THANK YOU, MAGDA
Along with many other Australians, I watched with my partner Donna last night as the brilliant Magda Szubanski spoke on The Project about being gay and her support for same-sex marriage. As one of this country’s best-loved entertainers, Magda has put the issue firmly back on the national agenda especially at a time when two bills to legalise same-sex marriage have been introduced in parliament. It is an issue close to my heart. This story explains why. – CAROLINE ROESSLER, Editor
I have never before written about my personal life.
Well, that’s not strictly true – I have written quite a lot about my weight, my love of crochet and white jugs, lists, food, wine (not necessarily in that order) – but not about my relationship. There never seemed any need to except to mention in passing that I am actually in one.
I‘d made the transition from marriage to same sex relationship with ease. Not to say that breaking up my marriage was easy – it was anything but – but I never did have a crisis about being married to a man one day and falling in love with a woman the next. It just happened.
I didn’t plan it and, to be honest, I never really gave the ‘homosexual’ aspect too much thought.
I did wonder at first how people, especially in the media where I worked, reacted to you if you were in a same sex relationship, so when I announced to work colleagues that my partner and I were more than ‘friends’ I was a little disappointed that this news seemed no more interesting to them than if I’d told them what I’d eaten for breakfast.
That one incident aside, I’ve never thought twice about declaring that my partner is a woman. (Her name, by the way, is Donna Reeves.)
One thing I wasn’t keen on for a long time was being called a lesbian.
After much analysis and discussion I still don’t know why that was (and still kind of is), except that I don’t particularly like labels. On clothes, sure, but not on me.
So, having decided that I would like to write about this issue for the first time, meant that I did have to look at why I’d never done so before. After more analysis (we do seem to do a lot of that around here) I realised it was mainly professional: as a journalist and editor, I’ve always believed I had to maintain some distance … that old journalistic standard of reporting the story, not being the story.
But I feel differently about that now.
Up to this point I’ve believed that living my life with honesty and transparency was statement enough; after all, Donna and I (approaching nearly 20 years of togetherness) are the poster girls for enduring same-sex relationships.
Flag waving and activism have never really been my schtick; I‘d rather just go quietly about my life to make my point, thankyou.
And then, last Friday, an email landed in my inbox from Get Up!. “Caroline,” it said, “need a quick Friday afternoon pick-me-up? Watch our beautiful new video, Love Story…”
I did watch it. And then I burst into tears.
“Share the butterflies of a first meeting,” it said, and I remembered ours.
We didn’t have a textbook romance. It wasn’t easy. There was all the pain and guilt associated with breaking up one relationship to forge another. But there was also a longing so great, so intense, the thought of not being together was unimaginable.
“Share the pain of loss,” it said, and I did.
Just one example… Not long before my father died he was completely immobile, unable to look after himself in any way. One night after my mother had gone to bed – exhausted from looking after him – he needed to go to the bathroom. He started to call out for her but Donna helped him to let my mum sleep. She knew my sister and I would be completely incapable of helping him with this intimate act.
That’s the kind of person she is.
“Share the joy of building a life together,” it said, and I do because that’s what we’re doing and have been doing for a very long time.
Why did the video make me cry? Because I realised how much I want to marry this wonderful woman with whom I have spent so much of my life. That we have every right to do this. That we have worked incredibly hard, sometimes against the odds, to build our life together. That we should not be denied this basic human right.
I had a conversation with Professor Kerryn Phelps not so long ago on the subject of same sex marriage.
Kerryn and her wife Jackie Stricker – they married not long ago in New York, where same sex marriage is legal – have lobbied long and hard for marriage equality in this country. During that conversation, I said I didn’t feel it was necessary for ‘us’ to have marriage; civil union would be good enough.
Kerryn, bless her, was – rightfully – indignant and said: “So you want to be civil unioned do you?” Good point. She doesn’t believe we should settle for second best. Neither do I.
I’ve been on both sides of the marriage fence. I was married at 19 in a church in a white dress and it didn’t work out. No-one’s fault, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Now I’m 50 and I can’t get married. And that’s just wrong.
*This is us. Donna is the lovely one on the left.
**If you, too, want a cry, watch the Get Up! video.