Ann and Robyn Norris-McInnes aren’t your typical speakers at a GLBT event.
Between them they spent over 50 years in heterosexual marriages, mothered seven children, and spent fifty years in leadership roles in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches.
A long journey for the now happily lesbian couple culminated this year when they marched in the Mardi Gras parade, and this week they will tell their story for the first time.
Both grew up in devout faith communities where no sex before marriage was the rule and the idea that they could be gay unthinkable.
Ann was raised in the Open Brethren, where her grandfather had been a well respected preacher, before joining the Christian Union and drifting into a Charismatic Baptist church where she and her husband took on leadership roles. Ann became a pastor.
“Had I not been raised in that kind of faith environment, I would probably have worked out that I was lesbian from the word go,” Ann said.
“I certainly knew I was different. I took a different stand in being somewhat of a feminist in Christian circles. But I didn’t really consider that I might have a non-heterosexual sexuality.”
But it was through pastoring that she met the love of her life.
“Fourteen years ago Robyn’s best friend came to lead our church in Chelmsford, Essex, and Robyn and her husband, who’d taken over as co-pastors of their churches in Australia, came to visit,” Ann said.
After that, they met on speaking trips abroad most years, and the friendship grew.
“Nine years ago was the summer we fell in love, although neither of us could vocalise that then. We had all the feelings of a couple in love but because of our views, and the churches we came from we couldn’t even think it might be a same sex attraction,” Ann said.
“We explained it away that we were soulmates — like David and Jonathan. Then four years ago Robyn’s marriage broke down and I had to think deeply about how I really felt and that she might meet somebody else and remarry.”
When Ann confessed her feelings to her husband he’d already guessed.
“He asked me if wanted to spend the rest of my life with the woman I loved.
“I really can’t fault him. For him it made total sense of our marriage. We’d been deeply committed to each other but we’d never attained that level of closeness that you expect from your marriage partner.”
Four years later, Robyn and Ann have reconciled their faith and sexuality through research and speaking to those who were already happily Christian and gay. They are now accepted parts of their children’s families.
“My children are very accepting of us — I think because of the length of our friendship,” Robyn said. “Ann has been a part of my life for the last 10 years at least, so she’s been a part of their lives also.”
The couple have since found accepting churches in Paddington and Darlinghurst.
“There’s value in people telling their stories because it helps others tell theirs,” Robyn said.
Robyn and Ann will speak at Freedom 2[b]e at ACON from 7.15pm on Friday, June 4. Interested people from the GLBTI community are welcome.
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