Being childless wasn’t my choice, but people assume it was | ABC Everyday


Being childless wasn’t my choice, but people assume it was

ABC Everyday / By Michael Barnett, as told to Kellie Scott

Portrait of Michael Barnett. He wears glasses and wears a floral shirt.
Michael Barnett says the reason he’s not a parent is “multi-fold”.(Supplied)

Growing up, Michael Barnett didn’t expect to have children.

“I’d never thought about the possibility of being in a relationship with a woman, or a man either, as I was born in 1969 and people didn’t talk about same-sex couples,” the 54-year-old from Naarm/Melbourne says.

“So my world view was parenting wasn’t likely to be an option.”

After coming out at 26, his perspective began to shift. And while Michael never felt a “burning desire” to be a dad, he was open to it.

But that openness was shut down, time and time again, as Michael shares with us as part of our series of people who are childless not by choice.

These are his words.

In hindsight, it could have happened

After coming out I found myself in my first relationship which lasted over seven years.

It was a wonderful relationship in many ways, but also complex, and for that reason parenting would never have worked.

A lesbian couple I’m still friends with now had asked me to be a sperm donor, which I considered.

But it didn’t go anywhere as they said they wanted to take the child overseas, and I didn’t want to be part of a situation where I wasn’t actively involved.

They ended up becoming parents and living locally, so in hindsight it could have happened.

I left the relationship I was in and entered into a new one, but that was not conducive to parenting either.

So having kids had come up in my thoughts, but it wasn’t something I could take that seriously.

Michael Barnett stands with his partner Gregory. They both wear dark suits, blue shirts and glasses.
Michael (right) met his husband Gregory in 2008.(Supplied: Nico Photography)

Unexpected news

The reason why I’m not a parent is multi-fold.

In the year 2000 I participated in research studying male contraceptive. As part of that I had to provide a sperm sample, and I was told my fertility wasn’t great.

That was like taking a sledgehammer to me.

I never really thought my fertility was important to me, yet felt completely emasculated when I was told that.

It was quite a shock, and it took me some time to come to terms with.

Another time I approached an IVF clinic to be a sperm donor, but they told me similarly: my sperm quality was low.

Another closed door

In 2008 I met my current partner, who I am happily married to.

But at the time of meeting, he had two teenage kids and when we talked about the possibility of starting a family together, he said he didn’t want to go down that path again.

Due to certain circumstances around his parenting role, I completely respected that.

But at the same time, it closed another door for me.

And none of it by choice. There was no-one to blame, not even myself.

Every step of the way there has been a scenario where I couldn’t be a parent, and increasingly over the years, as I’ve seen my brother and close friends have children, I’ve found I would have liked that.

My childlessness is not validated

I’m not sad, I’m not angry. In some ways I’m not even disappointed.

I just feel left out.

At times I’ve wondered if I would have had a different relationship with my parents if I’d brought grandchildren into their lives, much in the way my brother did.

What I feel most in all of this is I go through life without anyone acknowledging I didn’t get to be a parent.

Maybe they don’t think gay men want to become parents. Many do.

There is no validation.

I’ve come to terms with not having children, but haven’t come to terms with people not acknowledging that.

Family and Relationships, Parenting, Fertility and Infertility

Calling Carina Garland MP to address blood donation injustice

From: Michael Barnett OAM <⬛️⬛️⬛️@⬛️⬛️⬛️>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2023 at 18:46
Subject: Addressing blood donation injustice
To: Dr Carina Garland <>
Cc: Gregory Storer <⬛️⬛️⬛️@⬛️⬛️⬛️>

Dear Carina,

We refer to your call in Parliament yesterday for residents of Chisholm to donate blood.

My husband and I live in Chisholm.  We dearly want to be able to donate blood but we are prohibited from doing so because donation rules require we abstain from sex with each other for a period of three months prior to donating blood.  Neither Gregory nor I have HIV.  We take personal responsibility for our health and safety and do not expose ourselves to risky sexual situations.  We are not a risk to the blood supply.

We note the Labor National Conference resolved to support the end of blanket blood donation bans from some within the LGBTI community as well as sex workers. We also note an end to the gay blood ban and the adoption of individual risk assessment has been publicly supported by the Queensland Health minister and Victorian state Liberal member, Matt Bach.

We urge you to advocate for reform to blood donation bans so that exclusion is determined by individual risk rather than the gender of your sexual partners.  Doing so will increase the supply of much needed safe blood.

Michael Barnett & Gregory Storer
⬛️⬛️⬛️ Address redacted ⬛️⬛️⬛️   

Dr GARLAND (Chisholm) (16:18): I recently donated blood at the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Donor Centre in Mount Waverley. I thank the wonderful team at the Mount Waverley Donor Centre for inviting me to donate, and for their kindness and dedication to their very important work.

One in three Australians will need blood products in their lifetime, and that means we need a new blood donor every four minutes. One blood donation can save up to three lives. Blood or plasma donations are needed for things like cancer treatment, autoimmune condition, support after traumatic events, surgeries, and neonatal procedures. We have around 4,200 active blood donors in the Chisholm electorate, but thousands more people in our electorate are eligible to donate. People in Chisholm have saved up to 36,108 lives in the past 12 months alone by donating blood. I urge people in my community to become a regular blood donor if they are able to, and to add to this number of lives saved. If you can, please consider giving the gift of life, and donate blood.



“Celebrating our Marvellous Alumni” – Balwyn High School

Dear BHS Alumni

Our determination to shine a spotlight on our marvellous alumni throughout 2023 has resulted in your amazing stories that we have shared with the BHS and wider communities.  Thank you for allowing us to do so and thank you for inspiring our students with your careers and achievements.

As a way of recording our stories we have created a Semester One poster which we are sharing to our social media.

It has come up a treat and I wanted you to have a copy.

Thank you again.

Deborah Harman
Balwyn High School

“No blacks.” “No Jews.” “No women.” “No trans women.”

Recently I was told by a cisgender woman I was a misogynist, and refused to accept I was a feminist simply because I was standing up for the rights of trans women and for them to be treated equally amongst all other women.

This cisgender woman did not accept trans women as women. I doubt she even accepted them as human.

There have been numerous times in history when some in society have excluded people on the basis of their skin colour, their gender, or their religious or cultural identity, and gone on to treat them as inferior or less worthy.

Every time those oppressing a minority have done so it’s because they’re scared of losing their privilege and sense of entitlement.

Those cisgender women who feel so entitled that they cannot find it within themselves to accept trans women as women are no different to those who said “No blacks”, “No women” or “No Jews”.

The Club of Women is not so full that there isn’t room in it for trans women to find a safe space.

Any cisgender woman who wants to exclude and vilify trans women ought take a look at history and think about what exactly it is they’re fighting for, because it’s usually just privilege and a sense of entitlement.

Never surrender. Never give up the fight.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Balwyn High School’s celebration of IDAHOBIT 2023 recognises Class of ’86 graduate Michael Barnett

Thirty-seven years ago I graduated from Balwyn High School’s Year 12 class of 1986. I left the school with mixed memories.

On the one hand I came away with a fine appreciation for maths and science, made a lifelong friend, and passed my HSC with decent results that got me into college.

On the other hand I had been the victim of homophobic bullying and torment throughout my time there, and suffered greatly as a result of it, and of my fear of being gay. The school had no support for gay students, at least that I was aware of. It was a topic that simply wasn’t spoken about.

I am thrilled beyond belief to find that in 2023 my alma mater not only supports gay students but is committed to providing a safe, nourishing and inclusive space for all LGBTQI+ students.

When invited to submit a contribution for their Lion newsletter on the occasion of receiving my Order of Australia, I had no idea it would be intentionally included to time with IDAHOBIT Day on May 17.

Students at Balwyn High are most fortunate to have a school environment that values diversity, particularly under the leadership of Principal Deborah Harman.

Thank you Balwyn High School.

Our Alumni Spotlights continue – Malcolm Speed AO and Michael Barnett OAM

This week we feature international sporting administrator, Malcolm Speed, who was inducted into the Sport Hall of Achievement in 2012, and Michael Barnett, who was recently awarded an OAM in the New Year’s Honours List. The spotlight on Michael deliberately coincides with this week’s celebrations for IDAHOBIT Day that we marked on Wednesday.

Both Malcolm and Michael are marvellous ambassadors for our school community, and we congratulate them for the impact they have made in their careers. I hope you enjoy reading their stories.

Deborah Harman | Principal

(The Lion – Edition 7 – May 18 2023)

(See pages 2, 6 and 18-19 in this edition of The Lion)



Dave Pellowe libels Michael Barnett

In his opinion piece Calm down, and cut out the slander and gossip, Dave Pellowe libels me by writing:

ACL board members are not safe from the public because of the very real threat they present to the evil in our public square. Five years ago it was reported that one director of ACL’s sister organisation LMI had been successfully persecuted by a fundamentalist gay activist and lost his career as a managing partner at IBM for nothing more than association with the Christian lobbyist.

Good Sauce; February 25 2023

I’m not sure how this fundamentalist Christian adherent justifies calling me “fundamentalist”. I’ll gladly accept “ratbag”, “principled”, or “irritating”, but “fundamentalist”? Srsly?

That aside, I dealt with this sorry saga most recently in 2018:

Not wanting to let facts get in the way of a good story, Dave Pellowe not only misrepresents and distorts his Eternity News source, but he goes one step further and fabricates a narrative claiming that not only did IBM terminate Mark Allaby’s employment, but that they did it on the back on my activism.

A casual glance at Mark Allaby’s LinkedIn profile shows continuous employment at IBM as a Managing Partner since 2016:

A deeper dive into the IBM website reveals the August 30 2019 article “Blockchain: shifting the power of collaboration from hype to reality” credited to “Mark Allaby, Managing Partner, Financial Services Sector, IBM Australia & New Zealand“.

How then could my 2017 activism have cost Mark Allaby his job at IBM as a managing partner when he was still working there in that capacity in 2019?

It says a lot about Dave Pellowe and his apparent lack of integrity when he not only misrepresents a Christian media source on his side of the political outhouse, but goes on to claim a person lost their job when they didn’t actually lose it.

So much for the Good Sauce‘s hyped-up claim “You want a source of political/cultural analysis & opinions you can trust”.

More like Sloppy Drivel than Good Sauce.

Order of Australia – media coverage

NameMr Michael Nathan BARNETT
AwardMedal of the Order of Australia
Date Granted26th of January, 2023
CitationFor service to the LGBTQI community.

January 25 2023

January 26 2023

February 8 2023

March 13 2023

March 25 2023

Macca and Dave are joined live in the studio by Michael Barnett, co-convenor of the Victoria-based LGBTIQ+ Jewish advocacy group Aleph Melbourne, as they discuss his recent Order of Australia Medal.