I am a 'gayby'

Maya Newell (above), "As the child of same-sex parents, I stopped counting how many times I was asked:  “Do you miss not having a father?”

Maya Newell (above), "As the child of same-sex parents, I stopped counting how many times I was asked: “Do you miss not having a father?”

When I was a baby, my non-biological mother, Donna, would carry me on her hip on outings and strangers would invariably come up to us, assuming that Donna was my biological mother. “What a cute baby!”, they’d beam. “Yes, we’re very proud of her,” Donna would reply, or words to that effect.  Then noting that I looked Japanese and Donna didn’t, they’d remark, “She must take after her father”, to which Donna would smoothly answer, “oh no, she has a strong resemblance to her mother”. Even after many long seconds passed, the confused looks rarely resolved into a “oh they’re lesbian parents” realisation.

It’s extraordinary just how much fun one can have in the company of other people’s assumptions.

As the child of same-sex parents, I stopped counting how many times I was asked:  “Do you miss not having a father?” How can you miss ­­­something you’ve have never had?  Even now, if someone asked me that question, I’d just as likely reply,  “Do you miss not having two mothers?”

Maya and her two mums, Donna and Liz.

Maya and her two mums, Donna and Liz.

Somehow it seems like the wrong question. A better question might be:

What is a father, after all? And what exactly have I missed without one? I mean, we’re not talking about cabbages here, are we?

Maybe a father would’ve taught me to be a bit more gruff and strong, rough-and-tumble; or perhaps he would’ve taken me out and spoiled me every now and then with ice cream. Maybe dads tell good bedtime stories and carry you on their shoulders at the beach (assuming he is the strongest in the family). A dad would have taken me fishing, and taught me how to cut a fish‘s throat or maybe get us lost on camping adventures (because of course mums hate that outdoor stuff). 

Maya with her mums Liz and Donna, promoting her documentary project, <i>Gayby Baby</i>.

Maya with her mums Liz and Donna, promoting her documentary project, Gayby Baby.

Maybe there is an advantage to having someone around the place that wears pants all the time and who takes masculine short hair-styles in their stride. Would I be better at throwing and catching balls if I had a dad? Or maybe dad would’ve made sure my boyfriend was a good bloke before we went on a date. And who knows, maybe he would’ve even instilled his own, good work ethic! Or maybe not.

I have never in my life seen Donna wear a dress, and she has always styled a short curls.  So that’s two down. Donna has taught me to fish… well, we go and sit out on the rocks and wait, usually in the wrong place, at the wrong tide, and argue endlessly about who’s fault it is that the fish aren’t biting. When I brought my first boyfriend home I thought Donna was going to boot him out. She was that tense and watchful, one could be excused for thinking she had morphed into the perfect, overly protective father.

And Liz, my biological mother, she’s great at wrestling, not to mention tickling, torture and trampoline, which was a favorite game of mine growing up. Out of the two, she is my beach ride ‘shoulders’ of choice and would always cave to the after-school ‘Golden Gaytime’. Liz works harder and is more passionate about her work than almost anyone I know and makes ace vegetarian lasagna.

Kids need a mother and a father only so long as we keep those roles quarantined and artificially separated into rigid, airtight compartments. In this day and age it is safe to say that dads have resilience that enables them to do what mums do, and vice versa for mums. As I have grown older, I have come to see the wisdom of men like my uncle who was a stay-at-home dad, and always loved to do the cooking.

Fortunately, in my house, family is not defined by biology or gender stereotypes. I have learned this from two mothers that have taught me that women can be whatever they want to be, and that there are countless, exciting and powerful ways to ‘do’ femininity.

Whatever prejudices and misunderstandings gather around the same-sex family debate, one of the sustaining influences of such intolerance is a scarcity of stories. With this in mind, I got together with a friend, Charlotte Mclellan and we began making a film Gayby Baby - the first feature length documentary on this topic.

For me, family is the community you create. It lives in the simplest acts, like laughing at the dinner table, or being pushed up to the sky on a swing so that you think you know what it means to fly. It is being forced to do the washing up, crying because you don’t want to go to bed, and the frustration of having your nose blown for you.

In the end, I guess the only real downside to not having a father is having to answer lots of questions about not having a father.

To watch the trailer of GAYBY BABY and to find out more about how to make this movie a reality, go to:pozible.com/gaybybabythemovie.

 

113 comments

  • this comment right here "Kids need a mother and a father only so long as we keep those roles quarantined and artificially separated into rigid, airtight compartments" sums it up!! Im in my thirties and have mates who were raised by same sex couples: one, a woman by a lesbian couple and the other, two brothers raised by a gay couple. One of the brothers recently had a baby with his wife and the grandpa's fight over who gets to push the pram and what colour the kids room got painted at their house. My female friend is negotiating being a step mum and her parents have some real insight into loving and helping to raise kids who biologically aren't "yours". Families are different, I myself joint parent with my son's father who I'm separated from. If a mum and a dad who are together, happy, loving, perfect parents is the "right" way to raise kids, who exactly is that? Where exactly is that family? A heteronormative couple guarantees squat. Some hetero couples can't have kids without intervention. Some men are WAY better at raising their kids then women. Some single mothers produce nobel prize winners. Some really fantastic people grew up in foster homes, or, in some cases, raised themselves on the street and struggled with homelessness. Brilliant article and I am very much looking forward to watching the documentary. kudos.

    Commenter
    caroline
    Date and time
    December 13, 2012, 7:57AM
    • "If a mum and a dad who are together, happy, loving, perfect parents is the "right" way to raise kids, who exactly is that?"

      The silent majority.

      Commenter
      SilverTail
      Location
      UpperNorthShore
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 9:38AM
    • Aye, the silent majority. (However, I doubt whether any of my comments on this topic will get past the "let's keep this a mutual admiration blog" stasi.)

      Commenter
      Snidery Mark
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 10:40AM
    • @SilverTail and @ Snidery Mark - I question your statement that the silent majority can be described as "a mum and a dad who are together, happy, loving, perfect parents". The Aust Institute of Family Studies (an Australian Government statutory agency) states that "40% of current marriages can be expected to end in divorce" [see to: www.aifs.gov.au ].

      For the statement you make/endorse to be true, of the remaining 60%, more than 83% (5/6ths) need to be happy, AND loving, AND perfect parents. Such an outcome seems utterly implausible and I suggest you either back up such a statement with some data or withdraw the comments.

      Commenter
      lachlanc
      Location
      Richmond, Vic
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 12:51PM
    • The silent majority? are you kidding me??! Firstly, people who oppose this stuff are hardly "silent" about it. Second, a quick glance at the marriage and divorce statistics will tell you there is no such thing. Heteronormative families are hardly the majority. Get a grip.

      Commenter
      Platonica
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 1:00PM
    • I think if you look at the figures, caroline, you'll see that the white picket fence fantasy family is not in the majority. It depends on where you live and who your friends are - stereotypical families tend to hang out with others the same and think that it is 'normal' to be like that and everybody is the same. But there is a lot of variation that is perhaps not always seen. And other cultures can do family quite differently, such as children being raised by all kinds of people as well as their biological parents (it takes a village etcetc). So long as the outcome is a happy, healthy child then what does it matter? We've all seen very, very troubled and damaged children come out of a so-called happy normal family, for whatever reason.

      Commenter
      lola
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 1:40PM
    • Stasi! I like it; deft sidestep of Goodwin's law.

      I guess the problem for the 'need a parent of each sex' argument - and quite a few of its partisans are indeed silent, if not necessarily a majority - is it doesn't have much purchase in reality. Clearly, same sex couples are raising kids. What are you going to do about? Well, there's not much you can.

      Commenter
      B
      Location
      Carl
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 1:52PM
    • I would suggest that it's no longer the silent majority, but a rowdy, outdated minority who have a problem with this.

      Commenter
      late1
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 2:44PM
    • Some people are getting a little confused.

      No one stated that the silent majority have a "problem with it".

      The question was asked "If a mum and a dad who are together, happy, loving, perfect parents is the "right" way to raise kids, who exactly is that?"

      And it was answered, now you would need to define "perfect parents" as its a little loaded don't you think?

      Its too easy to offend, you could argue that having two mums or two dads is better than a single parent, and you could argue the other way also. I'm not going there.

      But you can't argue, that in the interests of the child, having a mother and a father in your typical 2.3 family is not an ideal to strive for.

      Commenter
      SilverTail
      Location
      UpperNorthShore
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 3:56PM
    • Maya had one short-haired, singlet-and-jeans-wearing, shoulder-carrying mum and a more feminine one. That covers most of the experiential norms. However, the two things missing are the unique experience of a (male) father-daughter relationship and a knowledge of the person who supplied half of her genetic material. Of course this applies to many who never knew, or are estranged from, or have unhappy relationships with their biological fathers.

      The range of family compositions is so diverse these days that functionality and happiness are far more important than conventiality.

      Commenter
      Doc
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 4:03PM

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