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

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Apr 26

I’m a lad of Western Victoria, born and raised in Hamilton in the state’s Western District.

I lived there from 1963 until 1995. Then I moved to Melbourne.

Hamilton is the place I consider home.  Despite my 20 years in the big smoke, I still have a hankering for that small rural town.

This Easter weekend I spent my time in the area, it was a bit different this time around.

I visited those places that were important to me, well, those places that give me fond memories.

McIntyre StreetThe house where all thirteen of us lived is still there. It seems that no work has been done on it in the last twenty years, it’s starting to fall apart.  The gutters are covered in mould and moss, the windows looked dirty, it needs a paint job.  The roses that Mum and Dad pruned every year haven’t been touched in decades.

I thought that our back garden was huge.  It was divided into three areas, the dog’s yard, the vegetable garden and the other area that had a big round garden in it that didn’t really have a name.  Perhaps we just called that the back yard.  The reality in my adult years is that it is just a standard house block.  Many years we spent riding our bikes around the round garden and up the driveway, looking at the birds in the aviary, playing with the dog or getting the chook eggs.

TheTreeIn the dog’s yard was a tree that my brothers and sisters spent many hours in, climbing it and sitting in its branches, looking over the back yard and beyond to Portland Road and the empty paddocks.  Just on the outskirts of town was the abattoir and we had a clear view of the building and often we could hear the sheep carrying on in the paddocks having their last feed and then we were treated to the distinctive smell of death.  From the tree it felt like we could see all the way to Port Fairy.  We had special branches that we sat on that formed little seats for us.

corner fenceWhen I wanted to sneak out of the house, I would go to the rear corner of the vegetable garden and climb the fence, it was the only area that my mum couldn’t see from a window in the house, or so I thought, I doubt I ever really was sneaking, but it sort of gave me that impression.  I’d jump up on the fence, over the stump, land on a rock and be gone.

Once over the fence we could wander down the hill of Skene Street to the creek.  In the early days it wasn’t a concrete path, just a dirt track with a big open gutter.  When the foothpath was finally concreted we built billy carts and raced them down the path, holding on for dear life.  It must have annoyed the crap out of the neighbours.

oldbridgeThe creek, or more accurately, the Grange Burn, at the end of the street is ugly.  Still.  It should have character and charm.  Picnic tables and ducks.  It has a footbridge, the original bridge had some character, when Wags (the dog) ran across it the whole bridge would wobble much to the terror of us small ones.  My dad or older brothers would bounce on the bridge to get it swaying just to give us a fright.

both bridgesThere’s an historic sign there now that says the trees were planted in 1904 to beautify the area, 110 year later I’m still waiting to see the beauty.  From a childhood perspective though, the creek was an escape.  We would spend hours under the willow tree trying to catch the prickly-back yabby.  I spent hours with a fishing line in the water, I think I only ever caught two fish, but plenty of yabbies.  In the 70’s there was talk of beautifying the area again, that saw the Council go through and remove a bunch of bullrushes and Poplar trees, but it never really looked any good.

The other place that I spent my youth was at the local scout camp, it’s still there, called Mallangeeba.  It’s about 20 minutes out of town, close to the Wannon Falls.  I was there when the scouts first started using the site in the early 70’s.  I’m told that we scouts all got on a train at Hamilton and took the journey there and got off at Wannon.  We planted trees and camped the weekend.

I was there when the scouts bought the place from the Church of England.  We had to sell the land that we had a few kilometres down the road and I remember that being quite a fight, people threatening to resign if we sold Reed’s Park.  Years later it doesn’t seem so important.

As a lad we use to camp tMallangeebahere with the 3rd Hamilton Scout Group, I can still sing you the Group song, every now and then I find myself humming it.  It was a Catholic Group and because we were Catholic we had a strong commitment to Mary the Blessed Virgin and mother of God. Known as the BVM.  Every time we went camping we’d take this statue of the BVM with us. At Mallangeeba we’d put her in a tree hollow and say the rosary.  That’s one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s.  At least the standard 5 decades, interspersed with a Glory Be to the Father and requesting St Francis to pray for us.
As a Leader I too took my young charges to camp at the Wannon.  We’d gather around the flag pole on the parade ground, I’d stretch out my arms and yell “Pack, Pack, Pack, Pack” and a bunch of cubs would respond with “Paaaaaaack” before squatting down at my signal and doing the Grand Howl.

FallsOver the road from the Scout Camp is the Wannon Falls, a spectacular fall when the water is flowing, at the moment however, it’s dry.  When I left in 1995 the Scouts gave me a photograph of the falls in full flood.

As we drove back into town we stopped at the cemetery.  I haven’t been back here since we buried Dad in August 2013.

Mum and DadI’m not sure what I was expecting, but I marched up to the graveside, my parents’ remains are in the same grave.  I read the plaque and stood in quiet contemplation.  There was nothing emotional about it.  I wasn’t talking to them, I wasn’t really remembering anything in particular I was more interested to see who was buried around them.  Some part of me needed to see this final resting place of my parents, the final resting place of my youth and the final resting place of my connection to this Western District home.

As I drove around the town for one last time, it occurred to me why I was here.

Hamilton is where I was born, I went to school, my first job the paper round, then years of working in the newsagency and then the City of Hamilton.  I was here when man landed on the moon, when the local member Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister, when we won the America’s Cup, when the first Iraq war started.  It all unfolded in Hamilton.

When I was first married I lived in Hamilton, our two children were born here.  We went to play group and kindergarten together before we moved.

I was the City of Hamilton Young Citizen of the Year, received the WF Waters Award for my contribution to Scouting and a Certificate of Merit for Scouting.  I knew people, and they knew me.

Hamilton was my town.

As I drove out the Glenelg Highway back towards Melbourne, with a few tears rolling down my cheek, I realised that I was here to say goodbye.

Home isn’t here any more.

My folks are dead, buried with a bunch of other people I know, just another plaque on the ground.

Now there is no reason to call this home.

Michael and I drive back to Melbourne, we are going back to make a new home for us, the Western District lad has finally left home.mt baimbridge

 

 

*photos by Michael Barnett

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Sep 12

Somewhere along the way my Dad died.  I knew he died.  It was completely unexpected, well, except that he was 84.

Brian Storer

Brian John Storer
13 December 1928 to 30 July 2013

It was 14 months between my mother dying and Dad dying.  The two deaths were so very different.  Mum’s was drawn out and painful to witness, it went on for months and the final 24 hours were horrifying beyond my expectations. Some day I’ll publish the blog I wrote about that, but it’s still pretty raw.  Dad on the other hand went at the end of a normal day.  Like so many others.  We have a photo of him, just hours before he died, he is alert and happy.  When his death came he literally sat down and simply died.  Oh for all of us to have it so easy.  He died his own way, on his own terms, no fuss, not bloody quacks, no hospital stay.  He was a stubborn man who didn’t need anyone else to help him.

I didn’t ever really connect with my dad.  To me in my growing up years he was an angry violent drunk.  He was vindictive and mean.  I guess I loved him anyway, but I feared him and wanted to be spared from his anger.  I didn’t want to be near him when he was drunk as he would often use me (or other siblings) for a cheap laugh or a joke. He thought it was funny to get drunk, wrestle me to the floor and proceed to tickle me.  It was horrifying and scary for at any moment he could erupt into a ball of anger.  I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of the belt or him trying to ‘knock my bloody block off’.

These memories last long into adulthood and it was years before I realised that I was outside his control and I no longer had to fear his anger.  It’s clear that he left a big scar on my psyche.

Do I have any fond memories of him?  I don’t think I have any great moments from childhood that spring to mind. I grew into adult hood and watched as he grew into old age.  He and Mum won Tattslotto and after years of struggling on ‘compo’ after a train accident that left him unable to work this was a fantastic thing to happen.

We sort of settled into an adult relationship.  He loved seeing my kids, he always took a keen interest in them and what they were up to.  Over the years he certainly mellowed.

Then the whole issue of my sexuality came up for me.  Dad was a devout catholic, he really believed in the stuff about jesus.  I did too, for a long time.  It was perhaps the only thing that kept us together. My fear of him rejecting me because I was gay was at the top of my mind.  I didn’t want him, or Mum to find out.  I kept it hidden in plain view.  Both of them met Michael as we always travelled together.  We never really spoke directly about who Michael was and I was always anxious that they might ask me.  I knew that if they did I would tell them that he was my partner and that I was gay.  I mostly keep to myself but when you ask a direct question I’ll give you a direct answer.  My parents would ask my other siblings about me, but never did they speak with me about it.

Is it a crying shame?  Maybe, I don’t know.  And now I’ll never know.

That’s OK.

Yes, there is some regret there, but I understand why I kept this away from them.  I didn’t want to be rejected and I didn’t want either of them thinking that somehow they’d failed me.  I didn’t want them thinking that I needed saving from the fires of hell, or when they worked out that there was no saving that somehow I was bound for the fires of hell.

And that’s what I think they thought about gay people. I can just about recall every nasty thing my dad ever said about gay people.  The ‘woolly woofters’ which I think is rhyming slang for bloody poofters.  I’m not sure.

I’ve shed a few tears about his passing.  I know that there is a spot somewhere in my heart for the love of my Dad.  I feel the sense of loss, a part of my life that has finished.  I feel the pang of that separation, even if it isn’t as powerful as I would have liked it to be. Then there’s a bit of envy as I interact with my siblings.  My brother Craig talking about calling Dad when their football teams played (Hawthorn and Richmond) or my sister Janine telling me about taking him out to lunch just days before he died.  My brother Larry telling me about the things he did for Dad.  My sister Angela visiting him with her children and developing a relationship with all of them.  Including him in their everyday life. I didn’t have that.  I stopped myself from having that sort of relationship with him.  Part of me didn’t want it because my childhood was marred with unpleasantness that I never got over.  Part of me was protecting myself against his rage and his rejection.

Did he know?  Yes, I think so.  I think both my parents knew I was gay, but we never spoke about it, it was a subject that none of us ever wanted to talk about. I can romanticise about my relationship with my dad.  It’s easy to do that.  I did have a relationship with him, it’s just not as I’d hoped for.  I think it’s mostly my fault for not addressing those issues with my folks, despite my straightforward and honest approach with people, the courage and bravery left me when it came to speaking with my folks.  And that’s ok.

It’s not easy to say to people that I didn’t like my dad too much.  Because I didn’t.  I’d do anything for him, but I didn’t like him.  Whether or not the strain of that relationship was felt by him I don’t know.

Have I done the right thing?  Yes.  I handled the relationship in a way that meant I never had to put either of us into a confrontation that would send my stress levels through the roof.  I did a bit of self-preservation.  I may regret that we never had that conversation, but I don’t think so.

I’m at peace with where we left things. Despite all of this, I did spend time with Dad, short amounts of it.  I’d visit and sit with him for a while, watch some TV, talk politics and about the latest news, catch up on stories from home. Then I’d leave.  Sometimes I’d call him.  I set up a computer for him, Dad was mostly blind so the computer needed to read to him, it brought him many hours of both pleasure and frustration!  I felt safest around him when others of his children where present. I was there when Mum died, I made sure that he got what he needed by way of his religious beliefs.  I stood next to him as she died and prayed with him.  I understood just what his religion meant to him and I think I helped him at the time.  I made sure we conducted Mum’s funeral in the true traditional catholic way.  For what it’s worth I also made sure that his final service was very catholic.

Now both my parents have died.  At times I have felt a great sense of loss.  It’s a little overwhelming.

My Dad called me Son.  He is the only person in all the world who called me that.  He may have forgotten my name, there were so many of us!  No, no, that’s a joke.  I called him Pop or Dad, he is the only person in the world who I used those titles with.  The name Son was what separated each of us from everyone else in the world.  Pop may not have had the knowledge on how to show his love for us, but the weight of a single word when addressed directly to you is sufficient to carry the full set of emotions and love.  It is a special bond, a link that only a father and son can share.

Until my own father died, I didn’t realise that I use Son a lot when I speak with Tomas, I call Caitlin Princess.  I’m not aware of whether or not our parents had special names for their daughters.

The value of family can never be under estimated.  The spontaneous hugs from Caitlin when I’m distressed or Tomas standing next to me at the graveside, hand on my shoulder, Michael my fiancé a hairs length away from me at all times, ready to embrace me when the grief strikes, these are the important moments when we pull together to take care of each other.

This is the love of my family that I value.

Mum has gone, Dad has gone, there is no one to call me Son.  The special connection to my birth has gone, the two people whose love for me was never in question have gone.

I feel alone.  I know I’m not, but the world has changed for me.

For me, I need to write this down.  The exploration of my feelings and the grief, the resentment, the anger and the love are a swirling mess of thoughts and emotions.  It helps me to write about it.  I’ve spent 4 weeks in Bali writing this blog.  My finger now hovers over the publish button.

I want to share this.

Everyone dies.  Maybe your dad already has.  Maybe it is yet to come.  Mine died, quickly.

If I’d had some warning, what would I have done differently?

Nothing.

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Sep 11

The stage was set.

Michael and I were at a fabulous restaurant, Bridges in Ubud, Bali.

We arrived to be welcomed back by the staff who remembered us from the lunch we’d had there a few days earlier.  The restaurant was romantically lit, the colour scheme cream and dark brown with pieces of metal and rope around mimicking the nearby bridge over the Campuhan River.  We stepped out into a terrace open to the world.  A verandah overhead with fans spinning and took up our seats on the balcony.  The waiters pulled our chairs out and pushed them in for us as we sat down and fluffed our napkins for us.

To my left was the valley with the river far below, I could see the bridge with its LED rope lights marking its span.  The lush growth of the forest is highlighted by huge spot lights. The long slender coconut tree with the orchids and ferns growing from its trunk.  The banana trees with vines dangling from the canopy towards the river, the tree with so many other plants growing on it it looks ready to fall over.  In the distance we could see Murni’s where we’d eaten a few times.  To my right an English couple, happily ordering their meal and a bottle of wine.  In their 60’s probably on holiday quietly chatting with each other.

In front of me Michael.  In his blue button up shirt only worn for dinner.  Two buttons open.  His hands and fingers moving as he talks, his brown eyes looking at me, his terrific smile, he’s happy and engaged with the staff and with me as we order our meal of fish and wine.

Our conversations are always far-ranging.  We start by talking about creating software for predictive election results and how that would work.  We talk a bit about How to Vote Cards, my children and what’s happening with them, my sister Angela, Jo and Rob arriving as we leave Bali.

20130811 Gregory and MikeyThe conversation now turns towards marriage.  We have many times spoken about getting married.  I have asked many times if Michael would like to get married, his answer a rather evasive ‘moot point’ response.  Even if we want to get married we can’t in Australia.  We will wait until the law is changed and then we can talk about it, along with the obvious retort from either of us “Is that a proposal?  Aren’t you suppose to be on one knee?”

As I’ve said to him many times I actually don’t need to get married to him.  I don’t need to have our relationship recognised by anyone else.  I understand what he means to me, I know that in my heart I have a deep love for him.  There is no part of me that needs independent recognition of our relationship.  I’m in this for life.

Then, it changes.  I don’t need to get married to Michael.  I want to.  I no longer have enough words to express how much I value him in my life, what it is that we have.  I sense that I now need something that takes us to the next level.  Something that is symbolic of that love we share and the unspoken commitment that we have to each other.  I need a way to express that to him, and to those I love that here is a man who is important to me.  A man who I want to spend my life with, that I want to love and be loved by in return. A man I want to share everything with.  A man who makes my heart sing.

The question is asked, like it has been asked so many times.  Michael tries to avoid an answer.  We talk about how this is about me needing to find something that expresses the way I feel about him, how important and valuable this relationship is. He talks about how all of that is mutual, Michael has already made a commitment to our relationship in his own mind.  I sit and look and wait, it slowly dawns on him that I’m actually asking a question that now needs a yes or no answer.  I ask him, putting aside the reality of not being able to marry in Australia, will he marry me.

With tears in our eyes he says yes.

Life goes on around us, plates and glasses come and go, people chat and laugh, we look at each other with a huge amount of love and emotion as we struggle to find a way to express what’s just happened.  We shed some tears, we smile at each other we struggle with the reality of going public.

The get away to Bali has been terrific, I’ve been able to see and do things outside my everyday life.  I’ve found a partner and friend in Michael who I want to be with.   We have five solid years together.  I’ve found a way to express the depth of my feeling towards another person.  We have found a way to share those feelings with our families and friends in our lives.  We have an understanding, we have an acceptance.  We have love.

 


Michael’s blog post

 

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Sep 04

Even in far flung Ubud, Bali I have heard the noise from Australia about the Prime Minister smacking down a chrisitan who had the tenacity to ask the PM about his back flip on marriage equality.

I can’t help but make a few comments on some of the stuff I’ve read from some christian quarters about Rudd’s comments.

And let me be really clear here. I don’t like Kevin Rudd, to me he is simply another man in a suit that is bent on keeping the job of Prime Minister and has little regard for anyone else because he knows best.

In a nutshell, a christian pastor asked the christian Prime Minister how he could now support marriage equality when Jesus himself made it clear that marriage was between a man and a woman.  Rudd in his response said:

I do not believe people, when they are born, choose their sexuality. They are gay if they are born gay. You don’t decide at some later stage in life to be one thing or the other. It is – it is how people are built and, therefore, the idea that this is somehow an abnormal condition is just wrong. I don’t get that. I think that is just a completely ill-founded view.

He went on to say other things, have a look at the video or read the transcript.

I want to focus on this particular statement about being born gay.  This is from my own personal journey.

Some other bloggers have taken to their blogs to object to the PM’s notion that people are born gay.

Bill Muelhenberg on his blog called “Culture Watch” said this:

He (Rudd) assured us that homosexuals are born that way and cannot change, thereby calling Jesus a liar for telling us he came to set people free from their sinful lifestyles.

…snip…

It (The Bible) is nothing of the sort. It is about the truth that we are condemned sinners heading to hell, and that Jesus died for our sin so that through faith and repentance we can be set free and made right with God.

Arnold Jago – Mildura doctor and devout Catholic says this on his blog called “The Real Mary Mackillop”:

Last night on ABC-TV, Prime Minster Kevin Rudd was applauded for claiming that same-sex “marriage” is compatible with Christian thought.
Based on two assumptions:
* that homosexuality is not abnormal because some people can’t help it. “They are gay if they are born gay,” he said.
Which is not factually correct. It’s far from being that simple.
* having hopefully got away with that dubious generalisation, Mr Rudd steered further off track.
“What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament…Loving your fellow man,” he said.
Well yes. But if, in fact, homosexuality is a disorder, the way to show a man love is to warn him of his problem and guide him towards a better way.

Out there on the net are plenty of other examples of christians being upset that Rudd claims that I was born gay.

Was I born gay?  I don’t know.  Does it matter?  Not to me.  Am I disordered?  I don’t think so.

I don’t know why I’m gay but I can tell you that from a very early stage in my life I knew that I was gay.  I may not have had the words to describe how I felt and I certainly didn’t know what it meant.  But from about the age of 8 there was a part of my brain that knew that boys were far more interesting to me than girls.

In my teens I had no interest in the opposite sex and my early sexual encounters and my first serious relationship was with a man.  Women didn’t figure at all.  By the time I was in my 20’s this was causing me angst thanks to religion.  I wasn’t ‘growing out of it’ as some people seemed to suggest.  The phase I was going through seemed to be rather long.

I don’t  know where my sexuality came from, but I do know how hard I tried to get rid of it.  Ask my siblings about me growing up.  An angry youngster.

There’s claims that my sexuality may have been caused by an absent father or lack of relationship with him, it may have been caused by sexual abuse from a man, or it might have been the devil.  However, there’s 11 children, my sisters and brothers either side of me don’t appear to be gay.  Our experience in growing up is very similar.  I can only think that I suffer from 8th child syndrome, well known for causing gayness.

Being gay is not something that I learned to be.  In fact the reverse is true.  I did my best to learn to be straight.  I even got married and had kids to prove that I was a true blue Aussie bloke able to scratch my nuts, spit, swear and make disgusting statements about sex.

Then for some strange reason that veneer broke down.  I was angry even though I thought god had answered my prayers and given me a wife and a family.  I was devout. I loved jesus and thanked him for my wonderful life.  My prayers had been answered, god had taken away the ‘sin of homosexuality’ from me.

At this stage christians will tell me that I wasn’t trying hard enough, I didn’t pray hard enough, I didn’t believe hard enough.  I gave in to temptation.  The devil made me do it.  I choose to be gay.

You’re joking, right?  Christians think I made a decision to be gay and to be subjected to a world of hatred and bigotry? Some christians think I picked a sexuality that would lead me to live in a world surrounded by homophobic believers.  I was a true catholic, I knew that sinners would go to hell.  That’s an eternity in torment.  I really believed that.  Why would I pick to spend all of time in the pits of hell?

I didn’t pick being gay, it was only when I made the decision to be who I really was, to accept that my sexuality was innate that I finally found peace.  It is only in a loving relationship with Michael that I have truly found myself.

1147590_10151828259870149_846076795_oThis is my world.  I’m not disordered or a sinner.  I don’t hate god (there is no god to hate) and I don’t need god.

I don’t need religion to define me.

I’m happy for people to believe whatever they want, go for it.

I’m not happy for other people’s belief systems to impact on me.  I reject that outright.  It’s not ok for a pastor from Queensland to suggest that there is something wrong with me, it’s  not ok for fundamentalist christians to continue the hate and the bigotry based on concepts that I have no belief in.  It’s not ok for some fundamentalists to pretend that they really love me and want me to know the truth according to them.

I am not asking anyone else to be gay, I’m not trying to change anyone’s sexuality (but if Matt Damon was interested…), I just want to get on with my life, I want to spend it with Michael, we love each other, we want to be together.

I am now happy.  Not because I’ve rejected religion or that I’ve taken the ‘easy path’ or given in to the sin of homosexuality.  I’m happy because I have accepted who I am and I’m no longer trying to be who others think I should be.

In the straight world after 5 years of being together people would ask me when the big day was.  When are we getting married.

That’s a really good question.  When am I getting married?

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Jun 18

helen

Today is the day my sister Helen was born.  1960.  She died in 2010.  I wrote about it here.

Birthdays always strike me as a puzzling thing.  Celebrating the passage of one rotation around the sun just seems odd to me.  I get that we like to mark the passage of time, so as a marker then I guess that’s what we’re left with.

In any case, that’s not why I’m writing right now.

I’m writing about my sister who is no longer with us.

I miss her.

We didn’t see each other a lot in the last 10 years.  But in years past I frequently dropped into her house in Ballarat on my many trips to and from Melbourne.  Sometimes just for a cuppa, sometimes for a meal.

I had a relationship with her two children, my nephew and niece.  I kept up to date with the latest in their lives.  We spoke on the phone often.

Then I got married, had my own family, moved to Melbourne and saw much less of her.

I miss her because she’s just not here any more.

I think of her often, but on her birthday I know that I’m not going to make a phone call or send a silly card or send that email.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fling around the sun, I won’t forget.

Happy birthday Helen.

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Mar 09

[SOURCE]

The Weekend Australian Magazine this week has an article on kids raised by gay parents.  It showcases three young adults who have been raised in same-sex households.

One of those is my very own Tomas Storer!  It’s good to see that Greg Bearup from the Australian managed to get the spelling of Tomas right, not so good with the surname.  So it isn’t Tomas Storier or Gregory Storier there are no Storier in the household.  Although we may name our pet moose Bruce the Loose Moose Storier.  We’re all very good models of Storer.

Tomas told his story from his point of view, and as a parent it’s most gratifying to be the parent of a young man who is confident and happy.  The telling of the story took a number of hours, but it boils down to a couple of paragraphs:

Tomas Storier, 18, greets me at the door of his house in Carnegie, in Melbourne’s south-east, dressed in a Batman and Joker T-shirt.

We sit down at a dining table to pick over the details of Tomas’s complicated family history.

His father, Gregory, was born into a large Catholic family in the rural Victorian town of Hamilton. Gregory married young, had two kids in quick succession, and the family moved to Melbourne.

When Tomas was two or three his father came out and his parents’ marriage ended. Tomas and his sister, Caitlin, moved in with their father and have lived with him ever since.

In that time his father has had three long-term relationships with men and has been with his current partner for the past three years. Having a gay dad has never been a “big deal”, Tomas tells me. It was something he was never ashamed of, but during his primary school years he was careful whom he revealed it to, fearful of how they might react.

He told his closest friends, and soon everyone knew. When they did, it wasn’t an issue. “I was teased and bullied in primary school, but never about my dad being gay,” he says.

He was a bright kid, into computers, dinosaurs and trains, and he was teased for being a nerd.

His family arrangement had no effect on his sexual preference – he likes girls. “I am relatively happy with the life I’ve led so far,” he says. “It would have been nice if mum and dad could have stayed together, but in that respect I am hardly unusual, to have parents who have separated.”

The next part of the article is from Jim Wallace, he is described as “one of Australia’s most vehement opponents of gay parenting” and he attempts to show the short comings of children raised in same-sex families.  He rabbits on about nature and compares same-sex parenting to the Stolen Generation.  The Stolen Generation was the forced separation of aboriginal children from their parents, it’s nothing short of disgusting to make such a comparison.  Wallace again shows himself to be the bigot.  He dismisses all the evidence that shows how the sexuality of the parents has nothing to do with the well-being of the children.  He’s ignores the countless ‘straight’ families that are in turmoil and in dire need of assistance and help.

I’m proud of both of my children.  Tomas has shown himself to be a clear-headed articulate young man who knows who he is and he bursts with confidence.

Caitlin, Tomas, Gregory and Michael.  The image that appeared in the Australian

Caitlin, Tomas, Gregory and Michael. The image that appeared in the Australian

 

Jun 05

Today was the day that my family buried our mother.

In an emotional roller coaster we got through it.

It was terrific to be reunited with my brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces.

What a day.  I might blog about it later.

For now, here is the Eulogy that I gave about the life of my mum.

Eulogy:

Thanks to everyone for coming here today to celebrate the life of Evelyn, to some of us she was a sister, a mother, an aunty, a cousin, a friend.

To Brian she was the love of his life for over 60 years, a couple that were as close to each other as you could get.

Evelyn’s sister Eileen is also here today, there are many stories that Eileen and Evelyn shared over a cup of tea and a slice of a boston bun.

I wanted to acknowledge by name each and everyone one of the children, partners, grandchildren and great grand children, however, Father Pat said to keep this under seven minutes and there’s just so many of us…

Evelyn was born 1929, just down the road at Glenthompson, she was the 4th of 6 children born to Harold and Lena Hadden.

Her siblings, Eileen, Ada and George, Jimmy and Jeff moved about Western Victoria as their father was a blacksmith and he moved to wherever the work was.

Evelyn went to school in Glenthompson and Beaufort, and finished off at the high school in Hamilton.

After school she worked at the High Tone milk bar and then for a while at the Pixie Deli.

Her future father in law would always joke with her that he would bring in a box for her to stand on so she could see over the counter.

This was the time that Brian and Evelyn met.

They were both in a group of friends that knocked about together, made up of school and work mates.

Brian discovered that to win Evelyn’s heart he had to cut another bloke out of the picture to get to her.

The first time that they went out was to the Regent Theatre, Evelyn managed to get a free pass from the Deli where she worked.

It wasn’t a ticket to the regular seating, but to the upstairs area that was normally more expensive and something that neither of them would normally be able to afford.

It was in 1948 that Dad popped the question to Mum and then in this very church on September 24th 1949, they married.

The reception followed at the Hollywood Cafe and so began their lifelong marriage and love for each other.

It wasn’t too long before the first child was born, Evelyn quickly discovered that she relished the role of mother and she wanted more.

Over the next 17 years she was happy to stay at home and look after her expanding family, with a rest in hospital every 18 months or so.

When Dad’s sister Lois died, Evelyn also welcomed into the family Jack and Lois’s three children.  For a number of years she cared for them after school.

She never stopped doing things, Evelyn loved to sew, making clothes for all her children.

She had a Singer knitting machine that she would whip up many jumpers on.

She was keen on all manner of craft and for awhile was very keen on hobbytex, adorning almost every single hanging space in the house with her handiwork.

It was no mean feat to cook and feed that many mouths on a daily basis.

While we were sitting around talking about our mother during the last week, we tried to work out just how many dinners she put together for Brian and the 11 children.

Over a 17 year period we worked it out at about 155,000 individual meals that she served up, and on a roster basis that’s how many dinner plates we washed.

This never seemed to daunt Evelyn, not only did she prepare three meals a day, she also baked most days, there was always a constant supply of biscuits, slices and cakes.

She seemed to thrive at Christmas and for many years we had at least 75 mouths to feed over two shifts for Christmas Day.

With all the washing, ironing and mending going on, keeping us lot in line so that Brian could get his sleep for his shift work meant Mum had to be strong when it came to discipline.

In a motion faster than the speed of light she could take off a slipper and before we started to run away from her she could hurl that slipper with pinpoint accuracy.

Legend has it she perfected the curve throw,

and even though we might duck and weave

she could hit you on the back of the head even after you’d darted behind the green bush.

For most of our time growing up, we had no car.

It wasn’t until Mum turned 50 that she got her license.

And then only after Brian said he would buy her a car if she got her license.

Evelyn was your classic little lady driving a big car, barely able to see over the steering wheel.  But a marvellous achievement for someone who had never been behind the wheel.

With their family all grown up and gone from home, it gave her more free time, you’d expect her to relax, but no, she went out and got a job.  Cleaning.

It wasn’t long until she retired and her and Brian began to travel.

She would never miss a bit of an adventure, she would scramble over rocks, take walks and swim, she loved swimming.  Brian said she’d swim in a puddle in the back yard if she could.

A move to Queensland happened after they won Tattslotto, they had been making the trip north for several years, so it seemed like a good idea.

They lived there for about 8 years until Evelyn decided that she didn’t want to be buried on the Gold Coast, as she didn’t know anyone in the cemetery.

Back in Hamilton Evelyn and Brian made their home again, they continued to travel and they also welcomed their children and grandchildren into their home.

As the years went past they moved to Eventide, determined to live for as long as they could independently.

And here we are today, talking about the life of the Matriarch of our Family.

The woman from a family of 6, a mother to 11, grandmother to 30, great grandmother to 15.

She was our wife, our sister, our sister-in-law, our mother, our mother-in-law, our aunty, our cousin, our friend.

What a remarkable woman.

With a strong belief in her God she firmly believed He would look after her and Brian and her family.

Evelyn leaves behind a big legacy.

She loved her husband, loved each of her children and then their children and the great grand children.

She always took a great deal of interest in all of us, always keen for news about what was happening in our lives.

We can honour her life by remembering her.

Tell her story, the story of humble beginnings, the daughter of a blacksmith that raised 11 children, she maintained a family home and a family life.

From all of us, good job Mum, thank you.

Apr 29

It wasn’t too long back when his sister, Caitlin celebrated her 18th birthday.

Tomas reach adulthood in March, and just like I’ve done for every party since their first, we had it at home. Tomas decided not to have a big theme, he wanted everyone just to dress up in formal gear and come along.

I’d prepared a BBQ and plenty to eat.

Tomas and friends

At the party

Tomas friends are quite the eccentric lot.  Perhaps that’s more to do with my perceptions than theirs.  His friends seem to hold Tomas in high regard, and this shows through the interaction between them.  I can see a lot of mutual respect for each other and an openness between them,which is really quite lovely.

We hung some balloons, blu-tacked streamers to the walls, displayed photos, found a suitable range of music, dimmed the lights, spread the food, and got the slide show running.

I’d scanned many images of Tomas from the last 18 years, he was born in that time just before the invention of the digital camera!  Before the party started we watched the slide show on the TV, we laughed a little.  The photos show a young lad that has always been ‘out there’. We passed over a shot of Tomas sitting naked on the toilet, talking on the telephone, everything in full view.  It was only just before the party started that Tomas thought better of actually having his 3-year-old bits on display, so we deleted that one.  I wanted to leave it in!  Perhaps I’ll keep it for his 21st.

Jennie was there, she has always set herself little goals of being at something. It’s her way of snubbing her cancer, she won’t let it kill her, she has too much to do.  She wants to be about for a birthday, a graduation or to simply see who wins the cooking show on TV.  It’s difficult for her to be there under a great deal of pain.  I admire her stoic approach and it’s good that we make the most of these shared times.

sucking the helium

Story Time

The speeches came and Tomas’ grandparents had a few words, Jennie and Caitlin and then me.  I then had Tomas sit on my knee and with one helium filled balloon each we read “Green Eggs and Ham”.

The party wore on and for reasons that I don’t think I’ll ever understand, the young people congregate in the hallway.  There’s a whole house built around that hallway, with big open spaces, but they insist on sitting with their backs to the wall and chatting there.

Now both my children are 18. Tomas has passed that magic date. I’m looking forward to this new era of our lives.  For awhile now my role as Dad has been to encourage Tomas (and Caitlin) to take charge of their own lives, to make their own decisions. I’ve tried to give subtle guidance, well, at times not so subtle.  Now it’s down to them.

Just last week Michael and I went to the 1st Birthday party of a friend’s son.  I see the journey ahead for Daniel and Sam, along with  Rupert, as they start out on this trip through life.  I’ve just been on that road.   During the speeches at the 1st birthday party I listened as the parents of Rupert explained their wishes and desires for their son as he grows up.  The values that they wish to develop within him, while at the same time leaving plenty of space for Rupert to be his own person.  My journey hasn’t ended, there is still a long way for Tomas and Caitlin to go.  For my part, I hope that I’ve been able to set them up in life with the skills to  take charge of their own lives and be  the person they want to be.

Unfortunately my skills haven’t been able to extend to dishwashing or bedroom cleaning.


More wonderful photos taken by Michael here

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Dec 05

I’m a very resilient man.

Really, I am.

At the moment, I’m in Hamilton, town of my birth.  I’m here because my mother is dying.  I’m in the hospital looking down at this once great woman, who has been married to my Dad for over 60 years.  He’s here too.  Looking at his wife with a great unsaid sadness.

I don’t know how long this will go on.  I have no idea.

It’s very depressing.

On Saturday, while trying to deal with the overwhelming sense of loss there is another issue going on in the background.  Michael and I are listening and watching the reaction to the Labor Party conference and their decision to change their party platform.

Now, it seems, the Labor Party agree that my equality is worthy of attention.  They changed their party platform to allow marriage equality.  There’s a but.  But, they won’t force their parliamentarians to vote for the change.

During the debate at the conference, members of the Labor Party got up and said some of the most disgusting homophobic things I’ve heard come out of the mouths of people on the left of politics.

Outside the party, some rabid bloggers have geared up to further add to the groundswell of homophobia and hate.  The Australian Christian Lobby is falling over itself to denounce the move.

The Labor Party deciding to make this a conscience vote is truly insulting.  So many of their polices don’t get to be made on conscience.  Think of our fight on terrorism.  Think of the sale of uranium to India, think of the carbon tax.  Think of their support of the 2004 change to the Marriage Act that inserted the clause that ‘marriage is defined as between one man and one woman’ no conscience vote there.  Yet my right to marry the person of my choice has to be debated.DSC_8561.JPG

I’m tired of this.  The party lets ignorant homophobes use their  party platform to spout intolerance.  This really does make me feel like a second class citizen.

I’m not treated equally, because I’m gay.

Yep, this is a significant change, it’s a step forward.  At last there seems to be a shift happening.

We’re not there, it wears my resilience down to hear again how my sexuality will destroy society, how my parenting is second rate, how I’m not worthy of full equality.  How I have to be happy that about 80 bits of legislation has been changed and I should be grateful.

I’m aware of how insidious homophobia is.  This sort of rhetoric from the religious right gains the media’s attention, and the homophobes continue to get tacit permission to inflict their hate on others.

Gillard and those who oppose full equality want to be seen as accepting of gay people, but their actions don’t match their words.  They give approval to the far christian right to continue with their lies and they don’t challenge the misinformation that is being trotted out.

The rights of the citizens of this country is not something that should be debated.  My rights should not be up for discussion.  I’m not christian, I don’t accept that christianity should have any bearing on my life. Yes, people have a right to believe what they like, as deluded as I think that might be.  I don’t get why those beliefs have to impact and influence a secular state and government.

As I watch my Dad bend and kiss his wife of 62 years and whisper something into her ear that is shared between the two of them, I see a commitment in marriage.  He is not questioned as to what he’s saying, his actions are not scrutinised.  My mothers sister isn’t screaming for him to get away from her, her children aren’t discouraging his public display of affection.

They’re married.

 

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