In honour of Valentine’s Day this Sunday 14 February, HerCanberra’s sustainability columnist Mia Swainson pens…
In our Summer Love series, Ginger Gorman explores different kinds of heart-warming Canberra relationships.
Back in 2004, Megan and Andy were a married couple. Andy was sitting out in the courtyard having a cigarette when Megan joined him and said: “I think I might be a lesbian.”
Although this was news was a bolt from the blue, Andy responded with characteristic love and generosity. He told his then-wife: “You’ve got to explore this.”
Megan, now 52, met Andy, now 67, when they were in their second year at the ANU School of Art, studying textiles. (Megan uses the pronouns they and their.)
That was a decade earlier, in 1994. At the time, Megan lived in a group house and had a busy social life—and that’s how they met Andy. Initially, he was living in Sydney but would regularly visit a group of Canberra mates who Megan would frequently pop around to visit.
“I seduced her,” Andy says, and they both laugh. “I thought it was a very stylish seduction,” he adds, tongue-in-cheek. But he then qualifies this by saying that at first, “She didn’t like me. She thought I was sleazy.”
“Normally I’m a loud-mouthed jackass,” Andy continues with a chuckle.
Megan cuts in, still laughing: “We’re remembering this differently!”
While they admit that their first impression of Andy wasn’t a good one, that quickly changed.
“I saw through his veil of behaviour that a lot of people don’t always see,” Megan explains. They point to Andy’s sometimes-brash manner and wacky sense of humour and say: “I’ve never met anyone like him.”
Then Megan circles back to how they started to find themself drawn to him: “What actually happened was that Andy is actually a bit of a master tarot reader. We were all into that kind of thing [back then].
“I did this tarot reading with Andy and there was quite a strong connection. He seemed to know me and know all the stuff I worked really hard at hiding from the world. I think he saw my potential.
“And after that, we started writing to each other—through hugely long, long letters. And then eventually he moved to Canberra.”
Andy says he knew Megan was “amazing” straight away and he saw “…rare intelligence shining in front of me in bucket loads. I was watching the birth of a supernova. Megan was brimming with life. She cares about the people in her life. She’s generous.”
“Ever since, she’s blossomed as an artist in multiple mediums. She’s a compulsive artist. She’s constantly creative. You can’t stop her,” he tells me with spades of both pride and admiration.
After seven years together, the couple got married in 2001. Megan’s parents had grown close to Andy too and saw him as part of the family; they were thrilled.
“We got married first thing in the morning, on the top of Mount Ainslie,” Megan says. Later in the day, the pair had a mediaeval dress-up reception party for their friends and family.
Over the next few years though, Megan slowly had a life-changing realisation. They had several crushes on women—one after the other.
“I was trying to work out my feelings and what was going. I still loved Andy,” Megan recalls.
The meaning of this succession of crushes really hit home in October 2004 when Megan went away from Andy to undertake an artist’s residency. It was the first time in years she’d had time to really decompress and ponder life away from their husband.
After talking things through with a supportive friend, Megan came home and told Andy.
When I ask how Andy could be so generous about losing the marriage, he explains: “A big chunk of our relationship was the joy of being mental equals….We talked about a lot of issues and Megan improved my world view—just by her honesty and clear thinking.
“Sharing that moment in her life when she came out was an honour and a privilege. It was Megan pushing to be true to herself, and it just made me love her more.”
He reflects that over the years, Megan has changed him for better. Peeling back the layers of this Andy reveals that when he met Megan, he was a recovering heroin addict of 20 years. Like so many people who turn to drugs, Andy has a history of childhood trauma.
“She’s my very best friend. She was the only person I wanted to come with me when I gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2013. As a former child victim, I was a blubbering mess and she was there and staunch through the whole process,” he says.
The year after coming out, Megan moved away from Andy and he stayed at their supportive parents’ house. While I’m surprised at this turn of events, Megan laughs and says: “He hangs out with my parents often still and is still part of the family.”
To put it in more context, they add: “I mean, it was rough. I still loved Andy, but not in the same way. And it was like a slow tearing. That’s the best way I can describe it. And then followed by a healing. I know for me, I valued Andy’s friendship too much to lose it.”
In the middle of 2006, Megan met their now-partner Jive. Trying to recall the sequence of events, Megan says: “Andy and I did get divorced somewhere in there.”
For many people, divorce comes with bitterness and resentment. But not for Andy and Megan. Their relationship is as deep and profound as it always was—but it just takes a different shape.
“In 2008 me, Jive and Andy shared a house for about two years,” Megan says by way of explaining how their relationship has evolved. “Now several years after our divorce, he’s really one of my besties. Every year on our ‘wedding anniversary’ I send him a text saying, ‘Happy not anniversary.’”
Photography: Malcolm Smith