I had a slightly unusal childhood. My dad was a really aussie ocker sort of guy. He wore thongs (flip flops) everywhere – including work on a building site, he wore the little shorts and the bonds tshirts, he was tanned, loved the beach, had a few beers after work everyday and was an atheist. His mum (my beautiful Nana) is catholic. My mum was raised by a single working mother – an actress who in the 60’s and 70’s was quite famous. She had her two daughters out of wedlock, to two different men while in the spotlight.
While my Nana still goes to midnight mass, she has never been a judgemental type. When I flew to Sydney for work (for a same sex couple who were baptising their daughter) she never said anything against them. She may think it isn’t right according to her religion but she would never push that on anyone. I used to go to mass with her when I was little, but when I choose to no longer go she wasn’t upset or offended.
On the flip side there was my gran. Her first engagement was to a friend, who was gay and in the spotlight too. It was cover. Unfortunately she was a bit naive and thought it was for real and was heartbroken after, but they remained friends until she passed. She was in show biz – most of her friends were gay. I count myself lucky to have grown up around some of the most wonderful men and women in an environment where gay people were just people.
My gran insisted that all her friends be called aunty or uncle and a fair few of them became just that. My gran organised her friend to come to my parties as he was a clown. Oh how I loved “Rainbow the Clown”. Of course I also knew who he really was and I loved that man just as fiercely. Watching him die from AIDS was heartbreaking. I was only 6.
Uncle Edwin was the most over the top gay man I have ever met. A cabert performer and cranky old gay man – oh how I loved him too. He would take me to clubs he was performing at and as much as he loved my gran (they lived together when they were in their 50’s) they drove each other bonkers. I once watched an argument unfold and while they were screeching at each other he was ripping out hairs on his back. They really pushed each others buttons.
Then there was the two Craigs. They weren’t a couple – just good friends who owned the most magnificent house. The only thing I hated about their house was the snakes….yup they kept snakes. In Giant glass display cases. Big Craig worked on ships and was away lot. Little Craig took my brother and I everywhere. We were doted on. Anywhere we wanted to go – Luna Park, the zoo, horseriding…anything at all. It was with little Craig and his partner that I first learnt Gay people were discriminated against. My brother and I were with them at Luna Park and they made the mistake of holding hands….some one started screaming abuse at them (that was also the first time I heard the word “Faggot” and to this day that word makes me sick) and someone threw something. They raced us out of there so fast, constantly apologising to us and asking if we were ok. It still makes me tear up today.
My Aunty Chrissa who is the only person I am still in touch with today. She had no children and lived with her mum and dogs – so my brother and I were doted on. She came to visit all the time and to this day her “Hair Bugs” (bear hugs but cuter) are almost as good as hugs from my girls. Aunty Chrissa was straight one loser guy after another. Two years ago when I was in Sydney we went out for yum cha and she broke the news that she had met the most amazing person and they had been together for a few years…and it was a she. She said it so delicately like it was going to change my opinion of her. It didn’t. I think she is wonderful and I am glad she finally has found the right person for her.
Then there was two men we ran into after one of my Grans shows, I think I was around 14 or 15 (I don’t remember their names as we only met for a few minutes). They had been together since they were teenagers and here they were in their late 60’s. They were more a married couple than anyone I have ever seen. They were talking about their anniversary party. They spoke about how they hoped the laws would be changed before one of them died. That conversation they had with my gran has stuck in my mind…..15 years ago.
While it took me years to realise that some of the world saw gays as different, the girls father was being raised by a redneck step dad and a born again mother and being constantly told that being gay was the worst thing in the world. In a small farm town in rural NSW it was. When I discovered I was dating a complete homophone I freaked out. I refused to let the issue drop until he gave me a damn good reason to not like gay people. Turns out he didn’t have one. After me beating him over the head with it repeatedly he came to realise it was all out of fear because his mother was constantly paranoid about his best friend and him being “too close”. They weren’t. Thankfully he came around even more when that best friend came out to us. His best friend still lives a lie. He lives with his boyfriend (who moves back into the spare room when family visits) but won’t tell his parents after hearing his mum say how upset she would be if any of her sons turned out gay.
I have been lucky enough to have been born into a family where those prejudices didn’t touch me until I was older. I was raised in a family where people were just people and they loved who they loved. And for that I am forever grateful.
In 2001 I was married. We didn’t get married inside the church, it was a civil service at a little cedar wood chapel (at a beach resort) with stained glass windows. We carefully selected our vows – none of this obey crap. Last year I photographed a wedding in which the couple (straight couple) were devastated that the compulsory part of the civil service stated that “marriage is between a man and a woman” given that the brides best friend was gay. She couldn’t get married knowing that sentence was going to offend half her friends. Thankfully I hooked her up with an awesome celebrant (it is still compulsory that he said those words, but he turned his microphone off for that part).
So here we are in 2011. I would say a fair chunk of Australians are not Christian – and yet we are still allowing the marriage laws to be defined by Christian terms. Just because the bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, doesn’t mean the rest of us feel that way. We allow divorce. We allow abortions. We allow people to live together outside of marriage. We had two of our kids before we were married. I still can’t wrap my head around why marriage is different. Tell me how two guys down the street from you diminishes your marriage…really. The real things that diminish the marriage institution are things like the ridiculously high divorce rate (even my catholic Nana divorced her second husband…he was a violent schizophrenic) and people like that Kardashian person.
I won’t even start on the fact that by not allowing gay marriage we are literally saying gay love is less than straight love. A complete discrimination against a couple based on their sexuality.
It is time we throw off the archaic definition of marriage. It will be ok. Straight people will still get married. The world won’t collapse in on itself. I promise!
Today I woke up to find that at 11:50pm last night QLD passed a bill to allow same sex civil unions to be lodged at QLD Births, Deaths and Marriages. Joining Tasmania, Victoria and ACT. This is not the same as marriage….but it’s at least heading in the right direction.
Here’s hoping other states follow and that finally leads on to true marriage equality.