At the time of writing this post, voting for the same-sex marriage campaign in Australia has just closed and we are awaiting the outcome. My friend Liz Dore, a counsellor, shared with me the distress many of her clients experienced in the lead up to, and during the campaign.
The period has also been a personal journey for Liz’s son, 26-year-old writer, director and visual artist Sam Leighton-Dore. He is gay and hopes to marry his partner of 4 years, Brad, sometime soon. Sam looked after my own son when he was still at primary school, during the holidays while my husband and I were at work.
Hence this is a personal story for me too.
Liz is the only person I know who has been married, widowed, married and divorced. She claims that both of her marriages were special. Both Liz and Sam share common interests: mental health issues, sexuality and relationships. In addition, they’ve been working side-by-side garnering support for the YES vote in the same-sex marriage campaign, promoting it through their social media networks, and attending rallies and events around Sydney.
Sam had to deal with issues of anxiety and depression while growing up and was bullied at high school, which led him to write a children’s book titled I Think I’m A Poof.
He says: ‘the process of writing the book wound up being an incredibly empowering endeavour — men who once bullied me for being gay were all of a sudden reaching out to me over social media to apologise. It felt like I was finally turning the page on that chapter of my life.’
‘Growing up, my being gay was — and still is — a big part of what makes up my perspective of the world; something that I can’t change, however comfortable I’ve come to be with myself over the years. My creativity has always been influenced by my own experiences with mental health and sexuality.’
‘My ongoing struggles meant that my little sister Bronte occasionally didn’t get her fair share of attention. She has since blossomed into a wonderful artist and jewellery designer, and I feel fortunate that we’ve grown a lot closer in adulthood. We’re both lucky to have parents who always encouraged us to chase our dreams, however financially poor those dreams would make us’.
Liz says: ‘I knew Sam was going to do some great things. When he was little, he was an avid fan of The Little Mermaid film and ran through the house wearing his mermaid’s tail. In his teenage years, he joined the Australian Idol fan club and supported contestant Casey Donovan, taking his home-made signs with him to the shows.’
‘He was bullied at high school, both physically and verbally. It was a dark time for our family; we moved out of the area and changed schools. I’m in awe of his achievements as an artist, a writer and film producer. After he graduated from the Australian Film Television and Radio School, his film Showboy (starring Lucas Pittaway of Snowtown) screened at the Sydney Film Festival and won Best Short Film at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival.’
‘Sam has worked for production company Goalpost Pictures. He walked the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival with actors Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Chris O’Dowd from the film The Sapphires. He has also produced video clips for Jessica Mauboy and Baz Luhrmann’.
‘A few years ago, he made a short film of my Dateables Ball for people with disability. This led to an ABC 730 Report segment about the singles event and a donation by the actor Ben Mendelsohn’.
‘Sam’s partner Brad is a wonderful addition to our family, loving and supportive of him, Bronte and myself. I would be proud to have him as my son-in-law. I love Sam and hope that he and his partner are given the respect and acknowledgement they deserve when they commit to each other, or if they separate from each other, or when one of them passes away’.
I am grateful to Liz for her friendship, and for sharing the experience of motherhood over the years. I stand by her belief that it is every person’s right to marry the partner of their choosing, irrespective of gender.
On that note, if you are reading this and you are an Australian citizen, I hope you got your vote in on time.