I'm proud to be a 'gayby'

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Photo: Getty Images. Posed by model

Families can be maddening in all kinds of ways – some of them we’re all familiar with, some are unique.  But for those of us who grew up in same-sex families, one of the most frustrating experiences is having our own families judged and found wanting.  Uncle Harold’s interminable boarding school stories are one thing, but Auntie Vera’s tales of cross-dressing in 1970s Berlin might be quite another.

In an age of fierce struggles over same-sex marriage, we ‘gaybies’ (children of same-sex families) get sick of people speaking for us, telling us our families are deficient and ignoring our voices to the contrary. 

When you’re a gayby (‘queerspawn’ is also acceptable, thank you very much), you get used to people watching your family – like the time I was in kindy and my teacher wrote a report attributing my shyness (now long gone) to my ‘non-conventional family background.’

But sometimes watching and judging isn’t satisfying enough, and people have to ask straight up.  Like the mechanics of how I, a kid who had ‘test tube baby’ yelled at him for the first three years of high school, was brought into the world. 

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But the same people might be a bit alarmed if I were to casually inquire, “So, were your parents in the missionary position when you were conceived?  At a 60s key-swap party?  Swinging from the chandelier?”

As a boy with lesbian parents, the questions you constantly get asked is this: “How can you have a family without an adult man?  Didn’t that mess you up?”

The truth is, kids need all kinds of role models.  Boys need men around, and they need men who show them how to do masculinity in ways that aren’t (only) about sport or rough-housing – how to be empathetic and tough without being callous or violent. 

Hey, I played with Barbies and with He-Man.  In our society, those kinds of role models are in short supply – but they don’t need to be found in the one person whose biology magically matches yours, or in some Don Draper stereotype of a father.

As English novelist and poet Philip Larkin famously wrote: “They f-ck you up, your mum and dad…”  The same could apply to “your mum and mum”, or “your dad and dad”, or any one of a hundred other family arrangements.  As Freud would tell you, no-one emerges from childhood unscathed. It’s called being human.  Larkin’s next line, “They may not mean to, but they do,” is the one we should pay more attention to.    

In any case, is the mum-dad-and-three-kids family really so ‘traditional’?  The nuclear family, splendidly isolated in its suburban stronghold, is actually a relatively new invention – think of polygamous European monarchs, or of sprawling households full of grandparents and lodgers, maiden aunts and bachelor uncles. 

These and all kinds of other families were typical of Western society until recently.  My ‘non-traditional’ family might be more traditional than most people know – or want to know.   

One way or another, we’re happy to make our own traditions.  Despite the defeat of the same-sex marriage bill in the New South Wales parliament, and the imminent challenge in the ACT this thursday, gaybies continue to live our own families, where biology matters not a jot.  If you’ll allow me a soppy moment, the material we make them from is love.  

17 comments

  • I bet people wonder about your sexuality all the time too.

    "How could he possibly be straight? Without a man to show him how to be a man. He'll turn out a sissy".

    Somewhere in the background I hear Helen Lovejoy crying out "won't somebody pleeasse think of the children".

    Good on you mate and snaps for your mum's too. This was a nice first article of the day :)

    Commenter
    Adrian
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    December 09, 2013, 8:36AM
    • yes, lots of people dont seem to get that straight people produce gay children generally.That kids with both mums and dads are gay.

      Commenter
      Kane
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 11:39AM
    • Look at Zach Wahls.
      He's an all-american boy with lesbian parents.
      Having gay parents doesn't make you gay. Anymore than having heterosexual parents makes you heterosexual.

      Commenter
      michael
      Location
      st kilda
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 2:17PM
  • What a great article. In amongst all the political rot, and other depressing rubbish that's on offer in the news, this was a proverbial breath of fresh air. Your positivity put a smile on my face!

    Commenter
    blu
    Location
    Geelong
    Date and time
    December 09, 2013, 9:21AM
    • As long as a child has some form of role model who they can look up to, who cares? The argument that every child needs a mother and a father less they be messed up is incredibly offensive to anyone outside the nuclear family, whether they be mums and mums, dads and dads, single dad or single mum.

      Commenter
      Mas
      Location
      Penrith
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 9:31AM
      • God how I wish voices like yours made it to the media more often. Not to mention the statistics of how well adjusted children of same-sex families actually are. Perhaps then our 'deviance' would stopped being howled down by people with no idea who think they know better.

        Commenter
        Jessiem
        Date and time
        December 09, 2013, 10:16AM
        • well you have a well written article that's been published in the age, so obviously your parents did something right, irrespective of their gender. well done :)

          Commenter
          v0ter
          Location
          melb
          Date and time
          December 09, 2013, 10:52AM
          • Great article, nothing more to be said really.

            Commenter
            Neil B
            Location
            Wagga
            Date and time
            December 09, 2013, 10:57AM
            • Great article. But still defficient.

              I find both sides of the gay marriage / kids argument very 1 dimensional.

              I don't believe the 'God says it's unnatural' argument. Homosexuality is patently natural.

              But neither do I swallow whole-heartedly (without some proper debate) the argument of 'equal love'. Equal rights, sure, but please accept that these family structures are different, and the family and genetic structures being put forward are different, and people have a genuine concern (that should be assuaged, railed against as homophobic) as to whether this is the right way to go.

              Commenter
              Bob
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              December 09, 2013, 11:06AM
              • I met two kids while playing with my toddler at a local park recently. They were very chatty, friendly and caring towards my little one.... and it came about that they had "two mums".
                My first feeling was one of delight..."what LUCKY kids!" I thought.
                And then "what great mums they must have."

                Commenter
                ck
                Location
                richmond
                Date and time
                December 09, 2013, 11:09AM

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