I’ve got a lot of affection for Australians, but the one thing I don’t appreciate is the slow progress Aussie politicians have made on the matters of legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption at the federal level. How could I not when families are disadvantaged because of a government’s unwillingness to adapt to a changing world? This is an issue with a human face and, as such, the strategy seems to be what it’s long been in many LGBT communities across the globe: get to know us and you might just realize we’re not all that different.
It’s exactly this concept that makes the Australian documentary Gayby Baby so engaging.
Gayby Baby looks at the experiences of children with same-sex parents and is largely told from the perspective of these kids. While all the children have siblings, it’s Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham who are at the center of this great doc, with the first three being raised by lesbian parents.
The film opens with Gus, 11, explaining the donor process before he quickly moves on to his one true love: wrestling. Between him and his adorable but feisty little sister, his moms more than have their hands full.
Ebony, 12, also lives with her two moms, but her interests are geared towards the arts–she desperately wants to get into a local art school to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. For their part, her parents believe the school would be much more accepting of their lifestyle. Ebony’s got two siblings, including a baby brother with epilepsy. Between medical expenses, car repairs and just the costs of raising a family, Ebony’s moms don’t have much money to spare. Still, they’ve decided to invest in her future and pay for the singing lessons she needs as she prepares to audition for a spot in the school.
Matt, 11, is being raised with his brother by his mom and her partner following his parents’ divorce. He loves soccer and sports in general, but the main thing on his mind right now is the doubt he’s facing about his faith. A regular churchgoer herself, Matt’s mom is deeply concerned about this.
Graham, 11, is an energetic child who sadly has gone through a lot in his young life–he didn’t speak until the age of five simply because he wasn’t taught. Fortunately, now he’s in the care of a wonderful couple who are teaching him to read. But having moved to the more conservative country of Fiji, he and his brother must keep their fathers’ relationship a secret.
Having heard all these stories, what becomes immediately obvious is that these children are the exact opposites of what the stereotype “gayby” is: the boys are hyper-masculine, and the girls are into traditionally feminine activities. Not that the opposite is a problem, but the point is there’s no default child of a gay couple.
While dropping that hint might not have been a political choice, politics does find its way into this film. After making some appearances in the press, Matt’s family is set to visit with then Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to discuss same-sex families.
Matt truly is one busy guy. He also visits with his pastor, as per his mother’s request, to discuss his doubts. Unsurprisingly, they stem from the fact that the Church says his mothers’ relationship is a sin. What are the pastor’s thoughts on this? Yes, same-sex couples are indeed living in sin. What a comfort!
After this, Matt rightly asks his mom why she doesn’t go to a church where she’s perceived as normal. She responds that it’s not about what others think, but about her belief system. Even though she’s firm in her faith, throughout his entire existential crisis Matt’s mom has talked to him like an adult and made room for his doubt.
As for Gus and his family, their biggest concern is wrestling. While he desperately wants to go to an upcoming WWE match, his moms are worried about his love for a sport that is violent and often promotes misogynistic and anti-gay language and behavior. When he begins to get so wrapped up in wrestling that he accidentally hurts his sister, it looks like it’s game over for him.
And while Ebony looks like the model child by comparison, she wasn’t always that way. She admits in the film that at first it was hard to accept her mother was in a gay relationship. But since then, she’s come to embrace her mom’s partner. It’s a good thing, too, because she’s the one taking Ebony to most of her singing lessons!
Like all families, the ones featured in Gayby Baby have their ups and downs and the movie shows this. At the end of the day, however, whereas not all children live in happy homes, these ones do. It just so happens that their parents are gay.
Gayby Baby is an excellent educational tool because it’s near impossible to watch it and deny the facts: gay parents can raise children just as effectively as straight parents can. As far as moviemaking goals go, can you ask for anything more? I think not.
Gayby Baby is available on iTunes, Google Play and other digital platforms. The film can be purchased on DVD in Australia and New Zealand. If you live in the U.S., visit the movie’s website to find out how your local cinema can host a screening.