I was born on 12 June 1991. Six years before homosexuality was decriminalised in Australia. One year before gay, lesbian and bisexual Australians were able to serve in the military. Nineteen years before trans Australians could serve in the military.
Twenty-two years before federal discrimination protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status were put in to place. I was born in a time when discrimination was the norm, and challenging it was looked upon as causing a stir or being a ‘radical’. The AIDS epidemic hit the UK hard and the fear it drove into British society made LGBTQI+ lives something to be feared or pitied.
Now, 25 years later, my husband Liam and I were huddled together on a bench overlooking the runway at LAX. The crisp February Californian air whipped my eyelashes as we watched the sun dip below the horizon, the smell of jet fuel mingling with the salty Pacific Ocean lapping under my nose. I took a deep breath and rubbed my hands together, blowing into them to keep them warm. I wasn’t really cold. It was the overwhelming anxiety of the unknown making my knees tremble and my stomach churn.
We had just dropped Poppy (our 25 kilograms of cuddly, fluffy English Bulldog) off at the Jetpets International HQ to be taken across to a Qantas Boeing A380. We had rescued Poppy from SoCal Bulldog Rescue in Santa Ana a year before when someone had found her chained to a fence in a puppy mill. Since deciding to move back to Australia, we had spent the last six months gearing ourselves up for this very moment when she would take off without us.
The A380 swung around to the runway and Liam gripped my hand in his as the enormous plane took off. We watched as it soared among the stars and out of sight before we got in our car and headed back to our apartment. Our own flight was scheduled to depart in a week when Poppy would be able to leave quarantine in Australia.
We had been living in California for a few years and had only recently arrived at this decision to move back home to Sydney; a decision that scared me more than I wanted to admit. Being around the colourful utopia that is Los Angeles had almost made me forget how backward our Australian government was. Seeing the A380 ascend into the foggy California air solidified that we would soon be leaving, and heading to a country that considered us unequal to our straight peers.
‘This book will make you laugh, cry, and make you a little angry. But most importantly, it’ll remind you that it’s okay to be exactly who you are.’
– Sarah Colonna, comedian and New York Times bestselling author of Life as I Blow It
I had hoped in the years we were away that things would have changed. I had expected that if we ever decided to return we would be greeted as equals.
Sadly, when we boarded our flight back to Sydney in February 2016, the simple fact was that marriage equality seemed just as far away for Australia as it did when we had left.
The decision to move back had been a difficult one. In the summer the year before, I had signed on to do a film. Liam and I decided to take a mini break before the film was due to start. However, knowing that I had been suffering from anxiety and the occasional panic attack, my publicist booked me in to see the world-renowned spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who was in Los Angeles on a mindfulness tour.
It was around this time that Liam expressed how much he missed home and we started discussing the possibility of moving back to Australia.
I was strongly opposed to going back. I loved our life in California. The thought of going back to Australia where marriage equality was still being debated on the TV and the minister for women was a heterosexual, old, white guy seemed the equivalent of taking a one-way ticket back to the 1940s.
Clearly in urgent need of some spiritual guidance, or at the very least a cup of tea, I arrived 45 minutes early to a beautiful building near University Park in LA. When Sri Sri arrived he practically floated into the building, moving graciously to where I was sitting to be introduced before we were ushered along to a quiet room with a view of a beautiful oak tree outside.
Sitting opposite the famed guru I took a deep breath and asked him straight out where it was I was supposed to be, and what it was I was supposed to be doing.
He smiled, and a look of utter peace spread across his cheeks that I had only come close to experiencing after dropping eight valiums on a summer afternoon in the height of my addiction.
‘All is good. Right now, you are here. Lots to be done.’ Sri Sri gave a thumbs-up and took a sip of water before continuing. ‘Good films here. Then, someday, you will become great change maker. Bring good to the world. You see?’
I didn’t whatsoever, but I nodded out of politeness.
I don’t know whether it was Sri Sri’s peaceful nature, the smell of incense or the fact that I was running on very little sleep, but a sense of calm washed over me. I knew it’d all be okay. Before leaving we had a glass of water, meditated together and bid each other farewell.
Now as I sat next to Liam on our Air New Zealand flight back home to Australia, with Michael Keaton (yes the Michael Keaton) sitting a few rows behind us heading on a vacation to New Zealand with his wife, the anxiety kicked back in with full force. 4 P I N K I N K
I realised 35,000 feet in the air that we were heading back to a country that didn’t consider Liam and I on par with our straight peers. We were going back to live in a nation where the government considered us equal when asking us to pay our taxes yet refused our equality point blank when it came to marriage and civil rights.
I unclipped my seatbelt and went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. If we were going to live in Australia, then I knew that I wasn’t going to shut up until something changed. I’d spent the last three years since being out publicly fighting for equality and the years before fighting just as hard from the confines of the closet. I planned to use my big mouth and whatever influence I had to kick up as much dust as I could until something changed.
Wandering back to my seat I pulled the blanket up over my legs, reached across the divide and held Liam’s hand. He looked up and smiled, mouthing the words ‘You okay?’ I nodded, closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.