Friday, July 31, 2009

The Age - “Three cats, two men — and now two babies” by Farah Farouque

Peter West with Evelyn, and Trevor Elwell with Gaia.

ABOUT 36 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, Trevor Elwell and Peter West have fulfilled many of their Australian dreams. They have a mortgage, a station wagon and a deck where they can barbecue to their hearts’ content come summer.

And then there are the 11-week-old twins, Evelyn and Gaia — who are accompanied by the waft of soiled nappies this winter afternoon.

‘‘Who’s got the crappy nappy?’’ coos Mr West (it’s Evelyn). He is solicitous — and inured to the scent — perhaps only as a newly minted parent can be. But this is a nuclear family with a strictly 21st-century edge. The family that resides in this cul de sac in Wyndham Vale consists of three cats, two babies — and two dads, who have become standard bearers for gay fatherhood.

Mr Elwell, 41, and Mr West, 40, who revealed their plans to become fathers in The Age earlier this year, are now bona fide national celebrities after the TV program Sixty Minutes followed their path to parenting via commercial surrogacy in India.

The program, which attracted 1.3 million viewers, made them instantly famous when they landed in Melbourne with their new cross-cultural bubs in May.

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‘‘Even the guy in customs recognised us,’’ remembers Mr Elwell, who has taken six months’ parental leave to help Mr West, who works from home, care for the children.

And then there are the parents in the local shopping centre and at the neighbourhood mothers and babies group who invariably want to swap stories with them, they say.

But as the babies approach three months, these parents do not have many tales of sleepless nights or other horror stories. ‘‘We have really done well in the baby lottery — they have great temperaments,’’ Mr Elwell declares.

Yet before they fade into the suburban anonymity they say they want for their daughters, the two dads — who outlaid $40,000 to collect eggs from one woman and rent a womb from another to gestate their babies in a Mumbai fertility clinic, are determined to bring another vexed issue into the public domain.

If they can pay taxes and raise children (one of them is the biological father and on the birth certificate, but they will not identify him publicly), why can’t they be lawfully wed, they argue. Tomorrow, in a bid to focus more attention on the issue of the gay marriage, Mr Elwell and Mr West will dress the little girls in symbolic rainbow coloured woollen hats (their neighbour’s mother knitted the garments for them), and take part in a mass mock wedding ceremony at the top of Collins Street.

It’s not an act of provocation or even activism, insist the couple, who plan to have another child in India soon.

‘‘We’re not living a lifestyle, we’re living a life,’’ protests Mr Elwell.

‘‘We are mother, father — the parents.’’

[Link: Original Article]

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