Marriage equality has existed in New Zealand since 2013, but for our friends across the ditch, the debate goes on. Gayby Baby follows the children of four Australian same-sex couples at differing intervals of their lives. Each of the families are in widely differing circumstances, offering a socially diverse palette of subjects, and helping to give a voice to as many families with ‘gaybies’ as possible.
The showcase of children gives strong insight into the inner workings of these families. The stories range from, Gus, an ego-centric 10 year old obsessed with wrestling (often the star of the show); Ebony, a 12 year old girl attempting to achieve enrolment at a prestigious performing arts school; Matt, an 11 year old boy in the midst of an existential crisis of faith, and Graham - the only gayby with two male parents - an eleven year old boy living in Fiji, trying to improve his reading and writing levels in the midst of recovering from an abusive past. Each family is unique in their social context and the film finds a strong narrative through the eyes of the children. The parents work to help move through the political backdrop and realities of raising a ‘gayby’, but never overshadow the true heroes of the piece.
The children of this film go through an array of changes during the runtime. The various backgrounds present a medley of problems with raising a child, but at no point do they ever leave the norm of what is expected from a heterosexual couple. This, I believe to be the most important aspect of the film. Gayby Baby not only portrays beautiful relationships in real time, but shows the universal struggles of families, same-sex or not. The footage that film maker Maya Newell was able to capture is astounding; the documentary has a clear message, but showcases the struggle of adolescence outside of circumstance through close and consistent filming of youth. Seeing this kind of growth so earnestly is exceptional in any format.
The only negatives to raising a ‘gayby’are from outside forces, with small elements of bigotry popping up throughout. Maya Newell finds a special moment, capturing the shedding of youth through bigotry aimed towards Gus. As he applies make-up in a department store, he is lambasted by a store-clerk and told to wipe the make-up off. His mother, unfazed, tells him not to worry, but unbeknown to her at the time, Gus is shown shaken from the event. What is expressed in this small moment is the earth-shattering effect small acts of discrimination have on children of same sex Marriage. Other acts of discrimination arise throughout, with parents shown having to retreat from their sexuality for the betterment of their children, a truly heart-wrenching reality.
Same-sex or not, the most important element of Gayby Baby is seeing the love parents have for their children. Ultimately, what I took away from this viewing experience is; as long as parents truly love and support their children, the circumstances of their gender or sexual orientation is of no consequence.