real life

Tammy and Karen married as soon as it was legal. Now they're celebrating Mardi Gras with their son.

This article mentions a gay hate crime experience and domestic violence, and may be triggering for some readers.

Tammy and Karen were one of the first LGBTQIA+ couples to officially tie the knot in December 2017, the day after the same-sex marriage bill passed in parliament.

But they have never attended Mardi Gras. That is until now. 

This weekend, Tammy and Karen along with son Archie will be celebrating Mardi Gras for the first time: and for their family, it means the world. To feel seen, celebrate who they are and the importance of love and acceptance.

Watch: Mardi Gras Parade behind the scenes. Post continues below.



Video via Mamamia.

Tammy and Karen first met at work: Karen a police officer and Tammy a civilian manager at the Police Citizen Youth Club. 

For Tammy it was love at first sight. "I saw Karen walking into the office, she had this boppy walk and was wearing her gun belt. And for some reason, when I saw her I knew she was the person for me."

As for Karen, things were more of a slow burn. 

"I had been with a guy for 11 years, was previously engaged and all of that. Then I had a long-term female relationship, which ended really badly for me. So when I met Tammy, only two months before I had come home to discover my partner in my house having a sleepover with someone else. So I certainly wasn't looking for a relationship," Karen shared to Mamamia.

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But Tammy too had experienced trauma in previous relationships. She was a mum of two children - Archie and Isabelle - and she was coming to the end of a 10-year marriage that was domestically violent. 

Karen said: "I suppose I initially was offering some police advice and getting support for Tammy to leave her relationship. We got to know each other really well and became good friends. I had no idea that Tammy might have an inkling towards women. But once she told me, things shifted straightaway. It's like it was inevitable."

After being in a relationship for 18 months, Karen proposed to Tammy and the wedding plans began. 

The day before their December 9, 2017 wedding, it was announced that gay marriage was now legal in Australia.

It meant the world to Tammy and Karen, who had just so happened to plan their wedding for the day after the announcement was made. And although legally speaking their marriage was not 'official' until 28 days after the government's announcement, they still technically were one of the first gay couples to tie the knot after the laws changed. 

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It was Tammy's second wedding and she wanted to do something more low-key, but Karen wanted "the proper thing". So they met in the middle. 

"We had a beautiful wedding with about 100 people at the beach. It wasn't expensive, but it was a wedding where people could really feel the love that we had for each other. Plus, we both put a lot of thought and love into our vows and were crying the whole time!" Tammy said. "And I think it was just such a beautiful celebration because of it being so close to the marriage laws changing."

Tammy, Karen and Archie. Image: Supplied. When the couple first started dating, Karen didn't see herself getting married. She wasn't overly keen on voting if there was a marriage equality plebiscite. But then as their relationship progressed, Karen's feelings changed. It felt personal. 

"With conversations in 2017 rife about gay marriage, we really felt like our relationship was on display. It was very much the feeling that our love is no different to anybody else's. And the kids (Archie and Isabelle) were seeing the ads on TV and being privy to all those conversations about our family's worth and all: it was really difficult."

Over four years down the track, Tammy and Karen are en route to their first ever Mardi Gras, travelling from Port Macquarie to Sydney for the parade. 

It will also be Archie's first Mardi Gras too!

"He's pretty excited," Tammy shared with Mamamia. "I don't think he knows what to expect, and he isn't very 'flamboyant' 14-year-old but he is excited to be a part of the celebration."

As Rainbow Families Executive Officer, Ashley Scott says: "Mardi Gras is such a fun and significant time of the year. For LGBTQIA+ parents it is so important to be proud of who we are, and for our kids to see that they are part of a diverse and accepting community."

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Image: Supplied.

And to celebrate in style, the trio was chosen as American Express' My First Mardi Gras recipients, to ensure it's the experience of a lifetime. 

The itinerary will see them receive the best seats in the house: watching the parade from the American Express Suite and also get the opportunity to connect with original Mardi Gras participants, the 78ers.

"We're pinching ourselves. And I just think it's such an awesome opportunity. We've both got backup dresses but will be doing some shopping in Sydney, as we feel like it's a once in a lifetime opportunity: you can wear something completely outrageous and fun. We're most excited to see Vanessa Amorosi perform and to meet the 78ers."

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For so many in the LGBTQIA+ community, Mardi Gras represents more than just a glitter-filled celebration. It's also an opportunity to celebrate queer excellence and put a spotlight on the need to end discrimination and homophobia. 

In their local area, Tammy and Karen don't have any lesbian couple friends, so they look forward to meeting new people and feeling accepted.

"We hardly even know any other gay people, we aren't even part of a local gay community, so it's going to be really cool to meet people like us or some who are very different: but what we have in common is a lot of love and 100 per cent acceptance," Karen said. 

Although Tammy and Karen have never directly experienced homophobia, they know of people who have and the extreme impact it can have. 

"We've been very fortunate. But we have gay male friends that have copped hate crimes and it's horrible. One of them doesn't feel comfortable leaving the house because he has just been bashed that many times and called slurs," Karen shared. "I just wish everyone could get over themselves and just accept people for whoever they are."

Tammy concluded: "For our son to be able to see other families that are the same as his will really be a life-changing experience. It's just going to be one big stadium of acceptance and no judgement. And that's what we really love."

Happy Mardi Gras!

To follow along with the 'My First Mardi Gras' recipients and their journeys, you can head to @AmexAU.

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For support or further information you can visit LGBTIQ+ Health Australia.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Feature Image: Supplied.