Meet the winners of the Star Observer’s Making History competition, Trent Kandler and Paul McCarthy, who’ll be getting married in Wellington in August. Trent and Paul have been together for 11 years, and live in Newcastle on the NSW central coast. Trent is a primary school teacher, while Paul is a veterinarian. We sat down with the lucky couple in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens.
First off, congratulations! You guys must be over the moon.
Paul: Absolutely! It was only on the spur of the moment that we entered the competition and we did it quite late, so it’s just come out of nowhere. We’ve been talking about getting married for years, but we’d sort of resigned ourselves to it not happening any time soon because of the political situation, but then this came along. It’s just crazy.
The story of how you met isn’t exactly your classic fairytale romance, is it?
Paul: I moved from London to Newcastle, and some friends tried to match me up by throwing lots of dinner parties and inviting single gay men. That really wasn’t working, but they said “we have one last phone number to give you” and gave me Trent’s number. I rang him one night, completely cold-calling, and said “Hi, my name’s Paul, a friend told me to get in touch. To be honest I’m looking for a relationship – I want the house and the picket fence and the family and if that sounds alright, I’d like to meet you”.
Trent: That’s when I told him I was currently seeing someone. I’d just started dating this guy and it wasn’t going very well, but it felt kind of disloyal to say yes before breaking it off. I didn’t really want to say “I’m not available right now but if you wait on a little bit I’ll make some room for you”.
Paul: After I hung up I said “that’s it! I’m done with Newcastle, I’ve just made the most embarrassing call of my life and got shut down, I’m off to Sydney”. About a week later Trent took me to see ‘Van Wilder: Party Liaison’ to cheer me up. A few weeks after that we met again online, on Gay.com, and arranged to meet. We had Thai takeaway and watched the Rocky Horror Show on TV. That was our first date.
How long has marriage been on the cards?
Paul: A long time. We met eleven years ago, and I’m a bit of a softie. I think marriage is just what people do – it’s the pinnacle of a relationship. We went to Canada a few years ago and thought about getting married there, but we wanted our family there. Family’s very important to both of us.
Trent: My mum’s been married and divorced three times, so I was a little sceptical about marriage because I had to deal with separation as a teenager. When my sister got married and had kids that turned it around for me a bit, though. It’s just such a powerful way of saying how much you care for someone, in a way that’s public and recognised by the government of the day and whoever else. It holds you to it, to your commitment to each other. My dad is actually gay – he met his partner when I was four and they’re still together. They have a lasting relationship and I don’t think they want to get married, but I do. I do need to do that, to show how much this relationship matters.
You’ve been in Newcastle your entire relationship. Is it a supportive environment?
Paul: It depends. It’s definitely gotten better over the last eleven years, but it’s a very large country town. We don’t hide our sexuality, but we don’t promote it either. We’ve talked about having children together, but I would be nervous as a gay dad with a child in Newcastle. We go to gay bars and we’re in the scene I suppose, but you could walk up Beaumont Street having left the club and cop flack for it. We wouldn’t hold hands in Newcastle.
Trent: We’re Jets supporters and we feel quite okay going to the soccer and yelling at the team, but we probably wouldn’t go to a Knights game. The feel is different.
Have you been to New Zealand before?
Paul: We have! We had our first holiday overseas together there. This terrible thing happened, we’d been together about six months and I had frequent flyer points that were going to expire, so I flew business and Trent flew economy.
Trent: So wrong.
Paul: It was a short flight and I brought you ice cream. We flew into Christchurch, hired a car and drove around the South Island for two weeks. We tried to camp but after four days in the rain we did hotels after that. But it was wonderful – we did some amazing hiking along the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track, along the coast, and we had just a magic time. It’s going to be really nice to kind of go back to where it almost first began.
Paul, you’re a vet and Trent’s a primary school teacher in a public school – it’s a very wholesome pairing.
Paul: Our friends laugh at us because we’re the domestic suburban couple – when we bought a house it had a picket fence, and we have two dogs and a cat.
Trent: I’m fairly sure most people I work with are aware of it. Everyone is always really lovely, the staff are fantastic.
You’re going to be the first Australian same-sex couple to get married in New Zealand. It must be a little daunting.
Trent: Yep! We entered but I really didn’t think we would win. Other people win these things. It scared me a little bit because I don’t make a big deal out of my sexuality, but I like the idea that if two people choose to do this publicly it may have some impact.
New Zealand’s a very small country and it’s no different to here. I feel embarrassed that we’re still holding out. I would love to get married in our own backyard. Hopefully we’ll get to have two weddings.