A FILM documenting the lives of four young people growing up with same-sex parents was always going to court controversy.
However, Gayby Baby director Maya Newell concedes that the recent headlines surprised even her.
[showads ad=MREC]“I’ve known from a very early age that Fred Nile sits at his desk and prays for rain during Mardi Gras and speaks out constantly against us,” said Newell, who is the daughter of lesbian mothers.
“We could easily have predicted [Gayby Baby’s controversy] and I don’t think that it’s in any way new. We’re just used to it.
“Kids in same-sex households have to develop thick skins as we’re often told that our families are not normal. What we could not have predicted was the level to which it blew up.”
Luckily, though, Newell says the negativity was only from a minority.
“What was lovely was that it feels like the majority was really in support of our families, the film and us,” she says.
“The backlash was actually really positive in the end but it definitely wouldn’t have been good to be a child in a gay family… and that’s the really sad part of it all.”
The topic for her first feature documentary was inspired by her own experience and a desire to give voices to an upcoming generation of young people from rainbow families.
“The inspiration for the film came from watching lots of politicians and listening to them for years and years, talking about our families and marriage equality saying that ‘all children deserve a mother and a father’,” Newell says.
“Generally, I don’t think we look to the perspective of children very often, we don’t think they have a sense of agency or opinions or wisdom. Some of the kids totally surprised me in the making of this film, like these four kids are really smart and intelligent and have an incredible sense of morality and as Matt [one of the kids featured] says in the film, sometimes they have better ideas than adults. I really believe that.
“It’s a very affirming thing to know that you’re not alone… this film can speak for a lot of kids and when others watch it, they will know that they’re not alone.”
The strength behind each of the four stories shared in Gayby Baby gave Newell confidence in that the central message of love, support and the reality of parenting came through.
“What I really love about Matt, Ebony, Gus and Graham is that each of their stories, they kind of seam together. It’s not just about one story just about being brilliant,” she says.
“The worst thing about going to a multi-person documentary or film is loving one character and just waiting for them to come back on screen again.
“What’s really wonderful about Gayby Baby is that all four kids are just incredible and very charismatic.”
Each story explored a particular theme Newell saw as prevalent in the lives of children of same-sex parents.
“Like in Gus’ case, exploring gender and what it’s like for a boy growing up in a lesbian household,” she says.
“Others look at religion and faith growing up with gay parents, adoption and making up for lost time and the discrimination that our families face.
“Each child and their themes have completely different and important things to offer.”
For Newell, the views expressed recently by Katy Faust — an American who like Newell, was raised by two mothers but became opposed to marriage equality and same-sex parenting after becoming a born-again Christian — completely misrepresented and skewed the reality of child-rearing for both same-sex and heterosexual parents.
“I don’t know about Katy’s personal life but I think that you will find children that have grown up in same-sex families who have had a hard time — just as you’ll find kids in heterosexual families who have had a hard time.” Newell says.
“I think that all of us, on occasion, we blame our parents for all of our mistakes and the upsets that happen in childhood. I think that is really natural.
“What’s unfortunate is that Katy has made a big deal about it and she’s taken it upon herself to not just talk about her own experience but seemingly see herself qualified to speak for everyone else, too.
“That’s not fair. Families are imperfect, we all are. The point is that same-sex families are no more or no less perfect that anyone else’s.”
Gayby Baby is currently showing in selected cinemas across Australia.
**This article was first published in the October edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.