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Etienne and Geoffrey’s civil union


By Jacqui Stanford
9th September 2012

“My beautiful man” is how Etienne describes his partner Geoffrey, who he joined with this week in an equally beautiful hospital bedside civil union in Wellington.

Etienne is a 30-year-old French backpacker who arrived in New Zealand last June. Geoffrey is 46 and known to many as twin set and pearls style drag alter-ego “Nana”.
The pair’s love story began the modern way: online. In just 15 days it will be one year since they met each other in person at the top of Wellington’s iconic cable car.

“We had good feelings straight away,” Etienne recalls. “I spent a few weeks with him and then I carried on my trip. Then in November he was diagnosed. I was passing through Wellington and he told me the
news.” Geoffrey has grade B Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He has had six rounds of chemotherapy.

Etienne came back to stay with him in January and February, then went to Motueka for apple picking work, but travelled back to the capital as many weekends as he could to see his partner. Nana with the Topp Twins!

“He was in remission in April and he got back to work at the end of April as well. I finished my season and came back to Wellington,” the Frenchman says. Etienne and Geoffrey’s civil union “At the beginning of May we were living together in a beautiful house with a flatmate. And the beginning of July, the cancer is back.”

More chemotherapy ensued, but last Thursday his doctor broke the heartshattering news “there is nothing to do any more, the cancer is too aggressive. The chemo doesn’t work. Nothing has worked actually,” Etienne sadly repeats. “So last Thursday they told us it’s hopeless and there’s maybe a few weeks or maybe a few months left.”


That news led to the couple making the decision on Monday to have a civil union. “I found my true love,” Etienne says tearfully. “We wanted to get married anyway,” he adds. “It was his wish,” adding it was his
own wish too. The couple would have had a full-blown wedding had it been legal. “He wanted to get a big dress,” he laughs. “We watched sometimes the Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and he’d say ‘oh I love this dress I want this one my darling’.”

The first kiss ... nawww They celebrated their bedside union in the hospital, with cello music, lashings of
champagne, plus close friends and family who made the trip from across the country, and supportive staff – who even helped get a civil union licence much more quickly than the three days it usually takes.

It was a beautiful emotional day, but now as Geoffrey lays in a hospice Etienne is trying to deal with the reality of a nearly-expired visa. He simply wants to remain at his partner’s bedside and is hoping he will be
able to get a new visa or an extension – and is hoping they can celebrate the one year anniversary of their meeting in 15 days.

Etienne mostly is sharing his story so he can pay tribute to the love of his life, a man he says “has such a big heart. He has love for everyone. And he’s so funny and flamboyant. “He’s my darling

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