Michelle (right) and Rhonda Redfern have been together for more than 18 years. (Courtesy of Michelle and Rhonda Redfern)

It’s been a whole year since Australia’s same-sex marriage law came into effect.

Rhonda and Michelle Redfern tell Media that they didn’t “dream that it would happen in our lifetime.”

It was in the murky days of dial-up internet, more than 18 years ago, that Rhonda and Michelle, who now live in Melbourne, first met online.

After realising they had similar interests, the pair went on their first date for coffee.

“I met someone who was my intellectual equal and someone with whom I had many shared values, including respect for other humans,” Michelle says of meeting Rhonda.

The couple soon moved in together. But, for years, that was as far as they could “officially” take their relationship.

They couldn’t get married, or even enter a civil union, together.

“Did it really, really, really happen? Am I going to wake up and find it was a dream?”

—Rhonda Redfern

On December 7, 2017, the Australian government passed same-sex marriage, after 61.6 percent of citizens voted for it in a voluntary postal survey.

We never thought same-sex marriage would happen, say lesbian couple Michelle and Rhonda Redfern

It was a surreal moment for Michelle, 53,  and Rhonda, 54, who doubted that same-sex weddings would be legalised in their lifetime.

“[I was] in shock,” says Rhonda, who works in finance, of the moment same-sex marriage was legalised.

“Did it really, really, really happen? Am I going to wake up and find it was a dream?”

Michelle (left) and Rhonda Redfern. (Courtesy of Michelle and Rhonda Redfern)

Michelle, who founded professional women’s network Advancing Women and campaigns for gender diversity, says she “hadn’t dared to dream that it would happen in our lifetime.”

“I was also shocked and a bit saddened at how excluded we—our relationship—had actually been up until that point,” she said.

“I was joyous that finally we were considered equal.”

Michelle describes achieving equal marriage as feeling “like a burden I hadn’t realised we were carrying was lifted.”

“I felt lighter, validated, but still utterly in love with this person that has helped make me the best version of myself,” she adds.

“I was also shocked and a bit saddened at how excluded we—our relationship—had actually been up until that point.”

—Michelle Redfern

But, Michelle says, she was also angry—annoyed by the lengths lesbian and gay couples had to go to just so they could get legal recognition of their relationships.

“I felt very bloody irritated at all the effort and expense couples like us have had to go to in order to be protected legally,” she says.

Rhonda says the legalisation of same-sex marriage has made “little difference” to their relationship as they had already put in place various legal arrangements to protect them their assets.

“Our relationship is still loving, we still laugh every day,” she says.

Still, Rhonda adds that equal marriage has given her the opportunity to give Michelle an affectionate new nickname—”wifey.”

Michelle and Rhonda Redfern: We need more than same-sex marriage to get LGBT+ equality in Australia

Although the couple now have equal marriage, they are keen to highlight that the fight for LGBT+ equality in Australia still has a long way to go.

In particular, Michelle says that it is a scary time for trans and non-binary people in Australia.

In October, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a leaked government report, which said that faith schools should be able to discriminate against trans and non-binary people.

“There are still enormously large issues for trans and non-binary people in our society,” she says.

“From societal attitudes right through to the laws that still make anyone who is not considered ‘normal’ feel consistently ‘other.’”

She adds that the LGBT+ community must work as one cohesive unit to bring about effective change.

“I’m also concerned about the fragmentation and infighting within the LGBTIQ+ community,” she continues. “We must be stronger together.”

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