This story was collected at our Mount Lawley backyard and is told by Gary Steadman. Gary shares his story of marrying his husband and discovering the fear and messiness of love and marriage.
Backstories 2022 is a multi-sited storytelling festival located in suburbs of across Perth and regional Western Australia. In 2022, Backstories occurred in locations such as Geraldton, Kununurra, Bunbury, Margaret River and Lesmurdie.
Backstories 2022 Mount Lawley was made possible with funding from Lotterywest, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, City of Bayswater and Centre for Stories Founders Circle.
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Copyright © 2023 Gary Steadman
Photo by Sophie Minissale
This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.
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GS: When marriage equality first happened in Australia, my husband and I, we were the first to get divorced. It had taken us three years to figure out how to end our marriage. You see, I married an Englishman and under English law at that time you could get married on any little handkerchief of land they considered the mother country. But divorce was an entirely different matter.
Now, I discovered that under English law, you had to. You still had to. Someone had to admit fault for. For a marriage to be annulled. And the quickest way to do that was to admit fault on the grounds of unfaithfulness. And I was really quite happy to do that until I discovered that under British law, they they defined unfaithfulness as having sex with a member of the opposite sex.
I last gave that a go in 1995 and I quickly lost interest in being unfaithful.
Not in my wildest dreams. If you had told me the day that I got married that I would say goodbye to my husband ten years later when he entered a Buddhist order. Or that I would be contemplating heterosexual sex as a means of divorce. As divorce. But then who does honestly?
I got married on Friday, February the eighth, in 2008 or truthfully, Friday, February the eighth and February the ninth, because I married an Englishman and a Hindu and no self-respecting Hindi gay boy has a marriage that doesn’t last at least two days. The civil service, the civil bid of our marriage happened in the UK consulate General office at the Paris end of Collins Street in Melbourne. For those of you who know Melbourne.
On the third floor of a nondescript building, the Associate Consul General officiated at the Civil Service and he officiated with a vengeance. He gave me a little card and on the card was said these words I, Gary, David Steadman, know no reason why I should not register a civil partnership with you and a section, whatever it was, of the UK Civil Partnership Act 2004.
The Consul General told me that I could say those words and nothing else while I handed the card back to the little man and said, I’m not going to say that. I’m going to say this. And I turned to my husband and I said, I love you for exactly who you are. Let’s grow up and grow old together.
Whatever awaits is around the corner. I will stand beside you and I will never take for granted the joy of sharing this life.
I took the ring out of my pocket that my husband had chosen for himself. It was a mother of a thing. It was sterling silver with a big chunk of iridescent blue resin in the top of it. When I really wanted to piss him off, I called it the papal signet ring. I went to put it on his finger, but as I did, the Consul general took hold of my hand in the ring and said, You can’t do that in front of me.
You can do that after I’ve gone. Well, after this silly little man had left the room, there was a woman at the back who’d been holding the door open the whole time with a no messes of blond hair, and she came running up the front. She worked at the consulate general, and she said in a barely comprehensible English accent, which I won’t try to do, so I’ll just do something generically English.
She hugged us both and said, Oh, I love it when you gay boys get married. You are the 63rd couple to get married in Melbourne. And look, I’m sorry about him. He’s always like that bit of a grump. But never mind. It’s me. You made your marriage legal. You see because under English law, these ceremonies have to be held in public places.
And so the way I figured this is the only way we could make this public is if I held the door open. So don’t worry about him. I’m the one who made your marriage legal. I held the door open. The photos taken of us that afternoon show me my husband, our friends, and a life sized portrait of Queen Elizabeth, the second right behind us.
Three queens in a row that afternoon, smiling into the afternoon sun. The next day, we had a wedding party at our own home. In [inaudible word], all of our friends came. Both of our families had invitations, but no one in either of our families had responded. His family, a fundamentalist Hindu and mine a fundamentalist Tasmanian. But at least they couldn’t say that they didn’t know that their sons were getting married that afternoon.
But we did have our own real royalty there. We had Princess Deepa. She was a Nepali PhD student from the university where my husband worked, and she was not known to take a back seat in anything she did. So, my husband and I decided we would repeat our vows in front of all of our friends and include some elements from my husband’s culture.
So we hung a wreath of flowers over each other’s necks and put a dart of red orchid and oil on our foreheads. When it was my turn to do it, though, I got my hands mixed up and I used my left finger instead of my right, which in Hindu culture is really a no no.
And Princess Deepa was right at the front. She was heard to whisper to no one in particular, and I’m sorry about the accent, but she said, Oh, my gods, basically he’s just put shits on his husband’s forehead. My godson, Oliver, aged four, managed to convince a friend of mine’s daughter, age five, to pull her knickers down in the spare slip out at the bottom of the garden that night.
Apart from that and calming their parents down, our wedding went off without a hitch. But for those of you who’ve given it a go, there are just so many things you just don’t know. When you embark on a relationship together, let alone get married. I mean, I didn’t know that in asking my husband to give up living in New York and London and Melbourne to live with me in Central Victoria in [inaudible word] not would end that.
He was allergic to everything, every little bit of grass or pollen, seeds. He would just, his face would just explode whenever we went outside for the five years that we lived there. I didn’t know that his mother had trained him, his Gujarati mother had trained him. So well in the kitchen. I was terrified to enter the kitchen for the next five years.
And I, look for those of you who know me, I don’t cook any more. I just gave up at that point in my life, I didn’t know that I would be struck down with depression for three years in a row, leaving my husband feeling terribly alone and frightened. And it was one of the things that encouraged him to move closer to the Buddhist community that he had been a part of for many years and decided to take the first steps towards ordination.
I didn’t know that in the middle of winter, in my husband’s 50th year, that I would get a call in the middle of the night when my husband was at his first ordination retreat to tell me that his father had died and that I would sit by the fire for an hour before I made the call to let him know the terrible news.
I didn’t know that love was terrible and delicate, horrifying in some ways, that it’s about being brave every day, about the truths that you’re prepared to tell one another. One thing I think we both did know that day is that there are so few people who are prepared to walk that difficult journey alongside us through life. And for my part, I’m still so very glad that we did.