A great friend of mine was married yesterday.
That’s great, you say…
Yes it is. All marriages are cause for celebration.
But this one is far more than that. It’s the result of years and years of pure love and romantic attraction: but also thick skin, hard work and the overcoming of constant hurdles along the way. It’s a modern day same sex love story, that began back before same sex relationships were anything other than whispers behind closed doors and intense ‘friendships’ that no one spoke about.
So for two then married young women in the 80s, Karen and Anne-Maree, to meet, fall madly in love at first sight, leave their heterosexual marriages with their children in tow and embark on a lifelong journey together, this was a relationship that was destined to blaze trails every step of the way. It was during a time when the political climate did not favour gay people in any sense. Repression was rife, and tolerance was scarce. The Bjelke-Petersen government defined homosexuality as ‘morally deviant’ as thus injected the LGBT movement into the political agenda. It was a time when efforts were being made to prevent homosexual teachers from gaining employment, and the family legal system definitely was not geared towards favouring women leaving their husbands to embark on lesbian relationships.
It was not the climate for same sex families.
They risked losing their children. They risked social ostracism and they risked their children suffering stigma and cruelty from other children at school. They risked it all to be together.
Common sense would have screamed ‘RETREAT’ at these two women every day of their budding new relationship, yet what also screamed at them for each other was stronger. It is this intense love and respect for one another that has seen them through their thirty-three years together. They are soul mates. With four children and now eight grandchildren between them, theirs is the enduring love of fairy tales.
And yesterday, after years together, these two danced their first dance as wife and wife.
No one could possibly be happier for them than me.
One of the hardest things I have found over my fifteen years as a same sex parent is the lack of role models. Everyone knows about the wonderful public journeys of women such as Melissa Etheridge, Ellen, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell and others like them who have pioneered the way for equality and the gay rights movement.
For their contribution I am forever grateful.
But what I was lacking when I first embarked on my same sex parenting journey all those years ago was others like me to talk to who had faced similar situations. This was the time before social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram that now magically connect same sex families with the click of a few buttons. It is fabulous and I marvel at the ease with which same sex couples can now navigate what were very murky waters. Asking a simple question on a Lesbian Parenting page garners responses from dozens of others only too willing to help guide and direct ‘their own’ towards fulfilling their dreams of having a family. People are literally waiting at the end of their keyboard to be of assistance. Oh if only!
Karen became my guide and mentor in navigating the same sex parenting waters and for that I will be eternally grateful to her.
I met Karen and Anne-Maree by chance through word of mouth. A friend of mine was dating the best friend of Anne-Maree at the time, and knew that Karen was just starting up her family day care business from home. I was pregnant with my first child, Master Z, at this time, and had no idea what I was going to do with regard to his care in the future. I was worried about how we would be seen by others at a day care centre, because I knew we would be one of very few homosexual couples with a child. I didn’t know of any others at all at this stage, let alone some in our local area in Forest Lake.
I was acutely aware of the issues we would face with Master Z as he grew and began to notice that he was the only one who had two mums and no ‘Dad’. In the way all parents worry about their child’s future, the prospect of a same sex day care provider became a beacon of hope for me. The thought of shielding Master Z from some of those ‘wider world’ issues at his tender age was wonderful, and I rang Karen immediately.
That phone call was the start of our friendship. I was 25 years old and while I felt at the time that I was prepared for motherhood, I look back now and realise exactly how little I knew. Karen was comfortable, confident and embraced me and my family immediately. We were instantly a part of her extended family and she made me feel that we had nothing at all to worry about. Master Z began his care with her part time when he was three months old, and Karen became my lifelong friend.
I have been privileged to witness the love that Karen and Anne-Maree share for one another over the sixteen years I have known them. They are my heroes.
I often wonder if, in their situation, I would have been brave enough to carve out the path that they did for themselves, going against everything they knew and was expected of them: risking even their own children, for the chance to be together. I really don’t know, I’d like to think so, but I fear not. I fear my susceptibility to external pressure and stigma may have been too great. I’m fortunate that I’ll never know.
Karen’s daughter Megan is my age, so I am a generation removed from the time they grew up in. A generation’s grace from many of the types of issues they both had to face. And now my children are a generation again removed from the issues I have faced.
To say I’m glad about this is an understatement.
I’m so grateful to these two women for doing what they did, because it is people like them who have made life for me and my children so much easier.
So as you embark on your legally recognised marriage as of today, Karen and Anne-Maree, I applaud you. Long may you live and love one another.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
NB. Karen and Anne-Maree have given me permission to publish the letter that Anne-Maree wrote to Karen the morning of their wedding. It is above.