It’s sometimes the small things that say so much

November 7, 2013

Last night I dropped in to see my parents and while I was there my dad told me about a little Tim Tam biscuit he had been given, as was his wont.  Being a fan of Tim Tam biscuits I asked if I could have one and he said sure and went away to get one.  While he was out of the room Mum told me that there was only the one biscuit, which she had brought home from work for him.  Not realising this was the situation I was upset that I had asked for the only biscuit my dad had to offer.

I called out to him saying I was happy to leave it for him and not to worry, but perhaps he was out of earshot, because he didn’t respond.  Mum said to me that it really wasn’t a problem, and that “he would do anything for me”.  I was deeply touched by this sentiment, despite feeling so bad that I left my dad without his Tim Tam biscuit.

The next minute, he returned to the room we were in, with a bite-size biscuit delicately placed on a tissue, serving both for presentation and function.  I accepted this gesture of kindness, father to son, and proceeded to enjoy it.  Really, it was wonderful.  Dark chocolate with a little sliver of biscuit inside.  I did remark to my father, who didn’t eat chocolates on principle, that there was in fact more chocolate than biscuit, so it probably broke his rule.  We laughed.

In this brief interchange with my father, over a tiny chocolate biscuit, I felt a connection with him in a way I hadn’t in a long time.  It was a special moment for me in our relationship.

Thank you Dad.  You’re the best.  :)


Not asking. Demanding equal rights!

September 19, 2013


Gregory and Michael – Protesting for Love

September 19, 2013


I will. I do.

September 11, 2013

Tonight Gregory and I went to dinner at Bridges Bali, a delightful restaurant that we had lunch at last Friday.  We returned because the service, food, atmosphere and location were impeccable.  Quite the combination if you get it all right.  Having had the entrée of rare roast lamb and the main of Thai-inspired grilled Barramundi, we settled for espressos and Cointreau chocolate mousse.  Yes, mousse.

And it was during the mousse, yes – mousse, that the conversation turned to one we’d had a number of times in the past, about marriage and our thoughts on it.  Yet, this time, there was a different tone to the conversation.  Gregory became a little more serious and actually asked me if I’d marry him, not if I’d ever marry him, but if I’d actually marry him.  The sort of question that demanded a yes answer, here and now.

Oh, I thought, this is the real thing, not a humorous conversation, but an actual marriage proposal.  I think I started to cry and was trying to maintain my composure between polite interruptions from the impeccably appointed wait-staff who clearly weren’t trained in the art of detecting a marriage proposal between two middle-aged men.  Wiping away the odd tear or two I said yes and continued trying to untangle the mass of emotions that had beset me, amidst what could only be described as one of the most idyllic moments of my life.

A quick phone-call from me back to Australia to let the folks know and a quick text message or two from Gregory back to his kids and sister and the deal was sealed.  I have to say, finding the courage to make that phone call, and finding the actual words to say were amazingly more fraught than I would ever have expected.  But having announced our engagement felt good, and it felt right.  I couldn’t think of a better man to be engaged to get married to.

Of course, the question has been asked, in which country will you guys get married.  Not a question most engaged couples get asked I suspect, because the expectation is they would celebrate their nuptials at home, wherever that was for them.  Yet for us two Australians, getting married at home is not so straightforward, because there is no legal option for us to do this in Australia currently.  We may be able to get married in a foreign consulate in Australia, but that wouldn’t be on Australian soil, and there wouldn’t be the stunningly beautiful Australian Coat of Arms on that marriage certificate.

It was a very simple decision for us.  We are going to get married to each other in Australia, under Australian law, on Australian soil.  It may be in the next three years, or it may be longer, but it will happen in both our lifetimes and most likely sooner than later.

We haven’t exchanged rings.  We probably won’t.  Rings are not our style.  We did get an ‘engagement ring’ from Facebook though, when we made that irrevocable and gay announcement to our social networks:

Engaged

So, thank you Gregory, you’ve changed my life, tonight, and every day since we met on that Tuesday in November 2008.  I love you.

P.S.  I can’t believe my enjoyment of the perfect chocolate mousse was interrupted by a marriage proposal.  Honestly.  Timing!


A letter to John Alexander

August 24, 2013

Dear Mr Alexander,

Almost three years ago you gave your first speech to the Parliament and people of Australia as the Member for Bennelong.  Allow me to reflect on a few sections of your address.

Fittingly, you gave thanks to the people of your electorate and promised to serve them fairly:

It is an honour to be in this position, and I am truly grateful to the people of Bennelong for the trust and faith that they have placed in me. However, that honour is immediately replaced with a deep sense of responsibility to do my best, with integrity, honesty and fairness.

Later, in relating your tennis travels through Europe you reflected on a particularly poignant moment:

We played in Poland and were taken to Auschwitz by Harry’s friend from before the war. He cried and we cried.

and in Africa, you tell of discrimination:

I learnt of discrimination travelling to South Africa with Arthur Ashe. He had been granted a visa declaring him an ‘honorary white’. In Arthur’s home town I practised on the adjoining court at the Richmond Country Club; he was the first African-American allowed to play there.

You paint a picture of how your travels around the world as a sportsman have guided you to understand diversity and how this dovetails with the vibrant diversity of Bennelong:

It is these experiences that have provided me with the opportunity for a real life education and has served as preparation for my role as a representative of one of Australia’s most diverse and multicultural electorates. Bennelong boasts nearly every language and culture, attained through a strong history of migration dating back to the English settlers. People have come from every part of the world to make Australia their home. In many ways, Bennelong is modern Australia.

Bennelong perfectly reflects the diversity and harmony we are so proud of in this country. Why do people leave all that is familiar to go half way around the world to start over again? They bring their dreams for a better life for themselves and their families. They bring their courage to ‘have a go’, with the odds stacked against them, playing so far from home.  Our new Australians bring energy, effort, innovation and, most of all, their hopes. Every soul who comes to our country enriches us and continues the constant redefining of what it is to be Australian.

You share the wisdom of your mentor Harry Hopman and of your friend Alan Jones and how this relates not only to how you play in tennis but also in politics:

Playing safe may achieve a short-term goal against inferior opposition, but the ultimate goal would be lost. As Alan Jones says, ‘To win without risk is victory without glory.’

You spoke of opportunities and of being our best:

To realise our country’s full potential, every Australian must have the opportunity to compete and earn just reward for their effort and success.

and you spoke of having visions:

Let us debate in this chamber a contest of ideas, a contest of visions. As with any endeavour in life, true and honest competition unfettered by political bias will produce, in this case, the best plan and the best result for our nation’s future. We need the courage to attack this challenge. It has been ignored for too long. To shirk this responsibility, to say it is too tough, would be an affront to those who fought to make Australia what it is today—our forefathers, who had a plan, an optimistic vision, and who made the most of their opportunity to have a go.

In summing up, you spoke of your children, and of the children of Australia, of their dreams, of opportunities and of wanting the best for them:

What do I want for my children? What I want for every Australian: opportunity—the opportunity to pursue their dreams, whatever they are, and not be restrained by their age, their sex or their colour. Opportunity is to be able to have a go. Opportunity without discrimination is to be given a fair go. We here have much work to do.

Thank you for an ace of a speech Mr Alexander.

I grew up and live in Melbourne, the first Australian-born in my family, of immigrant parents.  My mum and dad settled in Australia in 1973 for a better life, with hopes and aspirations for themselves and their children.  They came via Rhodesia, a country that had an unstable political horizon and felt it was not the place to raise a family.  My Australian birth some four years earlier helped them make the decision to return here.

In my household sport was a life-blood.  My parents adopted North Melbourne as their football team and of many sports at their disposal to support they adopted tennis with an amazing passion.  I was not a sporting child, that was my brother, but I grew up knowing the names of many tennis greats, watching with them many tennis tournaments and sharing with them many highs, and lows, of the game.  It was one of the more enjoyable parts of my teen years, a troubled part of my life.

Mr Alexander, your speech, your visions, your hopes and your aspirations are great.  You have learned much through your life’s journey, and you bring that with you to public office.  Yet you leave me confused, as the great sportsman that you are, where you learned to play fair and where fairness features in your values, why you do not feel compelled to want to treat all Australians equally.

I talk of the right for any Australian to be able to legally marry the one person of their choice, without regard to gender, under civil law.

It would seem you have tried to avoid this issue at best, at worst you’ve joined the ranks of those who don’t speak out for equality, rather, preferring to call for an inferior form of relationship recognition for non-heterosexual relationships.

In 2010, News Ltd surveyed the people of Bennelong and found 39% were in favour of same-sex marriage and 21% were indifferent to it.  That’s a whopping 60% of your electorate you won’t be disappointing if you support same-sex marriage.  Clearly a majority.

What of your lessons from touring Auschwitz and South Africa Mr Alexander?  Members of my extended family burned in the ovens of Auschwitz.  I don’t need to tell you of the reality of that particular time of persecution in human history but it might help spark a moment of reflection and compassion if I do.

You write of honorary whites.  Not only did the buses in South Africa have a back, but they also had a slightly back, mostly back, nearly at the back, and a “so far back you could think you were in the bus when you weren’t actually in it at all” back as well, depending on just how much your skin wasn’t shiny white.  You may have even heard of how the government decided at one point it wasn’t going to persecute citizens on whether their skin was white or not, so it labelled everyone green, then decided some were dark green and others light green.

Mr Alexander, what of vision, of hopes, of a fairer Australia where personal attributes are not a limiting factor, where children can have dreams and one day realise them?  What of the dreams for your children and for theirs?

What of the dream my parents had, and still have, that one day I might meet someone I want to marry.  At 44 I now have that special person in my life, his name is Gregory, and I want the right to be able to ask him to marry me.  But I can’t.  I don’t have that freedom, that opportunity, that right, because apparently I’m not worthy of it, for some inexplicable reason.  I am not looking to have children or start a family and Gregory has two grown-up children he parented mostly as a single dad.

Mr Alexander, you are playing a safe game in not supporting marriage equality.  You are not taking a risk and chancing a greater victory for all Australians.  Federal Politics is now your tennis court and sadly you are not scoring the points that will bring a win for, in your words, opportunity without discrimination, to the people of Bennelong and to our nation.

You are sitting on a 3.1% margin in your seat.  You are far from guaranteed a return.  With 39% of your electorate in support of marriage equality and with marriage equality being increasingly shown to be a vote winner around the nation, it would bode you well to show unreserved support for a change to the federal Marriage Act that removes all forms of discrimination.

I will finish up by mentioning that in the darkest of moments during my teenage years, the one candle of brightness for me, my role model of greatness, was tennis champion Martina Navratilova.  I could identify with her, as I struggled to come to terms with my sexual orientation.  It wasn’t her sporting prowess that inspired me the most though, it was her honesty and integrity.  I would like to add the name John Alexander alongside Martina Navratilova.  Please, show me your honesty and your integrity.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Shayne Neumann

August 14, 2013

August 14 2013

Dear Mr Neumann,

Some five and a half years ago you gave your first speech to Parliament.  It started with your thanks to the people of Blair for placing their trust in you, a representative of the Labor party:

Mr Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and speak in this chamber as the first ever Labor member for Blair. I am keenly aware of the trust, duty and obligation bestowed upon me by the people of Blair. They voted decisively for change on 24 November, delivering a 10.2 per cent swing to Labor. With emphatic purpose they chose a better way. They voted not for fear and pessimism but for hope and optimism. They voted not for the past but for the future.

You spoke to fresh beginnings, and looking forward, not backward.  You also spoke of your Christian identity, but to maintaining a secular government:

I respect those who hold views which may differ from my own, and I hold firmly—in a good Baptist tradition—to the separation of church and state.

You told us what you believe, of equality and civil liberties:

What do I believe? I believe in reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples. I believe in a republic with an Australian head of state. I believe in multiculturalism. I believe in equal rights for women. I believe in civil liberties. I believe that the rights of the Australian people should be protected by a bill of rights. I believe the law must be utilitarian. I believe the law must help, not hurt.

You spoke of doing more to help people:

I believe in a pragmatic, progressive Labor Party dedicated to practical policies to help people …

and you spoke of working hard, doing more, serving the people and being an upstanding Labor politician:

I have come here to work. I have come here to make a difference. I have come here to make change. I have come here to advocate for the causes in which I believe. I have come here to represent my local community. I have come here to deliver for the people of Blair. I have come here to serve and honour the greatest political institution in this land: the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Neumann, your words impress.  More should share these values.  However I am troubled because as good as it is to hear what you said to the people in 2008, your subsequent actions disappoint.  You see, in 2012 you were one of the 98 against marriage equality and yesterday you reiterated your opposition.

In 2012 the News Ltd Poll on Same-Sex Marriage reported a 44% level of support in Blair, 37% against and 19% indifferent.  That’s 63% not opposed.  Yet you claim your polling on same-sex marriage found 84% against and 16% in favour.  Your polling is in stark contrast to the New Ltd Poll and various polls by Galaxy.

Mr Neumann, where is the hope and optimism, the better future, for the 44% of your electorate who want equal marriage laws for themselves, their children, their friends and their families?  Where is the equality, respect and the civil liberties in voting against marriage equality?  How are you helping people by taking a stance that is rooted in the past, not the future?  And please, tell me, how is this stance supporting a secular perspective, where the church is kept out of government?

Lastly, I ask you, how is upholding a law that hurts people, consistent with your values of supporting laws that help, not hurt?

Mr Neumann, sadly you have not kept your promise to the people of Blair and the people of Australia.  You have also betrayed yourself, and that must be a hard pill to swallow.  I ask you to reflect on your values, look to the promises you made and the values you claim to uphold, and ask yourself how voting against marriage equality is a consistent position to take, most especially when it is not a value of the Labor Party.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


Dear My Year 7 Self – Straight People against Homophobia

June 15, 2013

Just because we’re straight, doesn’t mean we have to be narrow. You might not know it now, but you’re going to have people in your life who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans… and that’s a pretty awesome thing.

www.year7self.org.au


Australian Gay Rights | YouTube

March 16, 2013


Rally for Marriage Equality – Saturday November 24 2012

November 23, 2012
Rally for Marriage Equality - Saturday November 24 2012

Rally for Marriage Equality – Saturday November 24 2012

Facebook event here.


You’re the best, Charlie Gleason.

September 24, 2012

Charlie Gleason is well dressed, frustrated and a cool champion for marriage equality.

Check out his web sites:

 

 


Equal Love Rally, Melbourne, August 11 2012

August 17, 2012

Eight years after the Howard Liberal government introduced the delightfully discriminating Marriage Amendment Act (2004), we’re still rallying for marriage equality.

A fruity message highlighted the discrimination:

We cant-elope

We cant-elope

Ernie & Bert were planning their wedding in New York (and Colin was planning his wedding to a handsome police officer):

While Ernie & Bert want to marry in New York, Colin has his eyes on a handsome policeman

While Ernie & Bert want to marry in New York, Colin has his eyes on a handsome policeman

Straights were fighting hate:

Straights against hate

Straights against hate

There were thousands of people there:

Huge crowds!

Huge crowds!

Two gorgeous guys got illegally married to each other:

Even gay zombies want to get married

Happy illegally married

Enjoy all the excitement of the day – photos on Picasa and Facebook.  View all my Equal Love Rally posts here.  Please contact me if you want to use any of my photos from this event.


Equal Love Rally, Melbourne, May 12 2012

May 13, 2012

Eight years after the Howard Liberal government introduced the delightfully discriminating Marriage Amendment Act (2004), we’re still rallying for marriage equality.

Magda Szubanski was guest of honour at the Equal Love Rally on May 12, 2012:

Magda Szubanski calling for marriage equality

Magda Szubanski calling for marriage equality

Carl Katter was there too:

Carl Katter

Carl Katter

Adam Bandt, Federal MP for Melbourne and Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens returned to speak out for equality:

Adam Bandt - Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens

Adam Bandt – Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens

Dear Julia, my partner Gregory and I have been in a relationship since November 2008. Gregory is a father of two. We want the right to get married. Why does the government not allow us to get married?

Julia, why can't Gregory and I get married?

Julia, why can’t Gregory and I get married?

Even gay zombies want to get married:

Even gay zombies want to get married

Even gay zombies want to get married

Enjoy the excitement of the day – photos on Picasa and Facebook.  View all my Equal Love Rally posts here.  Please contact me if you want to use any of my photos from this event.


National Day of Action – Rally for Marriage Equality – Saturday May 12 2012

May 7, 2012
National Day of Action - Rally for Marriage Equality - Saturday May 12 2012

National Day of Action – Rally for Marriage Equality – Saturday May 12 2012


“Gay Pirates” by Cosmo Jarvis (the extended mix)

April 25, 2012


I kissed a man and Allah-ked it

April 17, 2012

A group of radical, fanatical Jihadi Islamic protesters gathered at the Global Atheist Convention on Sunday April 15 2012.  Seemingly they felt that atheism was a threat to humanity and their very existence.

Gregory and I had a smooch in front of these whack-jobs and they started howling that we would “burn in hell”.

Our friend Pete Darwin captured the moment with my trusty Nikon and the rest is history.

A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!

“A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!” — Pete Darwin

There’s been a bunch of coverage online:

If you find any other places that have covered this story, please let me know.

Original photographs on Picasa and Facebook.

Thanks to Katy Perry for inspiration.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,342 other followers

%d bloggers like this: