Janet Rice talks finding love again after wife’s tragic death

Greens Senator Janet Rice and partner Anne at the Better Togerhter 2023 conference
Image: Janet Rice/Facebook

Greens Senator Janet Rice has opened up about overcoming the loss of her wife Dr Penny Whetton, and finding love again with partner Anne, in a powerful speech.

Janet addressed Better Together 2023, an LGBTQIA+ conference in Adelaide, on Friday. The Greens Senator gave the presentation The Power of Love on her and Anne’s (picture above) first anniversary.

In the speech, Senator Rice also opened up about the sudden death of wife Penny in 2019, OUTinPerth reported.

Janet and Penny met and fell in love during the “heteronormative 1970s,” she recalled. Janet was 21. At the time, Penny, who was transgender, identified as male.

“We married, we had kids. We lived and loved with busy lives,” Janet said.

After 16 years together, Penny revealed to Janet her struggle with her gender identity.

“She had told no one until then. I had absolutely no inkling whatsoever. She’d written me a letter she gave me going to bed one night. We talked all night,” Janet recalled.

“My biggest shock was I thought that I knew everything about her and that she’d managed to keep this secret for so long. I didn’t feel betrayed, just so surprised and amazed.

“And so sorry for her that she’d felt that she’d had to keep this a secret for so long because she was so worried about what it meant.”

A few years later Penny transitioned, in what Janet described as a tumultuous time for the couple. But she said Penny “blossomed, she was much happier, more outgoing.”

“I realised, of course, that I wasn’t heterosexual. We went through a lot, and our love grew deeper through it,” Janet said.

Victoria greens senator janet rice penny whetton transgender marriage equality
Dr Penny Whetton and Janet Rice (left to right).

Penny Whetton dies of sudden cardiac arrest

In 2019, at the couple’s holiday home in Tasmania, neighbours discovered Penny had tragically passed away after a sudden cardiac arrest. She was 61.

Receiving the devastating call inside federal parliament, Janet said she collapsed in a hallway. The Senator’s next few months were a blur.

“Enormous avalanches of tears and grief. Grief is of course the flip side of love. I remember the love of people around me,” she shared.

As the months passed, Janet found peace as she revisited places special to her and Penny.

Janet said she began to appreciate that love was all around her, from friends, family and colleagues – as well as her late wife Penny.

“The power landscape of love in my life has allowed me to be open to offering my love to the world, and to find more love,” Janet said.

Janet Rice finds love and happiness with partner Anne

Two years ago, Senator Janet Rice met Anne on online dating site Pink Sofa. The couple celebrated their first anniversary last week, according to OUTinPerth.

“I want to publicly say, ‘Happy anniversary and I love you. I want to be with you forever,’” Janet told Anne at the conference.

To the audience, Janet said, “I wish you all the very best in finding love for yourself, your partner, or partners, your family, your kids, your friends, your community.

“Let your loved ones know that you love them and know that all of life loves you back.”

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