Mar 20

It’s not every day you get to run under and over the Yarra River.

Run For the Kids is an annual event, and Michael and I signed up to run 16kms.

We arrived bright and early, before dawn, with 45,000 of our best mates.  Venus was high in the sky, shining like a gem.  The horizon over the MCG a golden hue.

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We did our warm up and joined everyone else in the Orange Zone to await our start time of 7.40 a.m.

I set my timer and tracker going, and with the sounds of Bruce Springsteen singing Dancing in the Dark I ran into the rising sun.  Michael and I started together, along with all of our other new best friends, but within moments he was lost from sight.  All of us bunched together heading in the same direction.  The sounds of thousands of shoes hitting the pavement.  The eager voices of both excitement and trepidation fill the air as we head off.

It doesn’t take too long before we head downwards into the Domain Tunnel – the road under the Yarra.  The sight of all the heads ahead of me bobbing up and down as they descend into the dark.  It’s really quite warm in there, at least 10° higher.   My tracker looses its GPS signal along the way.  Out the other side back into the bright daylight and on towards the Bolte Bridge.

But let tunnel… Hot and stinky #r4k #r4k2016 #runforthekids #melbourne

A photo posted by ?????? Sarah Purches ?????? (@seratori) on

A fairly gentle slope takes us up the bridge for a sight of Melbourne only ever seen from the confines of the car.  I love the view out over the Yarra as it winds its way into the bay.  There are people slowing down, walking up the bridge, taking in the scenic view, stopping to take the selfie.  All along the way, people are stopping, pointing their device at their head and snapping a photo.  It’s great that they’re enjoying the run and not in it for their personal best!

We wind our way down the other side, back along South Wharf and head back towards Alexandra Gardens, our starting, and now our finishing point. As we all head under the Arts Centre, a Flock of Seagulls sing in my ears I Ran.  I let out a little smirk as I listen to my last 80’s disco track as I round the corner and run through the finish line.  16 kilometres in 1 hour and 46 minutes.

That would be my longest run to date.

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Jan 31

I’ve spent the last 10 years reading widely the thoughts on what the christian right has to say about homosexuality, discrimination, marriage equality and the way they think the world should be.  Last year I pulled back, I unsubscribed from various blogs and newsletters and turned my back on the intolerance and hatred coming from those that would dearly love to return to the basic tenets of their religion, where they were right, homosexuals should be stoned to death and women are nothing more than their personal servants.  I can’t say I’ve missed them.

consequencesEvery now and then I like to check in, as I did with Lyle Shelton the head priest at the Australian Christian Lobby.  He does this sort of pretend radio spot and puts it up on the website, so I had a listen, as he was talking to David Van Gend, a bloke who thinks he has authority because he’s catholic and a doctor.

I’ve written about Shelton and Van Gend before.

I love to flex my mind and listen to their reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to get married, here I’m unpacking some of what they have to say.   You’ll find the full audio and transcript linked at the bottom.

The blog is pretty long, sorry about that.

We start with Lyle doing the intro.

Ever since the Greens member from Melbourne Adam Bandt stood up in the Federal Parliament in December 2010 and moved a motion that MPs consult with their constituents about changing the definition of marriage. The so called gay marriage debate has been on in earnest.

It’s been happening since the Australian Government changed the marriage act in 2004, and it has been earnest, that bit is right.

It’s been five long years as a small minority of activist urged by a willing media have kept this issue alive in the public square and in politics, despite opinion polls seemingly showing majority support for the idea of changing the definition of marriage. The polls also show it’s a very low order issue with voters. It is well down the list of people’s priorities that they think politician should be focusing on.

By defining the group agitating for change as a ‘small minority’ is to suggest that because it’s a small group it’s unimportant, put that in with the idea that people think there are more important things to worry about is saying just how unimportant the whole debate is.  The easy answer is then to simply change it as most people think the change should happen, gets it off the table to focus on more important things.  It’s also important to remember that Lyle thinks that he his being denied his right to free speech, somehow the small minority is the only voice that is being heard by the willing media.

We should also note that the Australian Christian Lobby is a small minority, he is suggesting that they are somehow significant.

The same-sex political juggernaut has seemingly been unstoppable

Oh good, a small minority that is a political juggernaut!  Such power that doesn’t seem to have been successful yet.

…last week in London the same-sex political agenda suffered a significant setback. Anglican Primates from around the globe met to consider the issue because leaders of their church in the United States and Canada have accepted same-sex marriage in defiance of the bible’s teaching. Instead of endorsing the North American’s capitulation to the culture, the 27 of the 36 voting Primates voted to actually censure the North American Church for straying from Christian teaching on marriage.

Perhaps he could define how this is significant.  The anglicans did just what they are supposed to do.  Play by the rules of their religion.  You’ll note that this ‘significant setback’ has not got the United States or Canada governments rushing legislation through to comply with the Anglican Primates biblical teaching.  Nothing has changed really, just a bunch of men (are there any women here today?) in silly hats telling another bunch of men in silly hats that they can’t play with each other for a couple of years.

This is very, very significant. It just goes to show that with courage and conviction this agenda can be turned.

Umm…..

One man who has been showing great courage for many years in this battle is Toowoomba GP and president of the Australian Marriage Forum Doctor David Van Gend. Last year Dr. Van Gend had his doctor surgery spray painted with the word bigot and television advertisements that he produced refused broadcast by the tax payer funded SBS. Dr. Van Gend joins me on the line now, welcome to the program David.

Oh the man is a hero, someone sprayed bigot on his surgery and SBS refused to show his ads on the tele.  Give the man a medal!

Lyle Shelton: David, this meeting of Anglican Primates. I made much of that in that in the introduction because I do think it’s significant that when people stand up, this agenda can be resisted and can be turned around and that’s something you’ve been doing in your work and private capacity as president of the Australian Marriage Forum.

Doctor David Van Gend: I think so because a lot of people understand that there’s something enormous at stake with marriage.

Seriously?  Like what, the end of civilisation perhaps.  Everyone agrees that Ireland is heading towards full destruction, New Zealanders are all turning gay and that the US has found the hand-basket and now slipping on the slope to the pits of hell.

It’s not a religious issue so much with Anglican or with people have every right to weigh in on this.

The anglicans seem to think it’s about what’s in the bible, that sounds like a religious issue.  But Van Gend is right, it’s not a religious issue, it’s a civil issue and people from everywhere are weighing in on it.

It’s about the truth of nature that marriage is a man, woman thing in our culture because it’s a male, female thing in nature.

This is just a nonsense.  There is no marriage in nature, when was the last time you saw a moose priest preside over the marriage of a buck and a doe?  Do they sign their certificate with the horns?  Marriage is a human construct, probably an extension of the males desire to lord it over the woman and be the boss.

It only exists doesn’t it because male, female relations typically have been momentous consequence of creating children and children need the love and protection of a mother and father.

So now it only exists because of children? Before it was a natural thing.  Just a reminder, there is actually nothing momentous about having children.  Have a look around, the whole of our biodiversity rests on our ability to reproduce.  It’s pretty commonplace and happens all the time without marriage.  While we’re talking about love and protection, sadly that’s not actually the case.  This is a fanciful notion that once married you live happily ever after.  We all know the reality of filicide, familicide, mariticide and suicide.

They need the identity and the belonging that goes with being bound to their real mum and dad. That is what marriage achieves. For every child marriage gives them a mum and dad and so-called homosexual marriage makes that impossible. Impossible and that’s the injustice mate.

Mate, listen up, there are plenty of kids out there growing up in families with same-sex parents.  They actually don’t have identity issues.   The injustice is trying to make the world fit your flawed model.  Families are made up of many different types of formations, your ideal is just one of many.  Each have their own merit, none is the best.

Lyle Shelton: Now. This isn’t about being anti any people you just very eloquently said what marriage is and why it’s a justice issue for children

Good Lyle, it’s not about being anti-gay, despite the fact that Van Gend just said gay people can’t really have children.  It’s impossible.

but you’re a doctor and you see people from all walks of life including same-sex attracted people and your advocacy for marriage is not in any way motivated by any animus towards people.

He’s a doctor!  He sees gay people!  He has no animus towards people like me.  Keep that in mind.  The good doctor from Toowoomba sees gay people.  And note this sideways move now, he moves to talking about sexuality and connecting people’s same-sex attraction with marriage.  The two really aren’t connected.

Doctor David Van Gend: I don’t think it’s possible, yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to know especially young gay people but older ones too, I don’t think it’s possible to know them and not just want to put your arm around them and say, “Look, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.” Something’s happened, something’s happened to put you in a position of, to these patients I see, of considerable suffering and anguish. They don’t know where this attraction came from. They don’t know why they go it, they don’t know what to do with it and a number of them have a conflict between those feelings and their own convictions about what marriage and parenting and family is. This is sets up a terrible tension and I think that tension can be resolved. I think we need to get to a very clear position in Australia. Where gay couples have all the liberties and all the equality of any other couple, any other couples married or defacto that as you know Lyle, they already have all that liberty and called.

Where to even start.  Now the GP is a psychologist, I’d like to see his qualifications. He wants to hug gay people and tell them everything is ok, as if that will somehow help people come to terms with their sexuality.  People like me, he suggests, don’t know where this attraction comes from, but that’s ok, because he has the answers.  It’s because something has happened to put me in this position, therefore it can un-happen.  Oh, and he sees a lot to these patients, a lot!  In Toowoomba!  They have considerable suffering and anguish.  Sounds like they’re all rushing to his surgery because it’s got bigot painted on the outside.  But that’s ok, he can resolve the tension, no doubt by telling you that god loves you. attaching electrodes to your testicles and zapping you with 1,000 volts while showing you pictures of an erect penis.   Oh, and that’s ok, because when you go back to the real world, you’ll be treated like everyone else because you have all the liberties and the equality you’ll ever need, just like real couples.  On one hand we are suffering and in anguish, on the other hand we are treated equally.

Lyle Shelton: That’s right 85 laws were changed in 2008 and state governments have allowed relationship registers. There is no discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples.

You know Lyle, when you tell someone that they can’t do something because of who they are, that’s called discrimination.  You can get married to the partner of your choice (at least, I’m assuming it was a choice), but I can’t.

Doctor David Van Gend: Perfect. That’s it, they have full relationship equality and that is what a liberal society should achieve.

Perfect?  I don’t have full relationship equality.  I can’t get married.

That’s where we’re at but you’ve got to also let children have the one institution in society that exists for them. Marriage exists for children, they’ve build around mother and child.

Rubbish.  Marriage is between two adults, has nothing to do with children.  This is really easy to test, plenty of kids are born without their parents being married, plenty of them live with one parent, plenty with same-sex parents, plenty of them without parents.  Marriage exists because we want it, not because we have kids.

The very word matrimony is broken into two words, mother and the state of. It’s the state of motherhood is matrimony and marriage exist to serve the interest of mother and child. It serves to bind men, feral by nature men to their mate so that both of them can be bound to their child. That’s the whole purpose of it and gay people get this.

Excuse me, I’m not feral.  I don’t need to be bound to a woman to be tamed.  I’m not sure how it works in your part of the world.  And the binding doesn’t work, men and women still have sex outside their marriage, they still have children outside their marriage, and they still break up.

You’re going to listen to Christopher Pearson used to write about marriage needing to be a to man, woman thing, or Dolce & Gabbana, the great fashion gays what they said about it or Doug Mannering, all these other serious principal gay guys who say we got what we want. We got the liberty and benefits that we want. Don’t take marriage away from children, it’s their only structural institutional possession and that’s where we’re at Lyle. We can all get to this point of saying, yes, yes our fellow citizen who are same-sex attracted must have all the liberty and equality of any of us, and they do. Now that is enough do not let them usurp the one child sense of institution that there is and remake it in their own adult centered image. That is an injustice against child and that’s where we draw the line.

Ho hum.  A few gay people don’t want to get married, or have the jesus bug, therefore all gay people should listen to them.  In their minds this also works for chrisitans.  David and Lyle are good mates and christian, therefore the whole world should agree with them because they have jesus and they are right.  Between them they have worked out where to draw the line and you’re not allowed to cross their line because… well because jesus!

Doctor David Van Gend: It breaks all marriages because I was sitting in America couple of months after their definition of marriage was changed. I looked around this restaurant. None of those married men and women, none of them have the same marriage they used to have because marriage has now become purely an adult romantic affair. A relationship between any two adults of any sex was no further meaning than that.

This sort of makes my brain hurt.  It’s a huge assumption to say that everyone in the restaurant is married, and if they are, that they are sitting at the table with their spouse.  So because the US now has marriage equality, people already married don’t have the same marriage as before because same-sex marriages exist?  SMH (that’s shaking my head)  And…. their marriages have now become purely adult romantic affairs!  So before it was what?  A child’s romantic affair?  No romance at all?  Marriage is not romantic?  Well at least us gay guys have put the romance back into marriage, you’ve gotta be happy with that.

What they signed up to is marriage being the vocation of a man and woman given by nature itself to undertake the great task of creating a home, a new family and new generation. That great vocation, that great honorable life task has been degraded into a mere romantic association between any two people.

This is it!  The world is ending!  Straight people lives have been wrecked by two lesbians calling each other wife and setting up  a home and a family and a new generation!  You should see my face right now, I’m simply horrified!  I had no idea that getting married to Michael in New Zealand would change the world so much.  Why didn’t someone stop me?  (I’ll leave the answer hanging…)

So that’s gone but more importantly Lyle, the relationship between all parents and all children is redefined when you change marriage as the great lawyer Margaret Somerville pointed out when Canada brought in gay marriage. They changed all of the legal reference to natural parents and made it legal parents. Now, a natural parent is a fundamental, natural relationship which government has to respect, has to stand back and let natural parenthood prevail but once you abolish natural parents because you got rid of natural marriage. All parents and all children are related by a government definition which the government can damn well change whenever it likes. It’s a legal fiction and no parents and children any longer have a natural relationship. They have a legal fiction for a relationship. Be like profound, you’re playing into the hands of big government. People have no idea …

Adoption.  That’s where the old parents have their rights removed and have them assigned to another parent(s)  You know, the government damn well changed the legal fiction.  The relationship is established by law.  Has nothing to do with nature really.  If want you are saying, Davo, is that every child has a mother and a father, then you are right.   What happens after that, nature doesn’t give a rats arse about.

Doctor David Van Gend: …It was an article in Courier Mail and they had for and against forum. I was asked to write the case against gay marriage and someone else wrote the other one. … this is what I’d said, I’d said, yes, yes, it is discrimination to prohibit the marriage of two men but it is a far worse case of discrimination to allow this and thereby abolish a mother from the life of any child created within that marriage or words that effect….Of course we discriminate against two men by saying they can’t marry because they can’t.

Remember, they told us that there is no discrimination.  Remember that they have no animus towards gay people.  Remember, Michael and I are married, even though he says we can’t.  We have a marriage certificate with both our names on it.

It’s not possible because marriage is by definition a natural institution of male and female

It is possible, nature doesn’t define marriage, humans do.

but more importantly they can’t because that would impose a far worse injustice on children who will be created by surrogacy or adoption or whatever under this new institution not by tragic circumstance law but this kids won’t miss out on their mum because their mum’s died or there’s a divorce. These kids in the future will miss out on their mother because an act of parliament today decreed that they will miss out.

I have two children, neither of them have missed out on their mother or father.  Michael and I will not have children, therefore we can get married.  Or wait, nobody else can have children because Michael and I are married, but if a straight couple do have children one of them must leave so the other can marry a person of the same-sex.  And this is ok, because it’s not tragic.  At least that’s what I think he is saying.

Doctor David Van Gend: Actually Lyle, from a wide reading into the activist literature on gay marriage and gay issue.

He reads widely apparently, he reads activist literature on gay marriage.  Excellent, it’s good to have a well-rounded view.

That’s actually the main objective. Gay thinkers, gay activist don’t really care about gay marriage, they actually despise it.

This is right, however, reading as widely as you do Davey, you surely understand that this is but one of many, many views.

They always have despised marriage. It’s a bourgeois, hetero normative, slightly religious patriarchal repressive thing that cramps your gay style.

I have never despised marriage, I’m gay, I’m an activist.  However, I understand that Julia Gillard, who is a woman, not gay and probably not an activist had some thoughts about marriage and it being repressive.  Perhaps I’m not reading widely enough.

They despise it, they always have but in the mid ‘90s, they realize that there’s this new thing in town called antidiscrimination law

Well no, I think you need to wind it back about 20 years when gay people starting saying stop beating us up, stop putting us in jail.  Stop telling us who to have sex with.

and if you normalise homosexual marriage in law, you have normalise homosexual behaviour in all its manifestations with the force of the law and that gives you two things.

Homosexuality has been normalised as you say.  It’s actually not considered abnormal for people to be not straight.  Remember that he has no animus towards gay people.

It gives you control of the curriculum so that all children with gay marriage bought in. All children must be taught the homosexual behavior is no different to the relationship of their mum and dad. That it is normal and natural and right and if parents disagree to bad it’s the law of the land.

Children must be taught?  The sub-text of this is that he still considers homosexuality unnatural, and something to be ashamed of.   Just below the surface here is that vague notion that gay people are recruiting children to be gay.

You’ve missed your chance, it’s gone and the second thing is they the big stick of antidiscrimination law to beat the churches and other conscientiousness objectors into submission and that is what they are trying to do now but we can resist it now. We will not be able to resist it when gay marriage is the law of the land and they know that and this is why they want it.

And here in lies the real reason, at the end of the interview.  He really doesn’t want gay people telling him what to believe.  He really wants to maintain his right to discriminate against whomever he wants.  He sincerely believes that once gay people are allowed to get married that they will set about dismantling society and force him to get gay married, or something.  While he admits that marriage equality is inevitable, he is attempting to frighten people into thinking that their world will change so much that civilisation itself will come crushing down, and the people who are not currently being discriminated against and those that he bares no animus towards will be fully responsible.

Despite what these two white men with their wealth and privilege say, this is about power and control.  This is about their rank as men, head of the household, rulers of the world.  It’s bad enough that women want to do things other than be mothers and dedicated wives, now they have to contend with same-sex couples wanting to get married.  And when they go back to the basis of this power and privilege – the bible – it says that homosexuality is an abomination, that those that participate in it are worthy of death, women should not be heard, that there is no divorce and children should be seen only.  This is the world they want, where they are the centre of the power, so the small town doctor and the pretend high priest are treated as demi-gods.

PolicitalSpotTranscript-Jan2016

Part 1

Part 2

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Jan 16

Michael and I were interviewed in December by William Brougham about our activism.  I always enjoy an opportunity to express my thoughts about where things are with equal rights and the GLBTI community.

William has a good selection of interviews on his YouTube Channel that is worth working your way through.  Many though provoking topics from a range of people.

Be sure to watch the whole 28 minutes here, for me I think one of the key points is the topic of the day, a plebiscite.  This is Malcolm Turnbull’s deal with the right from the Abbott Regime.  He seems determined to leave Abbott’s ill thought out concept in place at present, I think the whole notion is quite appalling and in the interview I explain why.

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Dec 30

“Through the years, we all will be together, if the fate allows”

Christmas wrapped up for another year, and this Christmas again marks a change in the ever evolving tradition for me.

Christmas night as Michael (Did I say how much I love him?) and I walked along Beacon Cove after our Christmas Day he asked the question, “What is your earliest memory”.  A question provoked as he recalled his return to Australia to the nearby Station Pier, he told me of his memory of standing on the deck of the Galileo.  He was young.

The question is a good one that spun around in my head.  Michael always manages to find questions to ask that generate a cascading effect.  Earlier in the day he asked me if this Christmas was different, noting the change from this year to last year.  He asked me how I felt about that.

Here’s my answers.

My childhood Christmas memories are of my family coming together on that one day to celebrate.  I remember the excitement of Christmas morning.  I would wake, often before sunrise, and find my Santa sack, a pillowcase put at the end of my bed the night before.  I always tried to be as quiet as I possible could be, not wanting to wake anyone else!  I would have been sharing my room with my younger brother and a couple of older brothers.

santastockingThe pillowcase would be jammed pack full of goodies. It always had a Santa stocking in it.  The stocking, very similar to the one pictured, would have some lollies along with cheap plastic toys, such as a whistle or a water pistol.  This is a tradition that I continued on with my own children until recently.  I do have a memory of feeling the sack in the dark and it being big and bulky, I’d give it a tug and pull out whatever I could without making too much noise.  I can’t recall a single gift from it, apart from the stocking.

The next part of the day is the distribution of presents from under the tree.  There was much anticipation for me.  Our Christmas tree was always a real pine tree and often placed between a couple of the lounge room couches.  I would be sure to have the best seat in the house.  I would actually pick the seat the night before and when the announcement for presents was made  I would be the first in the room and sitting as close to the action as possible.

I would have to wait for my older brothers to come home with their new families, my nephews and nieces.  Dad would come into the lounge room and there would be a lot of chatter.  He would start to distribute the gifts by calling the name of who it was for followed by who was giving it.  “Gregory from Mum and Dad”.  There were always a great big stack of gifts to give.

tape playerThere are two presents that stand out in my memory.  One was a cassette recorder.  The other a Dolphin Torch.

The cassette recorder was probably one of the best gifts I ever received.  It would have been in the late 1970’s and fed directly into my desire to be on the radio.  I was able to pretend I was a real radio DJ with it!  One of the first songs I ever recorded off the radio was Flash N the Pan’s Hey St. Peter.  I remember that it broke, possibly a day after I got it, and I had to wait until the shops opened again so we could replace it.

The dolphin torch was something that I asked for.  I needed it for camping, big, bulky and waterproof.  The real reason I remember it however, was that it marked a change in my thinking on Christmas.  I guess I was may 15 or 16, and that year the only gift I got from Mum and Dad was the torch.  I felt a great deal of unhappiness about that!  The Christmases of Plenty had passed.

As the family started to expand we all bought gifts for the new additions.  We also bought gifts for each other.  So, that’s 11 children, two parents and an ever-expanding growth of grand children and partners.  There would be laughter, squeals of delight, the rustling of paper and a big mess everywhere.  This tradition went on for many many years, all the way into the ’90s.  That’s at least 20 years.

I’ll come back to this point in time, the mid 70s.  Let me just explain this video of the presents under the tree.  I took this in 1990.  I’m 27 years old, my first wife (ok, my only wife) is the first adult through the door, she’s preceded by some of my nieces, a steady stream of children and adults come into the room.  Finally in what seems like a TARDIS space we’re all in their and my Dad begins the handing out of the presents.  You can see my Mum and Dad under the tree, bums up in the air, handing out the gifts.

This isn’t all of us either!  By 1990, some of my older nephews and nieces, along with my brothers, didn’t come to this part of the day.  We’d already started changing the long-held tradition and celebrating Christmas in our own way with our new families.  This is one of the final times that we gathered in the family home at 9 McIntyre Street, Hamilton.  My parents moved to Queensland and that changed Christmas forever.

Back to the 1970’s.  Once the presents were over and done with we would then be getting ready for lunch.  The size of our family meant we didn’t go anywhere.  People came to us.  As the years rolled on and we had my brothers wives and there children, we also had additional grandparents, uncles and aunts.  We often had two sittings, and somehow my mother prepared both meals.  At a guess we’d have about 30 for each meal, lunch and dinner.

Specific memories are a little faded, and all sorts of celebrations roll into one, I imagine that it was all very traditional.  Two things about the food stand out, White Christmas Slice  and Christmas Pudding.

christmas pudding steamerThe Christmas pudding was made by my mother’s mum, Grandma.  I have a fleeting recollection of it hanging in a calico bag from the kitchen ceiling, months before Christmas.  It was boiled in a special aluminium steamer pot and served with lashings of cream.  I recall my Dad’s mother, Nana, being responsible for putting the sixpence in the slices.  Yes, sixpence, even years after the move to decimal currency, she managed to use sixpence.

That was my Christmas day, full of family, laughter and good times.

Christmas is now much different.  When Mum and Dad moved to Queensland that was the end of our family get togethers.  By then I had children and we spent Christmas visiting my in-laws.  That was nothing like my childhood Christmas.  They were full of stress and anxiety.  I got out of them as soon as I could when I separated, then I would spend Christmas day with my sister, Angela, much more relaxed.

This year, Christmas was lunch in the city with some good friends, followed by Christmas dinner with my children, Caitlin and Tomas, future son-in-law, their mother and my husband.  For the first time Caitlin wasn’t here on Christmas morning, Angela and her family were in Queensland and I took a train ride to the city to have lunch in a restaurant.

Things change, my memories fade.  All I’m left with are a few snippets and glimpses of how things once were.  Christmas will continue to change.

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Dec 24

In November Michael and I celebrated 7 years together.

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

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

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

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

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

That seems perfectly sensible.

 

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Sep 29

Michael and I have been away for another couple of days in the Grampians.  One of my most favourite places.  A couple of days there feels like a couple of weeks.

One of the things I love about being there is the sheer difference between the macro and the micro.

Michael and I walked part of the way up Mt William, the Grampians’ tallest peak.  We sat for a while and looked across the Mt William Range to the Major Mitchell Plateau and the Serra Range.  An amazing macro view.

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Our senses are filled with the wondrous view.  The warm sun on your faces, the cold wind whistling between the rocks, the smell of eucalyptus trees.  Then if you take the time to look closely you can see the micro.

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You can see the dew clinging on the sun-dew flowers, the droplets glisten in the sunshine.

The micro world is getting ready to burst forth with its array of colours as the weather warms up. The orchids are just starting to bloom and they are always a treat.

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Leopard Orchid

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Waxlip Orchid

Somewhere between the big mountains and the tiny flowers is the wild life.  A treat is the local sulphur-crested cockatoos that visited our room for the chance to nibble on some sunflower kernels.


Nothing like a few seeds to bring in a crowd.  Each cockatoo has its own personality, this one carefully picks up each kernel to eat, another one would gather 4 or 5 at once, yet another would peck at your hand and others would be gentle.  There were some that would approach carefully, headed cocked on one side to keep you in its view and one that jumped on our shoulder to get to the seed.

There are always plenty of birds in the Grampians, I could and do stand, stare, point and admire.

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Kookaburra

As we’re walking down from the Picaninny, I can hear some twigs breaking so I stop and listen carefully, slowly spinning my head until I find a family of Gang-gang cockatoos sitting in a native pine eating the nuts.

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Gang-gang Cockatoo

The highlight of the weekend however was the journey home.  We stopped to take a short walk up Mt Noorat, just out of Terang.  It’s a dormant volcano.  The crater is an inverted cone.  As we walked around the rim a flash of movement caught my eye as I turned my head to the left there was a single flap of wings and I came eye to eye with the wedge-tail eagle.  We seemed to make eye contact and he let out a couple of short squawks as he glided past us.

We couldn’t believe our eyes.  We had seen eagles before, off in the distance.  This was close.  We watched as he flapped and began to circle, keeping one eye us.  It was just amazing.

As he circled back around and dipped back below the crater rim we waited for him to reappear.  However, not everyone was as excited as us for this moment.  As he flew over the tree tops the local magpie clearly thought he was a little too close for comfort.

An aerial battle began.  It was very one-sided, the eagle not really very interested in the magpie.  The magpie would be flapping its wings rapidly and I could hear that swooping noise as it flew towards the eagle.  The eagle on the other hand effortlessly flapped twice and kept just ahead of its attacker.  With an extra burst of flappiness the magpie managed to catch up and it swooped down on the larger bird and the eagle flapped a couple of times and continued on its way seemingly unconcerned.   The magpie continued its assault and saw the bigger bird off.

The presence of this bird of prey had the mountain buzzing.  The magpies began warbling, and as the eagle circled around the local population of birds began calling out their warnings.

Here’s a short video of the battle:

As we continued our drive home we stopped numerous times to take photographs of other birds, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, a Black-shouldered Kite

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Nankeen Kestrel

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Brown falcon

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Black-shouldered Kite

Each a delight to look at.

Take some time to flip through Michael’s photos – They are well worth it!

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Aug 04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 24

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

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

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

vote yesThe people said yes.

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

Irish marriage referendum a blow to the rights of children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Jan 11

Last night Michael and I along with Andrew, a friend, went out for dinner to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant in Fitzroy.

Michael dropped me off and drove off to find a car park.  Andrew was waiting on the street for me.  We greeted each other with a smile and a hello.  I would have like to have kissed him on the cheek.  A small gesture of friendship.  The right way for me to greet him.  But I didn’t.  Nor did I shake his hand, because that just felt too formal and business like.

We three sat at a table and after a time the table next to us was taken by 4 men, clearly a couple of couples out for a similar night of good food and company.

Here we are, a group of homosexual men surrounded by straight people.  All enjoying the company of our friends, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, looking.

handholdingI sit next to Michael because I like to be near to him.  I rarely touch him in public.  When I do there’s a risk analysis that my mind runs through before I reach out and place my hand on his knee or around his shoulder.  I’m looking around me to see potential threats.  Is that bearded bloke behind me with the tattoos of a skull on his elbow ok?  Will that mother over there try to shield her daughter from me?  Will the staff treat me differently?

Then I have to remind myself where I am.  I’m in funky Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.  It’s a pretty happening crowd with all sorts of people from all walks of life.  Surely they’re all gay friendly?  This won’t be an issue for anyone.

Only after that do I reach my arm out and place it around Michael’s shoulder.  Michael responds to my touch by either touching my hand or relaxing into my arm and moving closer to me.  It’s a natural, normal response.  A shared intimacy that I love.  Mind you, it only last a minute when I realise that he’s sitting to my right and my right shoulder aches too much for me to sustain it.  I wonder if I always sit with him to my right as an unthinking way of protecting my perceptions of threats.

Nothing happens, of course, apart from my shoulder aching.

When I walk down the street, I never simply slip my hand into to his.  Holding hands requires me to do another assessment of my surrounds.  I’ve had the looks of both support and scorn from others.  I’ve heard the phrase ‘faggot’ muttered when people pass me by.  That, quite frankly, scares the fuck out of me.

When Michael visits me at work we always kiss each other on the cheek.  What I really want is to be able to do that without thinking about it.  The same way I don’t give a second thought to that goodbye kiss in the morning, or the hello kiss at the end of the day in the safety of our own home.  I work in a wonderful diverse environment, and nobody raises an eyebrow about my sexuality.  Yet, I still do a scan of where we are before and after a kiss.

Why don’t I feel safe in my own country?

The ongoing threat to safety is there for me.  Real or perceived it doesn’t matter.  Years of growing up in a world where gay people have been derided and despised takes it toll.  Reports of gay bashing, discrimination and verbal abuse are presented to me on a daily basis.

I want to walk down the street and hold his hand.

I want to put my arm around him.

More than anything, I want him to sit to my left.

Take 20 minutes now and watch Panti speak at TED in Dublin.

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Oct 11

I love the spring!

The best place to smell the roses is Halls Gap in spring.  Well, smell the wildflowers at least.

Michael and I headed up to the Grampians for a weekend recently to do just that, smell the wildflowers and enjoy the great outdoors.  We left on a Friday night getting there late.

The first thing to strike me is the smell of the trees, then as you step out of the car the amazing array of stars spread across the sky above.

I think as I stop to soak it in how the First People who have lived here for over 10,000 years must have often looked up to the sky and looked in awe at the view.  The black outline of the ridges that gives way to the brilliance of the stars.  The First People called this place Gariwerd.

We started Saturday morning with a run from our motel out past Brambuk, the visitors centre, and back, just about 6 kilometres.  My normal run is several times around the local running track, so to be out in the brilliant sunlight in the cool of the morning surrounded by towering mountains, the smell of eucalypt and the odd mob of kangaroos is a real treat.

From the top of Mt William

From the top of Mt William looking towards Victoria Valley

After our breakfast our first stop is Mt William.  The mountain is the highest peak in the Grampians at 1,167 metres. The mountain reminds me of my youth.  Many times have I climbed to its peak and looked at the fantastic surrounds of the Western District and the Grampians ranges.  It’s pretty easy to get to the starting point for our walk.  You drive.  The fun starts after you get out of the car.  It’s just 2 kilometres to the top on a well paved road, however, it’s steep!

We wind our way up and around the zig-zag road.  The day is beautiful.  Bright sunlight, not too hot.  Just perfect for a slug up a mountain side.  The flora changes as we ascend.  From the tall eucalypts to the stunted bushes of the semi-alpine area.  There’s not much to stop the wind at the top as it whistles through the communications tower when we reach the summit.

It’s a hard slog, but well worth the effort.  We scramble around on the plateau exploring the rocks and taking in the view.   We head southwards towards the Major Mitchell Plateau, this is the one spot in the whole world that I want to return to.  It’s an incredible hike that takes you down the side of Mount William to the valley floor then the steep climb up the side of the MMP.  However, that’s an adventure for another day.  All I can do is look at it for now.

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The Major Mitchell Plateau from the top of Mt William

As we head back down the road to our car we pass a few people walking heading up – stopping to take plenty of photos, including a few of a 3 metre snake that winds its way across the road in front of us.

Once at the car we head on to Jimmy Creek to stop for a coffee, then onto Mafeking, home of the Grampians gold rush in the early 1900’s.  We take a stroll around the old town where once 10,000 people lived.  There’s nothing but bush here now, and a few mine shafts that have been covered up with wire mesh barriers to prevent you falling in.

Sunday morning dawns even brighter than the previous day.  Today is wildflower day.  It’s Halls Gap Annual Wild Flower Show, now into its 75th year.

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A tree with character – click on it to see the larger version

First stop is the Botanic Gardens.  I had no idea that Halls Gap had such a place.  We wander around the gardens and look a the display of wildflowers on show.  Mostly cut flowers put into old ice-cream tins.  A permit is required to pick flowers in the Grampians, so not something you’d wander around the bush doing for a lovely display on the mantlepiece at home.

There’s this fantastic tree in the gardens.  A survivor.  Be sure to click on the image to the right to see the larger size, note the ice cream tin at the foot of the tree.

We wander through the exhibition in the local hall, grab some lunch and then head southwards again to Lake Bellfield.

We stop here, as we often do at Dairy Creek, the spot never disappoints with the local corella  population taking up residence in the trees and making a fuss that only they can do.  There seems to be thousands of the things gathered in the tree-tops.  We stop for some photos.

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Corella’s at Lake Bellfield

As we drive out I’m scanning the sides of the road looking for wild flowers.  While it’s great to see the variety on display in an exhibition, what I really want to see is the real thing, flowers in the wild.

In my mind, looking at wild flowers means grasslands with huge stands of blossoms blowing merrily in the wind.  The reality is quite different.  The flowers here are tiny.  Small delicate blossoms close to the ground and scatter among the dead twigs, leaves and other tiny plants.

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Common Correa (Correa reflexa)

A flash of red and I stop the car.  We get out and wander a few metres into the bush.  There are the flowers, on the floor, barely 10 centimetres high with tiny flowers no larger than a 10¢ coin on the end of their slender stems.  There’s a few here and there and we carefully trod our way through the undergrowth taking great delight in finding the perfect specimen to photograph.

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Pink Fingers Orchid (Caladenia Carnea)

At one point I was crouched down looking at an exquisite orchid  and as I looked up at ground level my eyes were greeted with the wonderful array of flowers close by, a wonderful moment of connection for me with my husband, the ancient ground beneath my feet, the beauty of the orchid forest in front of me and the mountains as the back drop.  The warm sun, gentle breeze, the sounds of the corellas, currawongs,
kookaburras and the occasional magpie.

Another great weekend away in a place that I never tire of visiting.  It gives me a sense of mental renewal to be among such staggering beauty with the man I love and the bush I enjoy and admire.

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Native Daisy

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