It’s one of Australia’s most popular Facebook pages, and one of the world’s most ‘liked’ LGBT-related pages. At the weekend, Gay Marriage Rights in Australia arrived at over 200,000 fans.
Founded in May 2009, the Facebook page, which shares updates on the campaign and other LGBT causes on a daily basis, the group got to 100,000 in June last year – with its growth accelerating phenomenally in recent months.
The page’s creator Ben Cooper tells Same Same that the team working on the page have been blown away by the amount of messages they have received from fans and community leaders congratulating them on their milestone.
“The page hitting 200k really shows just how far we have come,” he says. “Forty years ago there weren’t even 200,000 out LGBTI people in Australia, and male homosexuality was a crime. Nowadays we have over 200,000 people all on the one networking site fighting for equal rights for LGBTI people.”
Administrating GMRA is both rewarding and challenging, he explains. “We are in a position where we can help thousands of people and on a daily basis and we get messages from fans asking us all sorts of questions, from when is the next rally to how can I challenge homophobia in my school.
“The admins of the page are a group of young people who simply want equal rights.”
“But administrating can also be challenging – it can be difficult working with such a diverse audience and sometimes we have had to seek advice when we have encountered administrative problems. The admins of the page are a group of young people who simply want equal rights. We don’t have degrees in public relations or law and sometimes we have to seek assistance from others to overcome problems.
“We also do encounter homophobic trolls from time to time. Usually from religious extremists who feel the need to tell us that god hates us and straight teenage boys who tell us that fags are disgusting. But most of the messages we get – including from religious people and straight teenage boys – are really positive.”
Especially now that individual pages on Facebook each have an ‘inbox’ where they can receive messages, the Gay Marriage Rights in Australia page does get some “rather odd” suggestions and requests, says Cooper. “When you’re working with 200,000 people you are bound to have rather interesting people make contact with you,” he realises. “From people who want us to sell their hand-me-down shoes, to asking us not to promote upcoming rallies because it might provoke a terrorist attack.”
What advice would Cooper give to anyone wanting to set up their own social media site? “I would say ‘do it’,” he encourages, “I would also recommend injecting lots of humour into your posts and not take negative feedback to heart. Always be mindful of the diversity of your audience but at the same time stay true to your own beliefs.
“Also make sure you find the right people to help you – it has taken us some time to find the right people to co-adminstrate the page and the right people to seek advice from.”
Despite popular social media movements, supportive polling, and increasing numbers of proud rainbowed people at rallies actress Australia, with the defeat of the marriage equality bill in Federal Parliament and in Tasmania, we’ve recently seen arguably the toughest few weeks of the marriage equality campaign so far.
But Cooper’s keeping his hopes alive. “Every campaign has it’s tough times and this campaign most certainly isn’t any different. In New York it took three votes before it passed, and in some jurisdictions it took more attempts.
“Our feedback from the defeats, both federally and in Tasmania is that people are even more determined then ever before to achieve equality. It was only a few days ago that we saw our first rally for marriage equality in the rural town of Mackay.
“Marriage equality is inevitable in Australia, and providing everyone keeps up their effective activism, we’ll win sooner rather then later.”