Gayby Baby: The kids are alright

The furore over schools screening Gayby Baby has made one thing clear. If it were up to the vast majority of us, we would shake off the idiocy of homophobia and move right along. Same-sex marriage would be legalised, homophobia would be tackled in schools, same-sex parent families would not be ridiculed on the front page of newspapers.

The hysterical campaign from the Daily Telegraph and the NSW Liberals to shame the kids of same-sex couples, and ban schools from screening the documentary during the day, were miles away from public sentiment.

Not a single parent had complained about the planned screening at Burwood Girls High School. Instead there was a groundswell of support for the school, the film and the excellent students’ statement defending the original plan to screen the documentary.

But as film maker Maya Newell noted at a Melbourne Q&A, the Piers Ackerman front page article and the Liberals’ ban did have a terrible impact on the children of same-sex couples. “Gayby” kids who had barely registered homophobia in the past came home miserable that day. Bigots were emboldened to assert their right not to “believe” in gay rights or to be “uncomfortable” about the film’s place in schools. The unbroken ban on schools screening the film hangs over NSW as a victory for a tiny cabal of ruling class homophobes.

Gayby Baby itself is a bittersweet representation of the way the kids of same-sex parents live in a society torn between pride and homophobia.

The film opens with an audio montage of politicians and media pundits fulminating about the evils of same-sex marriage, and their disbelief that children can grow up in a society that doesn’t enforce the traditional family roles for men and women.

But their frothing conservatism is shown up to be nonsense. In each of the four families the film follows, the parents prove just as loving, nurturing and keen to bring up decent, educated kids as anyone else—and just as susceptible to the tensions and pressures that other heterosexual families bear. The kids are endearingly and overwhelmingly “alright”.

A recent “meta-analysis” of 33 studies of same-sex children in the United States made the unsurprising finding that there’s no evidence children raised by same-sex parents fared any worse than those raised by heterosexual parents.

Families

In Gayby Baby, the extra burden of grappling with homophobia is a challenge for each family. The thoughtful and confident Matt from Waverly doesn’t see any reason to accommodate discrimination. He stands up to the homophobia he sees in his mum’s church. He intends to confront the Prime Minister Julia Gillard over her opposition to same-sex marriage at a face-to-face dinner!

After taking on both the church and state, he isn’t too concerned about any bullies he might encounter at school.

But class oppression compounds the homophobia for Ebony’s family. Her parents are unemployed because they are caring for a very sick epileptic baby.

Ebony’s mother desperately wants her to get into Newtown High School of Performing Arts, a school with a reputation for welcoming diversity. A desire to give Ebony an education free from bigoted bullying drives the family to spend what little they have on coaching lessons for Ebony’s Newtown entrance audition. It is heart breaking to see the fear of homophobia compound the family’s financial stress and to watch Ebony bear that pressure.

There is no reason inner city schools should be alone in stridently welcoming gay kids and rainbow families—schools from every socio-economic demographic are taking on campaigns against homophobic bullying like Wear it Purple Day. Ebony actually ends up at her local high school ready to “kick the butts” of any bullies she finds, and there are plenty of kids like her ready to challenge homophobic school cultures.

But Mike Baird and Adrian Piccoli affirmed the right of school yard bullies and bigots to terrorise gay kids and families, and reinforced any hesitations principals will have had about openly challenging homophobia.

Same-sex couples do not yet have rights to adopt in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, or the Northern Territory. Surrogacy, too, is illegal for male same-sex couples in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

Now, any teacher in NSW planning to acquaint their students with the common humanity of gay kids and families is an outright rebel. But, in the spirit of the gaybies, we need a willingness to stand up to the Liberals, break the Gayby Baby ban and put their censorship and homophobia behind us.

By Lucy Honan

Gayby Baby
Directed by Maya Newell
In selected cinemas now

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