• Samuel and Bradley are getting married early next year. (Supplied)
After all my anxiety around religious freedoms and possible discrimination, the enthusiastic correspondence with our caterers has been more nourishing than their food ever could be.
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

11 Sep 2019 - 10:20 AM  UPDATED 11 Sep 2019 - 10:41 AM

Looking back, I was always going to marry Brad.

It's not that I experienced the often-cited I just knew moment, either. It wasn't particularly transcendent; it didn't feel like worlds colliding. There was an instant attraction, then we simply clicked - and never stopped clicking.

After two months of dating, I secretly got his name tattooed as 'Br_ad' along with a line-drawn loaf of bread on my left bicep. I figured that if the relationship headed south, I could always add in the 'e'. Men come and go, but carbs are forever.

However, fortunately the underscore remains blank, and will into the foreseeable future. Because in February 2020, we're getting married.

I've seen every wedding-centred rom-com under the sun. I sided with Kate Hudson in Bride Wars. I empathised with Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding. I wept with Carrie when Mr Big was a no-show in the Sex and the City movie. I thought I had the general 'getting married' situation under control, with every possible stress or disaster positioned firmly in the peripheral.

But what I wasn't prepared for was the residual anxiety leftover from the 2017 same-sex marriage postal survey.

You know, back when LGBTIQ+ people had to wait for months for a majority of Australian citizens to approve of our right to marry.

It turns out that being exposed to daily homophobia leaves something of a dent on the way you navigate the world. It makes you hesitant where you might normally be forthright, nervous where you'd normally be confident.

Planning our wedding has been fraught with unexpected micro-anxieties, like meeting the mild-mannered venue-owners in a rural town for the first time, and watching their faces clock and process the distinct lack of a bride. Or taking into consideration our ceremony's vicinity to public spaces, just in case there's a drunken heckler on the big day - someone looking to impress their mates. 

Having had intimate moments derailed by casual homophobia in the past (like a man yelling "faggot!" from a moving vehicle during an al fresco date night), it's been tricky not to project every possible equation of disaster onto what should be one of the happiest days of our lives.

Bookmarked in my brain is every horror story I've ever read on Facebook; the wedding photographer who didn't come through for my beautiful friends once she realised they were two brides; the close relative who just couldn't overcome their own prejudices, bailing on an acquaintance's wedding at the last minute; the well-meaning but reductive comment from a caterer that tarnished another friend's memory of her big day. 

However, for every moment of trepidation, there have been at least two of surprise relief.

While scouting our wedding venue at a small town pub just outside of Bowral, we met a local trans couple who went out of their way to introduce themselves. They'd been living in the area for years. Their presence and openness was enough to take the edge off my fear of rejection from the venue manager, who, after a brief moment of processing, barely batted an eye when he discovered that we were two men - even leaning into the camp aesthetic we'd envisioned.

Then there was the local Gold Coast printer who we'd hired to produce our wedding invitations. Not only did he congratulate us on our engagement - he totally waived the printing fee, telling us it was his wedding gift.

It might sound silly or small, but after all my anxiety around religious freedoms and possible discrimination, the enthusiastic correspondence with our caterers has been more nourishing than their food ever could be.

It might sound silly or small, but after all my anxiety around religious freedoms and possible discrimination, the enthusiastic correspondence with our caterers has been more nourishing than their food ever could be. They responded to my initial email with a "huge congratulations to the grooms" - a simple gesture that felt like a cool balm on the postal vote's lasting burn.

It has been, to put it simply, a truly healing experience.

My 80-something nanna, who was once a nun before becoming a farmer's wife outside of Wagga Wagga, surprised me in 2017 when she looked me in the eyes and informed me that "of course" she'd voted 'Yes' in the same-sex marriage postal survey.

The moment of relief I felt then, I now realise, was the first of many to come.

Samuel Leighton-Dore is a writer and visual artist based on the Gold Coast. He writes for SBS Pride and his new book How To Be A Big Strong Man is available in Australia now. You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamLeightonDore. 

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