There are two conversations I will forever remember having with my two younger brothers.
The first one was in February 1998. I rang my brother Mark on a Sunday morning after getting an urgent message on my phone to call him as soon as possible.
‘There’s something I have to tell you Steph- I’m gay.’
It all clicked into place- the no girlfriends at uni, that feeling that he had always held something back, not to mention the total worship of Kylie Minogue.
My response was ‘Mark you’re my brother- I love you’. We talked for a couple of more minutes, mainly about the rest of the family’s reaction, which was mixed, to put it delicately. Then we said goodbye, I went to back to bed where Mr Boyfriend-BG was (Sunday morning sleep ins, ah such a fond memory) and I told him. He diplomatically refrained from saying ‘I told you so’.
Anyway, Mark went on to move to London, got a job in a hospital as a physio, met a lovely guy called Americo, and went on to have a beautiful civil union at the Islington Town Hall in August 2007. I couldn’t attend as I was 9 months’ pregnant with Miss BG who steadfastly refused to come out. My parents, sister and other brother Andrew were there to celebrate.
The next conversation I remember was in August 2008 with my brother Andrew. He had come out to Australia on a surprise flying visit. We were walking down Sturt Street when he turned to me.
‘ Do you remember how I said I would settle down when I turned 30?’ he asked. I remember it vaguely- I remember joking about how he would need to find a regular girlfriend when I got married for the plus one on the invitation.
‘Well it’s never going to happen, because… I’m gay.’
Now this stopped me in my tracks, which was not a good thing as we were literally in the middle of a very busy Sturt Street trying to negotiate traffic. I was gobsmacked.
‘But what about the girlfriends- you had so many!’ I spluttered. It turns out that while there were a couple of girls, there weren’t as many as he had made out to be. The thing was, he didn’t want my parents to go through the same emotional upheaval which happened when Mark came out. So he hid his sexuality for years, until it was too much to bear. He finally confessed to my parents when they rang him in London after they received a very strange text message from him.
Mum and Dad were great and pretty much rolled with the news- I think their greater concern was with Andrew’s mental anguish than any news about his sexuality. Besides having an older brother who trailblazed with his coming out and a sister who
lived in sin moved in with her boyfriend meant that his news wasn’t so big :).
Far from being so sanguine, I was pretty pissed. Why HADN’T he told me earlier? Why choose to hide it for so long? I did what any reasonable big sister would do- I punched him on the arm and told him off for not telling me earlier.
So there you have it- I have two wonderful younger brothers who both live in London, love my kids to bits, worship Kylie Monogue still (Mark), goes to all the cool festivals and mini-breaks to Belgium (Andrew) and also happen to be gay. This basically equates to all of us dreaming about Jude Law and them having great taste in kid’s clothes (and rosary beads).
And why am I telling you about this? Well this Saturday the ALP National Conference will decide whether or not to end marriage discrimination as part of their National Policy Platform. If it is adopted, it will be one step forward in ending the discrimination inherent against same-sex couples in the Commonwealth Marriage Act.
I am selfish- I just want to see my little brother being able to stand up beside the man he loves and declare his love and be married. There’s just one more thing- he hasn’t met Mr Right yet :).
Please sign the petition at GetUp! and hopefully the delegates will change a policy which is outdated, discriminatory and downright cruel.
And if you know of any nice guys who love music, shopping and cooking, please let me know…