I'm a 'gayby' and my family deserves respect

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Maeve Marsden

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Trailer: Gayby Baby

This documentary follows the lives of four kids whose parents all happen to be gay. As they each wrestle with the onset of puberty, the outside world wrestles with the issue of marriage equality and whether or not kids of same-sex families are at risk.

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As a 31-year-old who grew up with lesbian mums, my reaction to the kind of hateful diatribe published in The Daily Telegraph this morning is one of sinking, familiar disappointment. I've been dealing with this crap my entire life. Sadly, though, I know all too well the feeling of the first time a kid with LGBTI parents sees their family vilified in the press: the pain, the fear, the anger and the commitment to stand even prouder, taller and stronger in the face of such ignorance.

How many kids from LGBTI families experienced that first this morning, when The Daily Telegraph published not one but two pieces attacking the filmmakers who produced Gayby Baby, a film that has received international acclaim for its nuanced presentation of same-sex families? How many woke up to see their families described as 'not normal'? And how do we live in a society where a man with no experience of the families he's attacking can publish hate speech about them in a national newspaper?

"I was– and am– incredibly proud of my family."

"I was– and am– incredibly proud of my family." Photo: Supplied

Gayby Baby premiered earlier in the year and has received overwhelming support throughout its production, including raising a whopping $100,000 through crowdfunding. This is a film the community needs and wants, as it tells our story through the eyes of young people, rather than through the words of politicians and lobbyists.

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Today's piece targeted the screening of Gayby Baby in schools, as part of an anti-homophobia program, an initiative I consider vital for LGBTI families. When I was growing up it was my sole responsibility to educate other kids about families like mine, to weather bullying, to represent my family and convince others of my right to exist. I was – and am – incredibly proud of my family, but I learnt too young that there are many in this world who would rather I didn't exist.

The political focus of LGBTI advocacy in recent years has been to push for marriage equality; while this is an important and necessary reform, I am far more interested in the need for educational change. By educating young people about diversity and inclusion, we can create better humans and make school life so much easier for kids like me. It isn't about politicising young people or 'promoting a gay lifestyle', it's about a cultural shift towards celebrating and respecting difference.

The writer Maeve Marsden with her mums when she was younger.

The writer Maeve Marsden with her mums when she was younger. Photo: Supplied

This morning NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli capitulated to pressure from conservative commentators and told schools they had to screen the film outside of school hours because teachers should focus on 'curriculum matters'. Well, the Minister should probably try reading the Australian Curriculum for Health and Physical Education, which includes the following:

  • Examine the benefits to individuals and communities of valuing diversity and promoting inclusivity
  • Evaluate strategies to manage personal, physical and social changes that occur as they grow older
  • Evaluate factors that shape identities and analyse how individuals impact the identities of others

In recent years, the curriculum has progressed and we've seen several initiatives springing up to support LGBTI youth and 'gaybies'. One such program, the Safe Schools Coalition, also gets a good ribbing from Akerman, who calls it a 'political front group'. I was lucky enough to attend the Safe Schools Symposium last month and, let me tell you, I could've wept for joy. The room was packed, not with political operatives, but with young people who care passionately about creating safe school environments for their LGBTI peers.

The front page of the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.

The front page of the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.

How anyone could think that telling a 12-year-old their family isn't normal is a good contribution to public discourse is beyond me. Today, a few well-meaning people have suggested that The Daily Tele articles are good publicity for the film. And, indeed, I hope those who read them will choose to watch the film before they judge how appropriate it is for the classroom. But, from where I stand, all publicity is not good publicity. Some of it is divisive, hurtful hate speech about children and their families.

Gayby Baby is being screened in schools across Australia as part of Wear it Purple Day, an event created by young people for young people that celebrates gender and sexuality diversity in schools. On August 28, kids can show their opposition to bullying and their support for their LGBTI peers by wearing purple for the day. How terrifyingly political.

Perhaps what scares conservatives most is that both the Gayby Baby film at Wear it Purple Day are initiatives driven by the next generation: young, engaged, progressive youth who want to promote inclusion and acceptance in society. This may terrify the Akermans and Piccolis, but it gives me hope. Because progress is called progress for a reason, and every time something like this happens it steels my resolve to fight harder, write louder and tell the world about families like mine. I am sure this won't be the last time kids like me wake up to the pain of exclusion, but it does get better, it will get better and the future is bright.

Maeve Marsden is a freelance writer, director, producer and performer. She performs in feminist cabaret act Lady Sings it Better, consults on education outreach campaigns, and collaborates on various creative projects. She tweets from @maevegobash