frustration and fear.
“The exasperating thing is that just when you think how far society has come and how things have changed, it suddenly gets thrown back to the old days of intolerance,” he said.
“A lot of the unexpected hurtful stuff has hit a lot of friends, families and children – everyone – really hard.”
Mr Niewand left Horsham for Melbourne when he was 18 and still has friends and family members in the Wimmera.
He had little hesitation in allowing The Weekly Advertiser to publish his thoughts.
Here is his letter –
Dear Mr Turnbull, – My name is Adam Niewand. I grew up in a tiny outback town in the wheatbelt of north-western Victoria, in the dusty, Christian heart of our country where family farming businesses were passed down through generations to the eldest male in the litter and the girls married off to the neighbouring, well-to-do Christian boys.
No one knew quite what to make of the well-meaning, polite boy with the impeccable dress sense who could only be described as… different.
Lucky for me, in spite of my isolation and my difference, I was fortunate enough to have been raised by a loving family, which gave me the strength to be able to stand the ridicule, confusion, doubt, bullying, terror, hatred, heart break and self-
deprecation that comes along with it – just long enough to get through it and to understand that there is something for you on the other side. A life that would get better.
I made it. I’m still alive. And just for that reason alone, I am a rural gay success story.
Many others in my situation have not been that lucky.
Rural Australia can be a beautiful and charming place, but it can also be a harsh and cruel reality for our young GLBTI kids growing up in geographical isolation.
The statistics around suicide rates for GLBTI youth are horrific and at dangerous levels our nation’s leaders must address.
The rates are even higher for those in rural and remote areas of our land – statistics that you and your government are well aware.
I know what it’s like to fight for survival, and I’ve spent my whole life trying to make myself good enough, strong enough, equal to those that I’ve been told I’m not equal to.
I’ve tried to prove the bullies wrong, to be successful, to not succumb to the name-calling or destroyed by the hate that has been thrown at me.
I thought that fight was over for me after I grew up and moved to the city.
I have spent years as an adult volunteering for organisations that continue the fight for the survival of our young GLBTI kids and those in a less fortunate position than me.
My beautiful fiancé and I are very fortunate. He is a dual citizen and we shall be married legally at the British consulate in a marriage ceremony in 2018 before our Australian wedding.
Our Australian wedding will be in the company of our treasured family and friends with a different ceremony, which will not be recognised by law in Australia. Now, isn’t that just absurd?
However, what I didn’t expect to happen this week was for you and your government to suddenly throw me back to 1987 and to relive the trauma of my childhood.
I didn’t expect to get on a plane this morning and begin to cry as I looked around the full aircraft and thought about what each of these people supposed of me in their private thoughts.
Would they decide to deny me my rights? Did I disgust them? Does their religion tell them to hate me? What did they think of my beautiful friends and their amazing children? Would they deny them their rights too? Did they hate their children? Do they think these thoughts out loud? What do they tell their own children?
I was not prepared for the profoundly emotional effect that your disingenuous and painfully disrespectful announcement of a non-binding, non-compulsory postal vote on marriage equality would have on me.
Over these past years of the farcical notion of the plebiscite and the debate that has been raging in our parliament, I have felt frustration, anger and bewilderment.
This time though, you have really hurt me. I am so very sad and deeply upset.
You have hurt me, my fiancé, my friends that I love and call my family and you have hurt their children and all of their families.
You have stripped us of our dignity, suddenly and ferociously and you have made it a sport – free game to unleash hate upon us.
It’s open slather right here in our own country.
I am also really scared. I am scared of the months ahead of us and the hurtful and horrifying words that will be used to describe me, my life, my love and all of the members of my family and community.
I am scared for the lives of the members of my community who are not as strong as me and that do not have the support network that I do. How will they get through this?
I want you to have some compassion and show true leadership and put an end to this once and for all.
I implore you, please stop the hurt. From your privileged position, please protect your people as you have been elected to do and simply allow a free vote in parliament to legislate for marriage equality.
I am deeply ashamed to call you my Prime Minister.
You have turned your back on our small, minority community in our time of need.
I sincerely hope for your sake, that you and your family never have to experience the pain that me and my family are feeling right now.