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The challenges of becoming a gay dad

Guest Blogger Clinton Power talks about the challenges of becoming a gay dad

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The number of gay male couples that want to have children or already have children is on the rise in Australia.

Since the legalisation of gay marriage in Australia in 2017, same-sex relationships have finally received the recognition they have always deserved. And the good news is same-sex parenting is becoming more socially accepted and therefore increasingly possible.

It’s hard to quantify how many people are LGBTQIA and what exactly constitutes a family, but of 33,714 same-sex couples counted in the 2011 Australian census, 12% (just over 4,000) couples had dependent children living in their household. That means over 6,300 children are living in gay households. (These statistics don’t count LGBTQIA people in different-gender relationships, and therefore don’t provide an entire picture of the possibilities of LGBTQIA families.)

Research is showing that children of gay parents are just as happy and well-adjusted as kids with heterosexual parents. A recent Australian study showed that out of a sample of 500 children with same-gender parents, they did just as well on measures of child health and wellbeing as those with heterosexual parents.

Families with stable, loving relationships produce well-adjusted children, regardless of the gender of the parents. However, experiencing stigma and discrimination from others can have a detrimental effect on the emotional health of the entire family.

If you’re a man in a same-sex relationship and you’re looking at your options for childrearing, what do you need to know?

There are a number of both practical and psychological concerns when you’re a gay man looking to start a family.

Current challenges for new gay dads

While most same-sex families experience precisely the same hurdles as different-sex families, there are some challenges unique to the queer experience.

  • How are you going to have a baby? There are some different options for gay male couples, but some are more challenging than others. If you want to use a surrogate and have money exchange hands, you would have to go to another country, since that is illegal in Australia. Legal surrogacy is possible in Australia, but it’s challenging with a lot of legal hoops to jump through. Fostering by same-sex couples might be easier, since it is encouraged by many foster agencies. An adoption is also an option, but it has very long waiting periods and is not yet very common in Australia among same-sex couples. Other options can include co-parenting with another same-sex couple or opposite-sex couple. You’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons of your options to decide how you’re going to create your family.

  • You may feel a lack of social support services. Unfortunately, there are not many social services for gay dads in Australia yet. For example, some mothers’ groups don’t allow men to join, and this can be alienating and leave you without practical childrearing help.

  • You may feel a sense of isolation. Sadly, this is very common for many gay dads. Since you might not know any other gay parents who have been or are going through what you’re experiencing, this can be disheartening and lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

  • You may feel marginalized. Because you’re a minority among a minority, this means it’s even harder to find other gay dads like yourself. Only 3% of gay men in relationships have children, so you’re unlikely to find resources just for you.

  • You may lack family acceptance. As much as Australian society is progressing slowly with the acceptance of same-sex relationships and families, we still have a long way to go. If your parents and other family members don’t support your sexual orientation or your decision to start a family of your own, you may find yourself without an emotional support system to aid you in rough times. And without the practical help, you may need to raise a family and stay healthy (like grandparents babysitting), this can create added stress.

  • You may feel that you have to contend with traditional gender roles. In traditional, heterosexual families, the father tends to be the breadwinner/authoritarian and the mother is the homemaker/nurturer. However, gay families don’t have these preconceived notions about who does what, and therefore child rearing takes constant negotiation. You may feel pressure to reproduce these roles, but it’s an opportunity to create a family free of heteronormative ideas about relationships. The study mentioned above found that this lack of gender stereotyping actually increased familial harmony and wellbeing.

Issues that can arise when you become a gay dad

Gay male dads experience many of the same issues that straight couples have, mainly stemming from the problem of the baby taking up much of the couple’s time—resulting in stress and sleep deprivation.

Issues include:

  • A change in relationship dynamics. It’s hard to predict what effects the addition of a child will have on you and your partner, but it’s almost sure that you will encounter some new differences in the way you relate to each other. Additional stresses can cause increase conflict and emotional stress.

  • A decrease in libido or frequency of sex. The stress of raising a child and the lack of alone time may lead to a dip in your sex life, leading to feelings of estrangement from your partner and problems with intimacy.

  • A lack of one-on-one adult time like date nights. It’s important to make sure that you have time to enjoy adults-only pleasures like dinner dates and movies to boost your relationship with your partner and keep things going strong as you raise a child. Investing in a babysitter is a smart investment for your relationship.

Tips for new gay dads

When you and your partner are prepared for changes once you become dads, the better off your family will be in the long run.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re about to become gay dads:

  • Be prepared for a lot of changes in the relationship. It’s impossible to know in advance how having a child will affect your relationship so prepare for any possibility. Make sure your relationship is strong enough to weather these changes.

  • Find support in your new life. Make sure you join a gay dads group in your local area or city, like Rainbow Families in Sydney or Gay Dads Australia.

  • Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. Establish an emotional and practical support system that consists of your most accepting and helpful family and friends.

  • Have a budget for a babysitter. Even though you’re new parents, you also need to have date nights and alone time with your partner. Adult time together will help you keep your relationship healthy, for the sake of yourself and your children.

  • Focus on good communication. Take the time to sit down and communicate with each other to avoid misunderstandings and reduce conflict. It’s important to be a great role model for your children, but it’s also essential for your relationship to be the best you can be at interpersonal skills.

  • Take turns with childcare to give your partner a break. For example, book a spa treatment for your spouse while you take your child to the park. Raising a child should involve an equal commitment from both partners, so make sure that one person isn’t doing all the work.

If you’re a new dad and you’re struggling with communication in your relationship, consider relationship therapy to help you navigate the changes in your relationship and to strengthen your emotional and sexual connection. Relationship therapy with a gay-informed therapist can be an excellent investment in the future of your family.

About Clinton Power  

Clinton has worked as a relationship therapist and counsellor with LGBTQIA individuals and couples since 2003. He is the founder of  Sydney Gay Counselling, a private practice dedicated to helping Sydney LGBTQIA people who want to create a great gay life. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship, has been downloaded over 5000 times with over 80% 5-star reviews. Visit his website www.sydneygaycounselling.com to find out more.

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Big Brighter Sparkly Days Camp 2018

The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves - Roald Dahl

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As the sun was fading over the Hawkesbury River, some 50 children and their families arrived at the old fishing village of Brooklyn to catch a ferry to the “Big Bright Sparkly Days” event, a Rainbow Families’ weekend camp about resilience for school aged children.

The camp program was designed to support children to develop the building blocks for resilience, and space for parents to share their stories and their hopes for their parenting and their children. Many parents saw their children try new things, make new friends, and they themselves made new connections.

For many, it was also an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging and solidarity, to be authentic and be able to share some of the challenges of parenting, our fears and our hopes for our families.

“Spending time with my children, in beautiful nature and in such an inclusive and friendly setting”

Parent feedback

We arrived in the beautiful Broken Bay Sports and Recreation Centre, walking in the dark to the main dining room where dinner was cooked and waiting, and a huge fireplace invited us to feel at home.

Resilience as a concept

When we talk about a child’s resilience, we mean a child’s ability to cope with ups and downs, and bounce back from the challenges they experience during childhood. For example, moving home, changing schools, studying for an exam or dealing with the death of a loved pet or even the rejection of a friendship.

During the planning for this camp, we thought about the stormy times that our community faced in 2017 and the importance of offering opportunities to build new skills, particularly resiliency.

Building resilience helps children not only to deal with current difficulties that are a part of everyday life, but also to develop the basic skills and habits that will help them deal with challenges later in life, during adolescence and even in adulthood.

Our camp offered opportunities for children to build these skills in spades. Children were invited to challenge themselves and take part in new things like archery, facing fears like the flying fox, working in teams with activities like raft building.

Children and families were also invited to take responsibility and be part of keeping the camp organised and tidy. Prior to the camp, children were encouraged to pack their own bags and be responsible because being resilient also means taking responsibility for our actions, having a healthy outlook on life, accepting ourselves and moving forward even after failure, disappointment, or other difficulties.

There were lots of opportunities for that during the weekend, even for the adults. A last-minute change of venue proved tricky and confirmed that we can find ways to make things work even when they don’t go to plan.

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The Rainbow Families Youth Advisory Council

Our Youth Advisory Council is developing the leadership skills of our children and young people. During the camp the young leaders from the Council acted as cheerleaders and support people to younger children. They were also buddies, and organised the Saturday night special dinner.

In future we hope to develop and expand their role.

The beach setting of the camp

What was special about this camp is that we had the whole beautiful beach location to ourselves. We didn’t have to cook and the camp plan genuinely embraced diversity. Many experienced the camp and its beach setting as relaxing and friendly.

There were 23 family groups comprising of  5 trans and gender diverse-parented families, 6 single-parented families, and 11 families from towns outside of Sydney or rural communities, and for a lot of 9 year old kids!.

Unfortunately the bonfire on the beach couldn’t proceed because it started to rain. So, instead we roasted marshmallows over the indoor fireplace and had a great game of Kid’s Trivia facilitated by Kid’s Trivia Master Paul Upcroft.

Parent Experience

Those that attended have reported that it felt safe, supportive and a much-needed event.

‘It was wonderful for my boys to be able to hang with other kids and embrace

a range of positive risk-taking activities, make personal connections and engage

in good old-fashioned fun without parents having to be involved and spoil the experience.’ Parent feedback

 

‘We loved the fact that there was no technology, which enabled our kids to get creative and make their own games and entertain themselves.’ Parent feedback

Many parents spoke about sometimes feeling invisible as rainbow parents, or judged, alone, or about the weight of upholding a reputation as a perfect parent in the face of some discrimination. Many spoke about feeling they could be themselves at camp.

Children Experience

Children had the opportunity to participate in a packed program.

Many said they enjoyed the canoeing, archery and raft building activities, flying fox, and craft activities.  Some enjoyed the bunk beds and the trivia night. All mentioned that they liked being with other kids, making new friends and being independent.

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The camp was a technology free space, and during the small times of free time there were spontaneous games of Monopoly, celebrity head, colouring-in, making friendship bracelets, and tip in the dark.

A highlight for many of the children was the self service food, being able to sit with other children at mealtimes, and the very fun time ‘riding’ the cutlery trolley around the common dinning room

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Camp organiser Sarah-Louise Hopkins

Sarah-Louise has a background in early childhood education, and has organised many a camp. She organised a packed weekend, ran activities for the younger children and kept the program on track. Children that attended may remember learning to sing “I’m alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic!”

Volunteer Tierney Malay

Tierney is an experienced Girl Guides leader and worker in diversity and inclusion and gave up her weekend to run interesting activities for the junior children. She led a lively bushwalk and many arts and craft and team building workshops.

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Children and Parent Resilience Workshops

“ How are you like your child self?”

The camp program was designed around the work on resilience by Beyond Blue. As a Social Worker with experience in working with children and groupwork, I enjoyed planning the workshops.  During the workshop we used the metaphor of a plane journey. The story resonated for many.  

A favourite time of the camp was sitting on the grassy hill beside the beach; a circle of parents talking. We started the session with this question; “ How are you like your child self?” Parents were invited to reflect on their strengths, their support crew and outside events and systems that impact on our lives as parents. While many said they felt nervous walking into a circle with butcher’s paper, there is a desire for more opportunities to have these conversations with each other.

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The Children’s workshops were held in two groups. One session was held at the beach and children were invited to think about ways they had surprised themselves over the weekend, and areas of resilience they find tricky. Some kids wanted to work on ‘confidence’, others on ‘organisation’, other’s on ‘ friends and getting along’.

When you ask kids for their opinion and or their feelings, they can be so insightful and can help each other find solutions to tricky problems. They can also be the first ones to point out strengths to a child who lacks the confidence to name it. In the second group, we used Bear Cards and children did just that! Children as young as 5 give advice to older children; from how to deal with bullying or someone who doesn’t want to share.

I came away feeling there is so much more we can do to offer children opportunities to share their stories, their feelings and ideas. Parents too need a safe space.

Rica Seeto and Ashley Scott

Rica organised all the accounts for the event and Ashley supported the camp’s planning.

Volunteers were at the heart of making this camp happen and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who gave up their time prior to the event as well as on the camp weekend.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to Sarah, Tierney, Rica, Paul, and Ashley for contributing to this camp. Thanks to all the parents and children who shared the experience.

The final day

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After a richly packed weekend, the kids gathered to play beach volleyball, a parent played the guitar, and adults chatted. On the packed ferry trip home, with the wind blowing our hair, some on the upper deck were taking a last picture of the national park left behind, taking home memories, new ideas, pride in trying something new ,in our children, some new connections, and feeling of belonging in our community.

 

Vanessa Gonzalez

Happy parent Camper / workshop facilitator

September 2018

This camp was generously supported by LUSH Cosmetics.  We are compiling a detailed evaluation report based on participant feedback to inform future events. We hope this camp starts of a tradition of many more camps for our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trans and Gender Diverse Parents Workshop Update

Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) parents and carers, partners and ex-partners met during the Big Bright Sparkly Days camp at Broken Bay. They form an important minority of families under the Rainbow Families umbrella, and are appreciative that the greater Rainbow Families community has acknowledged that they are in many ways distinct from LGB families, and has shown such support in crowd-funding the upcoming All Families guide to assist families like theirs.

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As part of developing content for this guide, the group considered what would make lives easier, better and happier for them as families with TGD parents and carers.

This covered the importance of language and spaces to be inclusive of all identities, especially taking into account the views of children when a parent or carer transitions. Feelings of isolation were noted, especially by those living away from Sydney’s Inner West, and those affected by intersectional issues such as being a single parent. Interacting with the school system was also covered – both positive and negative stories – with a view to improving such important situations for children, parents and carers in the future.

The group noted that increasingly TGD people have pride in their identities, as opposed to the shame that has been a major issue in the past. This is creating more out and visible TGD role models, and bodes well for the future.

A number of recommendations were made by the group, which the Rainbow Families committee are considering in order to better provide support for our TGD families.

The group also discussed existing support groups outside of Rainbow Families for the TGD individuals and their partners, coming up with some thoughts on how to evolve this to better support the diversity within our relationships.

The camp was an amazing opportunity for children in these families to be together with others who have families similar to theirs – in one case for the first time ever. Such connections are at the heart of what is so important about Rainbow Families.

The All Families Resource is being researched and written by Jac Tomlins. Jac has prepared case studies on eight TGD parents and their families, which will form the bulk of the resource. These are being complied into a much needed resource for the growing number of TGD parents within the Rainbow Families Community.

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Volunteer Profile - Rica Seeto

From $200 in a sock drawer to a healthy financial organisation

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Like many grassroots organisations, Rainbow Families started with a humble kitchen meeting, phone call to networks, and lots of passionate parents.

Of course LGBTQI people have been parents for ages, but recent years has seen an increase in opportunities available to us. Some of this has been access to clinics, changes in adoption laws, support for fostering, and having more parent role models in our community. There have been lots of parent social groups, but despite the growth in our community, a professional community organisation was missing.

In the first year the committee developed a constitution, sought to encourage and invite broad participation of community members in the governance of the work, became incorporated, formalised systems, and developed a strong brand. We also put on lots of events, started a newsletter, applied for grants, forged partnerships, and advocated for the community. We fundraised and had $200 stored in a sock drawer. But what was missing was formal accounting!

Each meeting the lack of treasurer was noted in the minutes. Few felt they had the skills or interest to take it on. Where would this magic person come from?  

One day Rica was reading the newsletter and clicked on to read the minutes of the previous committee meeting. She read every line and noticed the need for a treasurer.

Rica wrote to the committee offering support, “I am not sure if you could use my help, been a treasurer before, worked managing financials for films..oh and I am an accountant.” Could she help us? Absolutely! Rica was what we were all waiting for.

Rainbow Families has grown from small amounts held in cash to being a community organisation with over $100,000 turnover each year. We don’t receive ongoing funding, but we fundraise and apply for grants for specific projects. We self –fund for our 2 day a week worker.

Rica is an amazing asset to our community. She manages the wages for our part time worker, ensures we meet ATO legislation, pays all accounts, juggles the cash flow for the myriads of projects we undertake each year, and is crucial in supporting our growth vision. She is also important in ensuring we run a transparent, ethical, professional and well managed community organisation. 

Rica is a parent of 2 gorgeous sons. She also volunteers in her school’s P&C, and when she is not doing that her partner Min and her are currently supporting refugees in Naru.

We acknowledge and thank Rica for establishing some healthy accounting practices over the last 2 years.  Rica is at the heart of our organisation, a volunteer who gives hours each week to ensure that we all have a thriving healthy community.

If you would have a passion for community or a skill to share please consider becoming a volunteer.

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Resource for separating parents

Resource for separating parents

Are you separating or separated? Rainbow Families is developing a resource for separating parents in our community.

We would like to consult with parents who have experience of this and hear what information you needed or helped, what wasn’t helpful, and what advice you would give others going through the same process. We want to hear from parents that have had positive cooperative experiences, as well as nightmare ones, separating from a previous straight relationship or from an LGBTQI partner, as well as any that are navigating hard and complex systems. 

We aim to develop a resource that is relevant and authentic.  Thanks to those that attended the face to face sessions last month.

If you still want to share your story in an anonymous way, please share it here. We really appreciate your time.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2YK3ZCZ

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Rainbow Families New Website to Sparkle

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Rainbow Families New Website to Sparkle

Rainbow Families has received a funding grant to develop a new website. The $36,000 grant will ensure that the new website makes reaching our community, and finding information more accessible for all, especially parents with a disability.

The new website will be inclusive in its design, visual representation and accessibility. There will be easier access to events, ways to be part of our advocacy work, and register for events.  It aims to remove barriers faced by parents with a disability to access much needed information, support and connection. It will increase a sense of belonging and participation.

During the website development we consulted with parents with a disability or parents who have children with a disability.  If you are a parent with a disability it’s not too late to get involved. We would love to consult you on the design and also be part of user testing.

Principle & Co have been contracted to develop the website.  As part of the new website the content has been reviewed and new photographs will depict the diverse range of families in our community. During the recent “ Big Bright Sparkly Days Camp” many parents and children volunteered to be part of this project. Thanks to those families who will feature in the new website and promotional material.

We are grateful for this amazing funding from Northcott enabling our community organisation to be accessible to all families.

For more information or to become involved in this project please email info@rainbowfamilies.com.au

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Youth Advisory Council

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The Rainbow Families Youth Advisory Council was established in 2018, to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard, and are able shape and to participate in the development of policies and services that concern them.

The Youth Advisory Council is open to any child or young person who has a parent or family that is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, queer and intersex.

There is a junior and senior council, ranging from 10 – 21 years of age. The junior council offers an introduction to governance, and opportunity to develop skills and create projects and initiative focused on young children. The senior council operates more formally and can be active in setting advocacy and policy goals, and develop projects and initiatives for young people and young adults in our community. The senior council also offers and important mentoring role for younger councilors joining the junior council.

The Youth Advisory Council has the following functions:

·      To advise the Rainbow Families committee on the needs, issues, and priorities for children and young people in our community

·      To provide a voice on the needs of children and young people in relation to advocacy priorities, education and welfare priorities

·      To develop leadership skills, and provide mentoring and support to children and young people entering our community

·      To find ways to reach out to marginalized or remote children and young people

·      To coordinate social and education events and resources relevant to children and young people

What will I get out of it?

Youth Councilors will receive training sessions about community management, being part of social movements, and hear from special guests of the community and diversity industries, learning how to be the best campaigner of human rights they can be.

You will be able to support and be a mentor to younger children in our community.

You will be pivotal in providing guidance and advice to the Rainbow Families board about changes, future social and cultural event and activities that they want to see!

Qualities to be a youth councilor you need to be:

·      Be passionate about your family and our community.

·      Care about supporting other children in rainbow families.

·      Be available to attend meeting in Sydney once a month

Corporate Sponsor

The Rainbow Families Council is supported by Deloitte. Deloitte view diversity and inclusion as central to their ability to execute on strategy. Through their extensive research, Deloitte have discovered that at the intersection of diversity and inclusion lies an area rich with fresh, innovative ideas and creativity – which drives better employee experiences and ultimately – better outcomes. Respect and inclusion are core values at Deloitte and these are the responsibility of all their employees from CEO right through to graduates.

 

We are pleased to have their support for the Youth Advisory Council, offering meeting space, advice and training opportunities for our children and young people

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Rainbow Families Board of Management

Vanessa Gonzalez is the Co-Chair and ex officio member supporting the Youth Advisory Council. Marly Greenwood is a volunteer parent also supporting the council. As per our Child Protection Policy all adults engaged in working with children and young people, including in this voluntary capacity, have a cleared Working with Children Check.

How do I join up?

Interested children and young people are invited to send an email expressing interest in getting involved and a contact number. Younger children may need the support of a parent in doing this. A Youth Council leader will ring you and invite you to a meeting so you can see what it is like and decide if it’s for you.

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Guest Blog - Mary Flaskas from Inclusivity Consultants

Supporting LGBTIQ students and families

Since the de-funding of the Safe Schools Coalition initiative in NSW, there has been little in the way of support for teaching staff, students and their families struggling with ways to incorporate LGBTIQ awareness and inclusivity within their schools, which is why my colleague and I, Darby Carr, have decided to start our own venture, Inclusivity Consultants.

Inclusivity Consultants are now offering services to schools and other educational institutions to be able to continue some of this necessary and important work. Collectively, we have over eight years’ experience working directly with executive staff, teaching and administrative staff, students, families and community support services in the specific area of LGBTIQ inclusivity. We offer individual consultations that acknowledge the uniqueness of each setting, helping staff and families to come up with an action plan that is comprehensive and realistic.

For many years, we have been involved in creating safe and supportive school environments for LGBTIQ young people. We worked with staff, students and families in government, independent and faith-based schools as well as delivering inclusivity training to universities, legal, medical and community organisations.

When people heard about the initiative, many of them said “I wish there was something like that when I was growing up”.  They went on to describe the alienation, isolation, abuse and discrimination they were subjected to by fellow classmates and members of their communities. Of being shunned by family and friends. Of having to pretend that they were interested in the opposite sex, some even getting married and having families, resulting in the inevitable pain and heartbreak when ‘pretending’ was no longer an option.

There were also stories about the battles with gender identity, of not understanding why they didn’t ‘fit in’, why having to answer to a particular name, play with a particular toy or wear a particular item of clothing generated such distress.

This is why it has been so fulfilling working with LGBTIQ young people, as they strive to get their schools to make a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Equally, working alongside principals to develop policies for the creation of environments free from bullying and discrimination. This has involved working on strategies to counter the insidious use of throwaway comments like ‘that’s so gay’, helping staff recognise that excuses such as ‘they don’t really mean that’ is no longer acceptable when young people were being hurt and made to feel bad about who they are.

It has also been immensely satisfying working with families and P&C’s, helping people understand that being transgender is not ‘just a passing whim’ that is picked up on the internet, that our gender diverse young people are able to articulate what they need to be their authentic selves. We have helped schools develop support plans that are realistic and yet incorporate the needs of these students, dispelling myths about toilets and change rooms and sports competitions. 

Teachers are grateful that they have been given an understanding of the ever-growing acronym – LGBTIQA+, the historical context of language, the meaning of identity, why the needs of people who are intersex is a human rights issue, why LGBTIQ visibility is a wellbeing issue. They are able to acknowledge that these changes are helping all students, because a safe, supportive environment means everyone is able to thrive.

On a personal level, I am a same-gender attracted woman living within a vibrant queer community. I am also the mum of a wonderful young woman, who has grown up with the support of this same vibrant and supportive community. She understands that being gay is just part of who someone is, along with their jobs, friends and personal interests. Writing in her primary school journal, she would describe her weekend by talking about going to Fair Day. She rode her scooter in the Mardi Gras parade and came along to queer performances and poetry readings.

However, she too, had her challenges. When she was three, she declared that she no longer wanted to wear dresses. For many years, she cut her hair short and dressed in pants and t-shirts. When we were travelling overseas, people would ask about my ‘little boy’. And then one day, at high school, the principal went up to her and said ‘why are you wearing the blue pants, you should be wearing the grey pants?’. She answered, ‘because I’m a girl”. It felt like vindication when that school became one of the first in NSW to adopt a gender-neutral uniform policy.

The legalization of same sex marriage in Australia also felt like vindication. It was an important step for Australia to take. However, this has not automatically ‘fixed’ everything. Young people talk about homophobic bullying and name-calling continuing within their classrooms and in their playgrounds. With every new school year and a new cohort of young students, staff are having to re-visit the strategies they had put into place to challenge this hurtful and unacceptable behaviour.

Families of gender diverse and transgender children continue to seek assistance with negotiations around setting up supportive structures for their children within educational institutions that get overwhelmed by the need for a comprehensive plan around name changes, uniforms, use of toilets and change rooms, sports and extra-curricular activities such as school camps. These adjustments mean that a young person is able to participate in all areas of the curriculum and school life, instead of being disengaged and limiting their future opportunities.

The journey continues – young people have been crying out for change, for recognition beyond the stereotypical ‘gay’ labels and the restrictive gender binary. It’s time for schools to catch up - it isn’t scary, it’s exciting, achievable and broadens our understanding of diversity.

Mary Flaskas

Mary and Darby are skilled educators who offer a range of educational and support services through Inclusivity Consultants.

For more information on their products and services and to contact them

https://www.inclusivityconsultants.com.au

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CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK FOR RAINBOW FAMILIES

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CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK FOR RAINBOW FAMILIES

Customised children’s books for rainbow families | Age Range 2-6

It is a real challenge to find quality children’s books that reflect our rainbow families.


For parents raising kids in diverse families being able to share stories that make kids feel included in the storybook world is so important. After all, children’s literature is one of the key ways kids make sense of their worlds.

mememe.press is now publishing a highly customised book that allow parents to create stories that reflect their unique family. The book is written by award-winning children’s authors and tells the story of a little kid, looking up from their toys on a Sunday morning to find their family has disappeared! Follows a romp around the house discovering family members hidden under lamps, crouching on the couch (like an old corn chip) or in the bath to name a few spots. The people the child finds change based on who is in YOUR family.
To make the story yours - include up to 4 adults (including grandparents and any mix of mums/dads and other significant people in your child’s life), up to 5 siblings and a pet.

The books have been developed with the idea that each child, no matter what their family make up, should be able to find themselves in a book. 

The books can be ordered online and arrive printed and ready to be read.
Go to www.mememe.press to make YOUR book.

To celebrate our community, use the code: RAINBOW15 at checkout for 15% off the book price.

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Volunteer Profile - Karen

Karen first became involved in Rainbow Families when friends invited her to attend the Erskineville Playgroup late last year.  Karen and her family met some lovely volunteers and attended a number of events where they saw the great way the volunteers were working together to further the Rainbow Families values and message.

When we recently advertised for an Administration Assistant, Karen put up her hand and we jumped at the chance to put her extensive administration and office skills to good use.  Karen is currently working together with Ashley to compile the monthly newsletter and is on call to help with organising events, proofreading documents and anywhere her skills can be put to good use.

Karen is engaged to Lisa and they have a beautiful daughter Lilly who was born in October last year.  They live in South Western Sydney and are enjoying being part of the newly formed Parramatta area Rainbow Families social group. Karen is currently on maternity leave and plans to return to work later this year at which time Lisa will take over full time mumma duties. Never far from their side is their adorable miniature schnauzer Rebel, who joins them on as many adventures as possible.

There are many volunteering opportunities behind the scenes at Rainbow Families, so if you have some skills you think might be useful for us, don't hesitate to get in touch to lend a hand.

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Reach Out Video

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Reach Out Video

Check out this great video of Jesse from the Rainbow Families Youth Advisory Council.

Jesse shares the best parts of living in a rainbow family, and some of the challenges of having a different family structure.

"They've taught me to be accepting of everyone, no matter what race, skin colour, gender or anything."

 

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Playgroup Education Series

As part of Rainbow Families ongoing relationship with Sydney Local Health District, we are thrilled to be presenting a number of education sessions for parents at the Rainbow Families Erskineville Playgroup in August.

On August 9th, Jenni Jones from Child and Family Health Nursing will be talking about Growth and Development for babies and toddlers.

August 16th sees Dani Frisch, a Social Worker discussing the importance of positive parent - child relationship, and how best to create bonds between parents and babies.

And on August 30th, Jamila Solomon, a Childhood Psychologist will be giving us tips and tricks for managing challenging child behaviour.

Finally on September 27th Nicole, a Speech Pathologist will be chatting about developmental milestones for babies and toddlers, and ways to support communication development in babies and toddlers.

These sessions will be informal 15 minute discussion with the parents. The educators will be available afterward to answer any questions from the group, or one on one.

Rainbow Families Playgroup is on each Thursday from 10am - 12pm.

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Guest Blog Post from Jacqueline McDiarmid

Guest Blog Post from Jacqueline McDiarmid - Director at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists.

Jacqueline is a wonderful member of the Rainbow Families community, and volunteers her time at the Making Rainbow Families Seminar each year.

In her blog post below she talks about when things aren’t good at home. 

As a Family Therapist one of the most common presentations I see is separated parents who are continually in conflict or hostile toward each other – and worried about how their fighting is affecting their children.

Some separated parents fight because they have differing parenting styles. Sometimes the involvement of step-parents is problematic. And sometimes there is a parent who does not feel they have enough access to their child or children.

But they all have difficulty stopping the hostility, resentment and fighting.

Any kind of parental conflict (whether it be between parents who are still  together or separated) causes stress on a child. We know from research that a child’s cortisol levels are generally higher when parents are in conflict. High cortisol levels impact a child’s cognitive ability, making it difficult for them to concentrate at school.  We also know that when parents are in high conflict, their children often end up with emotional and social problems. In high conflict families I often see children with high anxiety or low mood – mental health problems.

Many of these children or teenagers tell me they feel caught between their parents. They say they don’t feel able to say what they really think or feel at home, because they’re worried they’ll hurt one of their parents or let them down. Older kids often carry the burden of thinking they have to choose one parent over another. Or, they carry the greater burden of being the emotional supporter of a parent who has disclosed information about the other parent. Sadly, what often happens is children don’t really feel like they want to be with either parent. The pressure is too much.

Research tells us that children of divorced or separated parents are twice as likely to experience social, academic and behavioural problems. However, ongoing high conflict between parents who are separated causes the greatest stress on child/children.  For this reason, setting up good non-reactive communication patterns between the separated parents is crucial.

Here are some examples of inappropriate behaviour I see from separated parents:

  • A parent who demeans or undermines the other parent in front of the child and or other people.
  • A parent who shares information about the other parent’s bad behaviour.
  • A parent who does not support the child to have meaningful time with the other parent.
  • A parent who does not allow a child to talk naturally and positively about their other parent.
  • A parent whose rules are too rigid and does not allow for flexibility on occasions involving the other parent.
  • A parent who asks a child to carry hostile messages to the other parent.
  • A parent who asks a child/teenager intrusive questions about the other parent.
  • A parent who does not allow or encourage the child to communicate with the other parent.
  • A parent who punishes a child or teenager either overtly or covertly for wanting to spend more time with the other parent.
  • A parent who does not work with the other parent to provide a similar routine and rules for the child.

Many parents forget that their child is also part of the other parent and their family. This means when a parent demeans the other parent they are also demeaning their child.

Ten things you can do to reduce potential damage to your children if you are fighting:

  1. Simply make a decision to stop all conflict. If you just can’t agree on parenting styles or decisions, book in to see a Family Therapist and they will help you with this.
  2. Emails and text messages should be just about practical arrangements and information about the child/teenager. Take all emotions and commentary out of this type of communication. If you are upset with the other parent, call them instead and/or consider post-separation counselling.
  3. Make transition from one home to the other a positive, conflict-free experience for your kids. Transition time is not the time for conflict. The child is already likely to be anxious – don’t add to their discomfort by fighting.
  4. If you need to discuss grievances, do it away from the child/children.
  5. Encourage your child/teenager to spend time with the other parent.
  6. Don’t disclose or burden your child/teenager with your feelings about the other parent, and don’t criticise your ex-partner in front of the children.
  7. Don’t disclose your worries that result from the separation with the child/teenager – e.g. financial concerns.
  8. Don’t take it personally if your child or teenager wants to spend more time with the other parent, or says that they miss the other parent.
  9. Make time to communicate with the other parent about your child’s development. Do it regularly.
  10. Discuss with your ex how you can both support each other to be the best co-parents you can be.

High conflict between separated parents peaks in the first three years after separation. This is a crucial time to get help from a Family Counsellor.  A Family Therapist will work with you both to set up positive communication patterns, to set up new routines, navigate through transition from one home to the next, and to manage emotions when you’re around each other.

If you have been through the Family Court for custody or there are step-parents now involved, I’d say Family Counselling is vital.  It is not uncommon for me to do family sessions where there are step-parents as well as the parents in the room.  I would much rather see parents invest in Family Counselling as soon as separation occurs than be in real strife years down the track when relationships are more difficult to repair and teenagers are struggling with significant problems.

And lastly remember you are the adults – your child or teenager might seem adult like at times but they are not.  They do not have the capability to manage adult emotions and stress.  Don’t take your stuff out on them.  Sometimes you just need to make the decision to stop the hostility because that’s the most loving thing you can do for your children.

If you and your ex require help to manage your conflict or parenting styles, please contact Jacqueline today on 0289689397 and she will support you to make the relationship changes you need to minimise the conflict and build a stronger co-parenting relationship..

The information in this article is adapted from a review of the research conducted by Kelly, J. (2012) Risk and protective factors associated with child and adolescent adjustment following separation and divorce: Social science applications, Chapter 3. In Eds. K. Kuehnle & L. Drozd. Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied research for the family court, Oxford University Press, New York.

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Making Rainbow Families Seminar Wrap Up

 

Rainbow Families hosted the third annual Making Rainbow Families Seminar on June 16th. Over 50 LGBTIQ perspective parents attending to hear about the different pathways to becoming a parent.

The day started with couples and family counsellorJacqueline McDiarmid asking the group if they were really ready to be parents, and discussing some of the common issues she sees with families.

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Attendees were then able to chose between three talks tailored to the different needs within our community.

Home insemination and IVF which was presented by IVF Australia and Jo Perks.

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Surrogacy which was presented by Families Through Surrogacy and Rainbow Fertility.

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Options for trans and gender diverse people presented by Monash IVF.

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Joanna Mrakovicic from Barnados spoke about the changes within the fostering and adoption system - which now welcomes LGBTIQ carers.

There were also discussion around finding the right health care professional, followed by Nick Stewart and Tim Nicholls from Dowson Turco Lawyers who gave a very informative talk on the legal issues LGBTIQ parents need to be aware of.

The day finished with a panel of children raised by LGBTIQ parents, and parents from our community representing all of the options available to potential parents - giving attendees an opportunity to ask parents and children about challenges and rewards of  parenting as an out and proud LGBITQ person.

A very special thanks to the parents and children who generously shared their journey to parenthood and the joys of being part of a Rainbow family. Thanks to Bridget, Juliette, Marly, Paul, Ashley, Jesse and Jules. And to our wonderful volunteer Ali who was the MC for the day.

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Volunteer Profile - Justine Field

Justine is a proud mum of the wonderful eight year old Remy, who she coparents with Remy’s other mum.

Justine became involved with Rainbow Families through the Monthly Catch Up in the Inner West where she found the wonderful community of Rainbow Families. Being a Marrickville local the monthly Sydney Park catch up is an easy regular way to connect with other LGBTIQ parents and their children.

Justine has a background in family law and legal policy and currently works as a family dispute resolution practitioner.

Using her background, Justine is currently developing a resource for separated families in the LBGTIQ community. She is looking forward to hearing about the community's experiences as this will be central to the resource. The aim is to provide practical guidance that responds to the particular needs of the LGBITQ community as mainstream resources don't always recognise these.

Justine also consulted with the community about the experience of navigating the family law system, before writing a submission to the inquiry into the family law system on behalf of Rainbow Families.

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All Families Resource - update

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All Families Resource - update

A reference group has been established to produce the All Families resource and to build the content. 

A key component of the resource will include content from children with parents who are either transgender or gender diverse. 

This weekend a number of families met to discuss how this could happen and interview children. The results have been very positive for the families. 

The next step will be interviews with trans / gender diverse parents and their partners to drive the content for the resource. 

Jac Tomlins who worked with Rainbow Families on the Early Years School Guide has been engaged to carry out the interviews and work with the reference group to bring together the content. 

We are hoping to have the resource ready by the end of the year. 

 

Thanks again to everyone that contributed.

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Rainbow Families Separation Guide: Focus Group

Are you separated or separated from a partner? Rainbow Families is developing a resource for separating parents in our community. 

We would like to consult with any parents who have experience of this and hear what information you needed or need, what helped you, what wasn’t great, and what advice you would offer other parents going through this process. We want to hear from parents that have had positive cooperative experiences,  as well as any that are navigating hard and complex issues and systems. We aim to develop a resource that is relevant and authentic.

We are keen to hear about any legal issues and needs, emotional support, how to support children, dealing with school after,  and any special considerations for LGBTQI parents.

Saturday 23 June

2 – 4 PM

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre

1 Bedford St
Newtown NSW 2042

The focus group will be CONFIDENTIAL.  Unfortunately childcare is not available. A further focus group is being planned for Western Sydney.

It will be facilitated by Social Worker Vanessa Gonzalez and Lawyer Justine Fields.  Justine has a background in family law and legal policy, currently working as a family dispute resolution practitioner. Vanessa is a Social Worker with experience in child protection, and supporting families.

If you would like to share your ideas and experience individually, we can make a time for a telephone interview.

To arrange a phone call or attend the focus group, please RSVP Vanessa at  cochair@rainbowfamilies.com.au

RSVP highly appreciated as we are providing our volunteer time and a yummy afternoon tea

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Volunteer Profile Bridget

Meet Bridget a pansexual and genderfluid (non binary) parent, and life partner to an awesome trans woman. 

Together we have two children (5 years old and 10 years old), and one cat. We live in Sydney’s East. I got involved with Rainbow Families as a parent looking to connect with other gender diverse families.

Through Rainbow Families we have meet some amazing families and our kids have developed beautiful relationships.

At the moment, I am helping with the upcoming resource for trans and gender diverse families. I am also going to be speaking on the panel of LGBTQIA+ folks at the upcoming Making Rainbow Families Seminar. 

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May Antenatal Class

Congratulations to the 18 parents-to-be who attended the Rainbow Families Antenatal Class held at Macquarie Bank in Barangaroo on Sunday 27th May.

We had a great day, lots of laughs, new friendships formed and informed, well prepared people ready for their BIG DAY and new baby.

Janet Broady the Parent Educator co-presented with Cath Stuart from Damara Massage, Suellen Robinson a Midwife from Blacktown Hospital, Reb Schoates an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor and Macquarie Bank’s organiser extraordinaire Hazel George.

It’s always great to hear about other people’s birth stories. If anyone from our RF community would like to come along and share their experience - these classes run quarterly on the last Sunday of August, November, February and May each year and Janet would love to hear from you. We can offer you free parking and lunch if you are willing to volunteer your time. Likewise if there’s anyone wanting to get involved to help with these classes Janet would love to hear from you too.

Next class is Sunday 26th August - tell your pregnant friends to book in. Please make our new parents welcome to the big Rainbow Family when you see them at our next event.

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Opera House Discount for Rainbow Families

The wonderful people at The Opera House have a special offer for Rainbow Families. A generous 20% off standard prices to two upcoming productions:

Ruby’s Wish is a heart-warming story of resilience and imagination set in the hospital where Ruby – who is seven and three quarters – spends most of her time, visited by beat-boxing clown Doctor Audi-Yo! This show sensitively explores themes of illness and mortality and the importance of the imagination and wishes that can come true.

Recommended for Ages 6 + our offer applies to performances on Friday 18 May at 7pm and Saturday 19 May at 11:30am.

 

Looking ahead, we have Wilde Creatures – a fantastic journey through some of Oscar Wilde’s most loved children’s stories (including The Happy Prince and The Nightingale and the Rose). A live band of travelling musicians bring these stories to life as they choose a new statue for the town square. This production comes to us through one of the premier family theatre companies of the UK, Tall Stories and is recommended for ages 5+. Our offer is available on Saturday 7 July at 10am.

The links above will activate the prices but – if booking for both shows – you might need to refresh your browser to activate the second discount code.

We look forward to seeing lots of LGBTIQ parents and their kids at the Opera House soon.

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