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DNA Magazine – "Make or Break" by Robbie Fells

March 31, 2008 Leave a comment


Gay Dad with Robbie Fells
The challenges of raising kids can bring you and your partner closer together or, if there are unresolved issues, drive you further apart.

My partner and I recently visited Sydney and while my mum was minding the kids for the night we started wondering… Why did we have children? Without them we could sleep in together, have sex on tap and travel to glamorous cities. Why did we give up our overseas trips, go-out-whenever-we-want lifestyle and financial security?

The answer is that we both wanted more from life. While we enjoyed our recent free time, it was bittersweet. Ask most parents and I’m sure they’ll admit to not being able to live without their kids. I just came back from a two-week stint in the US and it’s scary how much I missed my family. I found myself in tears just looking at their photo. They become part of you and you miss them like crazy when separated.

How did my partner and I traverse the journey from kid-free and fun loving to doting dads? Firstly, we both wanted children equally. If one of us was female we’d probably have had four kids by now. I really doubt that being parents together will work if one person in the relationship is only partly committed. Put simply, you won’t get through the tough times. And there are many.

Imagine this: your new baby has woken up three times during the night, you’ve had one to two hours sleep and the baby wakes up yet again. Your partner has to go to work tomorrow so you have to get up again while every cell in your body screams, “No! Just go to sleep!”

What about differences of opinion? I want my children to go to a public school but my partner prefers private. My partner and I have more mundane arguments about what’s good for our kids, too. One thinks the child needs to sleep, the other thinks he’ll be okay, etc.

All this means that we’ve lost the spontaneity in our lives. Going out for dinner or popping out to a café now requires planning. Accepting invitations to parties becomes a serious logistical business if you have a child who needs to go to bed early every night and who needs food, milk and sterilised bottles at regular times. All this can cause more tension in a relationship than you might expect.

How are these difficulties navigated? Firstly, it’s a great idea to accept that conflict is okay. Ignoring or avoiding conflict is a relationship killer. Not discussing how you feel and bottling up tension is dangerous. My partner and I have learned to live with difference and to compromise.

You’re not always going to get your own way. Preparing yourself for managing and rethinking your own needs is part of this process. Sometimes the other parent knows better and you simply have to defer to them.

No matter what, you have to work as a team – one organises bottles and the other organises drop-off at day care. You should change things around, too. If one person gets to sleep in for a day or two, it should be reciprocated. You have to keep an eye out for your partner and make sure that you’re both getting a fair deal.

Children magnify any relationship gaps you may have and you have to deal with those gaps in productive ways. It’s worth discussing how you intend to parent your children early. Start the conversations between you and your partner well before the baby arrives. Consider discussing parenting with a specialist.

For my partner and I, becoming parents has only enriched our relationship. When I see him unselfishly giving to our kids it only makes me love him more.

If you have a question for Robbie send it to features@DNAmagazine.com.au.

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Categories: gay, Robbie Fells

SX – "Same-sex families in NSW disadvantaged" by Reg Domingo

March 26, 2008 Leave a comment

Same-sex families in NSW are at a significant disadvantage compared to those in other states because without a parenting order, a co-parent has no legal rights.

Professor Jenni Millbank from the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology said that unlike Western Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory, donors and co-parents in NSW are not automatically granted co-parenting status.

The lack of such provisions means that same-sex families in NSW do not share the same legal protection as those in other states in areas such as health, finance and inheritance.

“It’s a whole range of laws both in NSW and federally,” Millbank told SX. “For example, if a co-mother died or was injured, then her children wouldn’t automatically receive inheritance from her. The child wouldn’t be entitled to work or accident compensation. Likewise if the mothers break up, the birth mother isn’t able to use the Child Support Act to seek financial support from the co-mother.”

Millbank said that, in the event of a break-up, while a co-parent could still gain rights by proving their involvement with the child, “it’s a very uneven playing field in the sense that the co-mother has a much higher threshold to meet in terms of proving that her relationship with the child is beneficial for them. Whereas for a legal parent, that would be the starting point, because of course it would be beneficial for them to spend time with her.”

Last week, the NSW Attorney-General John Hatzitergos announced that the Iemma Government will not update its legislation, despite signs that the Victorian government will seek reform. It’s a move Millbank described as “sheer gutlessness”.

“It’s an area where there’s a clear and pressing need for recognition where there’s no advantage in any respects to say that one group of children should only have one legal parent while another has two. It doesn’t do anyone any good,” Millbank said. “It’s not like we’re waiting for some results to come in. We have a clearly defined problem and a clear and obvious solution. It’s just sheer gutlessness.”

[Link: Original Article]

MCV – "Nelson affirms queer stance"

March 26, 2008 Leave a comment


Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson confirmed the Liberal Party’s stance on GLBT rights in a speech to the National Press Club recently.

“We believe … in relation to people, that families are the foundation of Australian society,” Nelson said.

“I make no apology for saying that a man and a woman is a marriage and that forms a family. I don’t support gay marriage, I don’t support gay adoption and I don’t support gay IVF.

“But I sure as hell believe very strongly that no Australian should pay a dollar more in tax or receive a dollar less in social security by virtue of his or her sexuality.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption, gay, Lesbian

Sydney Morning Herald – "She’s the girl of their dreams" by Louise Hall, Health Reporter

March 23, 2008 Leave a comment

Meet Qona, the nine-year-old girl at the heart of an extraordinary tale of modern-day parenting.

Her birth mother lives in Sydney with her girlfriend. Her other mother, the woman she calls “mum” – the ex-girlfriend of her birth mother – raised her in New Zealand on her own.

But it’s her gay dad who will soon take responsibility for raising her.

Qona’s remarkable “rainbow” family is one of a growing trend of gay and lesbian people redefining parenthood. “We call ourselves a family,” said Qona’s dad, Mark Harrigan, a hairdresser from Newtown.

Jill Christie, her non-birth mother, agreed: “To her, this is normal – she knows her dad is gay and her mothers are lesbians.

“She knows she wasn’t created through sex – instead we tell her she was born scientifically – and she’s proud of it.”

Qona Venus Harrigan Christie was conceived in Sydney through home insemination using Mr Harrigan’s sperm. Ms Christie said she and Qona’s birth mother, Sarah (not her real name), chose Mr Harrigan because he wanted to play a hands-on role in his child’s life.

“I think if a kid has the chance to know both their mum and dad why deny them that?” she said.

“Otherwise they’ll spend the rest of their lives wondering about that unknown parent.”

Three weeks after Qona’s birth at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Ms Christie obtained a parenting order from the Family Court which granted her extensive rights as co-mother.

Qona, a Solomon Islands name meaning peaceful dove, was named after Ms Christie’s mother. Qona was also given Ms Christie’s surname.

Mr Harrigan said his daughter’s birth was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. After Sarah gave birth, Mr Harrigan was the first person to hold the newborn. A year later – dressed in drag as “Margaret” – he held a sleeping Qona in his arms on top of the lead float in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

“I always knew I was going to be a father – the difficulty lay in how that would happen,” he said.

“Now I can’t believe I produced something so beautiful.”

Qona’s early years were full of change. Mr Harrigan had her every third week from the age of three months till she was 4½ years, when Sarah and Ms Christie moved back to their native New Zealand.

But just a year later the lesbian couple split and Sarah returned to Sydney, leaving Ms Christie to cope as a single mother in Wellington, a conservative town with a small gay community. Suddenly alone, she had to give up her high-powered career in health administration.

“It’s cost me a lot – my career, my relationships and financially,” Ms Christie said.

Now 55, she has decided Mr Harrigan, 39, is more able to guide Qona through her adolescent years.

As a sperm donor, Mr Harrigan has no legal rights involving major decision-making about Qona’s education, living arrangements or health. He has no liabilities either, such as child-support payments.

Last month the three parents held their first “parenting conference” and decided Qona will move back to Sydney. Ms Christie may also move in with dad and daughter, and even Sarah may play more of a role.

“With so many divorces and re-marriages it’s not that extraordinary to have three parents anyway and our sexuality has nothing to do with our parenting,” Mr Harrigan said.

Despite the unconventional nature of her upbringing, Qona, Ms Christie and Mr Harrigan said, is a stoic, self-assured little girl who is proud of her mums and dad.

“When I visit she drags me round the playground telling everyone I’m her dad,” Mr Harrigan said.

A 2006 US study found that the adolescent offspring of same-sex parents did not differ from the children of heterosexual parents in self-esteem, peer relationships, school adjustment, drug use or sexual experience. In fact, teenagers of same-sex parents coped better with prejudice and bullying.

The other important adult in Qona’s life is Mr Harrigan’s partner, John Cobban.

Mr Cobban said in the past he’s refused requests to be a sperm donor, believing a child “should have a male and female input into its life”.

Being part of Mr Harrigan’s world has changed his view.

“Meeting this unique family has opened my eyes and changed my thoughts on gay parenting,” he said.

Rodney Cruise, from Gay Dads Australia, said while lesbians had been raising children for decades, gay men actively seeking fatherhood was a relatively new trend. He said gay men usually teamed up with a lesbian couple, single lesbian or single heterosexual woman. Increasingly, though, they are using a surrogate in overseas countries and raising the child with their same-sex partner.

“Gay and lesbian people will have children and you can’t stop them,” he said. “What makes a family is love and that’s what people care about – that the kids are loved, happy and well looked after.”

Mr Cruise and his partner, Jeff Chaing-Cruise, have a son Ethan, 15 months, who was born by surrogacy in the US.

He also has a child to a lesbian couple but he doesn’t have a daily role in her upbringing. He said there is growing acceptance of same-sex couples in the wider community.

Qona is an outgoing, sporty child who has represented her school in athletics, swimming and cross-country. Ms Christie said she was hitting the age where “sex is on the agenda” and her parents would continue to be open about their sexuality.

Research shows children raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to identify as gay or lesbian in adulthood than children raised by heterosexual parents.

Ms Christie believes Qona will probably experiment with boys and girls as she grows up, but “she has a much chance as being gay as any other child”.

[Link: SMH Article]
[Link: The Age Article]
[Link: Brisbane Times]

Brisbane Times – "NSW slow to adopt parent provision"

March 22, 2008 Leave a comment

NSW is lagging behind other states because, without a parenting order, a donor or co-parent has no legal rights, a same-sex parenting expert says. Professor Jenni Millbank, from the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, says there is a growing awareness in the community that “not everybody raising a child is their biological parent”.

But unlike in Western Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory, where the partner of the biological parent is automatically awarded co-parent status, much like the male partner of a woman who conceives through IVF, there is no such provision in NSW.

Professor Millbank says while proof of ongoing involvement in the life of the child can be used in court in the event of a dispute, “there is no excuse for NSW to be so slow at recognising parenting rights for same-sex couples”.

A spokesman for Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says his Victorian counterpart, Rob Hulls, has indicated his intention to raise the issue of same-sex parental rights at this week’s Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting. But he says the Iemma Government has no plans to update NSW legislation.

Research conducted in Australia and the US shows up to 10percent of gay men and 20percent of lesbians are parents. Up to half of these parents had children in a previous heterosexual relationship, but this proportion appears to be declining.

The 2006 Private Lives report which surveyed 5476 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people across Australia found 25.6percent had children while a 2005 Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby report indicated that 18.6percent had children.

[Link: Original Article]

Shepparton News – "Keen to Secure Equal Standing" by Kim Stephens

March 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Rowena Allen and Kaye Bradshaw siad the birth of their daughter Alexandra hammered home the inequality gay and lesbian couples face. Victorian Government MPs are expect to pass a new Bill that will create a relationships register for gay and lsbian couples to officially recognise them as partners.

Part of the new legislation would enable a same sex partner to discuss medical treatment with doctors, something Ms Bradshaw was legally unable to do when Ms Allen underwent an emergency caesarean.

“At this point we have no rights”, Ms Allen said.

“Kaye is not formally recognised as here (Alexandra’s) parent.” The couple were forced to undergo home insemination to conceive Alexandra with access to IVF services only permitted for medical reasons.

“Women are denied access to IVF if the are scoially infertile, i.e. if they don’t want to have sex with a man”, Ms Bradshaw said.

Ms Bradshaw and Ms Allen said though it needed an “accelerator”, there were confident society was steadily progressing and gay couples would on day be recognised as equal to heterosexual couples.

“We hope that by the time Alexandra’s at school we will be formally married, ” Ms Allen said.

Shepparton News – "A Rainbow Family" by Kim Stephens

March 14, 2008 1 comment


Lesbian Mums Welcome Little Bundle of Joy with Open Arms

Violet town couple Rowena Allen and Kaye Bradshaw joke their baby daughter Alexandra will probably one day nervously come to them to say she likes boys.

“Statistically, the odds are she will be heterosexual,” Ms Allen said yesterday.

“But we’ll still love her anyway,” Ms Bradshaw finished.

The Lesbian couple’s leap-day baby is a special bundle of joy for more than just her February 29 birth date.

While gay families such as theirs are increasingly common and readily accepted in urban settings, in more conservative country settings the concept remains relatively rare.

“We knew we were going to be trailblazers,” Ms Allen, who gave birth to ALexandra, said.

“We thought about doing it in Melbourne but we really wanted to have here in our community.”

Alexandra was born at Goulburn valley Base Hospital, capping off what Ms Allen jokingly described as “a bizarre rainbow family”.

Ms Bradshaw has two sons, aged 19 and 20, while Alexandra’s father – the couple’s gay Melbourne friend Ian Seal – also has two sons of similar ages, all of whom have been thrilled by the latest addition to their families.

“They have all said she will be very well protected if anything should happen when she gets to school,” Ms Bradshaw said.

Ms Bradshaw, 46, and Ms Allen, 35, also agreed Mr Seal would continue to play a pivotal role in his daughter’s life and would always be “dad” to her.

They both said they were fully aware fo the reaction bringing Alexandra into their family could evoke in their rural setting.

“It’s not so much out-right hostility we face, it’s the invisibility,” Ms Allen said.

“People don’t assume we’re partners and we fight a constant battle to explain it.

“It’s a constant reminder you don’t fit the system”.

But they said they had been overwhelmed by the support of neighbours and friends, both throughout the pregnacy and since Alexandra was born.

“Violet Town is pretty progressive and the community have embraced us and really accepted us,” Ms Allen said.

As for the future impact on Alexandra, the couple firmly believed the very much planned for baby girl would be as well adjusted as any child from a loving home.

“There are such a diverse range of families now, society really needs to start fully accepting that,” Ms Allen said.

“There is absolutely no accident here, she’s been brought into a large family who all really love her.

“I think she’ll be extremely open to diversity”.