The time I asked Tracy Grimshaw to have coffee with me.

Ok. The other day I asked Tracy Grimshaw to have coffee with me.

I think anyone who knows me knows that I’m quite partial to Tracy. She’s the reason I watch commercial televison and my answer to every ‘Which celebrity would you….’ question.

You might remember she recently followed me on Twitter, which I can only imagine happened out of a mixture of pity and annoyance. I was pretty excited. Actually, I was more than excited. I did a dance, high-fived myself and called my closest friends. I’d actually become a blip on Tracy Grimshaw’s radar. Did life get any sweeter? Even when my mother questioned why she’d be following me, I soldiered on. Turns out everyone’s a critic.

After my excitement died down a little bit, I started to think. She’s my most favourite and bestest celebrity ever. What harm could come of asking her to have a coffee with me? That, right there, is probably where I went wrong. Why on earth would Tracy Grimshaw want to have a coffee with me? I was nervous but I wanted to take a shot. I wanted to see if the journalist I’d loved since I saw her hypnotise a yabby around ten years ago would want to hang out with me.

So I became courageous. Like ninja courageous. As I sat on my couch, I started to think seriously about it. I could, in actual fact, send her a direct message on Twitter and ask her casually to have a coffee with me the next time she was in Brisbane.

The simplicity of the plan was what appeared to make it so genius. Even my usual self-doubting inner dialogue became excited. ‘Oh wow, Tysoe! Yes! What a great idea! She’s a journalist. You’re doing a post graduate degree in journalism. She has great hair. You have great hair. You could, in actual fact, be sisters! She would love to have coffee with a complete stranger! Tysoe – you’re a genius and not at all weird for thinking this way’.

Spurred on by some friends (and ok I admit it – my unusually positive inner voice), I spent more time than I care to admit to composing a message. It was going to be the key. It needed to be both casual & professional but also include my signature charm, humour and sophistication. What a breeze. I set to work immediately.

Five days later I had an ok message but an almost silent inner voice. Shit. Regardless, it was ‘go‘ time. I couldn’t delay any longer. The night I sent the message, I spent about three hours building up the courage to do it. Unfortunately, I had to do it sober as drinking might have made me too confident and thus far too chatty and that could have been completely disasterous.

I almost hurled. My hands were shaking and I felt my body go completely cold. I called friends who talked me out of whatever doubts had come swirling up inside me the minute I sent the message. They were great. I felt better. Sort of. It’s been three months and she hasn’t responded. She probably won’t, which is ok.

The great part about all of this is that I asked Tracy Grimshaw to have a coffee with me. My most favourite celebrity in the whole wide world. I was shaking and almost hurled but I managed to do it. I feel brave and pretty cool and even though a little bit of sick still comes into my mouth every time I think about it, I ASKED TRACY GRIMSHAW TO HAVE A COFFEE WITH ME.

What did you do today?

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I feel annoyed about Thorpie

So here goes. I have a real problem with Thorpie’s ‘coming out’ parade. The worst part is – I don’t even really know why I feel this way. I’ve tried to be happy. I’ve tried to be cool and act like it doesn’t matter, but something still bothers me. 

I’ve sat and listened to people talk endlessly about how brave his interview was. I agree. How proud we are of him. I agree. How no one really cares that he’s gay and that we should all just leave him alone. I don’t agree. 

And then these feelings bubble up. This sort of uncomfortable, indigestion-inducing anger and I can’t quite put my finger on why it keeps happening. 

So, let’s get this straight (pardon me). As a lesbian, I’m thrilled we can add another member to the club. Tall, handsome Thorpie. One of the best swimmers the world has ever seen! What wonderful news!! Na na na na na and all that. 

Something still bothers me, though. 

Is it maybe his constant denial on the subject? A little bit. But don’t get me wrong, there is a huge part of me that can understand it too. Being forced out of a closet you didn’t even know existed. Expected to answer questions you didn’t know how to, all under the blinding glare of the world’s media at 15 would have been traumatic. I wouldn’t have told either. In fact, I would have just packed up my swimmers and walked home. 

However understandable his denial was at 15, the lie continued well into his adult life. All the way into his memoirs, where he went on the record as not, in fact being gay at all. So something that was actually no one’s business (which it really isn’t), suddenly became everyone’s business. I mean, why say anything at all? 

The money he received for his interview. Maybe that’s what bothers me the most. For being paid to be brave. To sit comfortably in a television studio while Michael Parkinson gently coaxed the information out of him. Maybe that’s what bothers me the most. Why though? 

I think it’s because millions of gay people worldwide do it every day. Without the fanfare, without the money and most times, without the incredibly welcoming reception Thorpie got. I certainly didn’t get $500 000 and a proverbial ‘hug’ from Australia. I too was dragged out before I was comfortable, met with a devastatingly critical reception that forced me back into the closet for 2 more years. 

So yes, Thorpie, good on you for being gay. I am happy and I am proud and I honestly don’t think it’s anyone else’s business. I hope you can finally live a peaceful life. 

For the rest of the gay men and women in Australia and across the world who are giving ‘coming out’ some serious consideration – best of luck!

Even though you don’t get to announce it to everyone at once on national television, I’m sure you’ll be great. Know that you’ll have plenty of time to perfect it too because you’ll no doubt need to do it every single day of your life.

Every time you change jobs, every time you get a new friend and sometimes, even to strangers on the street. You never know what kind of reception you’ll meet and you might be fearful for your life at one or all of those times.

Good luck my brave comrades! 

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On being a (gay) parent

You all know that being a parent is a series of interesting, fun and sometimes really weird adventures. Not only do you have to fend off advice from EVERYBODY on how to raise your child, you also need to keep them safe and clean and happy. It’s a brilliant job and certainly my favourite in my long work history. My daughter is nearly 2 and a half years old and more and more of her amazing and incredibly stubborn little personality is revealed every day. This is a privilege to witness. Watching the moment my little human suddenly realises that she can affect her environment in ways she never could before is an hilarious and often very challenging experience.

However, one of the most interesting journeys I’ve gone on as a parent has been my role as a ‘gay parent’. Yeah, you read that right. According to some people, being a gay parent is totally different from being a ‘straight’ parent. Add to the situation that I’m not my daughter’s birth mother and you have a really crazy combination of ‘real life’ that makes some people seemingly go out of their minds and say some really stupid things as a result.

My general rule is to treat ignorance with patience and compassion. I honestly think it’s the right way to go when ‘schooling’ people on issues that sometimes might not make sense to them. It’s one of the traits I really hope to pass on to my daughter in place of my habit of always being late. Obviously though, it all gets too much sometimes and I can’t help making a few sarcastic remarks. Christ, it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t sarcasm involved.

Don’t get me wrong. The majority of people are amazing. I would say that 99% of people wouldn’t even blink an eye when confronted with the awful truth that there are gays out there masquerading as parents. See, sarcasm just spills out of me like hot lava.

So here is a list of some of the questions/statements I’ve come across in the 2 and a half years I’ve been a parent.

1. On playing games with my daughter

‘You’re the fun parent – just like a dad’.

No.  I’m her mum. We do fun things but no matter how you look at it,  I’m ‘just like a mum’ BECAUSE I AM HER MUM.

2. On grandparents

‘Do your parents accept your daughter as their real grandchild?’.

My answer to this one varies largely on my mood. I am bursting to say ‘no they don’t and we have a separate Christmas and Easter because we’re all so ashamed’.

Usually now I answer it with this question:  if I was married to a man and we had adopted a child, would you ask me this question?

3. On names 

‘Does your daughter call you by your first name?’

Does yours?

4. On not being pregnant

‘Being pregnant is amazing. Oh god it’s the most amazing feeling ever. Feeling your babies kick inside of you makes you know why you’re alive. I hope you get to experience that one day’.

Yeah, me too. Lesbians are notoriously barren.

5. On expecting a child

‘When your ex partner was pregnant, did you feel like you were going to be a parent or did it feel like you were going to be more of an aunt?’

What?

6. On working fewer hours to take care of my daughter

‘Oh it’s so nice that you babysit on a Friday!’.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t take this one too well. I’ve also heard it’s a common one for a father to get as well. For the last time – it’s impossible to babysit your own children!

7. On having a gay child

‘Are you worried she’ll turn out gay?’

Clearly not as worried as you appear to be.

8. On my custody battle royale

‘Well I guess you could just walk away? I mean, she’s so young she’d never remember you’.

Perhaps one of the most disgusting things anyone has ever said to me. Ever

9. On other gay parents

‘I’m not judging but I feel like it’s wrong for gay men to have kids. It’s just weird. What do you think?’.

I’ll bet you a thousand dollars I don’t think that.

10. On deciding to have a child

‘Did part of your decision to have a child take into consideration she could be bullied really badly?’

Of course it did. We have been forced to deal with narrow-minded people like you every day and we certainly thought long and hard about having to expose an innocent child to your way of thinking. But right back at you –  did you consider those same things when you made a decision to have a child?

 

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June 17, 2014 · 4:52 am

once i was interesting.

I had a disheartening realisation the other day that didn’t shock me as much as it should have.

I have no interests.

I have no hobbies, no past times and nothing that burns inside me like a fire to keep life interesting. No books to read; instruments to play or team sports to get stressed over on the weekend. I like ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ as much as the next person but nothing that stands out.

I’m not an expert on anything. I can never honestly join in on restaurant/music/shoe talk without knowing that deep down I’m a fraud and sooner or later someone will discover the awful truth and banish me from the room. Let’s face it – no one is ever going to say ‘Oh, ask Sally. She’s an expert at finding bolognese sauce on special’.

I feel like I look more interesting than I actually am. I think people look at me and think that I like music and films and coffee and I could talk about them on command. ‘Oh hey, that Colombian blend is what you want. Drink it while you watch a foreign film. I can help you pick both. I look like an expert at that’.

I actually know this to be true. A guy in a lift once said to me that I looked like the kind of person who sees a lot of live music. If by ‘live music’ he meant Tina Turner, Carole King and Dolly Parton then yes, I guess I do see a lot of live music.

He didn’t mean that though. His son was playing in a band at The Zoo that night and he thought I looked like the kind of person who’d go along. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be asleep on the couch by 8pm with the tv remote wedged into my hand and my dinner down my shirt. So I lied and said it sounded like fun and I’d try to go along.

When I was younger, I had a lot of interests. Film stars. Bands. I was even a member of the Milli Vanilli fan club. I liked ghost stories and travel and reading crime novels. I saw two to three films a week and discussed them endlessly with my friends.

My life changed when I was 13 and I saw ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ for the first time. I was hooked. So much so that I borrowed Dian Fossey’s book from the library and studied it. I scoured encyclopaedias and magazines for any information I could find on gorillas.

After I’d devoured them, I’d copy everything down in a notebook. It seemed more professional that way.

I’d then read this notebook to anyone who’d listen. I’d study it at night, knowing that one day I’d need this information when I went to live in Rwanda with the gorillas. I knew it was exactly what I’d need to stop the poaching and save the gorillas. My plan was to start where Dian had left off. Complete her life’s work. BECOME DIAN FOSSEY.

If I’m being totally honest, it was actually a dream of mine for someone to come to the house and state arrogantly that ‘there is no difference between a lowland gorilla and a mountain gorilla’. I imagined this scenario more times than I’m comfortable admitting. I could see the scene unfolding before my eyes. They’d make the statement. I’d reach for the notebook. I’d tell them they were wrong! Dazzle them with all my gorilla facts. Then I’d yell in triumph ‘But there is! Don’t you see??? There is a difference between a lowland gorilla and a mountain gorilla AND I’VE JUST PROVED IT!’. What a nerd.

Needless to say, no one ever came over and argued that point with me. Nobody really engaged me in conversations about gorillas at all in hindsight. I think my passion oozed out of me like an illness and people just sensed danger and avoided me.

But back to having no interests. Being recently single with a two year old, I’ve asked around and it’s not just me. It turns out, there are a lot of people out there who suddenly and without notice, define themselves solely as parents. When your child comes along, you willingily give up everything in pursuit of their happiness. No more reading novels. These will be replaced with books about poo. No more eating in West End. That treat will be replaced with hour long stand-offs at your dinner table regarding pumpkin. That table you bought on Gumtree and restored with so much love you thought it would kill you. The one that is now covered in crayon and dry weetbix that lifts the varnish off when you try and remove it.

My childless friends have interests. I’ve done the research. I know they do. They go for weekends away. They go away for months on a whim because they’re ‘bored’ with Brisbane. They do sport. Coach teams. Play instruments. Have a trivia team. They have cheeky drinks on school nights and don’t care about hangovers.

They invite me to their interesting stuff. They tell me to bring my two year old along. Only I could imagine how that might go. I can’t even get her to wear pants without a tantrum at the moment. Picture her in your fancy restaurant.

So how do you find yourself again? How do you extract yourself from your child without feeling like a terrible parent? Is it ok to do that? Are there unspoken rules now you must simply follow, just because you’re a parent? How do you define yourself as a person and a mum? Is it possible?

I’m pretty sure it is. I guess the actual question is am I ready to extract myself? The world I share with my two year old is full of wonder, fun and a lot of dramatic scenes. And just so you know, books about poo are actually pretty great.

 

 

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my big gay divorce: outwit, outlast, outplay

2013 was meant to be the year I wrote that children’s book I’d thought about constantly since the birth of my daughter. It was also meant to be the year I got serious about study again. The year my partner and I bought and renovated a house – somewhere we could finally put pictures of our growing family up on the wall, without worrying about what the real estate would say. We were going to lose the baby weight, become rippling machines of muscle and go for runs and climb mountains and….ok, maybe I’m exaggerating now.

What 2013 actually turned into was the year I got divorced. And it shocked me. Like really, really shocked me. I knew we’d had issues but doesn’t everyone? I knew we were fighting more about money and housework, but doesn’t everyone after a baby? We were tired and, I mean…isn’t that what marriage is?

As I write this, I’m thinking about all those protests currently going on around the world in favor of gay marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am there in spirit. My sign is high above my head, my Facebook cover photo has been a rainbow flag and I share sarcastic gay propaganda whenever I can. Why shouldn’t we have the right to marry the person we love? Seriously.

But with gay marriage comes the inevitable gay divorce. The bitchy, fabulously epic gay divorce. Now I wasn’t legally married to my partner, but my break-(down)up was essentially a divorce. A traumatic battle of wills with the ‘Survivor’ catchphrase of ‘outwit, outplay and outlast’ swirling around constantly in my head. A television show my ex loved and seemed to be taking her cues from. So this is the story of my big, gay divorce. A definitive guide, if you like. Brace yourself; it’s uglier than my ex’s soul. Allegedly.

I’ll spare you most of the details about what happened, but I came home from work one day to find my partner and my 13 month old daughter gone. There was a note on the table explaining they had left because a fight we’d had the previous week was the ‘final straw’. She also said that she was going to get a domestic violence order. Whatever that meant.

I was shocked. My family had gone. My whole life had gone; disappearing into a puff of smoke, leaving only a ransacked house and a lot of weird items missing. Stuff like our decorative bowls, all of her jewelry, Christmas decorations, all mysteriously missing. There was self- raising flour spilt all over the kitchen, cotton buds thrown all over the bathroom floor, clothes and suitcases tossed about the place like she’d left in this massive hurry. Considering I’d been at work all day, it was a confronting and very confusing scene.

So I called my mum. Who else do you call at a time like that? She was shocked. I was shocked. She was shocked again. It was almost unthinkable. We thought my ex had just had a tantrum; that she was just sitting in a shopping centre somewhere, sulking, waiting for me to call or text. Which, mind you, I did. She just didn’t call or text me back.

A couple of hours later, armed with my mum, sister and two mates, I had two police officers in my lounge room, grilling me about what happened that morning. So I told them. I got up and went to work. Nothing out of the ordinary? I told the story once. I told it twice. I told it from the middle to the end and from the end to the beginning. After what was literally hours, one of them said to me that if it was any consolation, he believed me. He told me it sounded like a custody grab and that I should get a lawyer as soon as I could.

So I got a lawyer. A gay lawyer, actually. Friend of a friend. Already being a big fan of ‘The Good Wife’, I was pretty sure I knew how this was all going to go down. My lawyer would kick some ass, there’d be a few brooding looks across the courtroom, we’d hire a hot private investigator who would prove my ex was lying then we’d go for celebratory drinks in a bar close to the court. Done! In less than 45 minutes. This is not what happened at all.

The reality of gay divorce with a side of pending domestic violence order, is that the legal process is a long and expensive one ($440 an hour, billing in six minute increments) and certainly not for the faint-hearted. It’s full of public servants and processes that try to be ‘one size fits all’ but really only fit heterosexuals. Even if there is proof you’re innocent, the process, I’m told, just doesn’t work like it does on TV. There’s no high-fiving and embracing. No dramatic backstory to take your mind off the actual case. There has to be more proof, on top of the proof they already have. And then more proof. Just in case.

I developed this weird, stockholm syndrome-style attachment to my lawyer in the early days. I was so upset by everything and she was the only one who could give me any kind of reasonable answers that I wanted her to hold me, numerous times. I wanted to marry her, just so I knew that she’d be there every time something scary happened. I wanted to hold her hand in court, just so I felt less afraid. She’d send me emails asking for information and not only would I give her the information, I’d also give her a paragraph of musings about the end of my relationship, asking her why she thought it happened and how I’d missed the signs. She, understandably, had no answers.

The good news is, a year into the process, I’ve grown a lot. We’ve dealt with so much shit that I would happily consider her a friend once all this is over. I would definitely consider us to be a brilliant team, kicking ass where we can and just rolling our eyes when my ex does something (allegedly) crazy or mean. Sure, there is still legal stuff my lawyer says to me 12 months later that I have no idea about. It’s like she’s speaking in a foreign language. She’s so patient though. We go over stuff a million times and I’m still like ‘I just don’t understand why …’ and so she explains it. Again.

So here’s the interesting part of the whole story. The domestic violence order that my ex tried to file is the glue that holds this whole debacle together. To her, it meant everything. It was the proof to back up the awful Facebook post she’d written, hours after leaving me, telling all of our friends what a monster I was and how she and my daughter had no choice but to leave. It was the proof she could give to the women at the refuge she had taken my daughter to live in, even though there had been no domestic violence in our home, ever. It was the proof she could give her boss so she wouldn’t have to, well, work. It was the proof she could give Centrelink so she could get benefits for sitting at home, being the ever constant, vigilant victim. It was everything to her. And because so much rode on her having that order, she nearly destroyed me in the process. Nearly.

It’s not a comforting thing knowing that the person you loved a year ago, the mother of your child, is capable of the kind of deception you only see in the movies. As a front row spectator to the horror show, I now know first hand the kind of things people will say to try and prove to their friends that you’re a monster. The way my ex states it, I’m that guy you see in court, chained up behind glass, hurling death threats at his girlfriend and screaming stuff at the police like ‘I neva fuckin tuched ‘er’! I mean, really? I have honestly asked myself a thousand times if there is really anyone out there who could actually believe this about me?

Cue looking at yourself. A lot. My lawyer asked me early on in the proceedings if I had a temper. I told her I’d be a fool to deny it. Did I shout at the computer if it didn’t do what I asked it to do? Damn right. Did I shout obscenities from the safety of my car to other drivers I deemed too slow or too stupid to be on the road? You bet your ass I did. And I still do. But am I the kind of monster who would sit on my pregnant partner’s stomach and shove my fingers down her throat, just because she didn’t do what I wanted? No. I’m not. In fact, there’s a huge difference between someone who has private road rage and someone who beats their partner.

But I guess there’s actually a part of any separation, gay or straight, where you must look seriously at yourself. Who are you? What choices have you made and why have you made them? Can you take these choices confidently into the future with you? Will they stand the test of time? The only question I can answer at the moment is that my daughter is a constant blessing. If in the end, I’ve only gone through this situation so I can appreciate her more than I did before, it’s all been worth it. It will be an ongoing journey I suppose.

I’ll tell you what I do know though. You lose friends. People that meant so much to you one week before your life turned to shit are now no where to be found. I still haven’t figured out why people disappear in situations like this. There are a lot of philosophical sayings I’ve read that try to explain it. Sayings like ‘tough times will always reveal true friends’. It’s still hard to accept but just another bump in the road. At least that’s what they tell me.

The upside of losing friends is that there are people you love and who love you who stick around. They are there. They are asking and listening and telling you funny jokes. They are letting you talk incessantly about your situation and never judging. They take time out of their lives to come to court with you, have lunch with you, never doubting for a second that you’ve been wronged.

These people and these experiences almost make the whole ordeal worth going through. That glimpse of, I don’t know what you’d call it – human spirit maybe, is really humbling to be a part of. Not that I want to make this too ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ or to make anyone hurl in their mouths.

But like I’ve said, in the last 12 months, I’ve really grown up. I’ve learnt the hard way that some love doesn’t work out the way you thought it might. That situations like this happen so that maybe one day, a new love will work out the way you’ve always imagined it would. With kids, dogs, cats, vegetable gardens, house renovations, school drop offs, SUVs and a whole lot of organised chaos exploding around you like land-mines.

I think if anything, this situation might have taught me that no matter how fucked up your life appears today, there’s every chance it will get a whole lot worse tomorrow. But that’s life in the eye of a divorce, right? Outwit, outlast, outplay. Or go home.

Update: After 15 months of adjournments, the Queensland Police withdrew their application for a DVO. No temporary order was ever issued and the evidence supplied by me showed I was at work when the alleged abuse took place. I also now have primary custody of our daughter.

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