Telling our Stories
Last night I gave a speech at the launch of a pozible crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the production of Gayby Baby. For me this documentary is special because it celebrates the kind of family I was raised in – one with same sex parents – and it also celebrates the kind of family I hope to make one day.
For the past couple of years Maya Newell (herself a child of two wonderful mothers), Charlotte McLellan and their team have worked tirelessly to get this film produced and they now need $100,000 to get it finished. Please read my little speech below and then consider supporting this wonderful film.
Maya asked me to speak tonight as a grown up gayby. Indeed, I was raised by two lesbians, Louise and Teresa, a pharmacist and a librarian. They were, in many ways, spectacularly stereotypical – vegetarian, left-wing, overall-wearing, hairy-legged feminists who took us to Reclaim the Night and Mardi Gras, and taught us to be questioning, curious, thoughtful young people.
They even allowed their stereotype to develop with the times! When lesbian chic set in the late 90s, my mothers headed to the beautician in the throes of some vanity renaissance, waxing their legs and getting about town in Ben Sherman shirts and expensive haircuts. But I digress…
I stand before you as evidence that same sex parenting will not result in a plague of damaged, confused children roaming the earth sobbing for their fatherless – or motherless – youth. Young people like me, like my brother and sister, like Maya and many others are the grown up proof that queer parenting works.
We are not broken. Indeed, many would call us upstanding citizens. Personally, I think this is irrelevant. I think that even if I weren’t an upstanding citizen, two people of the same sex or gender should be allowed to procreate. But that is because I see no fundamental difference in the human rights of people of different sexualities, and because I believe that family is about love, care, support and education, not biology. Unfortunately, I am still in Tonight, however, I am not going to rant at you about rights or laws or the politics of this issue, which, for anyone that knows me, will be a bit of a surprise. I want to talk about storytelling, and the importance of people like me, and Maya and the young people in her film, telling their stories.
A year or so ago, I watched a movie called The Kids are Alright. For anyone who hasn’t seen this film, it’s about a family with two teenage kids and lesbian mums, played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening. The teenage son wants to find their sperm donor so they look him up and contact him. He starts hanging out with the family, commences an affair with one of the mums, is discovered and then – thank god – is
For a long time, I boycotted this film. Finally, there was a lesbian mums film, and it had to be about the sperm donor? Worse: about one of the lesbian mothers having an affair with the sperm donor! I was appalled!
WHY did the First Lesbian Mothers Film have to be about the sperm, when there is so much more to our families than this? Why did it have to imply that something was missing in these childrens’ lives? And, why was the heterosexual sex in the film visceral and passionate, juxtaposed with hilarious lesbian bed death between Julianne Moore and Annette Bening? I can guarantee you that if I were having sex with Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, it would not be dull!
Look. The Kids are Alright is a well written film, with full characters and a bright script. It would have been ok – good even – if I had already seen five or fifty films about a variety of lesbian families, with a variety of stories. But I hadn’t.
About an hour after watching it I found myself in sudden tears, halfway through brushing my teeth, hunched over the sink, sobbing loudly, realising that I had just seen my family on screen for the first time in 27 years. This film which irritated me, and offended my politics and ideas about what sort of stories we should be telling about queer families, had a huge emotional effect on me – because it was the first time I had seen anything resembling my family in a movie.
I watched a lesbian family with teenage children struggle with issues I recognised. I saw a lesbian family deal with infidelity and dishonesty. I cried for the parts of my family I’ve lost and those we hold onto fiercely and cherish. I saw the subtle differences that occur when two women parent together; differences I can’t state publicly without hideous generalisation, but marked differences that fellow children of lesbians mothers would have seen too. Moments and lines and feelings we have seen and said and felt.
I was 27 and I had never seen my family on screen, never had narratives that reflected my own, never had movies or novels or television shows that legitimised my experiences, allowed me to laugh at them, or gave me the catharsis I got watching that stupid movie.The Kids are Alright made me cry because of what it got wrong, but also because of what it got so right.
This is why projects like Gayby Baby are important. We tell our stories to fight for our rights – so that bigots and fools who say we don’t deserve to exist will hopefully hear us and eventually come around. But we also need to tell them because kids like us need narratives that reflect our lives, the diversity of our experience and the diversity of our families. We need stories that aren’t just about our rights, but are about our lives, our characters, our romances and tragedies, our laughter, our mistakes, our family holidays, our idiosyncracies and our conversations at the dinner table.
So please, spread the word about Gayby Baby, about the crowdfunding campaign and the need for donations. If you can afford to donate, please do. The community needs to hear these stories, the kids in these families need to hear these stories, my kids will one day need to hear these stories and I still need to hear these stories.