ACON staff member Jack Freestone spoke with director of Gayby Baby, Maya Newell about her film and the experience of children raised by same sex parents.
‘If you are a gay person, for the first time in history you can expect to have a child,’ says director of the documentary Gayby Baby, Maya Newell. Maya herself was raised by two lesbian mums and she recognizes that her parents were pioneers of their generation yet nowadays there are thousands of children growing up ‘Gayby’.
In the wake of Ireland’s momentous vote on marriage equality, Australia is now the only developed English speaking nation where marriage equality does not exist. Maya’s film, which will make its Australian debut at the Sydney Film Festival next week, is very timely.
Gayby Baby observes the lived experience of four children, Graham, Gus, Ebony and Matt. While each of them is a child of gay parents, the sexuality and gender identity of their parents forms just one part of the complex process that is growing up. Graham moves to Fiji, Gus contemplates what it means to be a man, Ebony desperately wants to go to an inner city high school and Matt struggles with his religion.
Coming of age is a difficult process for all kids, and for children of gay parents that process is complicated by the incessant commentary on the validity of gay families in the media. As the debate around marriage equality rages on and the parenting ability of same sex couples is continually called into question, children of gay parents have not been given a voice in the debate until now.
Gayby Baby will grant viewers an insight into the school experience of these children. Maya notes that “the school environment is challenging for anyone who has difference – whether that’s your red hair or your sexuality or the colour of your skin. In the same way, having gay parents is something that singles you out.” Bullying in the school playground is something that nearly all of us have experienced, yet for children of gay parents discrimination can manifest in many other ways.
Maya recounts, “When Rory, (one of the younger kids in the film) started kindergarten her teacher had an egg hatch in class. She was speaking to the class about how you need a chicken and a rooster to make an egg. At which point a little boy put up his hand and said, well what about Rory? She has got two mums and she was born? The teacher had no idea how to answer this question. She did not want to go near the idea of gay families and so she didn’t, she just ignored it. The result was that Rory had everyone in her class asking her questions about her family for weeks and refused to go to school.”
While Maya recognizes that we’ve come really far and many schools would no longer be considered homophobic, she also thinks that we’ve still got a long way to go. Maya states that “by ignoring gay family’s teachers leave children do the work. We plan to use Gayby Baby as a tool for professional development in primary schools. We’d also like the film to be a resource for students in high school.”
Gayby Baby will be released in September this year. In the lead up to the release Maya encourages children, families and allies of gay families to access a suite of educational, advocacy, digital and corporate resources currently being developed as part of the ‘Gayby Baby Project’. Maya hopes that the website will become a touch point for people who wish to actively promote family diversity. In addition to the Gayby Baby Project website, members of rainbow families can access resources and attend events hosted by Rainbow Babies and Kids in NSW and the Rainbow Families Council in Victoria.
Watch the Gayby Baby trailer here
These organizations are testament to the amazing communities of rainbow families that exist right across Australia. For Maya, communities of gay families should serve as a reminder to each and every child of gay parents “to always feel proud of who they are.” Maya’s film seeks to remind kids that “all you have got is to feel confident that there are thousands of children out there like you and that you should always feel proud of your family!”