Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MCV - "And Baby Makes Four" by David Knox

David Knox meets the faces behind the forthcoming TV program, Two Men and Two Babies.

“We agreed we wouldn’t be doing any form of 7Up series,” insists Lee Matthews. “And here we are again.”

Five years ago, Matthews and his partner Tony Woods allowed cameras into their lives when they embarked on the rather rare experience of becoming gay dads.

Man Made: The Story of Two Men and a Baby followed their journey to Iowa, where their surrogate, Junoa, gave birth to their son Alexander in 2003.

At the time their story was shown on SBS, it attracted considerable media attention, both positive and negative, as an evolving definition of that oh-so-complex term, the modern Australian family. Matthews and Woods quickly became community ambassadors whether they liked it or not, immediately personifying options for gay men, politicians and conservative foes all at the same time.

As filmmaker Emma Crimmings explains, that first film raised other questions that SBS was keen to explore. Surrogacy is one part of the family’s journey, but how would it resonate as Alexander grew up? With cameras rolling, she took a second look.

“What I expected to find was more layers, more complexity that I wasn’t able to provide in the first [film] because it was such a rollicking narrative,” she tells MCV.

“It was a road movie with a baby. But the second one appealed to me because I could go out another circle, if you will, to the extended family and see the ripples of the choices that they made.”

But Crimmings’ questions were ones that the subjects weren’t sure were worth asking.

“We actually said to her, ‘Are you sure you want to do it, because we’re bloody boring anyway’” tells Woods.

“The life that we lead is no different to 95% of the general public, but of course it’s that very ordinariness that makes the political point that we’re not some extremist group. We’re just gay men with a family who have the same issues. But the very ordinariness is what makes the story,” he adds.

The two men’s son, Alexander, is now five years old, in his third year of pre-school, while daughter Lucy, two years old and also conceived with Junoa, is in crèche.

“To put ourselves out there as a news story when we’re just an everyday family doesn’t quite gel. There’s really nothing to say. We get up in the morning, we feed our kids breakfast, we get them to school, we go to work,” says Matthews.

Yet in 2008, this normality is still denied equity. Woods and Matthews have both been actively involved with the Rainbow Family Council, through which they have developed friendships with dozens of families, many of whom were directly inspired by their own story.

Rainbow Family Council spokesperson, Felicity Marlowe, acknowledges the need to personalise gay parenting.

“Telling our stories is an important step towards social and legal recognition. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of the broader community and getting them to understand that our families are just like any other family, and that that love makes a family,” she says.

It’s no coincidence that ‘Love Makes A Family’ is the name given to a four-year advocacy campaign focussed on the rights of same-sex parents and their children, which is finally winning political reform.

“The Victorian State Government in December approved most of the recommendations that the Victorian Law Reform Commission put in its report, that was tabled in June,” said Marlowe of the struggle for political recognition.

“But they didn’t approve anything to do with adoption, which for people in Lee and Tony’s situation is a key issue. Because they don’t have a birth mother in the primary relationship.”

Stopping short of recognising non-biological parent remains a sticking point for gay and lesbian parents.

“You can only say it’s because there’s this apprehension in the mind of the legislators that gay people are not fit parents, or the community doesn’t believe they are,” Woods theorises.

Still, five years on, there’s reason for hope.

“It feels like 2008 will be a year of change a way from the social conservatism of this current decade. I feel optimistic that the kids will grow up in a supportive, accepting environment,” he concludes.

Such a future has definitely been shaped by his and his partner’s willingness to publicly share their story.

“The guys are very brave doing it again,” Emma Crimmings says. “Once they hop on board, they’re on board, which I find incredibly admirable. It’s not easy to throw yourselves out there warts and all, dressing gowns and all.”

Two Men and Two Babies airs 7:30pm Tuesday January 29 on SBS.

[Link: Original Article]

No comments: