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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Sep 04

The SBS program, Living with the Enemy episode on marriage equality was a 50 minute show shot over 10 days.

CMTAMNGP

That means a lot has been left out as the production team go to great efforts to keep the story moving forward and connecting all the dots.  Tough calls are made on what’s in and what’s out.

I don’t have a problem with that, I’m very comfortable with how things landed, the show was extremely well put together and there simply isn’t room for everything.

It was interesting that David’s brother acknowledges that he is still attracted to men, despite now being married to a woman.  The bit missing is my own journey of being gay in my teens and early 20’s, then pretending to be straight, getting married to Jennie at 26, having two children and then finding that didn’t work and back to being true to myself.

I played the game.  I got married, had children and tried to be a heterosexual.  It’s really hard work and as I said in the show, it took me all the way to 35 to sort myself out.  I can only hope that David’s brother has found happiness in his life.  Denial is a very powerful force that can really mess you up.  I know.  But just because that is my experience doesn’t mean that everyone else will travel the same road.

My two children are an important part of my life.  We have always lived together and they did give a speech at the wedding.  It was wonderful and brought me to tears.

Hello everyone.  I’m Tomas

And I’m Caitlin.

For those of you unaware, we are Greg’s beloved children.

We can’t quite express how overjoyed we are to be at this point, sharing in this moment with Dad and Michael.

Ever since we were young, my sister and I have understood and supported our father’s sexuality, joined him in his fight for equality.

And I speak for the both of us when I say we have never been happier or prouder of him than we are today.

Though it may not be quite what you had hoped, being neither on Australian soil, nor by Australian law, we’re glad to have been here for the next big step of your relationship.

Witnessing the love that you share.

And looking forward to whatever else may come in the future.

Be it another wedding in Australia

Adoption

Or one of us finally moving out.

No matter what, we have greatly enjoyed being part of this journey, and take great pride in being part of the march that is to come, through blood, sweat and tears.

Congratulations to you both.

It’s signed:

Congratulations on a beautiful ceremony.

With much love, Tomas and Caitlin.

It was fantastic to have both of my children with me on this very important, significant life event.

 

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Jul 14

Ian Thorpe used an interview to come out to the world.

For years there has been much speculation about his sexuality. I’ve always thought that he can be whatever he wants.  It’s not for me to decide or speculate about the sexuality of another.  I’ve seen a very small snippet of the interview and have read plenty on the internet about it.

Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon – so, me too!

In the 80’s it was impossible for me to come out.  I was in a relationship with a man back then and I kept it so very well hidden.  We had to.

On many occasions I lied outright to hide my sexuality.   I went on to get married and have two kids.  I don’t regret any of my life at all.  It’s been a tough slog, and looking back I don’t know just how I managed to get to be 50 without killing myself, having a mental illness or addicted to alcohol or some other drug.

My life wasn’t a misery either, mind you.  Sure, I had a lot of pressures, a lot of stress but in amongst that I was a devoted husband to my first spouse and a loving father.

It seems that with all that pressure, the release valve was anger.  Tomas and Caitlin reminded me of this just the last week.

We have just returned from a fabulous holiday in Queensland.  One of the things we did was the theme parks.  I was reminded, when we holidayed here many years ago, how angry I got when Tomas didn’t want to take a ride with me, he was frightened of it.  Instead of taking the gentle approach I erupted, did some yelling, made everyone feel horrible and stormed off.  All a bit silly now.  At the time it was an outlet for my denial and frustrations and those closest to me got hurt.

I’m not looking to seek understanding or forgiveness, but I want to highlight just how toxic it is to not be who you are.  In my world I recall every homophobic slur and insult hurled my way.  Nobody could possibly know I was gay, I didn’t fit the stereo type.

im_gay_so_whatI recall being in Grade 4 and being teased because I had decided to do a school project on flowers.  I had cut out pictures of flowers and pasted them into a scrap-book and written an explanation under each image.  For this I earned the label poofter.  In Form 2 I was again labelled with that classification because I said my favourite song was “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” by Julie Covington.  The song was at the top of the charts, so there must have been a lot of poofters around enjoying it too.  In Form 4 I was taunted in the change room, accused of being the only one who liked to look at my classmates penises.  I was petrified and never looked at anyone in the locker room.  Mind you the boy who said it was running around the room with this fingers stretching his penis out trying to impress everyone with its size; and I’m the one being harassed.

Imaging growing up with my dad and having him fling around homophobic taunts and the impact that had on me.  My older brothers using gay slurs all the time.  It was terrifying and little wonder that a child of the 70’s and 80’s would go to great lengths to hide their sexuality.

I have to say, writing this and re-reading it.  It has been bad.  Really bad.  My life up until my 40’s was a mess.  It really shouldn’t be this way for anyone at all.  The internal battle that raged within me is way more than a quiet, shy country lad should ever have to endure.

I can only imagine the inner turmoil  that Thorpe had.  I don’t know his reasons for keeping his sexuality under wraps or why he has picked this moment to come out.  Nor do I really care.  It’s not my business and of little interest to me.  I do know that I can empathise with him and I can only hope that his feels better now.  People around Thorpe need to support and encourage him.

I have already written several blogs about how the media continues to use the gay angle to drive traffic and get noticed.  The major newspapers have been falling over themselves trying to be the first with the news.  One newspaper I saw said in big letters “I AM GAY”, I was rather amused to see men walking around with this tucked under their arm.

The media is still treating gay people as a play thing.  On the radio, the TV and in the press Thorpe is all around, along with everyone having a say.  You know, it really shouldn’t be newsworthy.  In a 90 minute interview was this all he said?

So let me move slightly now to talk about Brian Taylor, a football commentator.  On a TV show he called one of the footballers a ‘big poofter’.

If you want to know why sportsman don’t come out, there it is in two easy words for you.  Even in jest, the impact of being vilified and made fun of is no fun for anyone.  Taylor has sort of said sorry.  I’ve read comments on several sites that suggest we gay people are too sensitive, that we need to toughen up.  Someone even used the “sticks and stones” line.    Essentially what is being said is that if you can’t take being picked on or the language upsets you, it’s your own fault,not that of the person who was just having a laugh.

What’s not seen however, is the impact it has and it doesn’t matter if that impact was in the 70’s or now.  It’s the same.  Roll it together, I got picked on at school, at home, in the church, I read stories of gay men being jailed.  Everyone made poofter jokes and it had a huge impact on me.

I needed someone like Ian Thorpe to be a role model for me.  Even now, in his 30’s he is to be admired.  It takes courage to tell the world your secret.

The act of coming out is both a release and a new stress.  I didn’t have the luxury of saying it to the world, but I know that the uncertainty of telling those you love this very personal intimate piece of information is a challenge.  The question is will they still be friends after I tell them?

I do just want to also touch on the fact that he is being accused of lying and hiding his sexuality so that he could make some money.  That he also got paid to tell his story.  Good for him.  If I could make a few dollars from telling my story, I’d do it too.  The entertainment industry makes a stack of money off the back of Thorpe – I can’t see why you’d denying him the right to have share of that money.  I don’t know how he makes his money these days, but I’d be keen to understand why any sports person in the media spot light should do it for free.

Good on Ian Thorpe.  At his own choosing in his own moment he said what he needed to say.  I can only hope that it brings him some peace of mind.

 

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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 12

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

Brian Storer

Brian John Storer
13 December 1928 to 30 July 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s OK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the love of my family that I value.

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

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

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

I want to share this.

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

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

Nothing.

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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.

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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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Aug 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim goes on to say:

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

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

Thanks Jim.

You, Merv and Naomi help to make my day.

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

It says Gregroy instead of Gregory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael and I ended the day perfectly.


The Equal Love Rally, Michael takes such wonder photographs.

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Apr 29

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

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

I’d prepared a BBQ and plenty to eat.

Tomas and friends

At the party

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

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

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

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

sucking the helium

Story Time

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

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

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

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

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


More wonderful photos taken by Michael here

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Nov 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to them all.

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

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