The brides wore purple…and black!

Today is a very significant anniversary of a very personal, yet political act. Come with me, I’d like to share it with you…

After 4 months of whirlwind preparation, 1 April 2010 dawned bright and clear…a gorgeous autumn day and the beginning of the Easter weekend…it was the day of our Civil Partnership Ceremony, though we loudly and proudly called it a wedding – and a wedding it was for sure!

We were two brides – who were “given away” and “walked down the aisle” by our Mums; there was a bevy of brides’ babes including a best woman and a best bride dude; and a beautiful throng of family and friends who witnessed a very personal; and very special ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery here in Canberra.  Our celebrant was Judy Aulich, one of the first registered Civil Partnership Notaries in the ACT.  We even had our photos taken with Labor MLAs Andrew Barr (now Chief Minister) and Simon Corbell – one of which was published in the Canberra Times (who’d have thought we’d be Page 3 girls!) Our ceremony was intimate, our vows to each other were emotional and heartfelt and I’m told there “wasn’t a dry eye in the house!” We had flowers, and a string quartet, and champagne and a sit down dinner. There were messages from some who couldn’t make it; and a bag-pipe playing uncle in the UK sent us a video because he promised he’d pipe at our wedding. We had a band and dancing, there were speeches and songs, some tears, and much laughter. It was a big bash; a very big, important deal.

Why did we do it? A myriad of reasons. Because we could. Because we live in the ACT where our relationship could be legally recognised and celebrated. And mostly because we love each other and we wanted to celebrate that love with people who in turn loved us and cared about us. And maybe because we are both Leos.  And also because, well…“the personal is political”.

Perhaps not many couples would think that having a wedding or getting married is a political act – it is a tradition of human society after all, a contract that men and women have been entering into for many centuries; it’s been a heterosexual rite of passage for a very long time.  For us, having our partnership legally recognised is both a personal and political act – we have brought our personal lives, as a same-sex couple, into the political arena.

In the ACT, prior to November 2009 we could not have a ceremony, led by a duly registered celebrant, which legally recognised our partnership.  That we were being prevented from marrying saddened us immensely. Over the years we have witnessed straight friends marry and we were, and are, very happy for them. However, there was also sorrow (and if we are honest, envy, as well) that we couldn’t celebrate in the ways that they could, and we felt sad (I usually cried) when the celebrants at friends’ weddings would announce: “marriage in this country is between a man and a woman”.  So, we were overjoyed when in late 2009, the ACT Government, with a strong push from the ACT Greens, (and no support from the Federal Labor government) were finally able to enact legislation that enabled same-sex couples to legally celebrate their unions.  And then we made our announcement to our families, and the planning for our wedding began!

So we, the brides, wore purple and black. We looked fabulous! Our gorgeous brides’ babes wore sexy, flirty 50’s- inspired black matte taffeta halter necked swing dresses, and the brides’ dude was handsome in an immaculate black suit and shirt with a purple tie and pocket handkerchief. The youngest member of our bridal party, our little “ring-bringer”,(who incidentally has two mums), wore purple sequins on her white and pink dress.  Our guests included our Mothers; friends and family from all over the globe: Israel, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Wagga-Wagga, the North and Central coasts, Ballarat, and London! And of course all our loved ones from our fair city as well.  We are thankful to them all for helping to make our special day such a wonderful and significant occasion.

There’s still a way to go in Australia before all relationships are considered politically, legally and socially equal. My partner and I can’t yet say we are “married” (though we do!)

As I said in my speech at the wedding:

“Just as once our society didn’t consider Indigenous Australians citizens of their own countries, and inter-racial marriage was frowned on, we believe that the discrimination that still prevents same sex couples from being married will one day no longer exist and we will be able to say to our grand-children: “would you believe that your grandmother and I weren’t even allowed to get married in the early 21st century!!??”

Happy anniversary to us!

Sum, sum, Summernatstime

It’s summer, it’s the beginning of the year, half of Canberra’s gone to the coast and there’s a lot of big, shiny, noisy cars on the roads. This can only mean one thing…it’s Summernats time.

Canberra seems to have a love-hate relationship with Summernats.  Short for Summer Nationals, the annual car festival attracts tens of thousands of people and their street machines to the capital at the beginning of every year. It’s either “oh God, those petrol head bogans are here again wasting fuel and making a noise” or “oh those Summernats, they’re only here for a few days, they’re good for the economy” ($15 million bucks this year, I hear).  People who live in the north, and who haven’t gone to the coast, complain about the noise, and the smoke from the burnout comps and not being able to get a park at Dickson shops because the ‘nats are all there buying beer, and eskies and snags and bread rolls and ice.

I saw my first Summernats “street cruise”, which was definitely unofficial, about 20-odd years ago, just after the birth of my daughter.  The “cruise” involved a whole lot of hotted up cars driving from Watson, where the event is held, into the city and back again.  We sauntered out in the late afternoon, up to Northbourne Avenue, and were most surprised to see quite a throng of people lining the road, some with deck chairs and picnics and drinks, waiting for the cars to arrive. This is quite the big deal, I thought. What’s the attraction?  I heard the cars before I saw them, and covered the sleeping baby’s ears, for fear her very new eardrums would burst.

What I saw next was a stream of cars, some very shiny, and some that looked like an old boyfriend’s 2-door Torana and I wondered what was so special about a car in which I had sped around Melbourne in my youth.  With no exception, every car was driven by a man, a young man at that, with three or four other young men in the back, arms hanging out the window waving their VBs and their cans of rum and cokes. Seems chicks didn’t feature at Summernats, except on the roadside watching the parade. Perhaps this was the petrol head equivalent of surf culture at the time? The boys did all the fun stuff and the girls sat on the beach, looking pretty and waiting.

The cars of young men zoomed by. And with rare exception, every backseat rallying cry was “Show us ya tits! Show us ya tits!” One of them even had a Chucky-esque doll which he waved out the back of a purple panel van.  The doll’s t-shirt was controlled by a string and when the doll’s handler pulled the said string: voila! the t-shirt rolled up and Chucky yelled , yep you guessed it: “Show us ya tits!”

I was not impressed, especially as a young, exhausted breast-feeding mother with a six week old baby in her arms. “You can tell who the bottle-fed boys are”, I said to her.  I didn’t pay all that much attention to Summernats after that year, except when I was living in the north and hadn’t gone to the coast and sat somewhere between “God that incessant revving is annoying”, and “they’re buying up big at the IGA, that’s gotta be good for the local shops”

Fast forward to 2015, and the “City Cruise” is now very official. Police sanctioned, intersections are closed off, and there are barriers in the city for onlookers to stand behind. The Cruise is executed with precision and a police escort, front and rear. There’ll be no funny business – no speeding, no burnouts, no undue noise, no offending the locals. It’s done and dusted within half an hour. It’s a far cry from the one I first saw which seemed to last several, higgledy piggledy hours, and if I remember rightly culminated in a bit of a riot and someone swinging from the traffic lights at Antill Street. This year 200 cars drove sedately, though at quite a clip, along Northbourne Ave; people complained it was too fast to take pictures.

I stood on the corner of my street (yep, living in the north again and not at the coast) for a nostalgic view at the Cruise. It was hot, and people wore hats, and huddled under the gums on both sides of the road. There were a couple of deck chairs but no eskies and cold drinks that I could see. I still heard them before I saw them, and when the cars came they were all gleaming and they were mostly pretty damn loud. There were some differences from my first Cruise though – mostly men drove, but they weren’t so young. A lot of them had wives and girlfriends in the car with them. And a great deal of them had kids in the back who waved at the crowds –  with their hands, and their iPhones –  but no one waved with beer cans.

And do you know what? Not one of them yelled out, not once did I hear: “Show us ya tits! Show us ya tits!”