Rainbow Families support guide for educators

With marriage equality being so publicly debated at the moment, Rainbow Families is preparing a guide to assist staff at daycare centres, preschools and schools. The guide is a resource for educators, so they can better support our families.

The guide gives a background to the debate, talks about  research on LGBTIQ parented families, and then gives a number of helpful tips for educators to ensure they can support our community appropriately.

We need your help

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In order to send this guide to schools and daycare centres where you send your children, we need email addresses.

If you would like Rainbow Families to email a copy of the guide to your daycare centre or school please provide contact details here.

Your name - this will not be provided to the school *
Your name - this will not be provided to the school


The guide will be ready to be sent on Friday, so we need all email addresses by 5pm, Thursday 24th August.


Love Makes A Family Report


Love Makes A Family Report

Earlier in the year Rainbow Families surveyed over 200 members of our community. We asked about issues they faced as LGBTIQ parents, particularly from the NSW government. The report was officially launched at Family Pride in May.  

Rainbow Families was invited by the NSW Parliament frindship group of LGBTIQ people to present the finding fo the report at Parliament of 10th August.

Moving forward, we are hoping to meet with all ministers and shadow ministers who have recommendations in the report to discuss the best ways of removing discrimination faced by LGBTIQ parents.

Rainbow Families is particularly proud of this report, and look forward to being part of a positive change for our families. 



Rainbow Families Plebiscite Survival Guide

Rainbow Families released a Plebiscite Survival Guide in May 2016. Since that time we visited Canberra and were part of the successful campaign to put a stop to the plebiscite.
Unfortunately discussions about a plebiscite are back. Yesterday was a disappointing day for all of us who were hoping that finally marriage equality was a possibility.
With the plebiscite back on the table, it is important for our community to stay resilient. The Plebiscite Survival Guide has 10 practical ways you can keep yourself and your family resilient in the current political climate

Download your copy of the guide



Making Rainbow Families Wrap Up

Rainbow Families hosted the second annual Making Rainbow Families Seminar on June 24th. It was a sold out event with over 80 LGBTIQ perspective parents attending to hear about the different pathways to becoming a parent.

The day started with a welcome from keynote speaker Jacquie Tomlins who wrote the Early Years Support Guide, which is a handbook for LGBTIQ people embarking on the parenting journey.

Attendees were able to chose between three talks tailored to the different needs within our community - home insemination, surrogacy, and options for gender diverse people.

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 Sally Cooper from Dowson Turco 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 Cathy, Jai, Ashley, Maeve, Thea, and Mikayla. And to our wonderful volunteers Rachelle, Eva, Juliette, Dianne, Krisandra and Ali.



Surrogacy Handbook

Sarah Jefford has written Australia’s first surrogacy handbook. Sarah is a lawyer specialising in surrogacy. Her passion comes form her first hand experience as an egg donor and surrogate.

The guide covers a range of topics including:

The surrogacy process

The laws of surrogacy in Australia

How much does surrogacy cost

Parentage orders


Download your copy here



Volunteer Profile - Sarah Louise Hopkins

Part of a Wonderful Tapestry"

Introducing Sarah Louise Hopkins, facilitator Northern Beaches Rainbow Families Playgroup

Sarah was born and grew up on the beaches. She loves being so close to the beach, and enjoys the relaxed vibes of the beaches. She has a partner, a little daughter and another baby on the way. Life is busy and wonderful. Sarah says, " Being a rainbow family on the beaches is quiet. We know a few other similar families but have always wanted to be part of a larger community that was closer than the city. "

Whilst there are other rainbow families on the beaches and north of Sydney, there is not an obvious gathering place. Sarah told us about the importance of inclusive books and being open about different types of families.  She can see the value of her child meeting others with diverse families, " We live in a hetero normative society. I feel that interacting with other rainbow families will affirm my daughter's understanding of normal and build in her resilience." When children start going to school and developing their own social networks, they will have an understanding of their family. Sarah appreciates this and says, " So that when she goes to school and becomes more independent, she will not feel like her family is so different from the majority, but part of a wonderful tapestry. "

Sarah responded to a community need, and with the support of Rainbow Families started the Northern Beaches Rainbow Families Playgroup.
She is a community builder, someone who puts her hand up, and makes things happen. It's been something she has been thinking about for a while, " I wanted to start this group years ago! I loved the Erskineville group but its too far away to attend regularly. It’s so important for children to be surrounded by a wide variety of families. I want my children to know they are part of a bigger community and their family is just as normal as any one else's."

Sarah talks about the playgroup, "  At playgroup we have free play with a hall full of toys, do some craft, chat with other families over tea and coffee, read a story, sing songs and have a shared fruit snack together." 

Being a new group, it's an opportunity for new families to attend and meet. Sarah warmly invites new members, " It's a new group so everyone is still making connections and getting to know each other. Sessions are open and friendly, engaging new families. This playgroup has more casual visitors so being welcoming is part of the culture."

Sarah has been a long-term volunteer for Rainbow Families, first attending the Sydney Rainbow Playgroup based in Erskineville and then volunteering 2 years in a row for Fair Day and also being part of the 2017 Mardi Gras Parade design crew.  She has offered much of her own time to help build a wonderful supportive community. Sarah says that she gets a lot out of it herself, " I feel like I'm making our community more welcoming and inclusive and that makes me happy."

The Northern Beaches Rainbow Families Playgroup runs from the Collaroy Plateau Youth and Community Centre and provides parents and carers with an opportunity to meet other parents, make friends and share experiences and ideas. Children have fun, make new friends and develop through play.

For more information on the Northern Beaches playgroup you can ring Sarah (see below), or just turn up on the day. The weekly session fees are $4 and a piece of fruit to share for morning tea.

Where:     Collaroy Plateau Youth and Community Centre 36 Blandford Street, Collaroy Plateau

When:       Fridays from 9.30am to 11:30am

Contact:    Sarah on 0435 942 578



A New Book for Rainbow Families

by Jacqui Tomlins · Jun 13, 2017

‘The Curse of Grandma Maple!’

I’ve written a book for rainbow families – this time for the kids and their friends. It’s a fun, fast-paced mystery adventure about two Australian kids, Connor and Sam, and their Canadian cousins. I’ve decided to self-publish and I’m running a crowd-funding campaign to cover the costs. If you click here you can watch a daggy two-minute clip of me explaining what it’s all about. But here’s the gist…

‘The Curse of Grandma Maple!’ is NOT a book about having two mums or being a rainbow family, far from it. It’s a story about a bunch of kids who leave the adults behind and head off to test themselves against the Canadian wilderness. It’s about challenge and fear and how sometimes you have no choice but to face that fear. It’s about wanting to do the right thing, but sometimes stuffing up. It’s about family and having each other’s back.

And, coincidentally, there are two mums hovering at the edges of the story just doing what mums do – you know, worrying, interfering, being annoying – but occasionally coming good by saying ‘Yes!’ when it really matters. Mostly, they’re kind of ordinary, sort of mum-like, and everyone else in the story thinks they’re ordinary and mum-like too. The fact that there are two of them doesn’t really bother anybody.

I reckon ‘The Curse of Grandma Maple!’ is perfect for upper-primary age kids. But, be warned! This book contains no nuts or electronic devices.  (Well, almost none. One laptop did sneak in but, trust me, it didn’t last long.)

There are quite a few pre-school and picture books around that feature our families, but not many (any?) novels. I wanted my kids to see their family represented in a book so I wrote one. I reckon it will be great for kids in other families, too. So, I’m asking a favour: if you see the campaign on any social media over the next few weeks, could you please share it? That will make a huge difference. Look out for any of Matt Glover’s great illustrations.

And if you’d like to support the campaign, that would be awesome, too. Thanks.





Mardi Gras Art Exhibition

“This is my family, and there was a rainbow and everybody liked looking at it and then the rainbow was still there at night time. My family stayed up late to look at the rainbow. This is my mummy, my mama, my little brother, Oisin and me”


This Mardi Gras there was a very special art project and exhibition. The Inaugural 2017 Mardi Gras Children’s Art Exhibition showcased the works of over 84 children from our community.


Artist Anna Magdalena Laerkesen was employed  as a community artist for this project. She facilitated a huge communal art project as part of 2017 Fair Day. Some 74 children and young people contributed to “ Big Wendy”. This large scale art work was the centrepiece of the exhibition. More children submitted individual art work on the theme of family and place.  A huge thank you to the emerging young artists.

Rainbow Families would like to Acknowledge the City of Sydney for funding this project.



Family Pride Wrap Up

On 7 May over 500 people gathered in beautiful Sydney Park to celebrate Family Pride

It was a wonderful day to celebrate International Family Equality Day  and International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT).

Families enjoyed entertainment from local children’s band “ Beats n Pieces”, and “ Larger than Lions” and “ Mary Kiani”. There were so many free activities for children, with jumping castles, face paining and a small animal zoo.  Lots of arts and craft activities facilitated by community partners.  

We thank all the community organisations that helped make the day wonderful. Thanks to PFLAG, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Dawson Turco Lawyers, NSW Police, City of Sydney who provided over 420 sausages to the crowds, ACON, Team Sydney,  Australians 4 Equality, Gleebooks, the Anti Discrimination Board, and Brendan Moar, our MC for the event. 

 We would like to thank sponsor and principal partners Commonwealth Bank and  ACON, and official supporters Dawson Turco Lawyers, Camperdown Commons, and City of Sydney.  See pictures of the day captured by the Star Observer

It was great to see other events around NSW. Illawarra Rainbow Families celebrated International Family Equality Day and IDAHOT with some art workshops for children kindly funded by ACON. Newcastle held a free community BBQ funded by Rainbow Families.

Check out this cute video of children and young people sharing their stories at the recent Family Pride picnic in Sydney! 



Rainbow Families Postnatal Depression Resource

Rainbow Families received a grant from the WayAhead Foundation to conduct a parenting workshop on the issues of perinatal anxiety and depression, and develop a resource specific for our community.

“ friends can look after you by being there, doing practical thins such as cleaning, washing, cooking and taking baby for a while.. active listening with no judgment, and I got a lot out of the rainbow playgroup and a bit of adult company, parents who were real and admitted it is hard some days.”  

About Perinatal Depression and Anxiety

Conception, pregnancy, birth and bringing a baby home can be an intense time.

In Australia depression affects one in five females and one in eight males. The research stated that post natal depression effects 16% of new mothers. We don't have stats for gay or trans parents. There is a gap in the research and health information about the experience of LGBTQI parents.

During 2016 Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week, Rainbow Families held a focus group with a lovely morning tea as part of the Sydney Rainbow Families Playgroup. There was also an online survey inviting members to share their stories and wisdoms about experiencing depression and anxiety. Members of our communities shared their struggles and also what they found helpful, and what made a difference for them, their relationship and their baby.

“ Know you are not alone. Acknowledge sleep deprivation has huge impacts and so nap when you can. Always ensure you allow yourself at least half an hour of your time each day. Lower your own expectations and ignore other people’s. Try not to compare.”          

The new Rainbow Families Postnatal Depression Resource is available now



Early Years Support Guide

Rainbow Families Early Years Support Guide is the result of collaboration between Rainbow Families and writer, Jacqui Tomlins.  The Guide has been developed in response to ongoing requests for information from parents and care-givers and is part of Rainbow Families’ commitment to providing quality resources for LGBTIQ families.
There are many things that rainbow families share with other families: we all have to adjust to the changes children bring to our lives; we all want our kids to grow up secure, healthy and happy; we all have good parenting days and bad.  And we all have to deal with nits and homework and fights over screen time.

But there are some things that are unique to rainbow families; small day-to-day challenges and bigger questions and concerns.  Rainbow Families Early Years Support Guide aims to address those differences.  The ideas, suggestions and advice contained in the guide represent the collective wisdom of dozens of parents who have grappled with these questions and challenges and come up with some great solutions.

Download your copy now



This is the last of four blogs highlighting the new “Early Years Support Guide”

By Jacqui Tomlins · May 8, 2017

This blog is a follow up to ‘Marc: The story of a trans dad’ and provides details of the issues associated with fertility for trans people.  There’s a lot of practical information here, but what I love most about this interview is what Dr Devine says at the end: ‘I want people to not think too much about the limitations, but to focus on what’s possible.’

This is the last of four blogs highlighting my new “Early Years Support Guide” produced in collaboration with Rainbow Families NSW.

In recent years there has been greater societal acceptance of gender diversity, but there is still a significant gap in the provision of services for trans and gender diverse people. Dr Bronwyn Devine explains the medical options for trans and gender diverse people wanting to have children, and explores some of the personal issues involved in that journey. 

Dr Bronwyn Devine, Medical Director, Monash IVF Mosman


Can you tell us about your work with trans and gender diverse people?

In 2012, I attended the inaugural Australian Transgender, Gender Diverse and Sistergirl conference in Cairns. There were a lot of lectures on medical and surgical approaches to transitioning, but very little information about starting a family or fertility preservation.

At that time, I was working in Canberra and starting to see a few trans men for general health checks and Pap smears and I was approached by an interstate couple looking to extend their family. They already had one child using donor sperm conceived with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and were hoping to do IVF this time around. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life, caring for the couple and helping them have their second baby. I knew this was an area I wanted to work in and since then I have seen a number of gender diverse couples, single people and teens all looking to have children or discuss fertility preservation.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) states that: Patients must be clearly informed regarding their reproductive options prior to initiation of gender affirming therapies, and further recommends making fertility preservation an established procedure for all persons seeking to transition. I now lecture quite extensively to other health professionals in the fertility space on options for gender diverse people, and I’m passionate about improving access to Assisted Reproductive Treatment services for this group.

Can trans and gender diverse people still have their own biological children?

Whether you identify as trans, genderfluid or non-binary you still have the option of having children of your own if that’s what you want.  Many trans people will be able to preserve their fertility before undergoing medical and/or surgical options to assist their affirmation. There are, however, a number of options available if you didn’t have the chance to arrange freezing of eggs or sperm prior to starting puberty blockers, hormones or undergoing surgery.

Having children may raise all sorts of issues for you and it’s important to talk though the emotional and psychologically aspects of trying to conceive, or of carrying a baby. A well-informed and supportive medical team can make a huge difference to this and it’s worth taking the time to seek out health professionals with expertise in this area.

What are the options for trans-men?

If you still have a uterus and ovaries

It is possible to produce healthy eggs even after you have started testosterone, or if you have been on it for a number of years. All ovaries run out of eggs eventually (menopause) but taking testosterone doesn’t seem to affect this process in any negative way. You have to take a break from the testosterone for a period of time to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. When testosterone levels drop people can sometimes feel anxious, tired or out of sorts and you may also experience a reduced libido. This can all be quite challenging for some people and you need to talk it though with your specialist.

If you are having eggs collected you’ll need to have injections which increase your oestrogen. After the eggs are collected, you get an increase in progesterone – the hormone responsible for pre-menstrual tension (PMT) – so you mayfeel tired, irritable and moody. Two weeks after egg collection, you will likely have a period which can also be very challenging. If you are not intending to carry the baby, you can resume testosterone pretty soon after the egg collection. Once you have eggs, they can be frozen or used to create an embryo with a male partner’s or donor‘s sperm. That embryo can be carried by a surrogate or female partner.

If you still have your uterus and ovaries and are considering becoming pregnant yourself this is possible too, either with your partner’s or with donor sperm. Testosterone does not act as a contraceptive and a number of trans men have conceived spontaneously. You would need to come off testosterone prior to conception and then you could try to conceive naturally, or you could use intrauterine insemination or IVF using a partner’s or donor’s sperm. Again, there are important psychological issues you’d need address if you took this path.

If you no longer have a uterus and ovaries

If you have frozen eggs or embryos then you may be able to have a child that is genetically related to you with the help of either a surrogate or a partner. If your partner has a uterus, is in good health, and happy to go through a pregnancy, then they could carry the baby. If not, you would need to find a surrogate to carry the baby for you.

If you didn’t freeze eggs or embryos, you would need to look at options for using a donor egg and donor or a partner’s sperm. If your partner has healthy ovaries then eggs may be obtained from them and fertilised using donor sperm. Your partner or a surrogate could then carry the baby.

What are the options for trans women?

Trans women have the option of freezing sperm or testicular tissue, but this is usually only successful if it’s done prior to starting hormones. If you have cryopreserved sperm, then you have the option of creating an embryo with a partner’s or donor’s egg using intrauterine insemination or IVF, and a partner or surrogate carrying the pregnancy.

Sperm cryopreservation is simple and reliable, but some trans women may find it difficult to masturbate to produce a semen sample. Surgical sperm extraction can be an option in this situation, but the quality of the sperm sample may be poor. Some trans women find the concept of stored male gametes an unwelcome reminder of a gender incongruent past.

If you do not have cryopreserved sperm and you have a partner who has a uterus and is able to carry a pregnancy, then you can create an embryo using a donor egg or your partner’s egg, and donor sperm, and that embryo can be carried by your partner. Alternatively, if your partner has healthy eggs and wishes to be pregnant then your partner may have an intrauterine insemination cycle using donor sperm.

Do you have any general advice for trans and gender diverse people who may be thinking about having a family?

I think it’s really important to have a well-informed and supportive medical team. Yes, there are certainly challenges involved, but there are a number of options and being trans or gender diverse doesn’t mean you have to give up the dream of being a parent. Talk to someone who knows about this. Even if you’re not ready to start a family yet, you can find out what your options are, and what’s possible. I want people to not think too much about the limitation, but to focus on what’s possible. I have many lovely stories of delightful and complex ways pregnancy has been achieved and families created.

Thank you, Dr Devine



The story of a trans dad

by Jacqui Tomlins · May 8, 2017

This is a great story for so many reasons, not least of which is that everyone involved is positive, supportive and affirming – medical professionals, childcare staff, teachers, friends and family. So much of what we read about trans issues at the moment is negative, ignorant or frightening, and I think it’s really important to share the good stuff too.

This is No. 3 of 4 blogs highlighting my new “Early Years Support Guide” produced in collaboration with Rainbow Families NSW.

Marc and his wife have been together for seventeen years and are raising a daughter together in Sydney. Marc describes his journey to parenthood as a trans man, and shares some of the joys and challenges of being a dad.

Can you tell me about your relationship?

I’ve been with my partner for seventeen years now and we’ve been legally married for nine.  We’d been together for about five years when we decided to get married. Initially, we weren’t interested in marriage, but we felt it would offer more protection when we had children.

Can you clarify the issues for trans people and marriage?

Marriage is governed by federal legislation and can only occur between a man and a woman; both people must have birth certificates which confirm their sex. Thanks to a landmark court case ‘Kevin and Jennifer’ the right to marry for men and women who have transitioned has been confirmed. Birth certificates are issued by the state you are born in and each state has different criteria to change your sex on the certificate so it’s complicated.

In my case, I have a male birth certificate, but my certificate is  theoretically invalid in other states. In NSW, in order to change your sex on a birth certificate, two doctors must sign statutory declarations stating that you have undergone a sex affirmation procedure. This is defined as a surgical procedure involving the alterations of a person’s reproductive organs.

The definition is a bit vague and could mean all sorts of things including: hormones, chest surgery, a hysterectomy, or sexual reassignment surgery. Because it’s so vague, many guys assume sex affirmation procedure must include a full hysterectomy. A hysterectomyeliminates options for fertility, and can also limit other sexual reassignment surgery options. A hysterectomy is also a very big surgery with big risks.

I was able to change my birth certificate based on undergoing chest surgery and hormones alone. I started hormones when I was 21 and had chest surgery when I was 24 and it was a great relief to stop binding. It took several years to save for the surgery and I needed to be on private health insurance as Medicare would only pay a tiny percentage of the overall cost.

The other issue for trans people is that you can’t be married when you seek to change your sex. This is an issue for couples who are already married as it requires them to get divorced. Transition is a very hard time for couples and the forced uncoupling only makes things harder.

How did you go about having kids?

We spent a long time preparing to have children. We established our careers, bought a house, renovated, and travelled around the world. Then, when we were ready, we started looking into what we needed to do to have a child. We knew of another couple in a similar situation who had used a public IVF clinic at a hospital so we started there initially.

We needed donor sperm, but there were very few anonymous donors available. The rules about mandatory disclosure had just come into effect and donations of sperm had dried up. We were very fortunate to find a known donor and started the long process of screening; we had no idea we had to wait six months for quarantine. We did one cycle of IVF in the public hospital, but thatwas unsuccessful. Then we were advised to go private, as we needed theatre time and this was unavailable in the public clinic.

How did you find a supportive fertility clinic?

We interviewed a number of clinics and none of them had an issue with my status so we ended up choosing one based on availability. The only occasional slip up was when the nurses told me it was time to ‘go and do my part’ not remembering we were using frozen sperm. They also called me by our donor’s name several times, but this was more funny than offensive. We were really fortunate that it worked first time and our daughter was born in 2010.

And how is parenting?

We both wanted to be active parents; my wife was to take the first six months off work and then we would both work part time, but it didn’t turn out that way. My wife became sick when our daughter was five months old and I became the primary carer for both of them which was really hard as we didn’t know whether she would get better. I dropped my hours significantly at work and relied on family and friends for support. What’s interesting is that I can’t really say I had any issues as a trans parent, but there were certainly issues in relation to being a man and recognised as our daughter’s primary carer. People would always look around for her mother or ask if I was ‘helping out for the day’.  That was very frustrating.

Did you use any playgroups or day care?

I started going to a rainbow playgroup when my daughter was about six months old.  This was a lifesaver. There weren’t many other dads, but there was full acceptance that I was the primary carer and a real parent. Other parents there had kids of a similar age and we would often talk during the week about developmental stages, parenting tips and exhaustion! The kids are all at school now but we keep in very regular contact with the group. It means that the kids have a whole social network outside of school, and the parents are all friends. For the kids, having queer parents and a donor doesn’t seem to be a big deal. There are so many of them that it’s just not that interesting.

My child has attended a few day care centres and we only really came out to the last one. We were taking my daughter to Mardi Gras and we thought she would probably talk about it at day care so we decided to tell them about our family.  We asked for a meeting with the Director and teachers and they took it pretty seriously. We told them I was transgender, that our child  was created using donor sperm and that we were taking her to Mardi Gras and that she’d probably be talking about it.

They listened very carefully and when we’d finished they asked if there was anything else and we said, no, that was it. They thought we were going to make a complaint about something and they were hugely relieved. The whole trans family thing just wasn’t a big deal at all for them.

Did you find a supportive school?

When we were selecting a school for our daughter we first asked if they had any same sex families to see how open they were to diversity. When we met with the principal and teachers formally, we told them I was transgender, that we were very open with our child, and that we knew it would come up at some stage during her school life. And we asked them if they had any issues with this. They said no they didn’t and moved onto the next topic.

I actually asked them if we could go back to what I had just said as I wanted to make sure they knew what I was talking about. They said yes they understood and again moved on. I insisted we discuss it, and then they told us there was   another trans family at the school and it was not an issue at all. We chose the school and it hasn’t been an issue. Some of the other parents know and it really isn’t a big deal.

Did you think about a second child?

After about a year of illness, my wife started to get better and we were both keen to have another child. We did more rounds of IVF, but then my wife had a very bad miscarriage. After that, we were told there would be very little chance of success so we stopped IVF and reassessed.

I thought I could potentially donate eggs that could be fertilised with donor sperm and transferred to my wife. I had no interest in being pregnant myself. I did a lot of international research to determine if donating eggs after transitioning would pose any risks to the baby and the information indicated that it was only carrying the foetus that posed the risk and that the risks associated with donating eggs were no greater than average.

I found an IVF specialist who was helping a few other guys donate eggs and spoke with her. She agreed to work with my local IVF doctor and they ran some tests to determine the viability of going ahead with this. I would have needed to stop testosterone until I started menstruating, and then we would both start IVF drugs. We didn’t come to this decision lightly knowing it would be a very mentally and physically difficult. We had very supportive doctors who worked through different potential issues and how we could deal with them.  But in the end, the tests showed I was not a good candidate so we accepted that we are a small but perfectly formed family of three. Throughout this whole process, the medical staff were really supportive.

What advice would you give to other trans people who might want to start a family?

Personally I have never had an issue with not being genetically related to my child. Anyone who has spent time with my family can see there is a connection between us that does not rely on genetics. I understand for some people this may be more of an issue. If you did want a genetically related child there are different options depending on where you are in your transition, but it can be a difficult and expensive process post transition. If you are donating eggs for a surrogate to carry you will both need to go through IVF. You really need to think about whether it’s for you and make sure you have good support. If you’re sure then I’d say find a supportive fertility specialist and get started.

What’s the best thing about this journey?

Parenthood and the journey to it has been a huge part of my life and my child brings endless joy. I have been very fortunate to have such supportive family and friends who together with supportive medical staff have all made it possible.  Being part of the rainbow family community has helped my child to normalise her origins and allow her to celebrate the uniqueness of her family.

Thank you, Marc, for your openness, honesty and courage in sharing your story.




The Challenges and Rewards of being a Gay Dad

by Jacqui Tomlins · May 1, 2017

This is the second in a series of four posts highlighting a new resourcethe, Early Years Support Guide, that I’ve developed in collaboration with Rainbow Families NSW. Recently, I was at a rainbow families event and was pleasantly surprised to see how many gay dads came along. We don’t have any statistics on this, but my sense is that more and more gay men are becoming involved in parenting, despite the barriers. For this section of the Guide, I interviewed Rodney Chiang-Cruise, Co-Moderator, Gay Dads Australia who shared his wealth of experience and insights.

The Guide will be available at the International Family Equality Day, Sunday May 7th in Sydney  and you’ll be able to download a copy from my website and from Rainbow Families (NSW) and Rainbow Families Victoria after May 7th.

The Challenges and Rewards of being a Gay Dad

Gay men are taking an increasingly active role in parenting through fostering, co-parenting and surrogacy. In recent years, the increased prevalence of out gay dads has helped raise awareness and drive a positive shift in community attitudes. Rodney Chiang-Cruise talks about the challenges and rewards of being a gay dad – and highlights some of the specific issues they face.

How different is it being a gay dad?

Being a dad – irrespective of how you identify your gender or sexuality – involves all the same hopes and fears, and all the joy and excitement, too. So much of what we do every day is just parenting and the fact that you’re gay or trans or straight is irrelevant. That said, there are some unique challenges for gay dads, but most of the time they can be overcome with some care and a positive attitude.

Many rainbow families find the people in their immediate community – teachers, neighbours, coaches – are really supportive, and that most of the negative stuff they hear comes from the TV. The people who oppose us have a big platform and a loud voice, but it’s important to remember that they are actually a minority and that most people are either supportive of our families or just don’t care. Lots of people are on our side. In general, being a gay dad is awesome and the positives outweigh the negatives a million to one.

Tell me about the positives

Lots of men give up the idea of parenting when they come out and, historically, that was right; before this generation it was almost impossible to be a gay dad, unless you had a child from a former heterosexual relationship. It’s still not easy, but gay men can foster and adopt, they can co-parent, they can use domestic, altruistic surrogacy, or – if they can afford it – international surrogacy. I think lots of gay men actually enjoy the fact that they are breaking the mould, that they are broadening the idea of what it means to be a gay man. And our mums certainly love it! They crossed off grandchildren when we came out and then here we are asking if they can babysit. Then there are just all the highs you get with having kids: watching them compete in the swimming carnival or discovering they have a talent for music. And the little things, too; I loved the fact that both of us got to feed our son when he was baby.

And what’s the best way to deal with the negative stuff?

I strongly believe that as parents we must always be strong, confident, out and proud. This is really important. Our children take their lead from us and if we celebrate and affirm our families and are outwardly and obviously proud, our kids will be, too. And the opposite is true; if we are hesitant, doubtful, or closeted, our kids will pick up on that that and will wonder what is wrong with their family. We need to show our kids that they have awesome, wonderful families and that, like their parents, they can be completely proud of their family.

We are part of the first generation of gay men who are creating our own families, and I think that automatically makes us advocates, whether we like it or not. It’s probably another generation at least before gay dads are more commonplace, which means we all have to take the lead on this. And that’s for our own children, the children of other LGBTIQ families and all the families that come after us.

What are some of those specific issues?

None of these issues are especially huge in themselves, but they can be annoying or insulting, or worse – and they can reinforce an idea that we’re not meant to be parents, that there is something wrong with us as parents. I think it’s important to be mindful of this stuff, but not stress about it too much or go looking for it. But having a heads-up –  knowing what’s out there –  can be helpful.

Health professionals

One of the common problems gay dads have is finding health professionals who are supportive and inclusive. It’s like a doctor will go looking for the mother and when you explain your child has two dads they react badly and that’s frustrating and insulting. It can be helpful to ask around your social circle for a referral to someone who’s known to be supportive, but that’s not always possible. If you do have a bad experience, and you have a choice, go somewhere else. But don’t forget to tell them why; change only happens when people are aware of the problem.


‘Bio’ and ‘Non-bio’ dads

While adults often stress about bio and non-bio parents, kids don’t. Focusing too much on who’s bio and who’s not can be really counter-productive and if you get bogged down in this I think it’s really helpful to go back to the child’s perspective. For them, you are both parents, you are both raising them and they love you both as a dad. For many years, they won’t even know or understand about the biology, and when they do, they won’t really care. I know non-bio dads are sometimes anxious about this at the start, but once you get into full-time parenting, you don’t have time to worry about it! I think it goes away on its own.

Co-parenting dads

Co-parenting can be a great way for gay men to be dads and there are many successful co-parenting families out there. The guy gets to build a relationship with a single woman/lesbian couple and be involved in a child’s life, and the child has more people to love and take care of them. Co-parenting is complex, though, and involves way more than donating sperm and agreeing to how often you’ll see each other. I always say take a long time to work it all out and get some professional help from specialist counsellors and lawyers. It’s a lifelong relationship between all the parties, and that relationship needs to be healthy and respectful and have the capacity to deal with change and potential conflict in a constructive way.

Where’s mum?

Gay dads often hear the comment, ‘Oh, you’re giving mum the day off!’, or something similar. You are going to encounter assumptions about family structure and gender roles all the time and it’s annoying. I believe the best way to respond to these situations is with complete honesty: ‘Our daughter has two dads’. Our son doesn’t have a mother. Honesty is disarming and most people feel slightly embarrassed to have made assumptions. It’s a teaching moment; it’s polite, it’s respectful, and everyone wins. And it’s especially important if your child is with you and old enough to understand. If you lie about or obfuscate your family structure or relationship with your partner, your kids will pick up on it. Never be ashamed or embarrassed. Again, you need to be proud and your child needs to see you being proud.

Invasive questions

One of the really common things is inappropriate or invasive questions. Surrogacy dads are often asked, ‘Who is the father?’ And when they say, ‘We both are’ they get, ‘No, I mean, who’s the real father?’ It’s not uncommon for this question to come from relatives, but friends, colleagues – even total strangers often ask it, too.

People think they have a right to know so they can identify the ‘real father’, but they don’t. I think it’s important to resist the temptation to give them this information, or to lie or to get angry. I find the best response is to tell them politely that you are both the fathers. I generally find that at this point they realise they’re out of line and stop.

I feel very strongly that this information belongs to your child. When your child is old enough to know and understand you can tell them. As parents, we have a duty of care to ensure they are the first to know. What they do with that information – who they tell – is then up to them. It’s their story and you have to let them run with it; you can’t control it. That makes some people nervous, but they don’t need to be. I think kids have a strong sense of privacy and know when it’s appropriate to talk about these things.

Parenting girls

There are lots of assumptions about gay men parenting girls. Who will do her hair? Who will explain about periods? What about female role models? This really is a non-issue. Parenting is not a function of gender; it’s a function of willingness and thought and care. Gay men are entirely capable of raising fantastic girls, as lesbians are entirely capable of raising fantastic boys. And sole parents of any gender or sexuality can also raise fantastic kids. I try to explain – again politely and calmly – that whatever it is they’re worried about won’t be a problem. I tell them our child has many positive influences and role models in their life.

Associations with paedophilia

Some people – thankfully very few these days – will try to associate gay men with paedophilia. This is hurtful and horrible and wholly unacceptable. Everyone will respond differently to this, but I think, for the sake of our kids, we need to call it out and challenge it wherever it occurs. If it happens in a work environment there should be procedures to deal with it. More often, though, it comes up on social media and I think it’s important to remind people that this is wrong, insulting and potentially defamatory. Often when this happens you’ll find other people will step in on your side and defend you.

And sometimes it’s more subtle than this. You might get odd looks and stares from strangers if you are with your kids at a park or at the pool. Mostly, it’s just easiest to ignore it and move on, but there may be an opportunity to politely engage with that person. You may be surprised to find that they are genuinely interested in how you created your family and judgment recedes quickly.

Thank you, Rodney (and Jeff and Ethan for the great pic)



Meet Jacqui Tomlins

Jacqui is a long-time outspoken advocate, researcher and writer.

Last year she travelled to Canberra with her teenage son as part of the Rainbow Families contingent that successfully lobbied to stop the plebiscite on marriage equality. It also forged a friendship between both organisations, and a desire to continue to collaborate and work together for our community.


Rainbow Families School Support Guide is the result of collaboration between Rainbow Families and writer, Jacqui Tomlins.  The Guide has been developed in response to on-going requests for information from parents and caregivers and is part of Rainbow Families’ commitment to providing quality resources for our families.

There are many things that rainbow families share with other families: we all have to adjust to the changes children bring to our lives; we all want our kids to grow up secure, healthy and happy; we all have good parenting days and bad. And we all have to deal with nits and homework and fights over screen time.

But there are some things that are unique to rainbow families; small day-to-day challenges and bigger questions and concerns.  Rainbow Families School Support Guide aims to address those differences.  The ideas, suggestions and advice contained in the Guide represent the collective wisdom of dozens of parents who have grappled with these questions and challenges and come up with some great solutions.

We hope the Guide will also be of value to early learning educators, teachers, counsellors and other school staff who work with rainbow families. We hope it will provide them with insight and understanding and give them the knowledge and confidence to provide informed support to our families.

Rainbow Families is a one hundred per cent volunteer organisation that provides support to children and families within the NSW LGBTIQ community. Lesbian mums, gay dads, trans parents, adoptive parents, foster parents and all types of rainbow families come together through our events, social and playgroups, parent education sessions and other activities to learn, meet, make new friends and build resilient families.

Jacqui Tomlins is a founding member of the Rainbow Families Council (now Rainbow Families Victoria). She has written extensively for the LGBTIQ and mainstream press on many issues in relation to rainbow families. She currently designs and delivers training to a broad range of staff who work with rainbow families.

This is our first collaboration, but we hope it won’t be our last. We are enormously proud to present the Rainbow Families School Support Guide.



A new resource and the first LGBT antenatal class

by Jacqui Tomlins · Apr 26, 2017

I’m currently working with the rainbow families team in Sydney to produce an “Early Years Support Guide” that will be available at the International Family Equality Day, Sunday May 7th in Sydney. The Guide will contain some material from my Resource Kit for Rainbow Families, and a number of new sections. This blog is the first in a series highlighting the new content. Hard copies will be available on the day, but you’ll be able to download a copy from my website and from Rainbow Families (NSW) and Rainbow Families Victoria after May 7th.

Janet Broady, Registered Nurse & Midwife, recently ran the first LGBT antenatal class in Sydney on behalf of Rainbow Families. I really didn’t enjoy our antenatal classes. As the non-bio mum, I felt awkward and out of place: Did I go off with the dads, or stick with the mums?  Neither felt right. So I was really happy to see that LGBT antenatal classes have popped up in Sydney with Janet and in Melbourne with queer parent and experienced childbirth educator, Jess Permezel. I spoke to Janet about running her first antenatal class for everyone!

Antenatal classes for everyone!

Mainstream antenatal classes can present some challenges for prospective LGBT parents. Janet Broady ran the first antenatal class in Australia designed specifically for prospective LGBT parents. Janet outlines the content of the class, identifies some key points of difference, and looks to how LGBT classes can develop in the future.

Who attended the class?

The class was attended by seven lesbian couples, three gay male couples and a supportive grandparent. The mixed group worked well. We covered all the essentials, including: pre-labour and labour, relaxation techniques, birth, care of the newborn, breastfeeding and recovery. It was a lot to get through in a day, but we were able to include everything. Having said that, all the participants wanted more time spent on something! I was able to provide follow-up information and have kept in touch with participants.


What’s different for LGBT prospective parents?

Mainstream classes can be hard for lesbian couples and singles, gay dads and trans people. An LGBT class provides a safe and inclusive environment, which means the participants are able to relax, chat, and share their experiences much more easily. They are comfortable to ask questions about things like co-feeding and donor milk. These are the kinds of specific things that we talk about for both lesbians and gay dads that wouldn’t be covered in a mainstream class.

Non-birth mums

I think mainstream classes can be especially hard for the non-birth mum because so many of the activities are divided up along gender lines. So, a lesbian mum has to decide whether to stay with her partner and the other women, or go off with the dads. An LGBT class overcomes this problem and means the non-birth partner can participate fully in all aspects of the class without feeling like she’s the ‘odd one out’. That’s a key advantage of these classes. Inclusive language is especially important as well.


It’s possible for lesbian trans couples to both lactate and feed. Where both partners have been pregnant and are lactating at the same time, this is easy. In other cases, the non-birth mum can take medication to initiate lactation and enable breastfeeding. This is certainly possible, but it does require some time and patience. Hospitals should have a framework to support co-feeding and can organise an appointment with a lactation consultant.

Gay dads

Some hospitals accommodate gay dads and will run one-on-one sessions for them, but I don’t think this is the norm across Australia. There is a place for classes just for gay dads, focusing on things like bottle feeding, bathing, changing, swaddling and settling. Daddy Boot Camps for expectant fathers are a great idea too with information and advice provided by an early childhood nurse.

Child health record

When a baby is born in Australia, the parents are issued with a book that provides details of the baby’s birth, and information about immunisation, periodic health assessments and screening. It’s a really important document that hooks you into the maternal and child health system and records your child’s medical history. Babies born by surrogacy overseas miss out on receiving that. Surrogacy dads can get a book from their early childhood or maternal and child health centre (see below).

Early childhood/maternal and child health centres

Parents who have a baby using surrogacy – either locally or overseas – may not be hooked into the local health and support services for new parents and their babies. Early childhood centres provide help, information and referral, including: parental mental health and post-natal depression services; nutrition for babies and breastfeeding mums; speech pathology and physiotherapy. They also organise new parents’ group and lots of gay dads have attended these and found them helpful. So, new gay dads should contact their local centre and make an appointment to see the nurse.

They may also miss out on receiving the Medicare registration forms that are provided to all new parents in Australia when a baby is born. These forms are available from Centrelink. If a baby is born overseas, they have a foreign birth certificate, but are able to register for Medicare because their parents are Australian.

There are two clinical tests that may not have been carried out if a baby is born overseas. They are the SWISH hearing test and the Newborn Screening Test. Your GP or paediatrician can organise for these to be carried out at your local hospital.

Donor milk

One of the areas we cover in the classes is breastfeeding and I provided some information about the Mothers’ Milk Bank (MMB) which provides breastmilk to parents who – for whatever reason – cannot provide their own. MMB transport milk by frozen air freight, which is picked up by the recipient from their nearest airport. MMB have provided milk to a number of gay dads in the past, as well as women who have had a mastectomy, or who have low milk supply.

How have participants responded?

Feedback suggests the participants have really enjoyed the day and feel more prepared for birth as a result of having attended the class. These are a couple of comments from the evaluations:

Thank you for doing this. It’s really great to do birthing classes with people with similar families and to acknowledge same-sex partners.

Congratulations on running this class – much needed in the community. Thank you Rainbow Families.

Basically, they wanted more of everything! Suggestions for inclusion:

  • group work and more time to chat
  • more advice on how to care for a newborn
  • a range of different speakers
  • a take-home folder with information on topics covered, where to get further advice and help and links to further reading
  • videos and information on breastfeeding, bottle feeding and labour and birth positions
  • information on:
    • pre-labour and when to go to hospital
    • Caesarean section
    • relaxation techniques
    • international surrogacy

What are your plans for future classes?

I would love to run some separate classes for surrogacy dads and to focus on feeding – including a discussion about formula and a demonstration of formula preparation – caring for a newborn, and some early-parenting advice.

Lots of people are interested in relaxation techniques and I’d also like to look into how we could support trans parents. The participants were keen to set up a Facebook group that I could moderate so they can all keep in touch.

We need information and brochures that focus specifically on the needs of rainbow families. There really isn’t much available at the moment. When I was developing the course material I couldn’t find any good quality educational videos that featured LGBT prospective parents. I’m now hoping to work with a filmmaker to develop some film clips for rainbow families. We’re currently looking into how we can partner with an educational film production company to produce a series of videos.

Where can people get more information?

These are great sites.

Raising Children

Australian Breastfeeding Association

Mothers Milk Bank

Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand

The next Sydney class is on May 28th.

Check My Midwives for Melbourne classes.

Love ya work, Janet! Thank you.



Guide to raising resilient families

The strength and resiliency of our families relies on the strength and resiliency of our community. Rainbow Families empowers LGBTQI families by raising awareness, addressing discrimination and promoting acceptance of family diversity for lesbian mothers, gay dads and all Rainbow Families.

Rainbow families may experience discrimination because of laws or prejudice, need help accessing basic services, or struggle to find acceptance in schools, workplaces, with neighbours or in the community as a whole. 

Fighting for equality and creating positive, safe spaces for our families is critical to supporting strength and resiliency.

To help us create resilient families, Rainbow Families has released a guide to raising resilient families, with tips on being more resilient parents and carers.  



Discount offer for photo sessions

Jacinda Dean is a photographer who has a beautiful rainbow family of her own and wants to give an exclusive offer to other rainbow families.

This offer is valid all of April - remember Mother's day is coming up- Great gift for mums, grandmas or for yourselves.

Contactvia email - jdphotography@live.com.au or
on 0407 917 280 or send a message for more information.

For anyone who wants to check out some examples -



Volounteer Profile - Dror Hazy

When Dror became a parent he realised he didn't have many gay friends with children, and didn't know many other non traditional families. He decided to join Gay Dads NSW, a social and support group from gay parents and their children. When Rainbow Families formed he also started attending the monthly catch ups organised by the group.

Dror is single dad to a beautiful 3 year old son. He says that being a parent " is a challenging role but one I find rewarding. " They live in Marrickville and love the area. Originally from Israel, the family had limited support in Sydney. Dror says about joining Rainbow Families, " It was important for me that my son would grow up knowing various types of families. This helped expend my social network as well."

Dror is the organiser of regular Gay Dads Catch ups for Gay Dads NSW. The Catch ups are social events that happen every six weeks in Sydney. It is a friendly group where parents and children make new friends and share a lovely lunch.  Over the last 2 years Dror has also been a regular volunteer with Rainbow Families, includingcooking a snag at our Bunnings Fundraise BBQ, and taking part in Mardi Gras Fair Day, where he offered information about groups and support to parents and children, shared his story and encouraged prospective parents,  and helped fundraise.  Volunteering in our community can mean a greater sense of belonging and inclusion. Dror says, " I love it, I enjoy meeting new people and hearing about their experiences . I like the feeling of knowing that there are others with similar challenges in life. I feel part of a greater group."

Rainbow Families offers a range of social events, playgroups, education and parenting programs, and resources.  If you are interested in finding out more about becoming involved as a volunteer, please contact us.



Volunteer profile - Alison Eaton

Ali and the 90 Silvery Capes

Creating a memorable Mardi Gras Parade floats takes a lot of imagination, stamina, and many people with skills. The parade design team met for 3 months planning, sewing, writing submissions for funding, gluing and emailing people.  So when the group decided to add a magical cape to this year’s costume, Ali Eaton took the challenge of leading sewing workshops. Silver lame is a tricky fabric to sew, not for Ali!

Ali says that she first wanted to get involved with Rainbow Families in 2016, when she saw the parade, “ I saw the joy on everyone's faces and the Love Makes a Family t-shirts made me teary!” Ali had also befriended a committee member who joined her local fruit and veg co-op. Ali was impressed by the work of the community group, “ Ifollowed the trip to Canberra on Facebook and was grateful for everyone that went to lobby for No Plebiscite!”

Like many parents joining Rainbow Families is about inclusion and support for our children. Ali says, “ I've wanted my kids to meet other rainbow families for a long time as they don't have close friends their own age in the same situation.” Ali speaks about her personal story, “ My story is a little different as I came out 9 years ago at age 40 after being married for 18 years. I have three older kids at Uni, and then two younger ones (Charlotte, 15 and Ruby, 9) who were in the float this year.”
Ali says that he children adjusted well to their mum having a girlfriend,  but there were sometimes some issues for the kids. She says that they were often wary of telling their friends about their family situation until they built up trust. Birthday parties were sometimes difficult and so were school functions. Ali feels grateful that her children were able to see her being happy.
When Ali told her youngest daughter Ruby that there were monthly get-togethers at the park she was excited to meet others like her.”  So when the call out for volunteers was made, Ali decided to get involved.  She found everyone to be so welcoming and friendly.  Ali says, “ I teach sewing so got involved with the silver cape making, helped out with glittering the big red hearts, and then ended up helping the committee with the first Mardi Gras Children's Art Exhibition.”
Volunteering is about giving back to our community, but it can also be personally rewarding. Ali says, “ I've really enjoyed being involved and its increased my own sense of happiness. When we moved I realised that the best way to meet people and form friendships is to get involved and volunteer. I love the positive sense of community and the direction you are taking Rainbow Families in with the antenatal classes, gatherings, information spreading and advocacy. Thank you so much for being so welcoming!”
Rainbow Families is about inclusion and participation. Co Chair Vanessa Gonzalez, “ It’s wonderful to have new people join with ideas, skills, and energy. I so appreciate Aliand the huge contribution she has made to this Mardi Gras season.”   
Bern Foley is the volunteer coordinator. If you are interested in becoming involved please send her an email.