Dar­ren Palmer, in­te­rior de­signer

ELLE (Australia) - - This Month -

I’m gay and I’m mar­ried. Even though I’ve been mar­ried for six-and-a-half years, I hadn’t felt com­fort­able talk­ing about my re­la­tion­ship in pub­lic for the first three. Fear was the main is­sue – fear of vil­i­fi­ca­tion, iso­la­tion and loss of in­come should any of the busi­nesses I had worked with feel I no longer rep­re­sented their brand or their au­di­ence. It was a fear long held and fos­tered in my youth, be­cause when I grew up in re­gional Queens­land in the ’80s and ’90s, I was dif­fer­ent. I wasn’t like my friends or my fam­ily. I liked de­sign and my mum had called me a yup­pie from about the age of 10 be­cause she knew I was in­ter­ested in things other than what was within our sphere of ref­er­ence in Glad­stone at the time.

I knew from pu­berty that I was gay, but it was such a scary prospect I closed the very thought of it down. I pre­tended and fit in, but from the out­side it just looked like I wasn’t very good at re­la­tion­ships be­cause I never had a girl­friend or, at least, not for long or to any great ex­tent. I did that to be­long. I did that – lied to my­self and my loved ones – be­cause there was a very real chance I would be alien­ated from my fam­ily or my friends, ver­bally or even phys­i­cally abused just for be­ing who I was born to be. I was for­tu­nate that my fam­ily and friends all sup­ported me. I’m one of the lucky ones, but un­for­tu­nately due to the mes­sages that per­pet­u­ate so­ci­ety about what it means to be gay, there are many young peo­ple who aren’t safe to come out, or get vil­i­fied or harmed if they do.

A same-sex re­la­tion­ship seemed scary to me as I hadn’t had all the time as a teenager to date and build emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, so mar­riage cer­tainly never oc­curred to me as an op­tion. As a young gay man, there was never any way I could marry, so the thought of it was the fur­thest thing from my mind. I dated and did ev­ery­thing teenagers do, but in my twen­ties, try­ing to get re­la­tion­ship ex­pe­ri­ence to emo­tion­ally get up to speed. Then, in my thir­ties, I met a man who I ad­mired. We were ac­quainted for years and one day we both found our­selves able to have our first date. We knew each other and had enough com­mon friends to do back­ground checks and on date num­ber two, four days after our first, I can hon­estly say I was in love. For Olivier, it was ex­actly the same.

We’d been dat­ing for just un­der two months, and one day I was driv­ing and a song came on the ra­dio and I thought, “I’d like this to play at our wed­ding.” That thought caught me off-guard as I’d had a long-term re­la­tion­ship pre­vi­ously and never thought about mar­riage. But with Olivier, it was dif­fer­ent. Olivier is the great love of my life. It seems he was think­ing the same thing, be­cause he pro­posed to me a few weeks later.

We were go­ing to South Africa a few months after and de­cided that, as we couldn’t marry here at home,

there was no rea­son to wait, so we’d get mar­ried in South Africa where it has been le­gal since Novem­ber 30, 2006. I have great mem­o­ries and pic­tures of our cer­e­mony on the cliffs of a ruggedly beau­ti­ful na­ture re­serve in Pater­nos­ter, north of Cape Town. We have mem­o­ries of friends, laugh­ter, tears of hap­pi­ness and sign­ing the wed­ding cer­tifi­cate.

You see, I’m al­ready mar­ried. I’m legally mar­ried in every one of the coun­tries around the world that has seen the truth that all cit­i­zens of a coun­try should be united by the rights they share, and the postal vote and the change to Aus­tralian law isn’t go­ing to change my mar­i­tal sta­tus. What it will do is give me the same le­gal rights as every other mar­ried cou­ple in this coun­try and open the door for those among us who aren’t able to travel to a coun­try where they have the right to join to­gether in mat­ri­mony with an­other con­sent­ing adult.

It sad­dens and be­wil­ders me that the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple get to give their opin­ion on the rights of a mi­nor­ity, but un­for­tu­nately his­tory has shown that hu­man rights of­ten have to be fought to be won, even when it’s plainly and ob­vi­ously the right thing to do.

It’s harm­ful to gay peo­ple to be made out to be “less than”, to be marginalised, de­monised or in­val­i­dated. It’s dan­ger­ous and ter­ri­bly un­just to pub­licly scru­ti­nise whether one set of peo­ple’s re­la­tion­ships are as valid as any oth­ers. The “de­bate” and the words and ac­tions around it will harm peo­ple deeply and the rea­son the vote is be­ing done the way it is, is pre­cisely why we need to vote and vote in num­bers. Even though you may not agree with hav­ing to give your opin­ion or hav­ing an opin­ion given on your re­la­tion­ship, if you dis­en­gage you won’t be heard, so make sure you raise your voice and make your vote count.

I am gay and I am mar­ried and have been for a long time, and not one thing has hap­pened to the mar­riages of oth­ers here at home. Noth­ing that takes from any­one has oc­curred and none of the things that have been touted as risks have been a con­se­quence of my mar­riage or any of the mar­riages that have been con­ducted in all the coun­tries that have al­ready passed mar­riage equal­ity laws across the globe.

The only thing that has oc­curred is that our fam­ily is for­ti­fied by the bond that our mar­riage gives us. Our son knows we’re in it for the long haul and our re­la­tion­ship is strength­ened in the hard­est of times. Noth­ing but good has come from my mar­riage, not just for my fam­ily but for the com­mu­nity. There is one more com­mit­ted, sta­ble re­la­tion­ship in ex­is­tence and that is just what we should all be try­ing to en­cour­age.






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