The Grooms' Story
Rejected by his religious parents on television’s Bride And Prejudice, Christopher Jewell tells Matthew Galea why he’s proud that his story has started a national conversation.
What made you and your partner, Grant decide to go on the show?
Christopher: Our story isn’t unique, by any means, and we’d seen some other reality shows that had given people a crazy idea of same-sex marriage and kind of trivialised it. We thought that if our story was told right then it might help people who are going through the same thing.
How has the experience been for you?
We filmed it over two-and-a-half months so we had cameras in tow at some fairly personal moments. It was a little bit intrusive. If you asked me if I’d do it again I would seriously think twice because it’s all-consuming.
Looking back at the moment your parents told you they wanted nothing to do with your wedding, would you have said or done anything differently?
That’s a good question. No, I stand by it. A lot of people have said, “I can’t believe you didn’t get angry!” I could’ve gone into some ideological argument about the merits of same-sex marriage and equality, but when you’re trying to deal with someone who has such strong religious beliefs, presenting an argument that is logical isn’t going to work. You can’t compete with someone’s eternal salvation. It’s just a matter of slowly chipping away at it.
You knew your parents would have a negative reaction to your wedding. Were you hoping to change their minds by going on the show?
We hadn’t had an open conversation about me being gay, literally, since I came out so it was very much a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. My parents have spent time with my previous partners. They’ve gone to dinner with them, they’ve even let previous partners stay at our house – even though we had to stay in different rooms. There was a 50/50 chance they’d be accepting because, in some instances, mum has bent her beliefs a little bit for other family members. I was hoping that would be the case for me.
In the past they’d let boyfriends stay over; what changed this time?
In the past they were considered a friend; they weren’t considered a partner. This solidified the fact that this is not a phase. I am definitely gay and I am choosing a man to be my life partner and my husband. There was no denying what was going on.
Since the show, have people contacted you?
I expected the responses to be kind of divisive but the messages of support have been overwhelming. The conversation it has started nationally is something that we’d hoped. I hope that my story doesn’t politicise marriage equality, but gives it a face and that people can accept that our relationships are just as valid as anyone else’s. In political debates, you don’t necessarily have the faces of a same-sex couple in front of their eyes. One of the most amazing experiences we had was when Grant and I were out and were approached by a young father who said that he watched the show and it totally made him rethink how he’d react if his daughter told him she was gay. If it’s changing minds like that, it’s a good thing. We’ve had multiple people, particularly within the LGBTQ community, saying thank you for putting your faces on it and starting the conversation.
What do you hope that people get from seeing what’s happened to you?
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there’s going to be people around who support and love you conditionally. Focus your energy on those relationships. Surround yourself with those people and you’ll have support.
You took the DNA Make Me Hot Challenge last year and you achieved some amazing results; was it fun?
It was really really hard! [Laughs] It involved serious training and diet for three months. I had some good results but I didn’t keep them up as good as I should have, particularly because we were filming so much that the diet and the gym went by the wayside. I’m glad that I’ve got back into training since November, getting ready for Mardi Gras.
Did Grant appreciate how hot you became after the challenge?
He loves me for what’s on the inside – that’s what he’ll tell anyone but, probably, yes. [Laughs]. The great thing about the challenge was that I may not have kept it up over the past few months but I now know exactly what I’ve got to do to get back there, so that’s what we’re in the process of doing now.