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.


 

 

 

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Aug 12

There are some days that I get to the end of and go wow.

Yesterday was one of those days that had a great many wow things for me that made me appreciate what I have and appreciate those whose lives I interact with.

The morning started with a meeting with Anna Burke, the Federal Member for Chisholm.  Anna is Michael’s representative, and she was doing a meet and greet with her constituents on the street.

Saturday was a cold, wet and windy day.  A few people braved the elements to have a chat with Anna, and it wasn’t long before our turn arrived.  In a couple of words Anna guessed that we where there to talk about ‘gay marriage’.  Well, not really.  We were there to talk about our families.    Anna was forthright and honest in her interaction with us.  She’s a very good politician.  She sympathised with us, told us about her stance and how in her electorate she has more christians talking to her about opposing marriage equality than she does have gay couples talking in favour of it.  It seems pretty clear in her mind that the majority of her constituents are not in favour of marriage equality, and that’s her stance.  The majority rules.  I did point out to her that it wouldn’t be the first time that the government did something that didn’t have majority support.  Be sure to check out Michael’s blog about the meeting.

Then it was on to brunch with our good friend Daniel.  Daniel has a 18 month old son, Rupert.  We sat and talked about our lives and what’s going on in them.  Rupert was gorgeous.  It’s great to see a dad and his son out together, sharing life.  It was all too short for my liking before we had to part ways and move on to the next part of the day.

It was the Equal Love Rally, starting at the State Library.  I’ve been to many of these over the past 8 years since the Federal Parliament changed the marriage act to say that marriage was between one man and one woman.  Both the major parties supported this change, the Liberals and the Labor party should hang their heads in shame.  There were all the standard speeches, Doug Pollard gave a great talk.

However, what made this one special was the people that were there.

DSC_5876.JPG Michael’s parents, Naomi and Merv came along as a show of support.  It was fantastic to have them with us, watching and listening.  Merv and Naomi are a great couple, to have them acknowledge not just their son Michael, but also me and our relationship in such a way makes me extremely happy.

Then there was Jim.  A Facebook friend who has seen the insanity of the discrimination against gay people and taken a stance.  He was at the rally with his son and his signs.  Jim, on the Facebook Group Proud to be a Second Class Citizen had this to say:

As a hetero bloke supporting the cause I was very well received, but I wasn’t there for kudos, I’m just an old left wing radical and love supporting the downtrodden.

DSC_5779.JPGWell kudos to you Jim.  Your support is well received.  I was delighted when I was standing there chatting to Jim when a man with a child on his hip approached Jim and expressed to him how great it was to have his support and how he wished there were more people like Jim in the world.  It was unexpected and deeply satisfying to hear those words spoken from one human to another.  The world needs more people just like this.

Jim goes on to say:

I met some wonderful people who helped to fulfill my life. And I hope I added a little to the cause.

Jim helps to make a difference by taking the time to be there.  He took the time to make a sign and proudly walked amongst the crowd.  He even did it despite the weather!  Now that’s dedication.

Thanks Jim.

You, Merv and Naomi help to make my day.

After the rally we made our way home.  Time for a nibble and a bit of a rest.  During that time my two children, Caitlin and Tomas were busy getting ready for a 21st party.  They both were dressed up and looking the part!  I can’t believe that my two adult children are grown up and taking charge of their lives.  Taking themselves off to celebrate with friends, looking very dapper, handsome and pretty.  Despite living with their gay dad and his gay partner in an unmarried household they turned out all right.  Although I’m a bit worried about Tomas’ need to wear braces.

It says Gregroy instead of Gregory

The next part of my wow day was my birthday dinner.  Michael had arranged a surprise dinner restaurant, and I happily followed him towards St Patrick’s catholic cathedral, thinking perhaps we had a dinner date with a bishop.  Luckily the Park Hyatt loomed before the church and I found myself sitting in the Radii Restaurant.  I was treated to some of the best food Melbourne has to offer in a wonderful surrounding.  We had the degustation menu, six courses with matching wines.  The highlight for me would have to me the sugar cured ocean trout and the tapenade crusted lamb.  The service was top notch and the food was melt in your mouth yummy.  The wine, well, what can I say.  I may have to reconsider my blanket ban on sauvignon blanc.  What really made the whole experience worth while was the company.  I was sitting with the man I love.  We were relaxed and engaged with each other.  Enjoying yet another experience together.  This man that has come into my life has really changed me.  To be with him is as good as it gets.

The final part of our night out together was a magical trip down Bennetts Lane.  I had no idea such places existed.  We walked from the restaurant to the Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.  Down Little Lonsdale Street and then down a narrow lane way.  We walked along with others into this deadend street, and there at the end is a sign pointing to a little doorway.  We went in to discover a club full of life and atmosphere.  There was excitement in the air and people enjoying each others company.  We found a seat in the crowed area and in a bit Tim Freedman appeared and started to sing.

The man and his piano.  Making music.  Such terrific entertainment from a very talented man.  Playing his music to a small and appreciative audience.  He interacted with us, made us laugh and allowed us to sing along with him.

That’s my wow day.  That’s why my life is worth living now, not waiting for something better.

I can’t finish this entry without thinking about my mother.  She died recently.  That happens to all of us.  As I sat with Michael enjoying a Huon salmon fillet it occurred to me that for the first time in my 49 years of life, my mother wouldn’t be wishing me a happy birthday. There would be no phone call and no card.  I can’t even type those words without a profound sense of loss.

That moment does not diminish the day I have, it adds to my wow day.  I have been surrounded by people who bring different things to my life.  Thanks people.

Michael and I ended the day perfectly.


The Equal Love Rally, Michael takes such wonder photographs.

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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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Feb 06

Doesn’t happen every day. But one day your children become adults. One of mine just did.

18 years is a bit of a stint really, to be a parent.  I think it’s been my aim to get my children to this point, and then say “My work here is done”.    I’ve been trying to help and encourage them to grow into independent adults that can look after themselves, make a contribution to the world they live in and be happy people.

I think I’ve succeeded.   I’m sure there is still some way to go on some things but mostly done.  Of course, how Caitlin sees it may be a different matter, but then, that’s her matter.

We went for a Mexican feed on the night of her 18th, that’d be a family event, Michael, Tomas, Caitlin and myself.  Oh, and her mother, Jennie.  I really just wrote it like that because I know it will wrangle Jennie.  I could not have done this alone, Jennie has been an important part of Caitlin’s life and has provided those things that I either don’t know how to do or didn’t want to do.  Jennie and Caitlin have a wonderful relationship which warms the cockles of my heart.

The restaurant wasn’t great.  Service was slow, food was sloppy, I found it generally unappealing.   Company was good though.

Caitlins Party Invite

The next night was the big party.  Caitlin had decided on a theme of the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz.  We’d spent months gathering green things for the event.  I took the day off work and we started decorating the house.  We had even created a yellow brick road for the porch area, a piece of plastic tablecloth, about three metres long, we had spent some hours creating bricks on it using masking tape and several cans of yellow spray paint, and I must say it did come up very well.  We covered the wall just inside the front door with some green cellophane and Caitlin stuck some of her childhood photos all over it, then inside on our big old toy box she put some of those important objects that parents tend to keep, kinder photo albums, her first work of art, certificates and so on.  On the opposite wall was a ‘mural’ with a few images from the Wizard of Oz film, and then on the only remaining space we cut out love hearts from green paper, and as the night progressed asked people to write a message to Caitlin on a heart.  I’m going to put them into a book for her.

With the help of my sister Angela, we put up lots of green tinsel and decorations, balloons – even some helium filled ones and streamers.  Half way through the set up my brother David arrived.  He was down from Queensland and it must be ten years since I’d seen him at my house!  That was a treat.  He stayed and helped set up and then later made himself useful by taking charge of the BBQ! The house was done.  Next job, us.  Off to the costume shop.  Caitlin was Dorthy, of course, Tomas was the tin man and I came as the Wizard.  Costumes on and back home to wait for the guests to arrive.

A variety of people in costumes started rolling in the door.  There were witches and the strawman, a rainbow, a few Dorothys and even the Emerald City itself.  All truly fabulous!

The Wizard, The Tinman, The Rainbow and Dorothy

There were speeches and food.  Music and laughter.  All in all a really good night.  Again I reveled in setting up the house for a party, going to a bit of trouble to make it look just right.  I think we have had just about every birthday at home and since primary school have had a theme.  It’s fun.  A bit of work, but really good fun.

One down one to go.

[Michael’s photos of the big event]

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