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

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Who’s in your family?

In the same house: Deanna (mummy), Sue (mumma) & Noah, three.

Sue has two sons in their 20’s.

Noah is close to his grandparents (Deanna’s parents) and was adored by Sue’s mum before she died.

Noah is close with his little cousins.

Noah has a group of donor siblings that we are in regular contact with – other children with two mums who have the same sperm donor.

Then there is one year old Venice and her two dads.  Deanna gave birth to Venice in October 08 for her gay dads.

Where do you live?

Tamworth NSW

How did you create your family?

To have Noah we chose a man that we met through Pinkboard. We used at home inseminations and were lucky to achieve pregnancy first go .

We met Venice’s dads with a view to being their surrogate, she was conceived with at home inseminations also.

We had an early miscarriage the first month and then got Venice the next month we tried. Very lucky indeed !

Do you have a relationship with your donor/the family to whom you are a surrogate?

Noah’s donor was to be a known donor. He agreed to have casual contact with Noah via email, phone and the occasional visit. We wanted someone Noah could send fathers day cards to, someone that he could call dad and be able to say to the kids at school, ‘My daddy lives in Sydney.’ The donor was happy for this at the time. We knew the donor had other children like Noah and made it clear to him that we would be happy to have contact with the other children and their mums, and at the time the donor agreed. Time has turned that arrangement sour. When we came across another couple with one of Noah’s siblings, the donor, for reasons unfathomable, tried to warn us off mixing with these women. He then proceeded to ring all the mothers of these children and tell them he would have nothing to do with any of us if we continued to mix with these women, accusing them of things they simply have not done.  Unfortunately, we believe the main reason he wanted to have control over who we mixed with is because we now realise the extent of his donations goes way further than any of us could have dreamed. He is a serial donor and we believe there are upwards of 20 + children out there. He has slandered us to the other mothers and we have copped flak from women who have never met us based on this “kind generous man’s word”. He now has no contact with 5 of these children simply because he can’t control who their mothers socialise with.

A case of beware of the serial donors!

Had we had the opportunity to meet Venice’s dads before we had Noah we would have had a tribe with them!

When discussing having Venice I made it clear that I couldn’t do it if they expected me to completely walk away. Venice is being raised by her two dads in a town four and   half hours drive away from us. We get regular photos, emails, phonecalls, and skype calls. We see her two to three times a year. The guys tell her I am mum, they keep a photo of her and I beside her bed. My parents and extended family are encouraged by the guys to be in contact with Venice. The relationship between us and them is a positive one which focusses on what’s best for Venice. Noah knows Venice is his little sister. As Noah and Venice get older they will spend time together, and Noah will be able to go to the guys in school holidays and vice versa.


What are some things you do that maintain or promote good relationships with the other people in your family network?

That’s a hard one. Noah’s donor basically gave us an ultimatum: in order to maintain contact with him, we had to do as he said. That got my back up and made me question  why he felt the need to control the women he had donated to.We decided that Noah building a relationship with his donor siblings, would in the end, be more valuable than risking his donor pulling away from him when it suited him and leaving a very hurt and confused little boy. So those siblings we do have contact with are family. We have get togethers, we email, swap photos and stay in touch. The premise of our relationship is fostering relationships between the children, however we all seem to click. We have vast differences in backgrounds and lifestyles, but we all seem to be in tune on some intrinsic level.

As for maintaining a relationship with Venice’s dads, we seem to have similar parenting styles, and I guess it helps that they think I can do no wrong, hehehe! But with the main focus on doing what’s best for Venice and Noah and putting the kids before the adults it seems to be working well.

Three words to describe each member of the family?

Deanna = gregarious, generous, trusting,   Sue = patient, tolerant, kind.  Noah = gentle, bright, oldsoul.

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

Noah, loves anything to do with the Wiggles, he sings and dances and plays his wiggles guitar, and drives around in his big red car dressed as Anthony Wiggle.

Venice has just in the last few days started walking so she is into exploring !

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

We enjoy getting together with our extended family both rainbow and bio.

What are some great kids’ activities where you live?

Tamworth has a lot to offer if the kids are into sport, otherwise it’s left a bit wanting!

How would you describe your parenting style?

I’m tough. Noah is very intelligent and very stubborn. He does get the occasional smack, he gets timeouts, he has a routine and is expected to do chores  – yes, chores! He has been ‘feeding the dogs’ since he was two, (he carries the bowls in and gives each dog their bowl and goes back and collects the empty bowl), he also puts his dirty clothes in the washing machine, asks to leave the table, says please and thankyou. Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned but children learn from the minute they are born. How confusing for them to have adults let them do things in their first few years because they ‘are just a baby’ and then turn around and try to rein in the stuff society finds unacceptable when they are older.  It confuses them.  Noah has been given boundaries from the beginning, and he worked out pretty quickly that if he pushed those boundaries there would be consequences.  After all in the adult world, when we push boundaries we face consequences – children who don’t learn this I believe become children whose parents are tearing their hair out when they reach their teens. We constantly have people remarking on what a fantastic little boy Noah is.

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

Only in so far as I’m probably more determined not to raise a “juvenile delinquent,” for want of a better term. I realise the stigma is there, and I guess a part of me feels we have to ‘prove’ ourselves. We are out and proud, and Noah has a multitude of books with rainbow family themes. He goes to PFLAG meetings.  I guess it means he will be raised in household tolerant of differences, he’ll have an understanding of what it feels like to be part of a minority. We hope to instill in him empathy for those around him, he’ll see that there are no men’s roles/women’s roles; that everyone gets in and does what needs to be done.

How has your relationship with your partner changed after children?

It’s probably stronger. We’re not your ‘average’ lesbian couple because of Sue’s health. It’s difficult to explain !

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

Not really, just the parenting gig in general can be so hard whether gay or straight !

What is great about being a rainbow parent?

I have always liked to stand out in a crowd and can be a bit of a show off, so it suits me most of the time to be different from the majority. I use every opportunity I get to educate the straight community. Work colleagues ask me lots of questions about how it all happens and I delight in answering them openly and honestly. Having a child in some respects makes you more OUT there, in that there are many more opportunities for coming out. At the same time it makes you less visible within the gay community because there are still a lot of  lesbians and gay men who don’t have time for us ‘breeder’ lesbians.

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

We have been extremely lucky that nobody in our extended family has been negative. Knowing my personality as my extended family does, they wouldn’t be game ! My parents, Sue’s mum before she died, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins have been supportive. I’m not naive enough to think there haven’t been whispers behind my back, especially from some of my extended family, but they’re not game to say anything negative to my face.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask?

I tell the truth. I look them in the eye and tell them exactly what they want to know. Most are just curious because it is such a foreign concept to the average straight person.  I use it as a chance to educate. Sue’s youngest bio son, who is 25, tells everyone Noah is his little brother. Sue, when she has Noah out on her own, has been called grandma (she’s 49) by people. She will correct them and say, ‘No I’m his mum.’  They inevitably make some comment about her having him late in life. Just the other day she had someone say, ‘Your other half must think Noah’s  wonderful.’  Sue says, ‘Yeah SHE does.’  They get it then.

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

Not really …I guess on a small scale now that Noah is getting more aware and going to day care with kids from straight families, there are two little boys in particular who drum the ‘daddy’ thing into their play. The carer is clueless when it comes to rainbow issues, and I’m not sure that tackling her with some education would make much difference. I’m just looking forward to next year when those little boys won’t be there !

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

We tell Noah he’s very lucky to have two mums, special little boys and girls have two mums or two dads. He can tell you by pointing to photos who his brothers and sisters are. He will be raised knowing they are a special family, to be proud that he has brothers and sisters and lots of aunties and uncles in his rainbow family. We don’t hide who we are in front of him, we give him no reason to think that our family has anything to hide, we’re open and honest in public and in private.

Noah has books, and clothing that are all rainbow family proud.

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

I think people need to surround themselves with genuine friends and family, whether they be blood related or not. Children are hard work and you should have a group/community around that will help out when the going gets tough. Another good advertisement for co-parenting arrangements; it gives you a chance to have a break. Some parents (very few ) don’t ever feel they need a break, but most of us if we’re honest, do  need timeout from the kids, so how wonderful for the kids that end up with two mums and two dads, for example, to share the burden !

Networking and being in touch with other rainbow families is important. It lessens the feelings of isolation you get from being surrounded day in day out by straight families and people.

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

Go for it, don’t be afraid to explore all your options, keep an open mind, don’t close yourself off to possibilities !

There should be no taboos whilst ever the interests of the child are at the forefront. If people go into a parenting arrangement with the ‘good’ of the child as paramount you can’t go too far wrong. Do your homework. For us even finding out that we have a serial donor and donor siblings all over the country side can be turned into a positive if the children are not lied to and / or encouraged that their situation is shameful. Noah will be raised to feel special that he has so many siblings. There are so many guys and girls out there who would dearly love to parent, and I have a hard time understanding why we can’t all help each other out. It’s probably lucky for me I didn’t start my parenting journey until I was 36 or I would have had 10 all over the countryside !

(That’s from Dr Seuss, by the way. )

I’ve been in a bit of a mid-campaign slump. So much to do,  so little time, so many demanding babies to feed/wipe down/play with.  Then I spent too much time worrying about the Religious Right – so many of them, so few of us – and seeing their new campaign, so enthusiastically denouncing us, was depressing.

Presumably that’s their intention. Interestingly, everyone else on our team is feeling optimistic!

So I say:

Leah follows the prewritten letter on www.arcq.com.au then adds:

I’m a 20 year old lesbian who lives in Rochedale South. My partner and I have been together for about a year and we’ve talked about kids but it’s not on the agenda yet. Merely knowing that we’d both have the same rights as heterosexual couples is a comforting thought for the future. It’s not always been easy, I’ve known I was gay since Year 7 but I didn’t fully understand or realise till I was in Grade 9. My Grandparents who I adored condoned gay people and they even banned me from reading about any form homosexuality unless it was saying that it was wrong. I felt so trapped and so alone. Most of my school years were spent in a deep depression where I didn’t really want to live out of fear that anyone would find out and then think I was a “dirty” person. I was afraid my Mother would kick me out, she has much the same views as my grandparents. One night she saw a gay couple on the news and said to me “I would never disown you if you were gay, but I wouldn’t love you as much”. It was an excruciating experience. I think that acts like these are very important, they influence people to understand rather than judge. I see gay young teens now and how easy it is for them to be out. It’s only taken 5 years to advance with such change to the way people interact and think about gay people. It’s not just important for gay people to support this, straight people should too. What happens someone you know has to go through the same thing that I did, I would never wish that upon anyone. Having things like this makes a community realise that it’s okay if you disagree with it, it’s okay if you agree with it, but we need to have equal rights. Thanks for your time.

Leah

I love Leah’s letter to the Community Consultation because it reminds me that I’m not just fighting for equal rights for myself, but for a better life for all the young gay and lesbian folk coming up after me. It gives me a sense of community, and also of being – not exactly an elder (because surely I’d have to be, you know, old) – maybe a mentor, or a role model of one way it’s possible to live a good life as a lesbian.