Changes to The Marriage Act—after a plebiscite Gabby describes as ‘a waste of money’—allowed Lara and Gabby Speirs to legalise the commitment ceremony they’d held two years earlier.
However, that they are together at all is remarkable!
Lara and I met in a Year 11 Health and Human Development class at Bendigo Senior Secondary College. It was soon obvious that everyone in that class knew Lara was gay. They seemed cool about this, and her opinion on LGBT+ concerns was asked for and taken seriously.
During first semester our teacher asked Lara and I to work together on a project. I said, in front of the whole class, ‘I’d prefer to work my own’. You could say we had a really bad start.
What Lara didn’t know was how shy I was or that I was actually in awe of her. She spoke her mind about most topics—and she had an opinion about everything. She seemed fearless. The thought of everyone looking at me if I said something in class was unbearable, so I tended not to engage. It never occurred to me at the time that Lara thought I was a snob!
I was also oblivious about two other things. First, that Lara was confused about why this ‘awful’ and ‘rude’ girl kept sitting near or next to her in class. And second, I suspect I was already attracted to her but not fully conscious of it.
It was not until August that I tried to create a positive interaction. I sent Lara a text asking, ‘Hey, What’s up?’ I got no reply because Lara missed the text.
Then, one cold winter’s day, Lara and I ended up at the same bus stop. She had just dyed her hair this intense red colour and I said, ‘I like your hair’. I couldn’t fathom why she looked so confused and shocked by my comment. It’s probably an understatement to say our relationship moved very slowly.
Throughout my adolescence I had experienced, but not really understood, intense feelings for my female friends. Year 11 began a big time of thinking about my sexuality and what I wanted. There was no-one else like me who was ‘out’ and I didn’t identify with the classic ‘dyke’ stereotype.
In December I sent Lara another message. This time she responded and we realised that we had the same program planned for Year 12. We began ‘hanging out’ in Bendigo’s beautiful Rosalind Park during recess, then catching up on weekends.
We were a couple of weeks into Year 12 when I ‘officially’ asked Lara to be my girlfriend—on Valentine’s Day 2012.
It probably took about a year for my friends and family to find out I was in a relationship with Lara. I told my Dad as I jumped out of the car when he dropped me off at my part-time job one morning at 5am. Despite my anxiety, overall I sensed a weight coming off my shoulders.
From then on, we talked about marrying and having children. We both wanted to be involved in education or working with young people. After finishing school we moved in together. I got into uni but took a gap year and Lara went straight into Early Childhood studies.
In August 2014, Lara gave me a letter. She had written down how she felt and all that we had talked about doing with our lives—and she asked me to marry her.
In 2016 we had a commitment ceremony on Valentine’s Day—both in white and including the exchange of rings. But because we couldn’t legally ‘marry’ we had to register as a de facto couple and Lara had to change her surname by expensive processes. But we both felt ‘married’ after that first ceremony.
Some people asked us if we were ‘officially’ married once the Marriage Act was changed. Those comments remind me that we still have a way to go as a whole society.
Although I was already ‘out’ when I started at Bendigo Senior, I was still not completely sure about my sexuality.
In my Health and Human Development subject there was this girl who always seemed to end up sitting near me—or even next to me. I thought she was a real bitch. She literally never spoke to me. I was also unimpressed that she and her friends didn’t engage with class discussions.
One day, during first semester, our teacher wanted Gabby and I to work together on a project and she totally refused—in front of the whole class! It was humiliating and confirmed that she really disliked me, or perhaps was homophobic—which is funny to think of now.
But she kept sitting near me. Then, around the middle of the year, she complimented me at the bus stop.
Unsurprisingly, for the first half of that year, I don’t think I was attracted to Gabby at all. When she sent me another text towards the end of the year I opened it assuming it would be about school. I responded and, as they say, the rest is history.
By the time Gabby asked me to go out with her, in the February 2012, we had been hanging out together for about two months and I knew she was no snob.
We are different in almost every possible way: our backgrounds, families, interests. She likes sport and maths. I like debating, performing arts and public speaking. She is really calm and I get emotional easily.
Most of our family and friends were very happy when we announced our engagement, and are supporters of marriage equality. But we’ve had some negative reactions… ‘It’s not a real marriage’ and ‘You don’t look lesbian’. Sometimes in clubs when we tell guys we are a couple they think we’re just trying to piss them off.
During the lead-up to the plebiscite, it was hard not to feel personally attacked by the anti-marriage-equality ads. Clearly, the fact that LGBT+ people still need to ‘come out’ indicates there’s not an equal environment.
Gabby and I think the Safe Schools program is extremely important for all students. We didn’t have anything like it when we were at school to normalise and support youth who are LGBT+ or from LGBT+ families.
I’ve moved so far from my initial impressions of Gabby. She’ll do anything for her family, friends or colleagues and she is the hardest working person I know. I think I’ve matured into a much more resilient and confident person because of her influence. I wouldn’t change a thing.