A gay man who considers himself married to his male partner tells the story of their life as a couple in Wollongong and explains why he hopes the rest of society will accept same-sex marriage.
We met in Sydney over eight years ago. I was visiting here on a 10-day holiday. I only knew Andrew for four days, but it was enough to turn my world upside down. Three weeks later I had packed up my life in the UK and flew back to Sydney to be with him.
So many of my friends and family in the UK told me it was nothing more than a holiday romance; look at us now, almost 10 years on and couldn’t be stronger or happier. My family are totally supportive of our relationship and have always recognised us as a couple. Andrew unfortunately has found it a lot tougher coming from a Catholic Lebanese background.
Three years ago we had a beautiful but intimate ceremony in Sydney, and went the day after to the British Consulate to make it legal in the UK (although at the time we had the same rights in the UK as opposite-sex couples, it still wasn’t called marriage). As far as Andrew and I are concerned we are married, we don’t care what anyone else wants to call it.
We have a wonderful, committed and loving relationship, and have been through so much together. Of course we’d like our marriage to be recognised equally as those that are married in opposite-sex relationships, why should it be referred to and named something different? We are still human beings, and as such everyone deserves the same rights under law.
At the end of the day, we vote, pay taxes, and are governed and abide by every other law in the land, why are we not allowed to marry? Modern societies no longer differentiate marriage by way of creed, nationality or colour, so why by sex, where is the difference? And the argument that soon you’ll be allowed to marry your pet or your brother just doesn’t stack up!
We are talking about two people who are in as equally loving, intimate and committed relationship as those who are in an opposite-sex relationship. Just because it doesn’t ‘‘float your boat’’ doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed. It’s interesting, ask any gay person what they think of a straight relationship and they will probably reply that it doesn’t seem normal to them. However, none of them would tell you that you shouldn’t love each other, or have the right to commit to that love publicly and under law.
It was tough coming from the UK to live in Australia. Attitudes towards same-sex couples are very different here, it’s like Australia is 20 years behind the rest of the world on the issue. Living in Sydney wasn’t too bad; at least there is a large gay community there already. However, since we made the decision to move to Wollongong things have been very different.
Although Wollongong is a city, it still has a very country mentality, guys are guys and girls are girls, there really isn’t much room for anything in between. I’ll be honest; there have been times when we have struggled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that people have been directly and openly homophobic towards us, but sometimes you just know; the way they behave, the comments they make, the way you are not included.
Men particularly have a tough time with it down here, I often feel like they are so obsessed with their own masculinity that they are frightened it might ‘‘rub off on them’’, or god forbid, their mates may see them associating or talking to a gay guy. It’s very much a schoolyard mentality, and I think that has brought back a lot of unhappy memories for Andrew and I from our school years when we were both bullied for our sexuality.
Businesses have gone some way by bringing in policies that won’t allow discrimination against homosexual people, but how far do these policies really work? Do they promote understanding, integration and acceptance? A lot of government bodies (e.g. the police) have gone one step further by nominating LGBT Liaison Officers, whose job it is to help homosexual people become and feel part of their community at work. This is what really needs to be done.
Wollongong needs to get over this mentality if it is going to truly embrace the ‘‘Modern City Style’’ culture it seems so intent on pursuing. Look at most of the major western cities of the world, they have all embraced homosexuality as part of their culture, many of them are even proud of it. Many countries in Europe would put Australia to shame.
We love Wollongong, we love the lifestyle and opportunities it has given us, we are also very glad we have stuck with it. We have also met and made friends with some amazing and inspiring people down here. It is a truly beautiful city with so much more to offer than most people recognise. However, its community on the whole needs to be willing to truly embrace and accept all sectors of society if it is to truly grow as a thriving 21st century city.
Andrew and I cannot wait for the day when same-sex marriage becomes legal in Australia. I say ‘‘when’’ because it cannot be ignored, and it will not go away. I wish in my heart that the day it does happen a switch could be flicked and attitudes would change at the same time, but realistically this is not going to happen. It will be another battle won, with still many more to come.