Archive for October, 2005

Sydney Star Observer – "My Life With Christopher" by Barry McKay

October 27, 2005 Leave a comment


I have always been comfortable with being gay, but felt there was always something missing. I’d always had a very strong paternal instinct that confused me. I didn’t know whether it was a goal that would ever be achieved. It was a part of me that I felt I couldn’t express in a gay relationship – something was missing. I devoted myself to working with children with disabilities for about 15 years, but my work didn’t fulfil that need either.

I did have a few relationships that lasted a few years, and after travelling overseas, I returned to live in the Blue Mountains. I met my son Christopher’s mother in the workplace. She knew that I was gay, we talked a lot and became good friends. I told her that I would like to have a child. She was divorced and wanted to have another child, and being the modern woman she was, she thought that it was a perfect opportunity to have a “family” that was non-stereotypical. She agreed to help me. As we were both in our mid-30s, we took fertility vitamins to increase the chances of conception. She fell pregnant almost instantaneously. We were quite shocked.

We discussed arrangements before Christopher was born: we agreed it was in the best interests of the child that he’d always be share-cared, he’d have a home with dad and he’d have a home with mum. Initially I was able to take more time off work to look after the baby. Nurses from the hospital and Christopher’s mother gave me crash courses in what to do and she’d ring me quite often.

I would want Christopher in the best clothes and I would be taking photos of him all the time. I’d be changing his entire outfit several times a day, so during the times Christopher was with his mum, I’d be kept busy washing all of his things. It felt like that was never going to end.

Christopher is just such a happy balanced boy now. He’s got two worlds: he’s got a mum that loves him and a dad that loves him, his home with mum, and his world with me, and all of his things at my house. Both his mum and I have our own lives – his mum is more career-driven than I am. We respect each other and she has a very positive perception of gay men in general. We both give Christopher as much time as we can. We don’t have to live in each other’s pockets either.

Christopher is quite a gentle little spirit. He loves his dad, he wants to be with me constantly, which I find very rewarding. You can’t think of yourself all of the time, and you know whatever you’re doing is out of love. You have to remember that having a child is for life. You have to sacrifice your time. Being constantly available for Christopher makes it hard for me to date guys. Ideally I would like to be in a relationship. A potential partner would have to accept the responsibilities that I have.

As a gay father, you tend to be under more scrutiny with some people. A common attitude people hold is whatever mistakes your child makes, it’s your fault. A few people have said, “Your child will turn out gay because of you,” which is very narrow-minded, considering most gay people are brought up by heterosexuals. Probably the majority of negativity comes from some gay men, attitudes like “leave it to the breeders”. It’s just not the way the world is any more. I was quite surprised to hear things like that. Although I know that some people do hold the opinion that gay dads might want to molest their kids, I’ve never had anyone express that to me personally. Drawing such a conclusion about gay people and pedophilia makes me rather sick. It’s quite a harsh judgment. I don’t worry about Christopher being teased at school because he has a gay father. He’s already pretty big for his boots at this age.

I’ve read about situations where gay men have wanted to have children and paid a woman to be a surrogate mother and, after she had the child, instinct kicked in, she wanted to keep the child, and the father didn’t have much of a leg to stand on. So, I’ve been lucky. It depends on the motivation of the couple and of the mother. If the motivation is money, then straight away I would say “no”. I think lesbians “shopping for sperm” among their close gay friends is good, because they want the child to know its father. A gay couple needs to know someone who would mother the child for the right reasons and to keep in mind that having a child is for life. It’s bigger than marriage – it’s forever. You can’t just walk away from it.

Interview by Barry McKay

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: David Jones, gay

The Age – "Call to teach same-sex issues" by Cathy Anderson

October 24, 2005 Leave a comment

Educators want a national schools program tackling gay issues. By Cathy Anderson.

A CONFERENCE at Deakin University has called for a compulsory national schools education program on same-sex issues to help prevent homophobic abuse and curb discrimination.

The Schooling and Sexualities Ten Years On conference heard that many gay students continued to suffer isolation, abuse and suicidal tendencies, owing in part to the fractured policies on same-sex education in schools.

Research presented also revealed many gay teachers were forced to live dual lives for fear of discrimination from colleagues, parents and students.

About 100 academics, policymakers and teachers from Australia, New Zealand and the US attended the three-day event earlier this month. It was organised to assess the progress made since a pioneering conference was held 10 years ago at Deakin to address the need for same-sex issues to be taught in Australian schools.

The “reunion” conference heard many government and independent schools were largely conservative.

A panel from Melbourne and regional Victoria of gay students, and one student who has a gay parent, told the conference inadequate programs had left some of them feeling depressed and suicidal.

Yvonne, a year 12 student from Sale, spoke of how she was ostracised by her classmates through most of high school, bullied in front of teachers who turned a blind eye, and denied access to sexual health information specific to lesbians.

She said that by 16 she was suicidal. She also received very little familial support, with her mother telling her “not to come home” after Yvonne revealed she was gay.

Several other students who spoke at the conference experienced similar emotional torment, depression and loneliness. All the students said there was little or no educational policy regarding sexuality at their schools, and information about gay support groups was non-existent.

All agreed they would have benefited from such programs, and said increased education about same-sex attracted youth would probably have diminished the levels of homophobia they encountered.

Many presenters believed the problem was an absence of a national, compulsory program and the unwillingness of principals, politicians and parents to allow same-sex issues to be formally raised in schools.

While the conference presenters discussed resources, such as the national Talking Sexual Health program developed by La Trobe University and various state programs such as Shine in South Australia, schools were not obligated to adopt them.

“Many schools are still very homophobic,” said conference joint co-ordinator Dr Lisa Hunter, a lecturer in the school of education and professional studies at Queensland’s Griffith University.

“Parents can be a main influence as to whether diverse sexualities are liveable and whether exploration is demonised or ignored.”

Dr Hunter said supportive and informed teachers and parents were vital if young people were to have a positive schooling experience.

“Politicians and organisations from the Christian right often block programs. The moment you put the word ‘sex’ in a school program, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Even states with mandatory curriculums, it’s not necessarily carried out and it’s still on a school-by-school basis.”

Conference attendees also heard how gay teachers were often unable to help gay students because they feared being outed and discriminated against. The recent case, revealed in Education, of a Melbourne University student teacher removed from her position after she told her students she was gay was cited as an example.

Tania Ferfolja, school of education lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, shared her research on lesbian secondary teachers in government schools in NSW. She told the conference most of the women were fearful of coming out and often led double lives.

Ms Ferfolja said the rise of neo-conservative politics had a huge effect on attitudes in schools. Policies such as the ban on gay marriage, IVF access for lesbians and the adverse reaction to ABC TV’s Play School episode featuring two lesbian parents, contributed to a reluctance of gay teachers to be out at school.

Conference joint co-ordinator Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli said the event had some very positive outcomes. She said sex education had made improvements over the past 10 years but there was still a lot of work left to do.

“Programs are slowly getting into schools, but we need to find a way to mandate their inclusion,” Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli, a senior lecturer at Deakin, said. “Schools have an inherent heterosexuality, which is supported by a lack of equity in law and the use of language such as ‘phase’ and ‘choosing a lifestyle’. That’s the sort of attitude we need to change.”

Following the conference, researchers, academics, family planning groups and teachers pledged to build stronger networks to decrease the level of homophobia in schools and provide more support for gay and lesbian students and teachers.

One initiative is to create an international centre on sexuality and health classes. It will be set up and headed by US-based gay and lesbian education policy pioneer Professor James T. Sears (who was the keynote speaker and conference facilitator), with committee representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the South Pacific. The centre will collect and disseminate information about same-sex programs in the US and Australasian region and co-ordinate research grants.

Other conference initiatives were:

· An Australian website and national publication to be launched.

· Two forums will be held in Queensland with the education department to address homophobia in schools, policy changes needed and implementation across the state.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: gay, Lesbian