Marriage equality debate inspires ex-coal miner to help other gay men

Love is love: Andrew McGrath, pictured right, with his partner of four years, Dan Alipate, at their Kilaben Bay home. Picture: Marina Neil.
Love is love: Andrew McGrath, pictured right, with his partner of four years, Dan Alipate, at their Kilaben Bay home. Picture: Marina Neil.

ANDREW McGrath says he is not a stereotypical “flag waving” gay man.

The Kilaben Bay resident has never “swung from a float” at Mardi Gras, and up until recently, he did not “give a rats” about gay marriage.

But his relationship with his partner, Dan Alipate, is just like anyone else’s.

They make each other laugh. They bicker.

They just both happen to be blokes.

And since the marriage equality debate had become a “circus,” he wanted to share his story in the hope it might help others struggling with their sexuality throughout the campaign.

“Ours is a normal relationship, and I’ve been on both sides, so I know,” he said.

From the age of 16, Mr McGrath – now 49 – worked underground as a coal miner.

He was married, with two children, on a “straight” path.

As a young adult working in the coal industry, exploring his sexuality was not really an option.

“It was something I thought about in my younger years, but I didn’t do anything about it until much later on,” he said.

“It was a lot different, then. I wouldn’t have even thought about coming out, it wouldn’t have done me any good at all.

“It was always there, but I didn’t act on it until much later.”

After he separated from his wife, “it started to snowball.”

“I became more comfortable with the idea,” he said.

“Then I did meet someone special that I would be happy to put my hand up to spend the rest of my life with, so I have gone the full circle.

“We’re not freaks, we’re just normal people. We’re just like the couple next door, except we’re two guys.”

Mr McGrath said they were at the stage of their relationship where they would like to get married, not just “commit.”

“But you want to get married, legally, in your own country, on your own soil. “Then they bring out this stupid postal vote that has made it a circus act,” he said. “The money the Australian government has wasted on this is absolutely disgraceful.

“It’s promoting hatred. There are people writing ‘No’ in the sky.”

As well as giving people equal rights, Mr Alipate said gay marriage would do wonders for the economy.

“The government can only make money off gay weddings,” he said. “Do you know how much gays are going to spend on flowers?”

Mr McGrath has contributed to a book aimed at helping men who have come out as gay from long-term heterosexual relationships, and those still in relationships that may be questioning their sexuality. It will be published by Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre and the Gay And Married Men's Association support groups.

The book is a follow up to two previous publications aimed at supporting women who are married to gay men.

Mr McGrath knew of married men who kept their true sexuality “under wraps,” hidden from their wives and loved ones.

“It couldn’t do your mental health any good holding on to it,” he said.

“Looking back now, I’d say, ‘Address it’. Be who you are. It’s not fair on yourself to hide it, and it’s not fair on the people around you either.

“It’s not that bad. In fact, it can be great.”

To find out more about the books, call (02) 9560 3011 or 1800 787 887.