Jul 23

I have been hearing my voice booming around my home as I watch the TV for an upcoming documentary.

Stop using the rules of your religion to tell me how to live my life

The constant theme I hear from people about why I can’t get in married in Australia is mostly based on their religious view that homosexuality is an abomination.  The attitude from religious fundamentalist is the reason that we don’t yet have marriage equality in Australia.

There is a shift going on, slowly but surely.  I read this article in the Washington Post from a Christian who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.  David Jolly is a conservative politician, but he gets it:

I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage.

My request is simple and can be echoed by everyone who agrees that personal liberty is important.

Stop using the rules of your religion to tell me how to live my life.

The other objection that I hear a lot is along the lines of ‘think of the children’ and the use of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states (amongst a lot of other things that are often ignored)

…the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

It’s interesting to note the use of the word parents here is left undefined.  It’s also interesting to note that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

It’s right up there at the top – Article 1.

So get out of my way and let me marry him.

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Jun 12

It’s no secret that I’m in a wonderful relationship.  I tell everyone at every opportunity.  I struggled for ways to show Michael how important he was to me.  I couldn’t find that one thing needed to express my love for him, then I asked him to marry me.  He said yes.

Marriage is an important milestone for us.  We can’t do it in Australia.  Fundamentally we aren’t really changing anything about our relationship, we are simply publicly  expressing the importance of our lives together.

So when I yet again read something from the Australian Christian Lobby that attempts to undermine my relationship with Michael I get a bit upset.  Not just for me but for others who so desperately want to get married.

Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the ACL and he writes:

But the Greens, who cite changing the definition of marriage as one of their top priorities (along with euthanasia), are chipping away.

Recently they set up a Senate inquiry into a bill to recognise same-sex marriages conducted overseas.

This is clearly a tactic to put pressure on parliamentarians as part of the Greens’ misguided assault on the rights of  children to have their mum and dad, wherever possible.

Whether or not you think the Greens are misguided is a political judgement, they are doing what they should be doing in a democratically elected parliament, attempting to represent those that voted for them.  However, to suggest that somehow marriage equality is an assault on the rights of children is just insane.  This notion that somehow allowing Michael and me to get married will mean that kids won’t have a mother and father is madness.

The truth is there is no discrimination against same-sex couples in Australia. Keeping marriage between a man and a woman does not change this.

Well, lets test that, I assume Lyle is straight and married to a woman.  I assume that they love each other and the reason that they got married is because they love each other.  Lyle has married the person of his choice.  I love Michael.  I want to marry him.  Michael is my choice for the person I want to marry.  Yet, I’m not permitted under Australian law to do so.  Why not?  It’s because we are both men.  That, to me, sounds like discrimination.  Feels like it too.

But if Australia capitulates on the definition of marriage, our cultural assumption that a child has the right – wherever possible – to her or his biological mother and father, will be lost.

What is it with these guys that they continually place children as the central reason for marriage ignoring all those who decide to either have children out-of-wedlock or not have children at all.  There is no requirement to have children as part of a marriage and there is no requirement to be married to have children.  And just once it’d be great to see Lyle show us just where this right that apparently is a cultural assumption is written down.

A civil and unselfish society puts the rights of children first, no matter how emotive the arguments against this are.

I don’t know which society you live in Lyle, but our society is very selfish.  Sure, there are lots of great things happening and lots of selfless people about, but really, there are poor, hungry, homeless children living amongst us.  You could be working with those families that need support instead of picking on the gays.  The unsaid thing here, however, is this notion that somehow gay people have children as some sort of trophy or possession.  That we only want children so we can somehow show them off.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Every parent I’ve met, regardless of their sexuality, is a selfless parent who would do anything for their children.  Just because you’re gay doesn’t stop that fundamental biological urge to have children and raise them as your own.  It’s part of being human, and mostly our sexuality doesn’t diminish that drive any more than the rest of the population.  That same basic instinct is the same that drives straight couples to start families.

It’s easy to over look the role that Lyle Shelton as the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby plays in this debate.  We need to be taking that into account in all their lobbying.  Although Lyle makes no mention of it, religion is the driving factor here.  He pretends that it’s about the children, because for the ACL that’s the emotive argument.  The way they continue to justify their discrimination is to pretend that it’s not biblically based.  The reality is that the ACL is about forcing their version of Christian ethics on the rest of the population.  Their ethics are orthodox Christian values.  They believe that gay people are sinners, the work of demons and just plain evil.  The Chairman of the ACL, Tony McLellan said this in a report on Lateline in 2012:

TONY MCLELLAN: It’s against the kingdom of God by the Devil. The Devil doesn’t like God and doesn’t like everything God stands for. I would say that people who are trying to change the definition of marriage, which has its roots in Christianity, are obviously trying to deconstruct Christian’s views of what marriage should be. And they well may be motivated by the evil one to do that.

No doubt there are plenty of reasons to deconstruct Christian views in our society.  The churches have used and abused their position when it comes to the well-being of children.  Reality is that religion isn’t going away any time soon.  But then neither am I.  Nor are the hundreds of thousands of gay Australians and our supporters.

The ACL haNo Crossve tried to shift this ‘war’ to the well-being of the children.  For generations children have been raised in a variety of ways, through mothers only, through villages, through dads only, with the use of wet-nurses, adopted parents, orphanages and with both parents.  There should be no doubt in your mind that no matter what happens to marriage, people will continue to breed and raise the off-spring.  The way forward is not to tell us who can and can’t do it, but to support those who want to be parents.  As a society that is surely the way to do it.

The ACL in shifting the debate is being dishonest and disingenuous.  At the root of all their rhetoric only one thing matters to them, bringing about the kingdom of their god.  They honestly believe that it is their duty to push their ethics onto the rest of society because they think they’re right.  If we don’t agree with them we are deemed to be a demon, be influenced by a demon or just plain evil.

We don’t hear that sort of talk from them, it’s not going to win them any support.  The last thing that the ACL really cares about is your children, or the rights of the children.  They only care about their faith.  Nothing else matters.

How selfish of them.

——

You can voice your support for marriage equality by making a submission to the Senate Inquiry for the Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014 at the website for Australian Marriage Equality.

Join the Australian Equality Party, a new voice in Australian politics that aims to promote fairness, equality and human rights.

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Feb 06

Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby and he’s just written a rather nasty little piece about gay people.  Again.  He’s trying to be reasoned but ignores the reality of the world, as so many fundamentalist christians do.

Even the heading of his little spray is really very mean-spirited and sets the tone for the rest of the article.

Deep breath needed in rush to dismiss mum and dad parenting

Nobody but nobody is trying to dismiss mum and dad parenting.  Gay people having children doesn’t mean that somehow all the other children in the world will find themselves without a parent.  Lyle needs to take a deep breath.

Children miss out on a mum or a dad usually because of tragedy or desertion.

Where this occurs we as a society rightly provide financial and moral support to single parents.

Where children are orphaned the State usually seeks to provide a mother and father replacement family through adoption.

In all cases, the best interests of the child are paramount.

Hardly.  Single parents are very often left to struggle.  Poverty for these groups is rife.  Financial support is very limited.  For an organisation that bangs on about the importance of what’s in the best interest of the children do very little to acknowledge that what is important is that all families should be at the gold standard.  That should be what they strive for, not this fancy notion of moral support.

We have also rightly condemned and apologised for practices that led to the stolen generation and forced adoption practices of the past.

Here’s another nasty bit of text.  What Lyle isn’t saying is that often said rot that allowing same-sex parents to have children is akin to forcibly taking the child away from her parents. Forcibly being the key word.  No child in a same-sex relationship is being forcibly removed.  Lyle is warning you that if we allow people like me to have children, in thirty years time we’ll have to apologise to those children for screwing up their lives.  The stolen generation does not even begin to compare with same-sex parenting.

The recent debate about same-sex marriage has highlighted the issue of parenting by same-sex couples.

Hang on, so far you’ve talked about single parents and the children of the first Australians.  Now we jump into same-sex couples.  Whether the likes of Lyle know or understand, same-sex couples have been raising children since the start of time and the world continues to spin.  Marriage will not change that fact.

A number of studies have been conducted which seem to suggest that kids raised by same-sex couples fare no worse and possibly even fare better than kids raised by heterosexual parents.

Well no, the studies don’t seem to suggest.  The studies state that the kids are ok.

The most recent, a survey of existing studies from here and overseas, was conducted by sociologist Dr Deborah Dempsey on behalf of the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

A key message of Dr Dempsey’s survey is that: “Overall, research to date considerably challenges the point of view that same-sex parented families are harmful to children. Children in such families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual families.”

The same-sex marriage lobby was quick to say that Dr Dempsey’s survey of the studies means the debate about same-sex parenting is over.

However, it is known that data for most of these studies has come from self-selecting samples and mainly from lesbians from a higher than average socio-economic demographic.

Oh no, all these studies have been done from self-selecting samples.  Let’s ignore that study after study finds the same thing that the children are OK.  It’s a pity that Lyle didn’t apply the same logic to the studies that he relies on, studies that have been debunked by so many people.

Lesbian parents who have high incomes and are well-educated unsurprisingly report that their kids are doing well and they most likely are.

How dare the lesbians have high incomes!  How dare the lesbians be well-educated.  With that statement it should be obvious to Lyle that he should be encouraging decent educational outcomes for all citizens regardless of their sexuality.

While increasing, the numbers of same-sex couples parenting children remain very small. Dr Dempsey says 33 per cent of lesbian women in Australia have children and 11 per cent of homosexual men have children.

Around two percent of the Australian population is homosexual or lesbian but not all are in couple relationships.

With such small numbers, particularly for male homosexual parenting, it is perhaps too early to be drawing  conclusions.

Indeed, it’s too early to draw conclusions, but you do anyway.  You are suggesting that it’s better to tell gay people not to have children, just in case they screw their kids up.  Again, the same standard is not applied to the children of people who aren’t as well-educated and earn high incomes just like those lesbians that are raising well-adjusted kids.

The overwhelming conclusion of the vast body of social science research is that kids do best when raised by their biological mother and father.

Except for the research that hasn’t been conducted by some christian funded organisation or doesn’t properly reflect the GLBTIQ community, or research that has serious flaws in its methodology.

Common sense and the evidence of past practices of child removal tell us that a child’s biological parents matter to the child, regardless of the love provided in alternative arrangements.

Yes two men can love a baby, but is it right to have removed that baby from her mother?

Are fathers an optional extra?

Common sense?  It’s a pity Lyle doesn’t use some.  You see the thinking of christian fundamentalists is along these lines.

1.  The bible says that gay people are an abomination.

2.  Being gay is a sin

3.  Sin is from the devil

4.  Therefore all gay people are evil and either want to eat your children or raise them to be gay or raise them to fail in life.

5.  If you disagree refer to 1.

These are important ethical questions that should be front and centre of the debate about redefining marriage.

Oh please, nobody is redefining marriage.  People will still get married, some will have children, some won’t.  Some people will have children and not get married.

Once a new definition of marriage is legislated, these questions become obsolete. In fact, they become inappropriate.

toddlerpink

As usual with a media release, we get broad statements with little about the driving motivation.  The ACL and Lyle have no time for anything that is gay and would like to wipe it off the face of the earth because jesus loves us all.   These discussions are inappropriate now.  Instead of trying to support all families, Lyle and the ACL focuses on a small section of the community and run around screaming that the gays are having children!  Won’t anyone listen to them!

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Dec 31

Not normally one for pondering the year that has been, I find myself doing just that.  Although, I’m pondering a lot more than just the last 12 months.

In the short-term I find myself in a state of bewilderment.   You see, I work with a small team of people at work and one of them was killed just before Christmas.  Her husband has been charged with homicide, and I just can’t find a spot in my mind where that makes sense.  The impact has been enormous and I’ve struggled to make sense of it.  At the same time I’ve had to give support, space and understanding to others, something that I’ve done quite willingly.  I can feel that part of me that needs to be busy in a crisis.  I work where I do because the people I work with do great work in a range of areas, including family violence.  I’ve seen reports, heard the stories and know that violence happens.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t understand why some men think this is a way to solve a problem.  I want this to stop.  When it touches you so close to home it becomes real, not just something you read about or see on the TV.

The last couple of years has also been sad with other deaths, my sister, my mother and earlier this year my father.  It’s been a tough time.  The thoughts of them intrude frequently as I remember, recall and see them in my mind. I have the photos, videos and memories of these people.  Despite everything, they are treasured memories.

The death of my parents in particular has been a relief too.  My greatest fear was being rejected by my parents.  Now without that worry I really do finally feel free.  How bad is that I wonder.  A 50-year-old gay man still fearful of what his dad thinks.  I’ll tell you what he thinks, he thinks that I’m a woolly woofter.

When it comes to the emotions of life, common sense has little to do with it.  In all likelihood my sexuality would probably not have been a concern to them at all.  Possibly they would be too polite to actually say anything about it.  Reality says two things – I’ll never know what they thought, and it no longer matters.

So, I have a new-found freedom.  This new-found freedom helped me one night in Bali to look into the eyes of my beautiful man and ask him to marry me.  He, with a tear in his eye, said yes.  Who’s the woolly woofter now?

He comes with a pre-arranged family, parents who accept and love him for who he is, a brother, sister-in-law, a niece and nephew, aunty, cousins and friends who just don’t give a single low-flying duck about his sexuality, oh, and they also love him. I’ve been accepted into the fold and have the deep sense of the family madness that comes with that.  I have to say, that’s wonderful.  Oh, they’re not really mad either, my lot has the madness refined to a much better level of insanity.

The last two years have also been an incredible deep personal journey for me too.  I’ve grown so much on the inside, mentally.  For years my brain has been a muddle.  I fully expect that to continue.  However, some of it has become unmuddled.  This release has seen me lose well over 30 kgs., and go from sitting on my arse to actually running, I did a 8 kilometre run this morning.  It’s also seen me grow into a new work role that quite frankly surprised me, I managed to achieve a Diploma in IT and quell the side of my personality that was up for a fight, mentally that is, not physically, although my mind rarely rests.  I guess that a dose of muddle comes with that.  I have started to talk to people, to connect face to face instead of by email.  That’s simply amazing for me, a man who wouldn’t approach you personally unless I absolutely had to.

It’s important to go back over more than the last two years to make sense of the journey that gets me to this point.  I don’t know how long it’s taken to get here.  I do know that the trip has been bad.  I’ve been married, for the wrong reasons, I’ve used my mind to shield and bury my sexuality.  You know, in denial.  I’ve used that same mind to keep people at a distance, to be argumentative and unwelcoming.  There’s a lot in that to undo.  I will always be in the undoing mode.  I want to understand me, I want to question and hopefully find the answers.  For the first time in years I really do feel free.

I’ve also moved positions on marriage.  I’ve gone from being married to Jennie, despite all, this was a great relationship.  When we broke up I didn’t want to get married ever again.  I’ve moved to fighting for the right to get married in Australia to now actually wanting to get married.  That alone is a big trip!

I still have battles to fight.  I can’t get married to Michael in Australia.  Some religious people still get up my nose.  There are still people who struggle to make ends meet.

In all of this world, we still have large sections of it that are opposed to my personal, private relationship with Michael.  It’s said to be harmful, wrong and the end of civilisation.  To me it just feels like love.  I know that what Michael and I have is not a threat to anyone, neither of us want to convert anyone to the ‘gay lifestyle’ (other than Hugh Jackman and a couple of other hunky types…).  In Russia the persecution of gay people is on the increase.  In Uganda homosexuality has been criminalised with prison time.  Evangelical Americans continue to spread misinformation about us (and therefore me) and continue to demonise and demoralise people for no good reason other than their interpretation of the bible that I reject outright.

People starve, people die from preventable disease.  Women are killed at the hands of men, children are abused by religious.  Gay people are vilified, racism continues, misogynists exist.  From this angle the world seems depressing and closed.

In my world, I have love.  I have acceptance.  I see my Tomas and Caitlin grown and developing into their own lives.  I feel my partner at my side, partners in life.  I have a great sense of family, which, I’ve discovered I can hand-pick.

I feel that it’s only right that in an act of defiance that I should say to the Australian Government, Fuck You!  If you won’t let me get married, then I will just nick off somewhere else and do it.

I love Michael, he loves me.  We are engaged.  The next step is to be married.  It’s what we do as a society.  Marriage brings with it a public commitment and recognition of the relationship we have to each other.  It says more than just a couple living together in a de-facto relationship.  It carries more weight to say, “Please meet Michael, my husband” and not “Please meet Michael, my partner”.

Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I now know that it’s for me.

Those of you that have been part of my journey, thank-you.  Buckle up, there’s more to do.

If I can go from one short fat lazy Australian to a 50-year-old, fit, slim bloke, then there is nothing we can’t do.   No matter where this ends up, you take care of yourself, never stop asking questions and always be willing to change.

So, I leave my ponderings now, I wish the world a happy New Year and I wish you well.

5 years between photos

5 years between photos

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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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Apr 29

My latest blog becomes a video!  A vlog

 

marriage equality 1Election Campaign 2010 – Media release about Danby and Marriage Equality

Interview with Michael Danby from C31 – The Shtick, 14th April 2013

Presenter: Gregory Storer

Voice over: Michael Barnett

Vlog produced by Michael Barnett and Gregory Storer

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Images:  Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.  Michael Danby, Star of David, Rainbow Flag

Map from the Australian Electoral Commission

Music from Incompetech 

Made using Open Source Software:  Blender, OpenShot, Gimp and Ubuntu

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Apr 25

I’ve been married.  To a woman.  We had two children.  We had a great life together.  Our wedding day was one of the most outstanding days of my life.  Jennie and I had many good years together.

Recently I’ve been going through my old stuff.  We both corresponded with each other in the late eighties by writing letters.  I actually put pen to paper and Jennie did the same.  We lived in different cities.  Her in Melbourne, me in Hamilton.

We made phone calls, regularly.  Most phones in the late 80′s were connected to a wall via a cable.  So you didn’t really carry them about.  Jennie would call me at work, so I couldn’t escape to another room or step outside, I had to take the call at my desk, wide open to the public.

Then we’d call at night.  Jennie worked nights so sometimes I could call her at work.  We’d tie the phone up for awhile, that would make my mother mad.  My dad complained about the bill a lot.  (Strange, I complain about the bill now too).

And yeah, even when we were married I was gay.  There were a lot of strange things going on in my head at the time and it took many years to put all that right.  But as my friends and family would tell you Jennie and I were clearly in love.  And we were clearly in love.  The early days of our relationship were fantastic.  I had a deep love her.

That’s really important.  It is that love that lead me to marry her.  I foolishly thought it would last forever, but things don’t always work out the way you expect.

I’ve moved on now.  My life has changed, but Jennie is still in it, and I do whatever I can to make sure she is OK.  I’m determined to make sure that she’s taken care of because somewhere I still have feelings for her.  Sure, they’re mixed up at times, but let’s face it, our marriage was important and we shared something very meaningful.  We also share the parentage of two children.

On April 21st 1990 we got married.  The Australian Government sanctioned our marriage, I have the certificate to prove it.

certificate of marriage

As I said, I’ve moved on.  Michael is in my life now.  I love him.  I want to spend the rest of my life with him.  We keep in touch during the day, we regularly say “I love you” to each other.  We share just about every aspect of our lives together.  I foolishly think it will last forever!  What can I say.  He makes me melt.  It’s true that we don’t have children together, we do live with two (and sometimes 3) adult children.  Our relationship is important.  What we share is something very meaningful.

Just three years ago on April 21st 2010 we got registered.  The Australian Government didn’t sanction our relationship.  The state of Victoria did, I have the registration slip to prove it.

25283_418558365148_505910_n

There is no difference in the way I feel now.  I’m in love. I know what that feels like.

New Zealand, France and other places allow people just like me to get married.  I seem to be living in a backwater.  People come to me wide-eye and make positive comments about New Zealand and want to know if I’m going there to get married.

Well no.  I’m Australian.  If I want to get married again I want to do it here.  I don’t want to go to New Zealand, nice as it is I’m sure.  The Australian Government wouldn’t even acknowledge my marriage.

Say what you like about marriage.  You can believe it to be whatever you want.  To me it’s about love.  To me it’s about a public commitment to another person.  Who cares what the sex of that person is?

I know what love is, I know what marriage is, I have been married to the woman I loved.  I now want to be married to the man I love.

From where I stand my Government is preventing me from doing it.  There is no good reason to deny me and my partner the right to call each other husband.

We are not second class citizens.  We are Australian men, in love and living together as a couple.

The only people in the marriage are the couple.  The rest of it is no one’s  business.

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Sep 28

Under the gaze of Robert Menzies we were ushered into Kelly O’Dwyer’s office.  Old Menzies is a bronze bust sitting on a pedestal with an Australian Flag draped next to him.  His cold staring eyes look over Michael and I as we take a seat at the table with Kelly.  I wonder what Menzies would have thought about marriage equality.

Kelly O’Dwyer is the member for Higgins, my local member.  She’s the first sitting politician that I’ve had a formal meeting with since living in the Melbourne.  I recall living in Hamilton and meeting Malcolm Fraser on many occasions.  Fraser was much more aloof.

Our meeting follows on from the recent one we had with Anna Burke, Michael’s local member.  Yes, we have do live together, but we maintain separate residences!  We were keen to hear what Kelly had to say about marriage equality.

The defeat of the marriage equality bill happened recently.  I’d set this meeting up well before that event, so the idea of trying to convince Kelly to vote against her party was no longer my objective.  Instead I wanted to focus on the future and what that would mean.

I told Kelly about the death of my mother.  How in my family of eleven each of the wives or husbands of my siblings was mentioned.  Except for Michael.  It was decided that that was too much for the sweet little country town to bear.  So his name wasn’t tagged on the end of mine.  That hurt.  My relationship with Michael is every bit as real as the relationship that Daryl has with Lee, that Larry has with Diane, that David has with Robyn, that Michael has with Margie, that Shane has with Mary-Lou, that Helen(deceased) had with Rodney, that Bronwyn has with Derek, that Angela has with Chris, that Janine had with John and that Craig has with Cheryl.  It stood out like dogs balls.  My best mate Geoff, sitting next to Michael in the church quietly reassured Michael that he too was part of the family and equally as important.  It just didn’t feel like it at the time.

Marriage would at least give some dignity to the situation, there would be no escaping the fact that the Storer family has a gay member.

Kelly talked about how any sort of social change needs community consensus. I’m not sure why we need a consensus when it comes to equality and rights, it seems to me that it’s pretty clear-cut.  She describes the push for marriage equality as complex.  Although I fail to see how it’s complex.

Kelly is also very keen on civil unions, she thinks that is a stepping stone and we spent some time talking about that concept.  I don’t agree with her, I think civil unions is an appalling idea and I’d never be happy with that concept.  I’m not about to accept that civil unions grants anything like equal rights.

We talked about family life, the importance of Michael’s family and how I fit into that, how Michael works with my family.  We spoke about the families we know and gave Kelly photographs of a couple of mums and their children and a couple of dads and their children.  Those families are every bit as functional as all other families and to deny them the right to marry is a travesty.

Kelly seemed pretty clear that she didn’t think a vote will get up again.  She is convinced that with some internal lobbying that civil unions would be accepted.  She indicated that she would be talking to her Liberal colleagues and trying to get their support.

When asked if marriage equality came before the parliament would she vote for it, she wouldn’t give an answer.  In fact, let me cut and paste her response from a recent Q&A question as it’s very close to our discussion:

TONY JONES: So can I just interrupt you there. Does that mean if you had the free choice, you would have voted no?

KELLY O’DWYER: Well, look, on the issue of the conscience vote, I think Tanya makes a very interesting point because the Labor Party made much of the fact that they had a conscience vote on this issue. They only decided, though, to have a conscience vote on this issue when it was very apparent that the party platform would change. The Labor Party platform binds parliamentarians which would have meant that all of the Labor parliamentarians would have actually have to have…

TONY JONES: Okay, but what would your conscience have dictated to you personally?

KELLY O’DWYER: No. No. No. But this is an important point, though, Tony, because…

TONY JONES: If you had a conscience vote, what would you have voted?

KELLY O’DWYER: But, Tony, if you can just let me finish this one point because it is important. It would have meant, of course, that all of the Labor members of parliament would have actually voted for a change to the Marriage Act if they had been bound but the Prime Minister decided to be a little bit tricky and she decided to actually make a change and so she said that on this policy issue they would vote differently. Now, we made a commitment, as I said. Going into the next election, we will no doubt talk about this issue again. Civil unions may come up. I don’t know if that’s something that the Labor Party is going to be bringing forward. I suspect that across the…

TONY JONES: Okay, but just to bring you, because we haven’t got a lot of time – just to bring you to the point that I asked, if you had a conscience vote yourself, would you ever voted yes or no?

KELLY O’DWYER: Well, I mean, it’s a hypothetical question. I have been on the record…

TONY JONES: Your conscience is a hypothetical?

KELLY O’DWYER: No. No. No. It’s a hypothetical question as to how I would have voted. I mean we took a position as a party on this issue.

TONY JONES: Would you be prepared to reveal publicly what your position is?

KELLY O’DWYER: Well, I have publicly stated my support for civil unions and that’s my public position.

And that is indeed her public position.

Kelly makes all the right noises, she acknowledges our position but refuses to budge from hers.  She appears to be supportive of marriage equality but won’t give her unqualified support.  She is prepared to support the hypothetical notion of civil unions but not the hypothetical notion of marriage equality.

This is the political game.  Keep the constituents happy, make it sound like you empathise and concur with them but give them nothing solid.

It wasn’t a bad meeting, Kelly is a professional politician.  Good humoured, determined and respectful.

It’s a pity that her respect doesn’t extend to telling us exactly where she stands on marriage equality instead of taking the safe ground of civil unions.

 

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Sep 22

What a week I’ve had.  What a month it’s been.  It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting out on the deck thinking about all that’s happened.  I wonder just how people survive at times.  There is such a swirl of feelings and emotions going on all the time for me as I struggle to make sense of all that’s happening.

A hectic week at work as I pick up the pieces after a couple of weeks off.  I’m at the pointy end of a couple of major projects, which is a great feeling.  All the planning and research that at times is tedious and difficult finally pays off and I’m at a stage of making in one project, a really well-informed decision.  That’s good. The addition of another contract has set off a whole raft of events that needs my focus, so at the end of a mammoth work week my head is spinning. It’s not so much daunting, it’s more along the lines of mixing in the new project with the old and giving them all the right attention.

In my personal life I’m listening to and supporting the mother of my children as she continues to live with her terminal cancer.  It’s a challenge. I’ll do what’s needed to take care of her.  Nobody deserves such a rough end.  When it’s someone you love and care about, that makes it all the more difficult.

After four years, Michael and I continue to co-habit in a wonderful life together, we at times struggle with each other, but somewhere within us is a deep love and respect for each other.  It helps us sort out our relationship.  It also helps that he has gorgeous brown eyes and a winning smile.

Looking back a bit further, I’ve reeled in horror at the outrageous demonisation of my sexuality and therefore me by Wallace at the ACL, and then heard that reinforced by Jensen on Q&A – it’s been really demoralising to hear such vile words repeated often in the media, making it sound like all people who are gay are a health risk, not just to themselves, but to society at large.  The underlying and unsaid meaning coming from the likes of Wallace and Jensen is that gay people are not worthy of life.  Certainly not worthy of any recognition in our society.

It was heart warming to see the PM pull out of her keynote speech to the ACL, Gillard is against marriage equality, so for her to withdraw her support from the ACL was gratifying and appeared to be supportive.  I took it as a glimmer of hope.

The other big story of course, is the vote in both houses of the Australian Parliament.  It saw two marriage equality bills soundly defeated.  Further cementing the feeling of second class citizen status in my own country.  Somehow my relationship isn’t worthy of recognition.

What a week.

I know my worth as a person, I get on with my job and I’m pretty sure I’m a valued and respected member of the team at work.  I know that my adult children love me and we enjoy each others company.  I have a good network of friends that seek me out.  My partner (but not husband) loves me and I revel in our relationship.  Overall, I’m a fairly well-adjusted person, contributing to the lives of those around me, contributing to my society and to the broader Australian community.

The marriage equality debates in the Parliament have had a profound effect on me.  It’s not that I expected a different result. I don’t think there were too many people who thought that there would be any change.  But I did have hope.  It was with eager anticipation that I watched the House of Representative vote on the legislation.  There was always an outside chance I thought, that our elected members would actually do the right thing on this.

I caught up with the speeches in the Senate at the end of each day, watching the senators and reading their words. There were some wonderful supportive thoughts.  But there were also some ugly speeches that showed an underlying contempt for homosexuals and where in some people’s minds gay people belong.  Cory Bernardi’s speech is an example of where his thinking is, and typical of the religious response to marriage equality.  In his speech he links homosexuality with bestiality.  In the bible there is a passage that links homosexuality with bestiality and calls it an abomination and a perversion.  Religion over the years has been unable to see past that.  To the minds of many believers that puts the two issues on the same level.  Bernardi’s attempts to suggest he has been taken out of context is to overlook the basis for his slippery slope argument.  The link has been long-established and religion is to blame.  It’s why they always look like a rabbit caught in the headlights when somebody takes them to task about it.  Just below their surprise you can see the internal cogs slipping as they try to understand why nobody else has read that passage in the bible.

Then there are the detestable words of Senator Boswell that should upset all men and women, regardless of sexuality.

Same-sex marriage says that a mother or a father does not matter to a child—and it does. Two mothers or two fathers cannot raise a child properly. Who takes a boy to football? Who tells him what is right from wrong? What does he do—go along with the two mums? How does he go camping and fishing? Yes, there might be some attempt by one of the mothers to fill in as a father figure but it will not work. It is defying nature. And what about a young girl changing from a teenager into a young woman? Is it fair to say to her, ‘You don’t have a mother; your mother can’t take you shopping’ or to not be able to help her understand how her body is changing? What are we trying to do here? Why are we trying to defy what has been the right thing for hundreds of thousands of years? What suddenly gives us the inspiration to think that we can have gay marriage and it will not affect anyone?

 As I look back at my child-raising days, I’ve been there for my daughter through her changing from ‘a young girl’ and helped her understand how her body works.  I did it without being a woman!
The words of Senator Brandis make me wonder how he lives inside his head:
discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality is always wrong, but it does not follow from that proposition that every institution in society, for that reason, must be redefined.
 On one hand he acknowledges that discrimination is wrong, but on the other it’s ok.
Senator Joyce from Queensland has some very odd views, way outside my level of understanding of conservatism.  He says this in his speech:
 If you want to be married, because of the requirements of nature, it involves a male and a female connection for the hope and possibility of having children. You cannot do it with a male and a male. You cannot do it with a female and a female. It is just not possible. The institution of marriage stands ultimately behind the reality of nature. It does not matter what piece of legislation we pass; you cannot change nature. You cannot change that reality. But what we can do is go down a path of a new form of social engineering—about which we really have no idea of the consequences
 Well, marriage is a human construct, nature has no requirements as such.  Gay couples also enjoy a connection for the hope of having children.  And yes, two men or two women can have children, it’s true that they can’t physically conceive them as a couple, but they can and they do have children.  Always have, and will continue to find ways to do it.  Marriage has nothing to do with nature and everything to do with humans setting their own rules.  It’s our rule.  His underlying notion is that to allow gay people to have a family would mean that every family would have to have same-sex parents at its head.  What a crock.  Nothing changes as the Australian society already has same-sex couples raising children in marriage like families.  It’s a reality, and last time I checked, reality was not on the blink.

I didn’t see the Senate vote, but I did watch the vote in the House of Reps.  It’s not every day you see Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard vote together.  I was stunned to see most of the Labor Party stand up and move to the other side of the chamber to vote with the Liberal Party to stop this bill.  Despite the Labor Party having a party platform that is in support of marriage equality, most of them crossed the floor and voted with the Liberal Party.

The image of Julia Gillard and most of her cabinet sitting there with the Opposition, smiling and talking, laughing will stick with me. Here I am watching my Parliament take a decision about my rights as a human and they are laughing.  It seem to lack any sort of dignity.  It was simply another function to perform without any real understanding of the impact that it would have on the people who it affects.

All the words of support and the standing up for us against the likes of Jensen, the ACL and Senator Bernadi are wiped away in a few minutes.   All the talk about stopping discrimination and accepting gay people vanish.

The majority rules.  They’re happy that they’ve done what they can, passed 80 odd bits of legislation to correct some discrimination, you know, stuff around property rights, medical rights, financial rights. Purely functional things. But they can’t vote in favour of the most fundamental right, that of love.  That of marriage.

It’s been a couple of sad days.

I feel gutted, cheated and demoralised.  I mean that.

I am determined and I won’t give up.

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