News From Down Under: Gay Dads, Single Mums
Regularly, when Peter and I take the boys out, we are mistaken for a pair of dads each taking his child out to give a break to their mothers. I know this because random strangers compliment me on this act of kindness, which always amuses me. A father looking after his own child is such a selfless act he must be thanked by society at large.
However, that is not what I am looking to talk about, but it does set the scene. The scene: Peter, the boys and I being at a park one day. Peter was pushing Carl on the swing, while I supervised Nolan having a snack. There were two mothers at the park with their children, one on the swing next to Carl, the other playing near Nolan and me.
Peter was talking to the mum at the swings – because pushing children on swings is quite boring – and they must have been talking about baby CPR because Peter called out to me and asked the name of the course I had done.
I called back my best guess.
A few minutes later the other mother – who was playing near Nolan and me – approached me and asked if we were a gay couple.
I answered yes, and she asked if we had experienced stigma for being gay parents.
I honestly answered no.
She then told me that she had had her child through a sperm donor after failing to find a man and then she told me how people treated her because of it.
This woman ran a business from home teaching singing and, after deciding to have a child on her own, parents actually withdrew their children from her class. Some of the students she still has are shushed by embarrassed parents if they try to ask questions about how this child came to be with no father, like they are drawing attention to something unfortunate, like a wart or a weight problem.
Even her doctor apparently becomes self-conscious about her own wedding ring during consultations, trying to hide it from sight as if seeing that someone else was married would make this woman break down.
It was eye-opening to see someone from the same suburb as me basically suffering all those things I had feared, but had never come to pass.
Apparently having two parents, especially when one is filling the stay-at-home-mum role is easier for people to accept and treat like a real family than a woman who has chosen to be a single mother.
While the Australian government drag their feet on marriage equality, I can be glad that everyday Australians have come quite far with how people treat my family, but also remember those who are not as fortunate as us and hope that in the future all family structures will be treated equally.