I grew up in Wahroonga on the upper North Shore in Sydney. Nothing much happened in Wahroonga. Divorce was rare, abuse not seen, nor talked about and drugs and alcohol were other people’s problems occurring over the bridge or on the beaches. In reality, we weren’t immune to any of this, but like many things ‘north shore’, scandal was kept well-hidden behind closed doors.
It was the 70s and the Wahroonga shops were a very village affair comprised of friendly small businesses and supplies enough to meet our needs and encourage loyalty. There was a curious buzz when an Indian curry joint opened. Chinese was about as exotic as people from Wahroonga went in those days, Indian was foreign.
Then Bruce moved into the shopping village. He was a florist working in the flower shop for my mum’s friend Lydia. He was also the partner of Steve, an airline steward. Yes, Bruce and Steve, a florist and a steward, perfect gay stereotypes moving into our tight-knit, ultra -conservative community, and more foreign than Indian.
My mum was one of those ultra-conservative residents. Each week she visited the village to do her shopping, have her hair done and pop in for a chat with Lydia. That’s how she met Bruce and Steve. Having grown up in Charleville and then worked as a nurse in northern Queensland, mum’s previous encounters with gays were limited to whispers and speculation in hospital corridors. Through Bruce and Steve her world opened up, as did her heart, as a firm friendship grew. I remember being shocked at hearing Bruce and Steve had been together nearly 20 years, just like my parents, I thought. My blokey, bloke dad was more bemused than threatened by them, but the more he got to know Bruce and Steve, the more unremarkable they became. And that probably says it all.
During the 80s while working in a holiday resort in Mexico I became great mates with Noly, an eccentric Cuban who insisted he knew he was gay from the age of five. Young and uncommitted, his liaisons were mostly with married men on holidays with their families. I used to watch these men dining at night with their wives and wonder how their marriages survived such enormous deceit.
Ever since marriage became a legal union, men and women have married for reasons other than love and commitment. They’ve married for money, for sex, for children, for publicity, for passports, for family honour, or married just for the hell of it. The argument that marriage is an exclusive union used solely to recognise the love between a man and a woman is rubbish.
Yet, when confronted by gay couples who do want to use marriage as a legal and binding contract to celebrate their love, they are denied.
Yes, we can argue rules are rules and they shouldn’t be bent to satisfy a minority, but these rules are broken often when couples marry for the wrong reasons, just because they can. Why can’t gays marry for the right reasons?
I have friends who fight the concept, others who don’t care and gay mates for whom marriage is very important. I’ve heard it all.
And still I ask, why can’t gays marry?
And always that question leads me to another.
Why on earth not?