My Marriage Vows

September 5, 2014

Wedding Vows

January 30, 2014
Stoneridge Estate
Queenstown, New Zealand

 

I ask everyone here today to witness that I Michael Nathan Barnett choose you Gregory Paul Storer to be my legal husband.

Gregory.  If I were asked to describe in one word what you mean to me it would simply be: “Everything”.  You mean the world to me – in *so* many ways…

Setting out to climb Mt Amos in Tasmania, a 15 year goal of mine.  Reaching the top, together, amazed at our efforts and the breathtaking views surrounding us.

Stopping by the roadside as we return from Mt Gambier to watch a koala bound up it’s tree.

Sitting in a forest at dusk, just us and some tiny bats getting their dinner.

Walking through a Croajingolong coastal heathland filled with the prettiest wild flowers.

Dining on Bala’s curries while enjoying a St Kilda beach sunset, then journeying to see the fairy penguins and the mischievous water rats.

Returning from our first equality rally in Albury to find a magnificent echidna, roadside, digging and snuffling for ants.

Drinks at the Laird enjoying the best of what it means to be a man.

Sharing a dinner of poached salmon and ginger while watching Q&A.

Standing on a 380 million year old mountain range in the Grampians, free from every care in the world.

Coffee and cakes at Grecos with Caitlin & Tomas.

Protesting for our rights at every Equal Love rally.

Brunches at La Cafe and walks along Carlisle Street.

Our kiss, in front of wildly fanatical protestors at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention that starts a worldwide viral sensation.

Standing by your side as you buried your sister and your parents.

Having a fight… and learning from our mistakes.

Your face nuzzled in *my* furry chest.  Your arms around me.  Your warm kiss on my lips.

Star gazing together into infinity at Mt Baimbridge and Bastion Point.  Trying to comprehend the sheer insignificance of our presence in *this* universe.  Realizing the meaninglessness of our existence.  Marvelling at the scale of just *what* is out there.

He’ll have a long black, make mine a long macchiato… with Equal.

Smoked salmon on Vita Weat.

Despairing together over the plight of those who don’t have a meal, those who don’t have a home, those who don’t have a country, those who have less than us and those who don’t know what they don’t have.  Crying, and trying to feel *their* pain.

You finding a tiny orchid on the forest floor, so delicate and pretty, for *me* to photograph.

Transforming our bodies from beyond obese – to amazingly healthy and fit.

Watching skillful New Holland Honeyeaters at Gypsy Point, them – plucking bugs from the air and us – sharing a freshly baked blueberry muffin.

Warming our frozen bodies with a delicious brewed coffee and hot toast and honey at the Sundial carpark.

Gado gado and Bali Coffee at Wong’s Cafe.

Becoming a truly loved son-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle to *my* most immediate family members.

A warm embrace after a long day as we fall asleep – together – in bed.

Interrupting my Cointreau chocolate mousse at Bridges last September in Ubud, to sweep me off my feet with the most unexpected and truly wonderful marriage proposal.

Gregory, YOU are the person who has brought so much into *my* life – every one of these amazing experiences – and *so* much more.  Each one different from the other and all equally wondrous.

The first five years of our relationship have been a fantastic journey.  I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to completing this journey with you – in whatever form it takes.

Life is unpredictable – and *forever* is hard to comprehend, but I want to do it with you, by your side, for however long we can be together – as your friend… your companion… your adventurer… your activist… your lover… your man… your Mikey Bear…… and your husband.


You can read the vows Gregory said to me here.


The absurd reasoning for his prejudice

August 27, 2014


Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia | ABC PM

October 30, 2013

Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 18:34:00

Listen to MP3 of this story ( minutes)
Alternate WMA version | MP3 download

MARK COLVIN: A rift is developing in Australia’s Jewish community over the treatment of homosexuals.

A major gay and lesbian support group claims Jewish community leaders are ignoring discrimination and hate language aimed at homosexuals. It wants Jewish representative bodies to come up with a clear policy upholding gay rights.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: When two young people were shot dead in Tel Aviv last month at a gay and lesbian youth centre, Melbourne-based Michael Barnett wanted nothing more than for the leaders of the Australian Jewish community to take a stand against violence towards homosexuals. But he says his calls for action fell on deaf ears.

MICHAEL BARNETT: The Israeli leadership, the Prime Minister, the President of Israel, they spoke out against intolerance and hatred and said you know, everyone deserves respect.

Yet in Melbourne where there is the family of one of the two people killed, there wasn’t even a single statement from the community leaders.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the silence from the Jewish leadership was symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

MICHAEL BARNETT: There’s a lot of intolerance of gay people in the Jewish people. Calling gay people perverted and disgusting, comparing gay people to people who commit incest or bestiality, there’s all this language that gets used from people like some rabbis in the orthodox world who speak out against gay people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Michael Barnett is the coordinator of Aleph Melbourne, a support group for homosexual people in the Jewish community. He believes representative groups are afraid to express their support for homosexuals for fear of offending ultra-orthodox groups in the community.

MICHAEL BARNETT: I want every state and national Jewish peak body in Australia to have a specific, unambiguous policy addressing the persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in regard to homophobic hate and intolerance, irrespective of whether it originates from outside or inside the Jewish community.

The policies must be enforced with the same zero tolerance afforded to anti-Semitism and holocaust rhetoric and other hate crimes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Much of his anger is levelled at a Jewish blog which recently described homosexuality as “depravity and debasement” and extolled the virtues of reprogramming homosexuals.

In July, a Sydney rabbi wrote to the Australian Jewish News, comparing homosexual intercourse with adultery, bestiality and incest.

JOHN SEARLE: If it’s a matter that’s guided by religious laws, then those laws will presumably be applied. Now I can’t say very much about those because I’m not an expert in those areas.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle is the president of the Jewish Community Council in Victoria. It describes itself as the roof body of Victorian Jewry. On its website, it says it shows zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism and racism but it has nothing to say about supporting or protecting gay or lesbian people within the Jewish community.

JOHN SEARLE: If we need to rewrite a policy that was written some time ago, we can certainly look at that and if it needs to be adjusted in any way, we can adjust that.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle says he’s against vilification of any sort.

JOHN SEARLE: The JCCV has issued statements condemning vilification of all minority groups, including vilification based on grounds of sexual orientation, sexual preference.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the council has sought advice from numerous sources on how to be more inclusive and will invite gay and lesbian support groups to events in the future.

Michael Barnett says it’s not enough.

MICHAEL BARNETT: Lip service, motherhood statements, platitudes, rhetoric, anything but “yes, we’re going to do this and take it seriously”.

JOHN SEARLE: I reject the allegation or assertion that inviting people to participate in community events is simply lip service.

ALEX FEIN: My blog is called The Sensible Jew.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jewish blogger Alex Fein has written about the issue in recent weeks. She says the vast majority of Jews support homosexuals and describes those who don’t as minority extremists. But she says groups like the Jewish Community Council of Victoria need to be more proactive.

ALEX FEIN: It’s not enough to say that homophobia is problematic. I think all people of good faith would like to see concrete action.

MARK COLVIN: Alex Fein the author of the blog known as the sensiblejew.wordpress.com, ending Alison Caldwell’s report.


Not asking. Demanding equal rights!

September 19, 2013


Gregory and Michael – Protesting for Love

September 19, 2013


Interview on Radio Skid Row “Workers Radio” – Dec 24 2012

January 8, 2013

Workers RadioI was interviewed by John August on “Workers Radio” Radio Skid Row 88.9FM (www.radioskidrow.org) at 7:30am on December 24 2012.

Topics of discussion included:

  • Judaism’s attitude towards same-sex marriage
  • Child sexual abuse in the Jewish community
  • Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s patronage of the Australian Family Association

The interview begins at 4:58 here.


Queer Jewish Crisis | The Stirrer

September 27, 2012

Check out “Queer Jewish Crisis“, my first contribution on The Stirrer.


Queer Jewish Crisis

by: Michael Barnett

September 25, 2012 – Family, Religion – Tagged: , , 3 comments

I recently attended a talk by Keshet Australia aimed at getting its message out to the Jewish community.  The local Keshet, based on its USA counterpart, advertises itself as “a Jewish GLBTIGQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, Intersex and Gender Queer) movement to better educate Australian Schools on how to educate a Jewish child on GLBTIGQ.”

At this talk a flyer was distributed, the opening paragraphs of which described a crisis of Queer[1] departure from the Jewish community and how Keshet is placed to address it.  As a seasoned activist this crisis was news to me, with my priorities centring on reduction of isolation, self-harm and suicide.

Legitimate crises in the local Jewish community include the state of aged care and the entrenched and chronic covering up of child sex-abuse.

Other community crises surround alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poverty, private school fees and intermarriage.  The cost of keeping kosher is even of concern to some.

Another almost ignored real crisis is the rate of self-harm and suicide in the Melbourne Jewish community.  Rough figures were published in 2011 claiming approximately two people a month attempt suicide or self-harm.  Taken together with the alarming rate of suicide amongst same-sex attracted people and this issue should be given elevated priority.

My experience of coming out as gay in the Jewish community was one of compassion at best and indifference at worst.  I was not strongly religiously observant, but I continued to attend an Orthodox synagogue for some years and my friends and family accepted me and continued to include me and connect with me as they had always done.  In fact, for a number of years after coming out my Jewish “identity” actually strengthened.

Individual experiences will no doubt differ to mine, depending on the attitudes of the person’s family, friends and religious community.

I have made a number of observations about what happens when people self-identify as other than heterosexual.  If their religious context is accepting, they will open up to their peers and live a full life merging their sexuality and their cultural context.  If their religious context is intolerant they will more than likely find a context to express their sexuality at a safe distance from their cultural community, keeping both alive but separate.  I have not yet experienced many who give up their entire religious community simply to allow unhindered sexual self-expression.

And so I challenge this perceived “crisis”.  I feel it is a phenomenon that is alarmist, unfounded and exaggerated.

If a person departs their Jewish identity due to peer intolerance when they “come out”, it may potentially induce a situational crisis for their friends and family due to a sense of confusion, bewilderment, loss and even grief.  But keeping a sense of perspective, these situations are not ubiquitous or universal.

There may be legitimate grounds for concern over people leaving the Jewish community but the reasons for this are potentially varied and complex.  One mid-20’s community-minded gay woman recently told me that her university and career choices took her away from much of the Jewish surrounds that she was immersed in during her secondary school years.

Disengagement from the Jewish community may occur for ideological reasons, lack of need for a connection, or prioritising a connection with a different community.  All reasons are legitimate.

People leaving the Jewish community is not a crisis or even a problem if they make these choices voluntarily, free from duress.

If a situation arises that drives many away from a community, the crisis should be identified as the underlying reason why people are leaving rather than the fact that people are leaving.  We invariably seek the path of least conflict.

As to Keshet’s claim on their flyer “We need to keep Jews, Jewish”, I disagree.  We need to keep people in the Jewish community happy and alive.


 [1] GLBTIQ / same-sex attracted / gender diverse, etc

 


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