Want to know about gay parenting? Ask the children

This article first appeared on ABC’s The Drum on May 15, 2012. It was written in response to a group – Doctors for the Family – speaking out against same sex parenting.

To the Doctors for the Family,

We – Maeve Marsden, Maya Newell, Rowan Savage, Raj and Jesse Wakeling – are a group of adults aged in our 20s and 30s, raised in same-sex parenting environments.

We would like to address the concerns you’ve highlighted in your submission to the Senate inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010, and discuss their broader implications. We would also like to give you the opportunity to meet us, and our families, to help broaden your understanding of this complex and topical issue.

We note that the Australian Medical Association, which represents more than 27,000 doctors, has already dismissed your submission as going against the general consensus of doctors and the majority of research.

We are sure that you have heard from many sources with research, facts and figures. We hope to offer you the insight that comes from lives lived in a family with same-sex parents.

We were raised in supportive, loving environments by parents who were willing to defy expectation and discrimination in order to create families. We knew we were loved, cherished and wanted. We believe, having lived this experience ourselves, that children need love, stability and security, not two parents of opposite gender.

We have learned that family is more than biology. It is the community you create. Family is shared memories, facing hardship together, building a life together.

Family is laughter and dinner table conversation, arguing about who is going to do the washing up, listening to music in the car on the way to sports or music practice, birthday parties, trips to the beach, crying to one of your parents after your first break up, celebrating your graduation, chatting about current affairs and movies and science and religion and anything else that springs to mind.

Privileging biology over this kind of support and love is dismissive and discriminatory towards the millions of families that do not fit into your “ideal” mother-father nuclear unit. You are telling the children raised by grandparents, adoptive parents, single parents and, yes, same-sex parents that we are worth less than other children.

You are telling our parents, who struggled and fought for their rights and ours, who built and supported families for decades, that they are worth less than other parents.

When you wrote your submission, did you think about our rights as children of same-sex parents? Did you think about our right to equality, our right to respect, our right to a voice? Did you ask us how we felt?

We would have told you our lives were not perfect – because no one’s lives are perfect. But the hardships and challenges we’ve faced are not due to having same-sex parents. They are due to bigoted viewpoints likes yours. They are due to living in a society that does not respect or honour our experience.

We do not believe that we have done ‘worse in all parameters’, as you propose in your submission, than children raised in traditional marriages. We have gone on to success in our careers and personal lives. We represent a diversity of experience. We work in the media, the arts, academia, trades, law, medicine, education and more. We are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer. We have wonderful friendships and fulfilling romantic relationships and we contribute to society. By what other parameters are you measuring success?

We have experienced no negative ‘health consequences’ of growing up knowing about homosexuality. We argue that these alleged ‘health consequences’ have nothing to do with sexuality, but are the consequence of particular behaviours that are practiced by heterosexuals as well as non-heterosexuals.

Sex education that addresses different sexual identities can only result in safer sexual practices – awareness and education are proven time and again to be the best prevention of illness and disease. In our families, we were all given straightforward parental advice about sexuality and relationships, standing us in good stead throughout our teenage and adult lives. We believe that our comprehensive education in safe sex has been extremely positive, ensuring we are aware adults who take necessary precautions for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our partner(s).

Not only does your submission not reflect our experience, the tone is hurtful, and full of stereotypes – such as the idea that no gay people will ever choose to be monogamous. You would like to use a legal tool to enforce marriage as heterosexual-only. Monogamy is not practised by all married heterosexual couples!

If you believe that monogamy, as well as marriage, is central to children’s wellbeing, we wonder why you have not campaigned to make extramarital relationships illegal. Furthermore, if you believe that marriage should be “…the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life,” we wonder why you have not campaigned to make divorce illegal.

Although we have different relationships with our parents and with our donors, none of us feel that we would have been happier or had better life outcomes had we had a more traditional ‘fatherly’ relationship with our donor. We reject the notion that a child requires two parents of opposite sex.

We cannot guarantee that no mistake will ever be made by same-sex parents, but this guarantee is not presently given for heterosexual married couples, as countless children of these unions will personally attest. We can say that our own experiences have been no worse, and frequently better, than many of our friends who were raised in traditional heterosexual marriages.

If same-sex marriage is made legal, your right to “free speech”, your right to believe that it is wrong and should not have been made legal, will not be lost. Your right to any kind of hate speech about same-sex couples will remain as it stands currently in law – illegal.

You talk about freedom – we, too, would like the freedom to live our lives with love and gratitude to our parents, happy with our own sexuality whatever it may be, free from accusations that ourselves or our parents are somehow wrong, immoral or unhealthy – accusations made by people who have never met us and who, despite their strongly and publicly expressed feelings about the issue, have not taken the time or effort to ask us about our experience.

Gay people are presently able to have children, as our existence demonstrates. Any law regarding same-sex marriage will not change that. Our experience, as well as a wealth of statistical evidence, demonstrates that there is no reason why same-sex couples should not adopt children, and they should have the right to do so within a marriage, so that they can have equality with their heterosexual fellow citizens.

We do not deserve to be treated as second-class citizens. We know what it is like to be raised by same-sex parents, and we know what it is like to face prejudice and discrimination as a result of that. If you are interested in all the facts, why not talk to the very people who have lived the experience you claim to be an expert on. We have grown up in the LGBTQI community and we believe being part of this community has made us strong, open-minded, aware, passionate adults.

Every time we write one of these letters or submissions, we are reduced to tears of frustration over the discrimination and lack of understanding demonstrated by bigoted people like you who choose not to see us for who we are. But they are also tears of pride, deep love and gratitude to our parents, who defied you in order to give us the world.


Maya Newell, Raj Wakeling, Jesse Wakeling, Maeve Marsden and Rowan Savage