Thursday, October 11, 2007

Same Same - "Cos The Kids Are Alright" by Cheetah77

Gay parenting is a subject that always gets people talking. Whether you want that for yourself or not, or whether you agree with it, the fact is that it’s happening, and has been for years.

Arguments against gays raising children are many. We aren’t built to pro-create with each other therefore we shouldn’t breed. Gays raising kids are going to influence their children into being gay themselves. It’s selfish to have children because of our lifestyles and gay parents don’t provide the male/female role modelling kids need to grow up balanced. We are only setting our kids up to have difficult childhoods largely caused by school yard homophobia. And the list goes on.

On the other side of the fence many argue that a child raised by gay parents gets the same, if not more love and care because of the hardships the parents have to go through to have that child in the first place.

Is there really little difference as these supporters and many gay parents suggest, or are there issues and challenges faced that often don’t get spoken about? A lot gets said about what’s best for the children, but who’s ever bothered to sit down and ask them about their perspective?

Amber was raised by a lesbian couple in NSW’s Blue Mountains. She found that growing up with gay parents wasn’t that very different from the other kids she went to school with.

From the age of nine when her mother met her current partner, she always received lots of support and love growing up. Their family was surrounded by a huge network of gay families in the same situation. Fourteen years down the track she says that the positives of being raised in her family greatly outweigh any negatives she may have experienced.

“Of course I knew we were a bit different from other kids at school, but at the same time, I knew so many kids with gay parents that I never felt too different. How do you compare your life to someone else’s anyway?”

She admits that she was probably helped by the fact that both her mother and her mother’s partner were community workers so communication was always a big thing in their house. Raised in an environment like this certainly helped her stand up for what she believed in. Amber now works for one of the major political parties – a far cry from the Greens supporting household she grew up in.

Many argue that gay parenting sets children up for a life of homophobia, and that it’s simply not fair to the kids. However, in Amber’s case, the only time she really felt the difference was after marching in the Mardi Gras parade when she was twelve years old. At school a few days later, one of her classmates told her that he’d seen her on the TV and made a bit of an issue out of it. Apart from feeling a need to hide the situation of her family in her younger years before she knew how to handle those types of comments, she said this was really the only negativity she ever experienced.

“I actually used to enjoy sitting listening to people bag out gays and then I would pull out the ‘my mother is a lesbian and I’m very offended by what you just said’ card and found it was good for shock value,” laughs Amber.

Amber wishes she’d been given access to children’s books that focused on the rainbow family when she was growing up. She thinks they would be invaluable in helping gay parents raise children in today’s society. It’s something that recent Same Same 25 member and author Vicki Harding has been pushing with her Learn To Include project.

The push for gay friendly books is happening all over the world, and it’s stepping on toes. Recently in the US there was a huge uproar about children’s book And Tango Makes Three. The book told the true story of two male penguins who raised a penguin chick and was removed from school bookshelves, many saying that it advocated homosexuality. It also has the honour of being the most complained about book in 2006.

If anything, Amber’s experience shows that books of this type are in fact highly beneficial in helping kids understand the differences, not only for those with gay parents, but their friends as well.

The issue of gay parents not being able to provide both male and female role models is one that’s often talked about. While having strong female role models certainly wasn’t an issue in Amber’s case, she didn’t have any contact with her father and had limited other male roles in her life. According to her, this may be a contributing factor to her having some difficulty relating to and forming close relationships with men. Although that being said, she’s far from being gay – she has many gay male friends, but when it comes to liking boys or girls, she is definitely straight – so there’s another myth blown right out of the water.

Amber spoke at a Gay Dads forum a few months ago and afterwards found herself in conversation with a deeply religious Christian gay couple who were worried about bringing a child into what is seen by many to be a sinful life. Amber says after their chat, the couple seemed more comfortable and relaxed about the whole thing, which she was pleased about. She says that moments like that prove how invaluable it is for anyone thinking about going down this path to speak to others who have already done it themselves.

Gay Dads Australia and Rainbow Families both hold regular information sessions for existing and prospective parents to get together to meet and share stories and experiences.

Her advice to any gay couples thinking about parenting is that they should just relax a little. “A lot of them are so worried about messing up their kids but there are plenty of fucked up kids from straight families too.”

If anything stood out to me about Amber, it was how overwhelmingly normal she was. She lives in Surry Hills in a share house, has a mixture of queer and straight friends and like most grown up kids who have moved away from home, she looks forward to weekends at her mum’s house in the calming and relaxing mountains, where she can go to just chill out.

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[Link: Original Article]

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