parent opinion

"I'm a same-sex parent, and I'm learning that Australia might not be as progressive as I thought."

I moved to Australia two years ago with my husband and our newborn baby twins. Same-sex marriage wasn’t legal at the time, but that didn’t really bother me.

With its long history of LGBTQ activism, the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and opinion polls indicating widespread support for same-sex marriage, I was, justifiably, under the impression that Australia was one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world.

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Then I was a panellist on ABC’s The Drum.

As a representative of modern parents in Australia, I shared my journey to fatherhood as a gay man on a special parent-themed episode. I received – both in-person and online – praise for sharing my truth. I hadn’t even considered the act of speaking honestly about my boring life as “brave”, but then I opened up Twitter and realised what they meant.

“I pity the children who drew the short straw and ended up as your gay marriage accessories. Australians voted yes to marriage equality only. We weren’t asked to endorse gay parenting”, one Twitter user barked.

I knew better than to let one person’s perspective bother me, so I moved onto Instagram. And then my blog. And finally, I checked my emails.

On each platform, I was met with a similar division. Half the comments were from furious Australians that felt I was “spreading the gay agenda”. The other half were from kind Aussies who, though extremely supportive, had no idea that gay men could even have children via surrogacy.

I went into the experience thinking I was pretty normal. I left feeling like an alien.

“I think you’re the first gay parent I’ve ever seen talking on TV”, one Instagram user admitted. “I kept thinking our experiences were the same and then you’d mention that you were gay”, another chimed in. “I was really thrown off.”

It would make sense to deem most of these commentators – a very small percentage of the larger population – homophobic, naive, or insensitive.

 

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But I refuse to let that be my takeaway.

Without visibility, how can people be expected to grow or learn? Without examples of modern families living “normal” lives in the media landscape, how can Aussies evolve their thinking?

Jarrad and Michael Duggan-Tierney, two of social media’s most popular gay dads from Melbourne, completely agree.

“Over the six years we’ve been in the public eye, we’ve received emails, private messages and comments that remind us just how close the same-sex marriage vote results were”, the dads behind @the_real_dads_of_melbourne’s Instagram account told me over email. “We understand it’s not familiar to the majority of the general public, so the opinions are just ignorance.”

They aren’t wrong. About 11 per cent of Australian gay men and 33 per cent of lesbians have children. And while that’s an incredibly small number in comparison to heterosexual parents, it’s not reflected in a majority of parenting discussions on television and radio.

Look, the world is changing quickly. I know that I’m blessed to be alive today in comparison to twenty years ago. Let alone the 1950’s. But there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. And more voices that need to be heard.

Same-sex parents have to be part of the larger parenting conversation, sharing their stories and triumphs in hopes of helping to shape public perception. It’s then, and only then, that we can guarantee a safer, more accepting future for our children.

Feature image: Instagram/@seanszeps

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