Imagine an engagement that lasted 42 years but couldn’t ever end in marriage. Former High Court Judge, Michael Kirby, released a biography this week called Michael Kirby: Paradoxes and Principles. The openly gay legend was talking to ABC’s Fran Kelly this week and described his engagement to partner Johann as ‘lasting 42 years’.
“Well, my view is that I’d love to live to see the day where a leader of the country did what Zapatero in Spain, and spoke up very clearly about the fact that this is a matter of the rights of citizens to equality. As it happens, and I think this may be in the book, Johann and I probably wouldn’t get married. After all, our engagement has gone on for 42 years, so it’s getting a bit late in the day. But it ought to be there for those who want it.”
Now there’s an interesting point. What makes his relationship any different to a ‘normal’ heterosexual romance? It’s far out-stripped the average length of a marriage which in this country is 8.7-years.
“A little over 2 years ago my maternal grandfather died, watching my heartbroken nanna kiss her
husband goodbye for the final time was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I know, and I mean really KNOW, that they were in love until the day he died.
In trying to find the silver lining in this I choose to see that some people are truly in love with their marital partners forever and the words “till death do us part” is 100% true. In the case of my grandparents that was for 66 years.
This got me to thinking “will this ever be the case for me”? You see I am a gay man. The law states that no matter how deeply I love another man, how well we work as a couple, how much I want to stand in front of my family and friends and say “till death do us part” it will never be legally recognised.
There seems to be an assumption that gay men can’t have long term relationships, have you ever seen a Mardi Gras float that has groups of couples under banners of their length of relationship? No. Are there many (or in fact any) gay couples in the media that have been together for a very long period of time? (I knew of one when I started this, but do you know without me telling you?).
Now currently I am single so maybe, I personally, am not the person to prove that gay men (and our lesbian counterparts) have just as much chance as having a long term relationships as heterosexuals. So being a hobby photographer I thought I would collect images of queer couples that have achieved this which could help to fill this void in people’s perception.
I needed to find a base line of what I would class as “Long Term” so I looked to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. What I decided to use was the median length of an Australian marriage to separation. When I first started this project the length of time was 8.9 years, a couple of months later the ABS stated it was 8.8 years, and as I write I have now found it is 8.7 years
And I put the word out there through friends and facebook of the people I was looking for. And slowly and surely I began to find couples. And what an inspiring bunch of people did I find.
And what did I learn from all these couples? Well lots! For some couples the secret of their longevity was that they had so much in common, others the fact that they virtually had nothing in common. Some met when they were turning 40 and had been through the dating game for some time , others like in the case of Ben and Nicholas, they met when they were 18 and have never had another boyfriend in their entire lives! – how many heterosexuals can say that?
What was the one thing that was consistent for all the couples? Simply that they are still in love with their partners. So love is love no matter the gender of the person you love.
When I look at this collection of images, which will continue to grow as I meet more people that fit the criteria, I am inspired by the diversity of the people within the photo. The diversity of people that I have met is just as diverse as the general population. We, gays and lesbians, are no different to heterosexuals except that we are same sex attracted. All we want is the right to be treated exactly the same as everyone else and for the law, our government and the public to show our relationships the respect we show yours.
Now with so many people divorcing it shows that not everyone, whether gay or straight can have the “till death do us part love affair” and my belief in achieving that, like both sets of my grandparents did, is the jackpot lottery of life, but just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I should be prevented from buying that ticket.
Please be inspired by the people that have inspired me.”
About the Author: Evan Cooper is an out loud and proud gay man. He has been involved with a number of community groups starting with the amazing Ankali Project and Camp Goodtime. His belief is that finding your soul mate, finding that person who you love and loves you back till the day you die is the lottery jackpot of life, and just because he’s gay he shouldn’t be prevented from buying a ticket.
Check out some of the images from Evan’s Commitment Project:
Bernard and Edward. Date of commitment: November 1977