The Co-Chair of Rainbow Families, Vanessa Gonzalez, on how kids with LGBTIQ+ parents are changing the world.
What spurred your passion and advocacy for rainbow families?
In 2015, I was on maternity leave with a clingy baby, sleep deprived and craving adult company. I was shocked that despite being such a growing community, there wasn’t a big centre or a professional community organisation representing the needs of [rainbow families]. So it was easy to dream big. I am immensely proud that the founding Rainbow Families group started as a partnership between gay dads, lesbians, and now a growing number of trans and gender diverse parents. This is a unique NSW feature which makes us stronger, inclusive and sustainable.
You have a background in social work – have you come across many rainbow families through your work?
Unfortunately our own community has a higher rate of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health issues. Homelessness is a critical issue amongst youths, and trans and gender diverse parents face greater discrimination and barriers to services. But we are also a very resilient and thriving community and I have seen a growing number of single and coupled members of our community become excellent foster carers, too.
How has your own experience being in a rainbow family influenced your work?
Like most parents, I want my children to thrive, to reach their potential and to have a charmed life. Being part of the Rainbow Families volunteer team gives me an opportunity to be a change agent, to nurture community and seek this for mine and all the children and young people in our community. I also hope my children grow up being caring humans who consider community and environment. As a parent I have to walk the talk, too.
What are some of the main issues facing rainbow families at the moment?
Legal recognition of children in our community is a big issue. Many gay dads in particular are not legally recognised as the legal parent of the children they are for. Children born through overseas surrogacy deserve to have both their parents recognised in their birth certificate. Many government departments have not kept up with the changing face of Australian families.
Do you think rainbow families are widely accepted in Australia, or do we still have a long way to go?
I would have answered this differently before the postal survey. That was such a hurtful process to our community, and gave permission for discrimination towards us and our children. Families in some rural settings, trans and gender diverse families, and families with limited social support can experience discrimination and exclusion. That’s why the social groups we facilitate across NSW are so important to supporting our community. The day my primary school kid brings home a home reader that has two dads casually in the story, is the day that we’re closer to being widely accepted in Australia.
How do young people work with Rainbow Families to spread the group’s messages?
As an organisation we realised that we often claimed to represent the needs of children without consulting them. This is how the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) started. It is about listening to the smallest voices. The YAC has a membership of children and young people from the ages of 10 to 21 years, who have LGBTIQ+ parents. They are gutsy gorgeous kids, who are proud of our community and want to change the world.
What is Rainbow Families’ plans over the coming year?
We are leading a campaign for law reform in relation to surrogacy laws and the status of parents whose children are born overseas, and we are working for the removal of any discrimination against LGBTIQ+ staff and students by religious schools. We also have a bumper social and educational calendar with five playgroups, eight regional social groups, and a parenting group calendar. We run booked-out quarterly LGBTIQ+ antenatal classes, and we have a breastfeeding, chest feeding and human milk project that will deliver lactation classes to support our community.