Jamie Gardiner story

All you need is love, John Lennon sang in 1967, but he was wrong. At least in the chorus. Elsewhere, he was more on the money.

Nothing you can do that can’t be done. True.

Nothing you can do but you can learn to be you in time. True.

It’s eaaaaaaasy. Well, that may be a stretch. Optimism is well-meaning, but sometimes you need more. Such as pragmatism.

Think of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill. Or, more to the point, think of the people it was introduced for. In the LGBTI community, love is a start, but it’s not all you need. Not by a long shot. You also need patience, perseverance and a thick skin. And that isn’t easy.

Jamie Gardiner knows this all too well. The 70-year-old human rights activist is openly gay – has been for almost 50 years – but his life has been anything but easy. For one thing this lawyer was considered a criminal right up until March 1981, when sex between men was finally decriminalised.

Jamie has also had to stare down persecution, bigotry, ignorance, hostility and hatred. And all because of who he loved, who he was born to love.

Even today, with marriage equality enshrined in law, he says he can still feels anxious coming out to people he doesn’t know.

Growing up in a society where you had to hide yourself is damaging. I’m a very public gay man, but I still sometimes find that moment of anxiety when I come out to someone who doesn’t know. Those things never go away, he says.

Jamie says marriage equality is significant … (but) it’s not the main goal.

The main goal is total equality and, getting there has been – and will continue to be – a long and winding road.

The main goal is recognising LGBTI people as equal human beings, with the dignity and human rights that accrue to everyone. For many, many years – and still – that is not the case, Jamie says.

Ever the optimist AND pragmatist, Jamie says that day is coming, but it is at least a generation away.

We’ll be 100 per cent there when school students doing history express the same astonishment that we were discriminated against as they do about slavery, he says.

Everyone’s life story is unique, but in some ways Jamie’s is typical, textbook even, for a gay man growing up in 1960s Australia.

There was always the very real possibility of adverse consequences, he says.

The question of being an outlaw was an ever-present danger.