Jayson Brunsdon began his career in fashion in Australia as a fashion illustrator working for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Follow Me and Dolly magazines in the 1980s. Following this Brunsdon worked as fashion editor and stylist in London, Paris, and New York for Vogue and Follow Me magazines, as well as styling celebrities and stars including Michael Hutchence, INXS and Prince.
It was then in the late 90s that the acclaimed fashion designer met his partner, Aaron Elias – who at the time was the licensee at Stonewall Hotel. Since then, the pair have been inseparable, sharing not only their personal lives but professional lives as well, working together on a number of successful business ventures in this time.
“We’ve been together coming up to 23 years. We met at Stonewall on what was Charlotte Dawson’s hens night when she was marrying Scott Miller. Jayson was invited, and I was obviously there. We met then and we have been together ever since,” Elias told Star Observer when recalling couple’s meeting.
Despite the couple’s long list of professional achievements, it is the couple’s child, five-year-old Roman (who is Brunsdon’s biological son) who they are most proud of.
“Since day one we wanted a child, but it took about 15 years for us to start looking into it and talking about it a bit more seriously. There were not many options in those days. We were lucky that we met a couple of people that really helped us out,” Elias added.
It was these friends, a couple who lived in Melbourne with three children of their own, who put the pair in touch with Surrogacy Australia – an organisation with a mission to enhance the understanding of, and access to, best practice surrogacy arrangements through education, support and advocacy.
“They were fantastic and extremely supportive,” Elias explained. “They worked with us through the options we had. We originally started the process in India but what happened is that towards the end, when we were about to start the process, India outlawed surrogacy for same sex couples. So we basically had to start all over again.”
“Surrogacy Australia put us in contact with an agent in Thailand and we went from there,” Brunsdon continued. “We went to Thailand with Aaron’s, cousin who is Roman’s biological mother. We went through the whole process, but we were lucky that it worked the first time. We then went back in December when Roman was born.”
The couple were indeed lucky. In 2014 about six months into the pregnancy, Thailand was overtaken by the military government following a political coup, with the first thing outlawed being surrogacy. For a time, the couple were told there was no way they could bring Roman home without being incriminated. Thankfully due to the involvement of the Australian government, existing cases were allowed to continue, despite this Elias said the couple’s journey to parenthood “wasn’t an easy ride.”
“Life is completely different now,” said Brunsdon. “The first year is just one of shock, because you are not getting much sleep, and babies don’t do much but eat and poo. So really you are just changing their nappies and feeding them. It’s just different phases, you learn and grow from them all the time, it’s fascinating to watch him grown up. There is such a pure joy in being a parent.
“One day he is like a four-year-old, the next day he starts talking like a teenager and the next day you realise he is growing up really fast.”
Like many others within our community, the pair sadly remember the damaging effects of the marriage plebiscite in 2017.
“We were quite traumatised by the marriage equality debate because we just felt that it was about equal rights more than anything. That was a difficult time for us, but because we live where we are and because Roman goes to Darlinghurst Public School there are other same sex couples with children who we are friends with, so it’s just normal to Roman and it seems quite normal to us now,” explained Brunsdon.
Pausing for a brief moment, Brunsdon added, “As gay parents and as gay men, you know what discrimination feels like, you know what’s going on. But since then we have made the decision that we are done with those kinds of people, and we just don’t allow them into our lives anymore.
Of course, as parents of a young child, 2020 has been filled with its fair share of challenges. Having started off the year working together re-vamping an iconic children’s wear brand, things took a turn for the worst in March, as Brunsdon told us.
“It’s been a rollercoaster this year. We both got the sack on the same day following the financial crash, so we thought what are we going to do now? So, we took Roman out of school because we knew we were going into lockdown, and we were not working. A week later the lockdown came in anyway, so we had a five-year-old boy at home in an apartment for 70 days, he’d only just started school and was loving it and he missed his friends and his teachers so much.
“We came out of that, and launched our own website, and since then have been offered a contract to start another women’s wear line and some homewares with another company. Other than that, we have been working on our own homewares line Jayson Brunsdon Home which revolves around my unique illustrations to create a sense of light-hearted glamour.”
Concluding our interview, the pair offered some practical advice for other same sex couples that are looking to adopt.
“My advice to any other same sex parents is to make friends with other people who are parents, so that you don’t feel alone. It’s a good thing to have that extra support from friends and family.”