Nov 15

[SOURCE]

I’m an Australian.  My family has resided here for generations.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I acknowledge the hurt and chaos caused by my forebears.  I do this because I have respect for those who have been treated as if they weren’t human1.

I look at World War II and am confounded by the amount of death of the Jewish people, based solely on their religion2.  How devastating that whole generations can be wiped out while the rest of the world watches.

I see the destruction of the Rwandan genocide3 in 1994 and have great angst about the role we all played in ignoring it.

My world was turned upside down on September 11 20014.  I couldn’t for the life of me understand how anyone’s religion could lead them to kill innocent people.

The Boxing Day Tsunami5 was the one that ultimately lead me to walking away from religion.  Hundreds of thousands of people died under a wall of water caused by an earthquake.

Now I have a new passion.  My rights.  The rights of those around me to be who they are.  I have respect for people. I understand and acknowledge the many different perspectives in the world.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s Michael’s family’s Jewish traditions, the Catholic faith  of Jennie, mother of my children, or even the people I work with who read their stars in the paper every day.  They have my respect in so much as they are entitled to believe.

I am not about changing people’s beliefs.  Sure, I’ll challenge your beliefs, ask you to justify them and even get into a long and sometimes heated debate.  But at the end of it, you’ll go on believing whatever you want.  Maybe I’ll spark something in you.

Today, to read the underlying message from the Prime Minister of Australia, leaves me cold.

The first is on same-sex marriage. I am proud Labor has been at the forefront of changing laws to end discrimination against same-sex couples in so many areas. We have come a long way as a more inclusive and fair society in a relatively short time.

Julia recognises that there is discrimination, she has even been a part of helping to eliminate that discrimination.

However, I equally recognise the deeply held convictions in society on the questions of marriage. This diversity of public opinion is reflected in the passionate debate inside the Labor Party. Given the personal nature of the issue and the deeply held beliefs, I believe that in future it is appropriate that a conscience vote flow to Labor MPs. They should be free to vote in Parliament according to their own values and beliefs.

Deeply held convictions are to be respected.  Diversity in public opinion is to be expected.  We should only ever expect our MP’s to vote according to their own values and belief.  What a country we would be if that was the case.

Many will ask what my opinion is and where I stand in the debate. As I have said many times, I support maintaining the Marriage Act in its current form and the government will not move legislation to change it. My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation, and that should continue unchanged. The Labor platform currently reflects this view.

Julia supports the marriage act, as changed in 2004 by the Howard Government.

“marriage” means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life6.

In that short addition to the marriage act we have an Act of Parliament that was created to deliberately discriminate against people wishing to enter into marriage, who are of the same gender.  In a sense, the marriage was redefined.  It was given a particular meaning.  Australians weren’t asked about it, it just happened.  I can’t help but observe how this small amendment now gets thrown around, as if it’s always been part of our culture.  Marriage is the union of a man and a woman.  Howard put that in there in 2004.  It’s pretty new.  Nobody talks about the second part, to the exclusion of all others and entered into for life.  It’s too sticky because we know that marriages end, people have affairs.

When Julia talks about marriage having a particular meaning, and that meaning should continue unchanged, she gives no reasoning, other than her strong conviction.  We have no idea what the strong conviction is based on.  It’s fair to say that nobody is talking about getting rid of marriage in Australia.  Changing the act would not prevent marriage between a man and a woman from happening.  The world would not end, and I wouldn’t be considered a second class citizen.

Oh, yes, that’s what I am.  Second class.  My love, my life, my sexuality is not equal to the heterosexuals love, life or their sexuality.

That hurts.

Julia calls for respect.

What we must do when that debate is over is to respect one another’s point of view.

I already respect the other point of view.  I understand it.  Now it’s time for the respect to flow the other way.  Those who oppose my point of view have no respect for me.  I have not once seen a well reasoned argument for why I shouldn’t be allowed to marry Michael.  I get it when people talk about children needing a mother and father, but that’s not marriage.  I get it when people have their religious belief, but that’s not my belief.

Yet, I have to accept that my life is being judged as unequal based on perceptions that are not my reality.

I’m realistic, I understand how the politics work.  One day maybe I’ll be allowed to vote on worth of the marriage of my brothers and sister, of my friends and colleagues.

I can’t do this alone.  The people, the lobby groups,  struggling for marriage equality can’t do this alone.  I need your help.  We need your help.

I am a human being.  I would like to be respected by the laws of this land.

Marriage Equality Australia

Straights with Mates

The Potential Wedding Album

I Do

 

 

  1. Stolen Generations, Federal Parliaments Apology SOURCE
  2. The Holocaust
  3. Rwandan genocide
  4. September 11 attacks
  5. Boxing day Tsunami
  6. Marriage Act 1961 as amended, s5(1)SOURCE
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Nov 13

I talk to my two children all the time.  Sometimes, they talk to me.  As Tomas did recently, to talk about an upcoming play for drama that his class was working on.

Tomas wasn’t so keen to participate as he was worried I might frown up the topic, which was the Westboro Baptist Church.  The Reverend Fred Phelps runs the church and uses the slogan “God hates fags”.

Just as an aside, there is no god to hate fags.

I was happy that Tomas raised it with me, and we spoke about the implications of doing a play based on such hate. I had a few questions about the content and then told Tomas that as he’s only acting, he should do it.  I’ve been abused and vilified many times in my life because of my sexuality.  I was pretty sure I could cope with this.

The expected performance date arrived, however they weren’t quite ready, so the play was moved to 4.00 p.m. during the week.  I really didn’t want to miss this, so I left work, not worried about leaky roofs, telco technicians or illegal rubbish dumpers!  They could all wait until tomorrow.

It was made clear from the outset that the play was mostly unpolished, the play was the work of the students and it had some swear words in it.

First scene was a sermon from Fred Phelps in his church, telling us that god hates fags.  It was certainly something to sit in the theatre and hear those words spat out by a teenager.  A few nervous titters from the audience as we copped the full force of the hatred emanating from the Westboro Baptist Church.  We had a choir singing “God hates fags”.

We got the perspective from some young members of the congregation who looked into the distance and said that’s where the gays live, and showed how indoctrination can impact on children. They showed a fear of people they’d never seen.  Thought that the gays were monsters and to be avoided.  The dissenting voice among them was corrected by peer pressure and the hate continues into the next generation.

We also had a taste of the ‘traditional family’ where the talk was about slavery (being acceptable) the roles of men and women and the tension between those traditional roles where women are fundamentally subservient to their husbands.

Finally there was a coming out scene. We saw two families.  One family embraced their son,the other family rejected him.

This was quite an emotional moment as we saw the full impact of rejection on a young man.  His family cast him out.  He was left devastated and in tears.

The other family offered nothing but love and support for their gay son.  They embraced him, hugged him and accepted him for who he was.

I grew up in a time when people hated people who were gay.  It was nothing to be called a poof, a poofter, a fag or a faggot. Despite trying to be a small target, my school life was full of taunts and rejection, it really did hurt.

To see a bunch of teenagers actually stand up on stage and take on homophobia in such a direct way is a marvel.  Sure, it was challenging to sit there and listen to laughter at the expense of ‘the fags’ but as the play progressed there was less laughter from the audience.  A few times I wanted to stand up and make a speech about the real impact of this type of homophobia.

The students did a fantastic job, giving me hope that in some parts of the world everything will be alright.  Sure, there’s still hatred and misinformation out there, but here is a school, a student body, who has respect for all people.

Congratulations to them all.

Oh, and somewhere during the crowd scene, I’m sure I heard the call of a wild wookie.

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Sep 29

Two news stories doing the rounds recently have got me thinking about our society, and what it is to be part of it.

I’d hope that the society I live in will be inclusive and welcoming of all people, no matter what their personal stories or backgrounds are.

The two stories are that of Jeff Kennett, chairman of Beyondblue and Andrew Bolt, journalist for the Herald Sun.

Recently both men have found themselves in some hot water about their attitudes to those around them and how they interact and respond to them

I must say, both men appear to be unrepentant, even when their behaviour is highlighted as unacceptable.  They carry with them a certain amount of arrogance that I find rather grating.

Both men are also rich white straight men.  They have grown up surrounded by the privilege of being a white Australian, with all it’s trappings and comfy lifestyle that that entails.  They have not had to defend themselves because of the colour of their skin or hide themselves because of their sexual orientation.  While I’m sure that their lives have had their ups and downs, they have been very lucky to be born a white Australian in a white Australia.

Bolt has always been controversial in his writing and ramblings.  To me he appears to be a right wing conservative hack.  He recently had a court finding that he contravened section 18 (c) of the Racial Discrimination Act following on from two articles that he’d written for the Herald Sun.  Bolt basically said that because somebody who identified as Aboriginal who was more white-skin than black that they were only claiming their indigenous background because it would bolster their career advancement.

Kennett is a former Liberal Premier of Victoria, he had a reputation for getting the job done, and also had little regard for those people who where struggling.  I recall during his time in the top job that he once described people who took sick leave as being ‘unproductive units’ – charming.  He’s always been controversial, but recently, as head of Beyondblue he suggested that children are happier when raised by a mother and a father.  Check out Doug Pollard’s excellent article on the background and why Kennett needs to step down.

I’m a white Australian.  I was lucky enough to be born into a family that was relatively rich, while at the same time struggling!  My parents had 11 children, we all went through the local catholic private school and most of us did pretty well.

I’ve clearly had struggles with my sexuality.  For years and years I hid in marriage thinking I was doing the right thing.  The ramifications and mental anguish that this caused still linger.  Yet, I think I’m pretty lucky.  I understand how much it hurts to have my ability to raise happy, healthy children questioned based solely on my ability to keep a straight marriage together.  To even begin to suggest that I couldn’t have raised my two wonderful children if I was married to another man creates such a feeling of despair in me.  What would it have been like for me if I’d heard the likes of a straight, white, Kennett suggesting that people like me can’t raise kids when I was younger?  I was surrounded by entrenched homophobia, it’s distressing.  Kennett is adding to the burden of young people who are gay.

I can only imagine what it’s like to have rich white folk take broad swipes at you and question your honesty and interigty based solely on the colour of your skin.  I imagine that these ‘fair skin’ aborigines have had a tough time throughout their life, and they’re still fighting the battle.

It’s all too easy for those who have had a pleasant ride to deride and belittle those who struggle to make their way.  Instead of reaching out and helping those around them, people like Bolt and Kennett (who have enjoyed a luxurious ride in a society that treats married heterosexual, white, able-bodied men as ‘normal’)  seek to tear us down and use us as a way to score cheap politcal points or readers.

It’s a selfish arrogant attitude that they have that seeks to keep anyone who isn’t just like them out of their version of society .

Shame on both of you.

 

 

 

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Oct 22

Helen Edwards June 18th 1960 to October 19th 2010

I was standing in the office at the Charman Road shop when my sister Angela called me. I’d had an early start to my Monday and had a full day planned.

The minute she said hello I knew that this was a difficult conversation for us. All she said was that Helen was in hospital in intensive care. Without thinking I said I’d be right there – there was no need to ask or to elaborate, it was perfectly clear to me that Helen had reached a point of no return and Angela didn’t want to do this bit alone.

I picked her up and we drove to Ballarat, straight to the hospital. We were a bit before visiting hours, so we found something to eat and returned. Helen’s husband Rod came down and escorted us up to ICU.

Helen was sitting up in bed, she had various tubes and pipes attached, but still quite lucid and able to chat. Alas, she had lost her voice so was just whispering to us. She was alert and engaging, asking all the questions about my family and what was happening. She chastised us for being there, gave us a scowl.

We stayed awhile before heading back to town. We promised Rod we’d visit again the next day.

First thing next morning Angela rang me again, Helen wasn’t well again. We jumped in the car, knowing that this time it was more serious, this time we understood that death wasn’t far away.

When we arrived Helen was on her bed, back on the ward and was very clearly in a great deal of discomfort. Rod and the children, Melissa and Daniel where there and they all were very clearly distressed. The staff had given Helen something for the pain and slowly her breathing calmed and she seemed better. She was sleeping.

My brother Shane arrived and we sat in the room, mostly in silence. Helen continued to rest. One by one we each spent a few minutes alone with her, able to speak just one on one. It was a very emotional time.

Angela and I stayed til about 6.00 p.m. and as Helen appeared to be stable, we decided it would be ok to go home and return in the morning.

At 11.00 p.m. Angela called me to tell me that Helen had died.

My family of 11, 7 boys and 4 girls was now 10.

I was driving home from dinner.

I stopped on the side of the road. With a family this large we have to split up responsibilities. I again made the rounds of ringing my list of siblings to deliver the news. In between calls liaising with Shane and Angela to make sure we had everyone covered.

It was difficult.

Angela called to tell me about the last moments for Helen. Rod, Melissa and Daniel had returned to the hospital after taking some time to shower and freshen up. They where keen to get back in time for ‘trolley time’ when the hospital supplies some wine or beer to patients. They where laughing and joking with each other. Remembering the times when Helen had to go to hospital, they always joked about making it in time for the trolley. Gathered around my sister, in this moment of light hearted humour, Helen passed away.

What a way to go.

I’ve been on the side lines in all of this. I wanted to support Angela, make sure that she’s ok. For her this has been an incredible roller-coaster and I’m glad I’ve been able to stand beside her and just be there. I admire her for her courage and unconditional love for her sister. Angela extends that love and concern to Helen’s children, Rod and then to others in our family. It’s an amazing thing to watch and I stand in awe.

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Apr 21

Today Michael and I got registered.  That’s how we do it in Victoria.  The Australian Government won’t let us get married, and we don’t want to do that anyway, but we did need to be registered so that our legal status is clear.  You know, next of kin, powers of attorney and all that sort of stuff.

It’s a straight forward process, and is in fact similar to what you do when you register your marriage.  You just don’t get the “I now pronounce you Man and Man”.

When I look at it that way, what we did seemed like an everyday event, there were no magic words, it was rather like applying to get your drivers license, or as some suggest, registering your dog.  You take a number, line up at the counter with your proof of identity and someone takes photo copies, punches it all into a computer and that’s it.  You walk out registered.

Apart from this legal stuff, we don’t need registration to know how we feel about each other.  We don’t need a big ceremony to mark the occasion, we don’t need to gather all our friends, unwanted family and official wedding junkies together to stand in front of them and make a public declaration of our undying love and devotion to each other.  We do have a commitment to each other, it’s been ‘organic’ and it’s ongoing.

In the end, isn’t that what marriage is all about?  It’s the about  a commitment between two people.  All the other stuff is just bloatware1.

Sure, we can have a big party, but rather than that, and at any time, why not congratulate people you see together as partners.  They obviously have a commitment to each other, and it’s ongoing.  That deserves a smile and a wink.  Why do we only tell people how great it is to be in a relationship when they front up to get married?

For the record, our wedding reception was baked beans on toast, a fruit salad and two cups of coffee.  We kissed.

  1. Unrequired information SOURCE
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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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