At the New York City LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street, I attended the May 1 New York City premiere of the fascinating Australian documentary film, “Gayby Baby” which tracks the lives of four same-sex couples with children at the precarious age between childhood and adolescence.
Guess what? Gay parents are just as imperfect and loving as straight ones, and their 12 year-old children are just as wonderful or exasperating as are those of opposite-sex couples. One lesbian mother depicted has issues with men and her son’s obsession with professional wrestling. Another is something of a stage mother, hoping her daughter will have a singing career, and a third has a problem with her young son’s proclamation that he does not believe in god.
The male couple is frustrated by their unsuccessful efforts to deal with the learning disability of their son. The difficulties faced by each of the four families make you want to laugh or cry at the inevitably twisted paths every child must take to adulthood and to reconciliation with the parents life has handed them.
One of the children, a blonde boy named Gus who is a born performer and a sly charmer, steals the show and makes the audience demand a series of sequels just so we may follow the life of an extraordinary youngster who is more than a handful for his two mothers.
In discussion with the film’s producer Charlotte Mars and director Maya Newell, I learned that “Gayby Baby” had been scheduled to be screened in 80 Australian schools before a prominent newspaper took the position that the film was propaganda for “the gay lifestyle” and ought to be kept out of schools. As a result, the showings were prohibited. The argument about the educational value of “Gayby Baby” continues to rage in Australia where LGBT rights are not yet secure. Newell noted that there is optimism that next year’s voting will result in the election of more liberal leadership for Australia.
Mars and Newell talked about the crowd-sourcing they used to get the film made and about their selection of which couples to feature. The many people who funded the film knew that it would celebrate the idea that same-sex couples with children ought to be accepted, and integrated. In addition, Mars and Newell wanted to depict the chosen families without scrubbing. You’ll see parents who smoke around their children, for example. Those cigarettes could have been edited out but were not. Interestingly, Newell says she let the four sets of parents have a say in what eventually made it into the final cut and what was discarded. This is an unusual approach to documentary film-making where, all too often, a director “steals” intimacies granted by the subject and absconds with footage that will be valued according to its sensationalism. Newell and Mars cared about these four families and deliberately asked for their participation in the portrayal of their private lives.
The film has an almost brutal honesty about how families gay or straight navigate themselves, and an admirable honesty about how parents and children overcome their own flaws when overriding love is the centerpiece of the family. Anyone should, upon viewing this engrossing film, be pleased to have any of these beautifully and naturally imperfect families as next-door neighbors.
As I watched “Gayby Baby” I thought about the several same-sex couples I know who have chosen to become parents via adoption, surrogacy or ex-spouses, and I was reminded that children brought into this world willingly have a head start, but will still have to deal with the inevitable foibles of their parents. “Gayby Baby” shows us that kids are as resilient as weeds. Given some love, they will do just fine.
“Gayby Baby” is exactly the kind of film that can change the hearts and minds of those who harbor unnecessary fears about the safety and destiny of the children of same-sex couples. If you are already convinced about LGBT equality, “Gayby Baby” will introduce you to some loveable parents and children and will entertain you with the stories of their lives that are extraordinary just because they are so terrifically ordinary.
For more, TheGaybyProject.com