Gayby Baby is an Australian feature documentary in which four kids who take us into their homes and share what it’s like growing up with same-sex parents. The film takes an intimate, character-driven approach to issues at the heart of modern social politics: family, gender, sexuality, parenting and youth; skewering some of the most hotly debated contemporary issues with rarely heard voices that work to cut-through the saturation of political rhetoric – the voices of the kids.
In fact, kids being raised by same-sex couples are growing in numbers worldwide. We are in a Gayby-Boom. But who are these kids? What do they think about having same-sex parents? And do they face different issues to other kids?
10 year old Gus is passionate about WWE wrestling. At a time when he’s discovering his masculinity, he finds its macho world alluring. But the violent wrestlers encapsulate everything Gus’s mothers dislike about masculine culture: these men are not their idea of good male role models. With a big wrestling show coming to Sydney, Gus must change his mothers' views if he’s to attend.
12 year old Ebony struggles to find her place in the outer suburbs of Sydney. She dreams of being a pop singer and hopes to get into the prestigious Newtown Performing Arts High. But getting into Newtown is not just about singing, the school is in a bohemian inner-city suburb where Ebony feels her and her family would be accepted and understood. But with the audition looming, Ebony is soon forced to ask what matters most in her life. Maybe getting into Newtown isn't everything…
11 year old Graham can't read; it bothers and embarrasses him. Having been neglected by his birth parents and never taught to speak, Graham is desperate to become literate. But his quest is complicated when his dads move the family to Fiji, a conservative place where they do not feel comfortable to be “out”. Faced with hiding his family and re-establishing himself in a new country, Graham's goal seems ever more distant. When his teacher sets an assignment where he must write and perform "the story of me", all Graham’s fears collide…
11 year old Matt is in the midst of an existential crisis. His family attends Church and his birth mother is strong of faith, yet the pastor says same-sex couples are a sin against God. The disconnect between his mothers faith the pastor's admonitions has got Matt questioning everything. In answering life’s biggest questions, Matt must stand up to God, the Prime Minister, and perhaps most importantly – his mother.
It's time that we all take a look at the notion of normalcy - the conventions we have set are up for review. Gayby Baby is a living, moving portrait of same-sex families that offers a refreshingly honest picture of the value systems that really count in modern life. Just what is a 21st Century family, and how and by whom should it be defined?
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
Gayby Baby was released in 2015 and the impact campaign will continue through 2018 and 2019. In a climate of intense debate over LGBTIQ rights and family values, the aim of our film and impact campaign has been to invite people to think critically about what constitutes a family in 21st century Australia. Is it a man and a woman? Is it to do with genetics? Love? Parenting? Community? And who gets to decide? Through our campaign, we have fought for LGBTIQ equality under law, as well as the acceptance and celebration of LGBTIQ families. This project seeks to make our country a safer and more accepting place for all kinds of family units.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
The film's impact campaign has objectives in 3 core areas: awareness-raising
, legislation change
. We set out to reduce homophobia in our communities, end discriminatory legislation (win same-sex marriage & adoption equality), and create tools and programs for educators to take the issue of family diversity into the classroom in a fun and insightful way.
Awareness-raising: the film takes an 'in my shoes' approach to increasing awareness and promoting a supportive and safe environment for children of LGBTIQ families. The film's take-up is a clear indication of its resonance: released at 12 cinemas nationally, sold to SBS One and distributor Madman Films, topping the Documentary list on iTunes AU, the LGBT list on iTunes USA/UK, and being sold to over 20 territories worldwide including the USA, UK, Canada and Germany, not to mention hundreds of LGBTIQ community screenings - the film has generated a truly global conversation, bringing the voices of gaybies to the fore. But it's the small details that really show the impact of this film. When VIC Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Rowena Allen, addressed a gathering for the launch of our School Action Toolkit, she expressed gratitude for, "giving my daughter a language to describe herself with pride."
Legislation change: we worked alongside campaigners to support the collective push for LGBTIQ equality, using the film to help demystify the gay family unit amongst targeted policymakers/ leaders. We held a gayby panel at Australian Parliament House with gaybies from all around the nation, aged between 18 and 60, to share stories and answer questions from parliamentarians. This resulted in some of their stories being shared on the floors of the lower house, in support of same-sex marriage. As debate swirled over the issue of the plebiscite, we sent a personal letter and copy of Gayby Baby to every Coalition member, so they could get to know the families their decision would be impacting. During the plebiscite, we made the film widely accessible, by reducing its cost to $1 on iTunes. We also mentored Ebony and Gus, now teenagers, to direct a short film for the Guardian Australia, called "Vote For Love". In addition, we screened Gayby Baby at 5 state Parliaments. The VIC, SA, QLD & NT screenings coincided with debate on adoption equality, providing a key talking point in support of changing the legislation. The best measurement of the film's impact in this area? In 2017, the nation voted "yes" for same-sex marriage and as of March 2018, every state and territory has amended their adoption laws to allow same-sex couples the right to adopt.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
is an area we continue to work in. To this end, we are currently seeking support to take our Gayby Baby teacher's seminar
nation-wide. This seminar is a professional development program for teachers, successfully trialled in Sydney in 2018 with members of Teachers Federation NSW. It provides valuable insights, practical tools and in-class activities to make our classrooms more inclusive of students from diverse families. In addition to the seminar, through 2018-19 we wish to provide tailored support to schools who take on the Gayby Baby program, and will engage an experienced teacher to help other teachers and principals adapt the program to the specific needs of their community. Providing this support is invaluable for staff who are increasingly time-poor and may be teaching concepts that are new to them. We are looking for $76,900
(38,800 in 2018 and 38,100 in 2019) to fund this work, which we hope you will consider supporting. At a time when all national LGBTIQ school programs have been de-funded, we believe this is critically important for the safety of our kids.
Before all this, we began our work in the education space, by partnering with youth-led activist group Wear It Purple, to provide Gayby Baby as a celebratory film on their annual Wear It Purple Day. However, on our first Wear It Purple Day in 2015, all Gayby Baby screenings in NSW were cancelled by the Department of Education, after an incendiary front page report in the Daily Telegraph. Gayby Baby was thrust into the limelight, becoming a political football in the debate over LGBTIQ content in schools. In the days following the Gayby Baby "ban", Senators and MPs including Penny Wong, Alex Greenwich, Tim Wilson and many others stood up to defend the film in TV interviews and opinion pieces in major newspapers. There were online petitions and public demonstrations, and although a devastating blow, to have the screenings cancelled on a day of LGBTIQ pride, the intense community and media focus provided an opportunity to talk about the film's underlying issues. We had always intended to create an education program around the film, but it became clear to us then, just how vital it would be. We set about developing and launching the Gayby Baby School Action Toolkit, which has since been downloaded over 1,500 times. It is the nation's first comprehensive education program depicting same-sex parented families, and uses stories from Gayby Baby as a case study for exploring family, identity and diversity with curriculum links to PDHPE, English and Humanities for years 5 to 10. But there is still work to do, to ensure the program is delivered, as we have outlined above with our Seminar and Tailored support program. Please visit: www.thegaybyproject.com/schools to download a copy of the School Action Toolkit for yourself.