Dec 24

In November Michael and I celebrated 7 years together.

What can I say.  It didn’t take me very long to discover that Michael is a wonderful man, and after this short space of time, I understood that I wanted him in my life.  I love him.

Like all relationships I need to give care and attention to it.  I don’t always get it right, but I’m willing to change, adapt and learn from the experience of sharing our lives.

vowsWe are a married couple.  He is my husband.  For me it was important that I find a way to say to my family, my friends, and the rest of the world how important this relationship is to me.  What better way to share the way I feel about Michael than a public declaration of my love for him.  What better way than marriage to say to this key person what he means to me.

We traveled to New Zealand to get married.  It was a quick trip, part of a TV documentary called Living With the Enemy.

That meant we had to share our special event with a fundamentalist priest from the Anglican sect of christianity.  I remember him, Father David, many times asking us to explain why it was that we wanted to get married.  Michael and I had to let him into our little secret.  That we wanted to change the world!  We wanted everyone to get gay married.  As that seems unlikely it would seem that the reason for our marriage is based upon a mutual love for each other, the desire to share that with our family and community at large, and to say to each other just how important we are in each others lives.

That seems perfectly sensible.

 

Tagged with:
Aug 04

Just last week in Jerusalem, at their annual pride march, a man described as an ultra-orthodox Jew stabbed 6 people.  He was heard to say that he was doing the work of god.

We balance this with the news this week from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) who admitted Keshet, a group for gay Jews into their association.  Showing us that despite religion, you can actually accept people for who they are.

MBThe JCCV decision comes at the end of a very long road of agitation and negotiation by my husband, Michael Barnett.  He has no direct involvement with Keshet, but he has been tirelessly working away in the background.

Several years ago he broke off communication with the JCCV, well, the other way around, they stopped communicating with him, he has been working hard to change opinions, to challenge the status quo and to break through.

The journey for Michael goes back to 1999 when the JCCV decided not to admit Aleph,  another support group for gay Jews, into their ranks.  In fact, not only were they against it there were a number of ultra-orthodox organisations that said some particularly nasty things.

I haven’t known Michael for that long.  In our time together I have watched him take on the JCCV leadership and tell them things that they just didn’t want to hear.  And this journey has not been easy.

I recall sitting at a meeting with Aleph and the JCCV and the response from the JCCV leadership was less than desirable and amounted to Michael being abused and yelled at.

The JCCV then established their own GLBTI Reference Group and froze Michael out.  Despite this he continued to do his work of trying to break down the barriers for young gay Jews, always with the aim of removing those barriers to help reduce the suicide rate for those growing up in the Melbourne Jewish community.

Michael may never be recognised for the job he has done.  You can’t take your finger and trace a map of the 1999 Aleph knock back to the Keshet acceptance.

Keshet becoming an associate of the JCCV is a lot of work by many people, the current JCCV leadership has steered the way and the Keshet team have been fully engaged.

Michael has also been putting in and talking with people along the way, doing what he does so well.  Making connections.

The road to today has been carved by Michael Barnett, others have come along behind him and been able to take advantage of his work.  That’s the way it works.

I and indeed our family have supported Michael in this journey, we’ve been the sounding board, his personal advice centre.  We’ve had the tough conversations, we’ve acknowledged when the good things happen.  We heard his pain, we saw it on a regular basis.  Above all we took this man and loved him.  Because he was right.

The important part here is that finally we have the orthodox part of the JCCV supporting the gay people, accepting them, becoming a better and more whole community.   The same people who opposed this move all those years ago.  This will have an effect on those young questioning people.  Maybe this acceptance will save lives.

My admiration for Michael is boundless.  In the face of adversity he has stayed the path.

I’ve told Michael that he should take pride in this result.  It is his work that delivered this result.

I’m proud of him, the work that he has done.

Tagged with:
May 24

My eyes have been focussed on Ireland as they voted in a referendum to change their constitution to broaden the definition of marriage in that country.

“marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”

Just so we’re clear, it’s not gay marriage nor is it the right to marry a dog, several hundred other people or a bridge. It’s the right to contract in accordance with the law the right to marry another person.  You could be gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered or just plain and simply you.  All you need is another single person and you can get married.

vote yesThe people said yes.

There has been much celebrating in Ireland and around the world.  It’s historic as it’s the first country to vote on marriage equality.  Of course, there are those that are upset about the result, such as Lyle Shelton – head straight man at the Australian Christian Lobby – scared of anything that isn’t just like him.  He very quickly published a media release to tell everyone else just what we should be thinking!  He sums up his whole approach right there in the headline:

Irish marriage referendum a blow to the rights of children

He seems to ignore the 18 countries where it’s ok to get married and guess what, the kids are ok!  He’s not focussed on the Royal Commission on Institutional sex abuse where the rights of kids have been ignored and destroyed.  Nor has he focussed on the rape and abuse of asylum seekers.  No, no, he in his writings suggest that gay people are somehow causing harm to the rights of children.

The redefinition of marriage and family in Ireland this weekend is a wake-up call to Australians who value the rights of children and freedom of belief.

Yes, it’s a wake up call – the decision has been made by the people.  Not by a few lobbyists who head an outdated religious lobby group.   Of  course, family has not been redefined in Ireland.  Just who is allowed to get married, and even then, it’s not so much as a redefinition, but simply a small adjustment.  Opposite-sex couples are still able to marry.   As to the rights of children, last time I check my two were still ok, as are my nephews and nieces.  No impact at all.  Also, it’s Sunday today, no churches have been harmed so freedom of belief endures.

The Australian Christian Lobby is disappointed that the Irish movement to redefine marriage, funded by $16 million US dollars, has succeeded at a national referendum today.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said, “Over $16 million US dollars has been provided to organisations to deliver same-sex marriage over a period of 12 years in Ireland.”

Actually Lyle, that would be illegal.  Foreign entities may not fund or donate to Irish referendum campaigns. It is rather naughty of you to suggest it, especially since you seem to ignore the counter claims that the No vote has been funded by extreme right-wing American fundamentalist organisations.

Mr Shelton said despite the result in Ireland, Australia was different and he called on parliamentarians to carefully consider the consequences for children and to freedom of conscience.

“Australia should not pass a law which forces millions of Australians to pretend that a same-sex couple with children is the same thing as a mother and father with children.

Lyle is right – we are different.  Our marriage act can be changed by parliament.  No referendum is needed.  In fact, it was former Prime Minister Howard, ably assisted by the current PM Abbott that changed the marriage act to make it clear that in Australia marriage is between one man and one woman for life.  It’s ok, you can ignore the ‘for life’ bit if you like and get a divorce, but you can’t ignore the man and woman bit.

As to this rather silly notion that the law will force millions – millions I say – to ‘pretend’ that there’s something wrong with the kids of gay couples.  I mean really Lyle.  What are you going on about?  You do know that already there are plenty of couples who aren’t married raising children?  Some of those couples are married overseas but their relationship is not recognised here.  And some of them are same-sex parents.  And guess what – their kids are ok!  Perhaps you should go and meet with some of them to find out how well they’re doing.

“The redefining marriage movement in Ireland made a big effort to downplay the rights and interests of children, which ought to be at centre stage of all public policy.

The No vote played this game very well and made it front and centre of their campaign.  And guess what?  The rest of Ireland saw through it and told them how silly they are.

“Because marriage confers the right to form a family, it will be very difficult to resist further law changes allowing the exploitation of women through commercial surrogacy.

No, marriage does not confer that right.  We have a right to form a family and plenty of people do that without marriage.  Even those who get married may choose not to have children.   Surrogacy is an issue that is quite separate from marriage equality.  In fact, the attempt to wave a red flag about the exploitation of women while talking about marriage equality is a nice attempt at distraction.  The two aren’t connected.

“The only way the benefits of marriage equality can be provided to two men is to reform surrogacy laws so they have open access to donated women’s eggs and through the provision of ‘carrier’ wombs.

Uh huh.  Benefits of marriage equality?  What has this to do with two people getting married?  It would seem Lyle that you are suggesting that the reason people get married is to have children.  I don’t understand what makes you think this is a benefit of marriage as it can and does happen outside marriage.  Surrogacy again is a separate issue not connected with marriage equality.

“While some same-sex couples are already acquiring children through various means of assisted reproductive technology, this does not make severing the primal bond between a child and their mother or father right.

Acquiring?  Are you talking about a couple of women – you know, lesbians?  Nobody acquires children.  We have them.  You also turn a blind eye to those thousands of children already adopted by same-sex and opposite-sex parents.  This is the reality now and has been for a very long time.  Quite frankly Lyle, this is a furphy.

“Marriage equality abolishes in law and culture the idea that, wherever possible, children have a right to both their mother and father.

Perhaps you can point to which law and which culture that says a child has this right.  When you’ve found it then please embark upon a campaign to remove children from single parents, divorced parents and same-sex couples.  Of course, marriage equality does not abolish anything of the sort.

“If gender matters for company boards and jury selection, then how can we deny that it matters for parenting?”

Huh?

Mr Shelton said the freedom of Christian and Islamic schools teaching the truth about gender complementarity in marriage would likely come into question if marriage was redefined.

You forget about the Jewish faith.  And so it should come into question.    You seem to be of the misunderstanding that christian and islamic schools have some sort of truth that places them outside reality.  They don’t.  What you’re saying is that homosexuality is morally wrong according to your ‘truth’.  Time to get out and face the reality that there is nothing wrong with being gay, there is nothing wrong with being straight.  How long must the rest of us sit back and allow you to use your religion to deny reality?  The world isn’t flat anymore Lyle.

People providing services to the wedding industry, who because of conscience declined to participate in a same-sex wedding, would risk being punished under Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

OK.  So we don’t yet have marriage equality in Australia – so this isn’t really an issue.  However, I would hope that if you are a baker, for example, and your website says that you make wedding cakes, then that’s what you do.  If a couple arrives and you refuse to make a cake because of your conscience, then I’d suggest you are probably in the wrong business and if you are breaking the law then you should be prepared for the consequences.  Are you really saying that religious people are outside the law?  We get to work with lots of people every day and we don’t get to discriminate based on our conscience.  It’s how we get along in life Lyle.  And my suggestion to you is that you take a good hard look at your opposition to gay people getting married.   The thing that is driving your protests is your christian belief.  Let me quote it for you straight from your bible:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So, if you want to talk about the right to exercise your religious conscience – is this what you mean?

 

 

Tagged with:
Mar 30

Every now and then I think of my mate – Geoff.  I think of his wife, Marie.  My heart breaks.

Tonight I’ve spent the evening out with Michael.  We’ve had a good time.

Before we left my 21 year old son, Tomas, wasn’t home.  That’s a bit odd.  Caitlin my 23 year old daughter didn’t know where he was.  I don’t worry.  At least, I think I’m not worrying.

That’s until I get home some 5 hours later to see his bedroom door is closed.  Caitlin’s bedroom door is also closed.  That means that no matter what has transpired today – both of them are home and in bed.  It’s only then that I realise that the closed doors offer me comfort and remind me that my children are safe.  It’s then that I realise that I worry.

To lose a child would be devastating.  Every time that thought cross my mind, I think of my mates, Geoff and Marie.  Because they lost their two children in a road accident 10 years ago.

Their pain is my nightmare – but I’ve not spent 10 years living it.  I’ve not spent 10 years seeing the open bedroom doors.

A flash of memories of Kate and Daryl is all I have. Quiet words said at the funeral.

My words will never describe the deep sense of loss.

I see it in myself, I can feel the despair.  It will pass for me because the bedroom doors are closed.

Oct 18

My family has 11 children.  My mother gave birth to 5 sons and then a daughter.  I understand that there was much rejoicing when the first girl arrived.  It was said that she would be able to help my mum with all those boys and then look after my parents in their old age.

My sister was Helen, the 6th child.  She died before Mum and Dad and I don’t know how well she looked after my older brothers, and I’m not at all sure she looked after her younger siblings – as I remember rightly she introduced me to smoking and was once told by Sister Jean that girls that wear jeans have abortions.  (It was the 70’s!)  When we were young we fought with each other on a regular basis!

When going through some of Mum and Dad’s things, I came across a folder of letters to Mum when Helen was born.  This first letter is from my grand parents, Dad’s parents.  This is written in 1960.

Handwritten by Nell Storer - June 1960

Handwritten by Nell Storer – June 1960

Dear Ev,

Well what a lovely surprise for us all with your dear little daughter we hoped and prayed you would be blest with a little girl so now we are happy.

I’m sure you can hardly believe its true, you would be surprised how many people enjoy our happiness too, and a lot are outsiders.

Dad & I are going to try and see you Wednesday night, if they will allow us in, & isn’t Pat thrilled to think baby arrived on her birthday & wasn’t she pleased when Brian asked her to be God mother.

How do you feel Ev, well I hope, Brian says you are back to your old form, he is a happy man indeed they all say you both deserved your daughter.

Jeanette rang last night & she was so pleased when we told her, she says there is still hope for her. I must close Ev & hope to see you soon. Lots of love,

Mum & Dad & Pat xxx

for baby
XXX

Let me just help decipher the family tree here for you!

Dear Ev,

Mum’s name was Evelyn, she was called Eve, Ev and sometimes Evie.

I’m sure you can hardly believe its true, you would be surprised how many people enjoy our happiness too, and a lot are outsiders.

We have a very large family – I think outsiders refers to non-family members.

Dad & I are going to try and see you Wednesday night, if they will allow us in,

Uncle Graeme, Aunty Pat and Helen

Uncle Graeme, Aunty Pat and Helen

It was 1960 and not everyone got into the hospital to see patients!  I also like this quaint idea that she refers to my grandfather, Pop, as Dad.  I think that my Mum did call them Mum and Dad, but I don’t really recall.

& isn’t Pat thrilled to think baby arrived on her birthday & wasn’t she pleased when Brian asked her to be God mother.

Pat is my Aunty, Dad’s younger sister – I’m guessing she was still living at home with Nan and Pop.  Brian is my dad.  Helen was born on the June 18th, same date as Pat, something I’d forgotten about.  It must have been a thrill to be asked to be God Mother!

Jeanette rang last night & she was so pleased when we told her she says there is still hope for her.

Jeanette is my Aunty, Dad’s sister-in-law she also had a number of sons and no girls.  She did have one girl, maybe just after Helen was born.

I’m making my way through a small box of memories, there is a lot in there the provokes the thoughts of childhood and fond memories, and letters like this written before I was born, things that I knew nothing about.  I don’t know if Nan and Pop lived in Hamilton at the time, if they did, why did they write a letter?  Was it delivered to the hospital inside a card perhaps?  Did my dad take it to her?  Things we can only guess now.

Family stories.  Do your bit to ask those questions now.

 

Tagged with:
Sep 22

For seven days, our niece Abbey sent letters to the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, requesting that he change the law on marriage to allow Michael and me to get married to each other.

Here are her letters:

Today she received a response! She called me straight away to tell me that she had some good news and some sad news.

The good news was the PM had written back to her, the sad news was that he wasn’t going to change anything.

We talked about the sad news and I said that I didn’t think it was all that sad.  We already knew that he probably wouldn’t change his mind, but I encouraged Abbey to think about the impact she’s had.  Her friends are talking about it, she managed to reach hundreds of people by writing her letters and then some other people also wrote letters. It was good for her to hear about the influence that her efforts had, and we talked about how important it is that people just like her let people just like Abbott know what she’s thinking.  It’s how we bring about change.

Here’s what Tony Abbott wrote:

Dear Abbey,

Thank you for letting me know your views on same sex marriage.

I appreciate you letting me know about your own family. In my family, I have a sister with a female partner.  My sister’s partner is a loved member of our family.

While I respect your views on same sex marriage, I hold a different view.

My personal position is to support the existing definition of marriage.

The Government supports the current definition of marriage contained in the Marriage Act. Any change to this policy would be a matter for the Coalition Party Room.

Thank you again for writing to me.  I wish you well in the future.

Yours sincerely

TONY ABBOTT

Abbey Gets A Reply

Tagged with:
Sep 05

vows

January 30, 2014
Stoneridge Estate
Queenstown, New Zealand

I ask everyone here today to witness that I Gregory Paul Storer choose you Michael Nathan Barnett to be my legal husband.

Michael, when we started our relationship, my online profile said that I understood my place in the Universe and that I was looking for the right person to share it with.  I said that mental voids need not apply.

You have been able to challenge me, reason with me and help me grow into a different man.  I have changed.  I am now a wonderfully happy person, in love with a wonderfully happy person.  You are no mental void but a man brimming with integrity, honesty, openness and love.

Michael today we face each other, I get to look into your beautiful eyes, watch your wonderful face and tell you why I’m here.

You know that I love you.  You know that despite all the wrongs in our world, all the things outside our control and all the things that we control that I willingly look at you and say you are the one that I want to be with.  You are the one that I choose to spend my time with.

I smile when I see you.  I look for you when you’re not here.  I revel in sharing the outdoors with you.  I delight in our conversations about the world.

We walk through the bush and climb to the top of mountains and look in awe.  These are times together that make my heart go zing.  You make my heart go zing.  It’s doing it right now.

So, today, with my heart going zing, I have surrounded myself with love.  I have taken the most important people in my life and brought them here.  I want the love that surrounds me, the love of my closest brother and sister, the love of my wonderful children, the love of my best friends, I want this love to surround me and I want it to surround you.

You too have brought to this place those you love, you have surrounded yourself with love.

There is here today over 200 years of marriage between our friends.  We are engulfed by love.

I stand before everyone here to say to you that I love you.

I love your passion for others.

I love your sense of justice.

I love your thoroughness.

I love your humour.

I love your integrity.

I want you to be my husband.

I want to share all of my life with you.

I want to explore the world with you at my side.

I want to discover the universe with you.

I choose you to be my husband.

 


You can read the vows Michael said to me here

Tagged with:
Sep 04

The SBS program, Living with the Enemy episode on marriage equality was a 50 minute show shot over 10 days.

CMTAMNGP

That means a lot has been left out as the production team go to great efforts to keep the story moving forward and connecting all the dots.  Tough calls are made on what’s in and what’s out.

I don’t have a problem with that, I’m very comfortable with how things landed, the show was extremely well put together and there simply isn’t room for everything.

It was interesting that David’s brother acknowledges that he is still attracted to men, despite now being married to a woman.  The bit missing is my own journey of being gay in my teens and early 20’s, then pretending to be straight, getting married to Jennie at 26, having two children and then finding that didn’t work and back to being true to myself.

I played the game.  I got married, had children and tried to be a heterosexual.  It’s really hard work and as I said in the show, it took me all the way to 35 to sort myself out.  I can only hope that David’s brother has found happiness in his life.  Denial is a very powerful force that can really mess you up.  I know.  But just because that is my experience doesn’t mean that everyone else will travel the same road.

My two children are an important part of my life.  We have always lived together and they did give a speech at the wedding.  It was wonderful and brought me to tears.

Hello everyone.  I’m Tomas

And I’m Caitlin.

For those of you unaware, we are Greg’s beloved children.

We can’t quite express how overjoyed we are to be at this point, sharing in this moment with Dad and Michael.

Ever since we were young, my sister and I have understood and supported our father’s sexuality, joined him in his fight for equality.

And I speak for the both of us when I say we have never been happier or prouder of him than we are today.

Though it may not be quite what you had hoped, being neither on Australian soil, nor by Australian law, we’re glad to have been here for the next big step of your relationship.

Witnessing the love that you share.

And looking forward to whatever else may come in the future.

Be it another wedding in Australia

Adoption

Or one of us finally moving out.

No matter what, we have greatly enjoyed being part of this journey, and take great pride in being part of the march that is to come, through blood, sweat and tears.

Congratulations to you both.

It’s signed:

Congratulations on a beautiful ceremony.

With much love, Tomas and Caitlin.

It was fantastic to have both of my children with me on this very important, significant life event.

 

Tagged with:
Aug 13

Today is a day of anniversaries for me.

I’m celebrating the 30th Anniversary of my Coming of Age.

I’m celebrating the anniversary of my birth.  51 years.

I’m recalling my first trip overseas.

Then, there’s a couple of other anniversaries that need mentioning.

Marriage Equality was blocked in Australia 10 years ago today.

30 years ago was the last time my family was together.

So yes, Happy Birthday to me.  See my blog this time last year!

I remember my birthday 10 years ago.  We were going out to dinner to celebrate.  Somewhere in Chinatown in Melbourne.  It was all arranged.

I wasn’t so much an activist back then.  It had only been a couple of years since I had embraced my sexuality and I was still coming to terms with what it all meant.

I was running late, because I was listening to the radio.  News Radio was covering the live debate from the Senate on Marriage Equality.  Although really it wasn’t about equality.  It was about amending the Marriage Act to include the words

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

The amendments also required marriage celebrants to mutter those words, just to drive home the point at every marriage in Australia.

I was standing in the kitchen, by the radio, as the votes where being counted, and then listened to the result, 38 Senators voted in favour of amending the Act.  6 Against.  Australia had successfully legislated discrimination against couples of the same-sex.

The effect on me was immediate.  Angry.  I had worked so hard to come to terms with my sexuality.  Many of my family and friends had embraced the new me.  Yet here was the Government, both of the major parties, Labor and Liberal, telling me that my relationship was second-rate.  In effect I was a second class Australian.  I just couldn’t believe what had just happened.  Even though it was expected, I was hoping that at least the Senate might throw the bill back to the House of Representatives and ask for a re-think.

Let me point to that moment in time as the start of my activism for my right and the rights of all other non-heterosexual couples to be treated as equal citizens.

I’ll keep fighting for as long as it takes.  I can’t believe it’s been 10 years!

International Commissioner!

International Commissioner!

The other life event for me 30 years ago was my first trip outside of Australia.  I spent 6 weeks in the USA, Richmond Virginia.  I was at a Boy Scout Summer Camp and it is one of the highlights of my life!  Can you imagine this small town young man travelling solo to the USA.  I’d only ever been as far as Perth and then I drove there.  The sheer excitement and nervousness of standing at Tullamarine, looking at the plane and seeing gaffer tape around the tail wings.  The horror of arriving in Houston to be told there was a strike and no planes were flying.  Getting to New York and not understanding that I needed to fly with a different airline to get to Washington DC, being completely lost in the airport.  Taking a Greyhound bus to Richmond only to arrive at the bus terminal and spend hours sitting there because nobody came to collect me.  They didn’t answer the phone (landlines!) and I had a lot of trouble using the payphone with all this foreign money.

The last full clan gathering 1984

The last full clan gathering 1984

Memories!  When I returned from the US it was only a matter of weeks until I turned 21. 30 years ago today.  At that birthday party the family of 11 children gathered for the last time.  Every other event since then always had one or two of us missing.  And now with my sister Helen and my parents dying it will never be possible again.

Time continues to travel in such a way that we can’t go backwards.

Happy Anniversaries everyone!


Take some time to send a message to your MP about Marriage Equality

Attend the next Equal Love Rally August 16th. Michael and I will be addressing the rally.


 

 

 

Tagged with:
Aug 05

In my large family I have a lot of nephews and nieces.  Some are into their forties and the youngest is 8 years old.

I love spending time with Abbey and with her sister.  They’re great fun to be around.  We play together and explore the world from an 8 year old’s perspective.  We have lots of room for moose and treat them nicely.  They are always appearing and quickly disappearing.

She’s home sick today, and after coming to Michael and my wedding in New Zealand earlier in the year, she’s been wondering why we can’t get married in Australia.  I’m reliably informed that she has some questions for me and that she is learning how changes are made.

How awesome is it that a child can understand the inequality in our society and also work out how change can be started.  From her heart comes her plea and her question to the Prime Minister of Australia.

My niece is awesome!  Thanks Abbey.

Here’s her letter to the PM.

To Tony Abbott
my name is Abbey and I am 8 years old.
My unkls are gaye and we had to go to
New Zeland to have ther wedding it is going
To be on TV it’s called Living with the Enemy they
wont to get marred in Astralea but thats eligle
I will write to you once a day for a week.
P.S. I wold like the law changed.

20140805 Abbey's Letter
Read her 2nd letter and her 3rd letter.  Letter 4 Letter 5 Letter 6 Letter 7

Tagged with:
preload preload preload