December 2009


It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve agreed not to take my computer away for the holidays! So we’ll be back in early January.

Enjoy your silly season,  regardless of how you choose to celebrate your wonderful rainbow family.

Advertisements

I was interviewed last night by a professor of paediatric nursing from Curtin University in WA. They’re doing research into rainbow families’ experience of health care service providers.She asked a bunch of questions about my family and my family of origin, and then about interactions I’ve had with health service providers, both for myself and seeking health services for my children.

I felt a little boring as I haven’t had any negative experiences from health service providers, although obviously it’s important for researchers to hear positive stories as well. Elisabeth and I have only had respectful, delightful interactions with the doctors, nurses, obstetricians, lactation consultants, dermatologists, opthalmologists and paediatricians with whom we have had interactions so far. If anything – and I presume it’s just part of the comforting patter – they tend to go in the other direction and enthuse about how wonderful it must be for our children to have two mothers.

I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, so I’ll be interested to see the results of the study. We are educated, assertive, middle class women. We live in a capital city. We have the resources to shop around if we feel we are not getting good services. And we are quite confident in our sexuality and our parenting – we’re not closeted and we don’t feel we are compromising our children by bringing them into a family with two mothers, so we are not open to being made to feel guilty by other parties.

It’s a snowball (ie word of mouth) sampling method, so if you’re willing to be interviewed, you can contact Rose Chapman: R.Chapman(at)email.curtin.edu.au

Happy summer holidays!

Between visiting family in Melbourne and a group holiday with other lesbian families on the Sunshine Coast, I’m away for the next couple of weeks. For your holiday reading, I’m going to cut and paste other great posts I find around the net.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie, from US site Mombian.

(edited to add: I’ve been informed by Mombian that this post is copyright -something I hadn’t considered! So I’ve taken it down but left the link if you want to check it out)

How to respond when meeting lesbian mums (or Moms, as Dana says)

I want to offer a few tips to people who may be unsure how to react if lesbian moms come out to them. (Most are also applicable to gay dads, with obvious changes in terminology.)

Who’s in your family?
Our immediate family is made up of me (Sonja), Rosie (8) and Ari (1). Then there are our fairy godparent and biological families. The biological one is quite conventional (and a bit conservative with some Christian-right elements) but the fairy family more than compensates! They are a whole bunch of friends (and Ari’s donor and his boyfriend) who have a ‘special’ relationship with me and the kids.

Where do you live?
Foothills of Adelaide.

How did you create your family?
Rosie was conceived in an unsuccessful attempt at a straight relationship. She still spends around half her time at her dad’s house. Ari was conceived with the help of a very old gay friend… and an intimate relationship with a collection of syringes.

Do you have a relationship with your donors?

Ari’s donor and his boyfriend come over for dinner most weeks. They adore both the kids (something I never fail to point out when people ask about ‘biological’ attachment). When Ari gets a bit bigger he may wish to call his donor ‘dad’, and I think that’ll probably be OK with me although I was initially very resistant to the heteronormative assumptions that word lugs around… In any case, donor ‘D’ has no legal and/or financial responsibilities… his job is just to love us all unconditionally ; )

Give us three words to describe each member of the family

Me – analytical, optimistic, self-scrutinising

Rosie – open-minded, imaginative, forthright

Ari – charming, curious, feisty

What’s the current favourite activity of each of your children?

Rosie – grinding up petals and rock dust to make fairy potions and dyes

Ari – inspecting the bolts and wheels on high chairs, prams etc. and/or climbing up and down steps, always resplendent in borrowed jewellery!

What’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?

Candle-lit aromatic bubble baths

What are some great kids’ activities where you live?

Beach, playing/walking/bike-riding in National Parks

How would you describe your parenting style?

Rational, flexible, compassionate… and, from time to time, stressed!

How do you feel being a ‘rainbow family’ influences your parenting?

We have many discussions about ‘difference’, equity, and perspective. Rosie is known to her peers as an activist… when they made ginger-bread houses for Christmas last year she boycotted because they were using Arnotts biscuits (palm oil) and Nestle smarties (third world distribution of infants formula). I had to do an emergency run to the shops in search of ethically produced Australian equivalents.

Single parenting is difficult. Have you found any issues particular to queer single parents?

Probably just the issue of being invisible (as Queer) and/or presumed straight. When I finally got pregnant it was almost a relief to have a casual excuse to out myself when people asked about the baby’s ‘dad’.

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

How much my latent activism would be piqued by the desire to protect my kids from homophobia and gender stereotypes

If you started all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

I’d rather not be dealing with ongoing family court sagas with Rosie’s dad. However, Buddhism has taught me lots of strategies for ‘letting go’… and probably I’m a better parent as a result.

How have your extended families responded to the creation of your family? How have you responded to that?

Now they love the baby to bits…. although I suspect they avoid explaining ‘where he came from’ to their kids. Though I try not to, I still resent that… I see it as passive homophobia. When the opportunity presents I daresay I will endeavour to be honest about who I am… whilst trying not to offend the kids’ Christian sensibilities.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask? How do you respond when people assume heterosexuality?

Initially they didn’t understand why I wanted to have a second child and the way I wanted to go about it. I got involved in many extended conversations that justified my decision, even when I didn’t feel like I should have to explain. If I were in a straight relationship nobody would question my desire to have a  second child.

Being perceived to be straight is even more challenging to my own sense of identity. I’ve found myself getting dykey haircuts and wearing provocative t-shirts as a kind of compensation… but I’m also able to see how ironic this is! How can ‘passing’ as straight compare with the phenomenal threats to identity and huge scary decisions about visibility/invisibility that trans people have to make every day?

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

This has become even more complicated recently, since I’ve started ‘dating’ a trans guy. Even for this Queer readership I feel the need to explain – female to male. I have had several more nuanced and complex conversations about gender with Rosie… and also had to explain that, even though we see no issue, it’s possible that some other people may not ‘agree’. I’m struggling with this, because effectively I’m asking her to be ‘sometimes silent’… something I’ve come to hate.

Just the need to call attention to ourselves in order to have our existence recognised… even if it’s not validated with acceptance ; )

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

Hanging out with other ‘pink parented’ families helps put things into context. I’ve often been surprised to note that, despite our many similarities, our differences as parents/kids/families are just as complex and numerous as any other small cross section of the wider community!

How do you model pride in rainbow families to your child/ren?

Talking about things openly at every available opportunity! Rosie recently took some treasures to school for show and tell. Part of her spiel was about acquiring them at the FEAST picnic… ‘that’s a celebration for Gay and Lesbian people’ she explained…

What advice would you give someone embarking on a rainbow parenting journey?

Be prepared to be challenged in ways you never expected to be! Embrace these opportunities as lessons in becoming better parents…

contact details

I’d love you all to check out our recently launched Queer Digital Storytelling site – Molly has a story there too! www.rainbowfamilytree.com And my very out of date but soon to be updated blog www.familyvalues.katalyst.com.au And business website, inhabited by my filmmaker incarnation www.incitestories.com.au

With the UN Climate Change Conference struggling along, I’ve been thinking, rather despairingly, that I’m misguiding my energy working towards my children’s parenting security  when I can’t even guarantee my children a planet to grow up in. That seems pretty basic. Elisabeth has just finished  the harrowing The Road by Cormac McCarthy and we’ve been wondering what we can do. It all seems so big.

J-le over at  The Twinkle in My Eye has also been giving this some attention. This is reposted from her blog, at  Greening the Twinkle’s Future

I’ve been inspired by a range of factors to tread more lightly on this earth. Those factors include:

My head has been filling with ideas on how we can lessen the impact we have with our lifestyle and I’ve finally decided to put them all in one place, categorised, in public, to challenge me to go ahead and deal with them instead of just thinking about them. So here goes.

Here’s the list:

The things we could do more of:

saving water

  • collect excess water from kitchen and bathroom sinks and bucket onto garden/indoor plant
  • collect cold water from start of shower and bucket onto garden
  • install rainwater tanks – large for whole roof, small for verandah
  • collect more greywater and direct it onto the front (non-edible) garden
  • use more greywater-friendly cleaning products
  • plant more indigenous plants in front yard
  • buy a front loader washing machine in the long run

saving gas

  • put more clothes on before choosing to put heater on
  • reduce draughts around windows and doors
  • keep hot water service turned to fairly low temp
  • consider double-glazing
  • close vents not really needed (eg kitchen, bathroom in evenings)
  • keep thermostat low-ish
  • consider pelmets above windows
  • cover bathroom fan
  • put insulation in bathroom and laundry ceiling
  • put insultation in walls when weatherboards are replaced

saving electricity

  • be more vigilant about switching off lights
  • find a replacement for halogen downlights
  • switch appliances off at the wall
  • turn computers off at night
  • put in a smart switch for computers and maybe tv
  • switch to buying green energy
  • look at solar in the long term
  • buying 5-6 star rating appliances (not in the near future – most of our whitegoods are new-ish)
  • don’t use the dryer except for emergencies
  • only use air-con on 40+ days if possible, and don’t set thermostat too low
  • close all blinds on hot days
  • install exterior blinds or other shade treatments
  • use cross-ventilation on hot nights (find out out how to open top window on front door)

reducing waste

  • be more vigilant about separating recyclables
  • make the most of the worm farm and compost
  • find the best solution for dog poo
  • get a diva cup or similar
  • toilet-train the twinkle
  • get hankies instead of tissues
  • use microfibre cleaning cloths
  • consider rechargeable batteries
  • buy less pre-packaged meat and veg
  • buy less processed food in general
  • find creative uses for rubbish and recyclables (eg toilet rolls as seedling tubes, softdrink bottles as mini greenhouses)

sustainable transport

  • walk more!
  • get the bikes serviced and get a seat for the twinkle
  • investigate local produce to reduce food miles
  • produce more food at home
  • use public transport as much as possible

There’s lots of things that we already do, and there’s plenty more we could improve on. There’s more stuff that needs to be on that list that I have forgotten in my big brain dump just now. I will add them as I remember or learn them, and I plan to talk myself through it on my blog.

Molly adds:
Readers, I’d love to hear your ideas on what you are doing or could do more of to green your children’s future.

Some of Santa's favourite families have two mummies

Yesterday in Brisbane, Santa made time in his busy pre-Christmas schedule to drop in on the (second) annual rainbow families Christmas picnic.

There were about thirty families there; mostly mothers, but some grandmothers, donors and assorted ring-ins.

It’s a delight seeing my children respond to it from year to year – this year they were really engaged with the races, and quite excited about seeing Santa, although they didn’t know who he was or what he did – just that ‘Santa’ was something one was meant to get excited about.

At this time of year, difference from the mainstream is highlighted.  The representations are Mum, Dad and two or maybe three angelic blonde children. Hale and hearty grandparents who are clearly still married to each other look on adoringly- no messy running between divorced grandparents between breakfast and dinner.

Pearl gives Santa a careful once-over

From the marketing, I would assume that stepfamilies, separated families, single parent families, people with disabilities, non-Anglo families and gay families don’t celebrate Christmas.

It seemed important to me to start up a Rainbow Families Christmas Picnic. As my children get older and understand more, Christmas will become more and more heteronormative.   Advertising that convincingly reproduces gender stereotypes. Mr & Mrs Claus. Years and years of soppy Christmas special movies yet to come! We’re all gathering to celebrate the quintessential nuclear family – the Virgin Ideal Mother Mary, the macho, protective, strong silent Joseph, and the perfect baby Jesus, ‘no crying he makes’ (how did they know when to change his nappy?). I want my kids to have a moment where they can stop and say, ‘Look, here are a whole bunch of families like mine, all celebrating Christmas’.

Ready...Set...GO!!

Do you feel a need to queer Christmas? How do you make Christmas an event that includes our children? That celebrates families – all families? At the time  of year when family is exalted to ridiculous, unsustainable heights, how do we deal with our messy networks of relationships? Or are you happy to accept Christmas for the odd hybrid of sanitised religiosity and rabid consumerism  it offers?

Radical Christians suggest that Jesus himself lived in an unconventional family as an adult – living unmarried with Lazarus, Martha & Mary would have been highly scandalous at the time.

Jesus had two dads, and look how he turned out!

Santa takes a break with Mrs Claus

The Chiang-Cruise family

Rodney, Jeff and Ethan live in Melbourne. They are outspoken advocates for gay parenting. Rodney keeps a blog at www.chiang-cruise.com

Who’s in your family?

Our primary family is: Rodney Chiang-Cruise (Dad, 43), Jeff Chiang-Cruise (Dad, 41) and Ethan Chiang-Cruise (son, 3)

Our extended family is: Debbie Lin (Mum, 40),  Ling Lin (Mum, 43),  Justin Lin (son, 2), newborn (son, 5 days old – no name yet!)

Where do you live?

Richmond, Victoria, Australia


How did you create your family?

We created our primary family using commercial surrogacy in the US.  Our son was born 3 years ago in Ohio, USA.

Do you have a relationship with your donor/surrogate?

We have a strong relationship with our surrogate, Kelly, and her family.  We are in contact regularly and we have been to visit them in Ohio.  We don’t have a relationship with the egg donor as she was essentially anonymous.

Rodney is the bio-donor for Debbie and Ling’s 2 boys.  They are close friends and we have a very close relationship, particularly with all of our children

Give us three words to describe each member of the family

Jeff – Determined, calm, patient
Rodney – Detailed, geek, happy
Ethan – Talkative, laughing, singing

What’s Ethan’s current favourite activity?

Playing his guitar (with Murray from the Wiggles)

What’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?

Travel and visit family and friends

What are some great kids’ activities where you live?

Visiting the park, the zoo and the aquarium.  Drawing on the lounge room wall although the adults aren’t so keen on that!

How would you describe your parenting style?

Fairly traditional, similar to how we were parented as children (which is a good thing)

How do you feel being a ‘rainbow family’ influences your parenting?

Our family is and will continue to be an open, honest and accepting family.  Being a rainbow family also means traditional stereotypical roles are gone.

How has your relationship with your partner changed after children?

Yes, we have grown stronger as a family unit for sure.

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

No.  It is just parenting.  It’s not always easy but being gay doesn’t alter it.

If you started all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

Start our family earlier.

How have your extended families responded to the creation of your family?

They have always been and continue to be perfectly fine with it.  Even Jeff’s family which is a traditional Chinese (Taiwanese) family.  There has never been any issues except the usual things like grandparents offering advice.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask? How do you respond when people assume heterosexuality?

We just say Ethan has two dads.  If they enquire more we tell them he was born via surrogacy.  So far no one has really assumed heterosexuality!  But if they did, I would probably assume homosexuality in return….that usually makes people think about their assumptions.

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

To be honest, we haven’t. Maybe because we live in Melbourne.  But we have never experienced any difficulties.

The exception is legal however.  Unlike lesbian co-parents in Victoria and other states who can now have their parenting role legal recognised,  surro-Dads are still in legal limbo.  Despite that we travel quite easily in the world.

Are there issues particular to gay men as parents?

The only issue is legal recognition, which is sadly missing in Australia.


What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

Surround yourself with friends and family who support you.  Get rid of those who don’t.  Don’t let you children grow up with those who don’t support your family 110% .  That is toxic.  If they don’t support you, no matter who they are, they should no longer be part of your life.

Make sure you find friends in similar family situations so your children will grow up surrounded by or knowing other rainbow families.


How do you model pride in rainbow families to your child?

You be proud.  It really is simple as that.  Be proud of who you are.  Be proud of your sexuality.  Be proud of the rainbow family you created.  Children will learn, respect and adopt that pride.

What advice would you give someone embarking on a rainbow parenting journey?

LOL………that is a hard one.  OK….creating a rainbow family is much harder than 6 Bacardi Breezers in the back of a Barina at 3am in the morning.  It takes time, patience, more time, more patience, more time, lots of money, a rollercoaster ride of emotions, more time…..lots of love and trust.  But the journey is worth it.  It may be a difficult journey or a long journey but the joy of being a dad or mum at the end of it is worth it.  Being a parent is not for every one (gay or straight) but if it is for you…follow that dream.

Rodney Chiang-Cruise
rodneycruise@gmail.com
www.chiang-cruise.com
www.gaydadsaustralia.com.au

Next Page »