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Damien Woolnough on His Walk For Marriage Equality

I'm Walking 1,000kms For the Right to Walk Down the Aisle With My Boyfriend

The object of more than my affection, Adam Russoniello, is a dashing young barrister who wears a wig to court. I'm a seasoned fashion editor who sees wigs on the Paris runways. Ironically, in this odd couple, I'm the nagging voice of reason, which is why agreeing to walk from Sydney to Brisbane surprised both of us.

Disappointed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's gutless decision to put the issue of same sex marriage to a costly and unprecedented national survey, Adam proposed. Instead of a Tiffany & Co. diamond, he was offering a costly and time-consuming crusade up the east coast.

Adam proposed. Instead of a Tiffany & Co. diamond he was offering a costly and time-consuming crusade up the East Coast.

I immediately said "yes" to getting people to #VoteYes. Adam can be pretty persuasive even without relying on a smile that makes me weak in the hips, knees and ankles.

"We're walking to share our stories and to remind others that the marriage equality postal survey is about respecting the dignity of people like us," Adam says.

"We know that at this time, the power to create positive change is in the hands of all the people we are speaking to. We grew up scared of who we were and the experience left an indelible mark. Australia has since changed.

"As a community we've moved on from singling out people like us, and towards respecting our difference."

On Sept. 16 we left Sydney's gay ground zero, Taylor Square, with waves of support from close friends and family and started our seven week journey. Thirty minutes later we were in a hiking store buying proper walking shoes.

Now we are halfway to Brisbane, and the life lessons are racking up along with the blisters.

I've always happily worn my gay status on my sleeve, but having it splashed across my chest is a different story.

Clothing is a challenge. I check a 30 kg suitcase on an overnight trip to Melbourne, so filling a rucksack with outfits for seven weeks forced me to channel my inner Marie Kondo, Bear Grylls and Dries van Noten. More confronting than this epic edit is wearing T-shirts that make it clear I am queer, here and not taking a "No" vote for an answer. I've always happily worn my gay status on my sleeve, but having it splashed across my chest is a different story.

Slogan T-shirts may be in fashion thanks to Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior but their impact on the road to Macksville is different from the runway.

Walking along the freeway we have heard the dated, demoralising and frequent shouts of "faggots" from cars with revving engines, only to arrive in the next town and read about politicians calling "Yes" campaigners bullies.

Hearteningly, there are plenty of car horn salutes of support that put an extra spring in our stride as the daily step counter hits the 30,000 mark.

While "No" voices prefer to engage from speeding cars, people in remote towns have stopped to share their experiences of enduring homophobia. With each step this walk becomes more about equality and acceptance than just the freedom of speech to say "I do

With each step this walk becomes more about equality and acceptance than just the freedom of speech to say "I do".

Outside of Newcastle I listened in dismay to a mature lesbian, scared to be out and proud with her partner in their community for fear of verbal and physical assault. In Kempsey we met Hayley Hoskins and the weight on our shoulders became even heavier. We were stunned that in Slim Dusty's hometown, rainbow posters saying "It's OK On The Macleay" were everywhere. The culprit, Hayley, looks like she'd snap in a stiff breeze, but is stronger than the smell of Mortein.

Hayley's son Baylin took his life after battling depression, exacerbated by bullying because of his sexuality. Rather than keep quiet, Hayley started the foundation Baylin's Gift, which promotes acceptance around sexuality and draws attention to mental health issues.

After meeting Hayley, the walk has become a matter of life and death, because homophobia that is endorsed by the law is robbing Australian communities of young lives.

Despite the Anglican Diocese of Sydney donating $1 million to the "No" campaign, we also know that for many people God is on our side.

A Catholic grandmother outside of Taree was adamant that "Yes" was the only decision a true Christian would make, while in Toukley a young mother shouted us coffee in an effort to show that many Christians support equality. While I have mixed feelings about religion, I am a passionate believer in coffee.

We finish in Brisbane on the eve of Nov. 7, the final day of this humiliating public vote, hopefully thinner, fitter and wiser.

If we are successful in sharing our story and speaking to people, we will soon be able to propose a shorter walk and be driven to the ceremony where no one will be surprised to hear a loud "Yes".

Image Source: Damien Woolnough
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