By MAYA NEWELL
My favorite thing as a child was to pick up the home telephone to find a telemarketer on the other end. “Hello,” I’d chirp eagerly, to which they would ask, “Hello darling, can I speak to your mother?” With a smug look on my face, I’d reply, “Which one?”
Since I was a young child, every interaction with a stranger has been an intimate battle; a battle where I push the envelope and bring equality to LGBTIQ people. Grand dreams I know…
On the weekend, I attended a friend’s wedding. Growing up in a family for which weddings are traditionally & legally forbidden and therefore, not terribly relevant, it was only the second one I’d been to in my life. The setting was as luxurious as one might’ve expected, punctuated with roses floating in glasshouse, bubbles and a weeping willow that swept over beds of snapdragons and climbing snow peas. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
My feelings of awe, however, were cut short by the catholic celebrant who dutifully repeated the compulsory, deal-breaking sentence – “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”- Which made me just plain uncomfortable.
During the reception after the ceremony, the old fighting spirit of my childhood was reawakened and there, on the lawn, immersed in bubbly and canapes, one of these ‘intimate battles’ occurred. Whilst exchanging pleasantries with sharply dressed family friend of the groom and mother of four, I began telling her about a documentary I’m making about kids growing up in same-sex families.
Though she was very curious about the topic, she couldn’t help herself in expressing her reservations. “Well, yes,” she said, “but I s’pose we will have to wait and see if they – you know – turn out ok…? That will be the real test, when those kids grow up.”
Because I am usually cautious about ‘coming out’ to someone I am unsure about, particularly if I am also skeptical about their political views, I let the conversation trail into other subjects; work, university, love life and her sons’ jobs. Then after a while, the green safe light flashed and I thought, what the heck, and blurted out, “Well I also have two lesbian mothers, that’s why I am making the film… there are many grown up kids like me and I suppose now that you have met me, you can be the judge about whether we ‘turn out’ ok.” Yep. And unsurprisingly: Silence.
What had previously been a rather abstract topic of conversation had suddenly been transformed into “look what I prepared earlier – a real, grown up Gayby!” She paused for a long time. But then a tear trickled down her cheek. “What a mature young woman you are. Who would have thought…”
It’s moments like these, these “telemarketer moments”, that make all the bigoted, unglamorous moments of having same-sex parents worthwhile. As children of same-sex families we occupy a special place, not just in the gay
world, but in Australia at large. In many ways, we serve as a bridge between heterosexual and homosexual communities.
Of course, there are times when I resent having to tell my story to every inquiring stranger, but I also feel proud of my family, the family my mothers’ fought so hard for, and I want to scream that to the world.
To the woman on the grass at the garden wedding, I am not perfect. But my imperfections have nothing to do with the fact that my parents are gay. Our families are not accidents, and as a tween that features in my film told me yesterday, “well, at least dad didn’t knock some woman up and have to stay with her”. We are the result of long deliberation, careful planning, and lots of love. And that’s a pretty good place to start.
This small story is a miniscule piece of my history. But gaybies like me have so much more to share – stories about our first Mardi Gras parade, about “coming out” on behalf of our families at school, about learning from an early age about respecting others regardless of difference, and about our strong and brave parents, who have created such diverse and wonderful families.
Whatever prejudices, fears, and misunderstandings gather around the same-sex family debate, one of the sustaining influences of such intolerance is the distinct lack of stories and representation. With this in mind, I got together with a friend and we began making the documentary, GAYBY BABY – the first feature length documentary on this topic.
To complete the film, we need $100,000. We are already up to $29,000, and every day that number grows, but we still have a long way to go. I know it’s a lot. But there are so many (costly!) elements to finishing a full-length film:
equipment, finishing the shoot, editing, post production facilities, sound designing, scoring, mixing, grading and of course marketing…
If we don’t make the target we get nothing… so please take a moment to watch our 2-minute trailer, and consider donating to help make this movie a reality.
Donations to the film can be made here, visit the film’s website here, their Facebook page here, or follow updates on Twitter here. Alternatively, if you want to get in touch, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maya is a documentary filmmaker and photographer whose short docs have screened at film festivals all over the world including AIDC, Slamdance and Silverdocs.