Growing up with same-sex parents is different, and nothing to be scared of. Young rainbow families advocate Patrick Cairnduff opens up about homophobic misconceptions and what his mums have taught him about diversity.


“You are now, officially, married.”

Those were the words that my mums Annette and Kylie had been dreaming about for the past sixteen years, and now we finally had them.

Looking back, it seems so silly that five words caused so much fuss.

To achieve it almost every rainbow baby and ally had to pull together. Many took to the public stage. Others fought harder battles with extended families.

Some people argue that having same-sex parents is ‘the same’ as having parents of the opposite sex or gender. It’s not really.

It’s different – and that’s okay. We thrive off difference. We don’t need to be scared of it.

I went to a school that actively promoted inclusion and diversity through its values.

During the postal survey the school was draped in rainbow flags, teachers frequently wore ‘Wear it Purple’ shirts, and the school counsellors delivered a pro-equality talk to the entire school.

There were of course times when I experienced people’s ignorance or misunderstandings, but what was provided was a space for respectful conversation where we were encouraged and supported to understand and accept each other.

That’s the kind of place I want Australia to be.

Last year I was sitting on the floor of ABC’s Q&A taking on a No campaigner on the topic of IVF.

Live on-air, she was making the convoluted argument that there was “a difference between parenting (being born into) and being raised by same-sex parents”.

I argued that same-sex parents could foster a family just as well as any other parents. That as a child who had lived this life, I knew more than those who just had opinions about it.

Little did the No campaigner know that, under the seats, my mums and I were holding hands.

This moment pretty much summed up the postal survey for us: holding strong together while asking people to be okay with us.

I normally get a lot of questions about my parents. Most are friendly. Others are hostile.

The questions during the postal survey were almost always hostile.

“Don’t your lesbian parents pressure you into turning gay?”

No. They prefer women – we have that in common. But seriously, my parents would be accepting of me regardless of my sexuality.

“It must be hard not knowing your biological father.”

I know my father, as do many rainbow kids.

My parents separated when I was younger. On one side I have two mums. On the other side I have my dad and his partner.

Of course some kids have donors, like my brother. Some of them known, some unknown. But this is also true of many straight families, where there are step parents, donors, surrogacy, IVF… there are a million ways to make a family.  

The thing that matters in any family is the love and support offered by your parents, not the form or structure that it comes in.

“You must be Godless.”

Guilty as charged. Mostly because I keep getting told that.

That said, I’ve never been allowed to blaspheme in the house because my parents respect other people’s views on religion.

For me, one of the hardest parts of the postal survey was the aftermath, hearing our Prime Minister take responsibility for marriage equality.

The postal survey built a wall between Australia and marriage equality. The people who climbed over it aren’t going to thank you for building it.

We all so often forget those people that fell off that wall and were either damaged, or never came back.

I can tell you that at my mums’ wedding last month there was no gratitude to Turnbull, but there was a lot to the fighters, like the ‘78ers.

I love my family. Growing up with same-sex parents has shaped much of my worldview; one that values and celebrates diversity.

People are often afraid of difference. I think that’s why many people are scared of the very existence of families like mine. It’s really nothing to be afraid of.  

Mostly, we do all the same things that any other family does

My family has taught me to accept a wide range of views. That’s the beauty of living in a family with different people.

It hasn’t made me who I am, but it’s definitely an important part of it.

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