Janet and Penny have been married for thirty years.
They share a passion for science and a love of the outdoors, but most importantly a deep love for each other. They met as students, and fell in love very quickly.
“I just enjoyed your company,” said Penny of Janet. “I felt incredibly comfortable with you instantly.”
For the early part of their relationship, and first half of their marriage, Janet and Penny lived as Janet and Peter. After 12 years of marriage and two children together, Penny finally found the strength to tell Janet she was transgender.
“I couldn’t live out my life along the way that I’d been doing,” she told The Project. “I had to be true to myself.”
Janet says that while she was a little taken aback at first, she never considered ending her relationship.
“Given that there was that sense that we still love each other,” she told The Project, “it didn’t really challenge the marriage.”
“I really do love her. I love her as Penny as I loved her as Peter.”
They faced many external challenges, for their family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, but their own relationship remained constant.
After 28 years of marriage to her wife Janice, Brenda Appleton admitted she was transgender. “When I transitioned it was very much a life of death decision,” said Brenda. “I’d had three suicide incidents.”
In an effort to explain what she was going through, Brenda wrote her wife a poem. “Oh Janice my love, I am sorry. Oh to cause such grief without even trying,” it read.
Janice was stunned, and says it took almost five years for her to be okay with her husband’s transition.”My heart said, if I could stay, and I could work through my own issues I would be a better person,” she told The Project.
“It took an awful lot of work.”
It was not an easy road for the couple. The struggled, but they came through and have now been married an incredible 43 years.
These couple have overcome a myriad of social and emotional hurdles, and now the obstacle they’re facing is political. Australia’s marriage laws are threatening to undermine these formidable relationships.”You’ve got to choose between divorce, or having female on your birth certificate.”
According to state and territory law, married transgender people are able to change their gender on their passports and driver’s licences. But, same-sex marriage is yet to be legalised in this country, so if they wish to have their gender changed on their birth certificate, to reflect their true gender identity, they must divorce their spouse.
It would mean the world to Penny to have the gender on her birth certificate reflect the person she is, but says “that statement of our relationship is even more important to me”.
She doesn’t want to divorce her wife.
And she shouldn’t have to.