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2 Mums and a Dad
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2 Mums and a Dad

Background Notes
What is a family?
This film will make us question what an Australian family is in the 21st Century and our notions of what constitutes a mum and a dad. It gives an insight into the complexities of modern parenting in a society where less than half of all Australian families consist of mum, dad and the kids; and increasing numbers of women and men, including gays and lesbians, are seeking alternate routes to parenthood, such as surrogacy, sperm donors and IVF.
In Australia today, families are made up of blended families, co-parents, shared households and sole parents, and ever-increasing variations. Gay and lesbian families are no less diverse.
Some gay men and lesbians choose to have families together. In a few cases, the known donor is an active parent and the family can end up with two mums and a dad (as in the film) or even have four parents.
The Australian Gay and Lesbian Community
It is difficult to ascertain the exact size of the gay and lesbian community in Australia because the national census is only just beginning to include same-sex couples in its data collection and not all gays and lesbians wish to reveal their sexual orientation. All figures must therefore be viewed as estimates that are likely to be lower than real numbers.
The 2001 ABS census states that there were 9840 gay couples and 8312 lesbian couples living together. Of these 20% of the lesbian couples had a dependant child/children. Less than 5% of gay couples had a dependant child/children.
How many gay and lesbian families are there?
There are now a significant number of lesbian parented families in North America, Western Europe and Australia. Estimates in the US range between one to five million lesbian mothers (Gartrell et al 1996) parenting more than six million children (Patterson 1992).
McNair (2000) reports that of an estimated 400,000 women who are lesbian, more than 88,000 currently have children.
The most common family structure is for a lesbian couple to be the primary parents having conceived via a known or unknown sperm donor. The donor does not usually take on parental responsibility but may be involved in some way in the child’s life.
The type of family structure featured in the documentary where the donor becomes an active dad is less common. The exact number of families involving two mums and a dad who parent together is not known.
Are there adverse affects for children raised in lesbian families?
Over the last two decades, international studies of lesbian families have not found that children are disadvantaged compared with traditional families. In fact, the studies find that children from lesbian families are as emotionally and socially well adjusted as their peers, regardless of whether or not an active male parent was involved.
For example:
  • There are no differences in terms of their sexual identity
  • Personality, intelligence, self-esteem and moral judgment are the same as their peers
  • Relationships with peers and adults of either sex are the same
  • Relationships with parents are the same
It has been found that children’s psychological development is influenced more by family process (such as conflict between parents) than by family structure (such as the number of parents or their sexual orientation).
How do gays and lesbians have children?
Throughout history there have always been gay and lesbian parents, many of whom conceived their children from previous heterosexual relationships or marriages.
Today, greater acceptance of gay and lesbian lifestyles and increasing access to advances in reproductive technology mean that more gays and lesbians are choosing to have their babies within their same-sex relationship. Across the western world there is a gay and lesbian baby boom.
Insemination is usually achieved via a sperm clinic, IVF, or done at home where the man ejaculates into a jar. The woman then draws up the sperm using a needle-less syringe and inseminates herself when she is ovulating.
For lesbians wanting sperm there are three options:
  1. Known sperm donor.
    Many lesbians want their child to know who their father is. The known donor can be a friend, acquaintance or relative of the woman’s partner. While most lesbians prefer to be the primary parents, many want the donor to play some part in their child’s life. This can take forms such as an uncle role, or having some kind of access arrangement. It is less common for lesbians to agree to the donor being an active dad and committing to a three-way parenting arrangement (as in the case of Darren, Kellie and Fiona).

  2. Anonymous sperm donor.
    Available at sperm clinics. Some lesbians prefer this option to clearly establish their parenting rights (men who donate sperm at a fertility clinic do not have any rights or parenting responsibilities).

  3. Sex with a man.
    Few lesbians choose this option because of their sexual identity as well as possible health risks (i.e., in the case of a one night stand).
For gay men wanting to become fathers there are two options:
  1. Surrogacy
    Australian gay men who choose to use a surrogate mostly use clinics in the USA that are specifically set up for these types of arrangements. The gay man donates his sperm, and chooses an egg donor and a surrogate from profiles provided by the company. He then travels to the US to pick up his baby once it is born. This option ensures the gay man or couple are the parent(s) of the child (egg donors and surrogates do not have legal parenting responsibilities). However, this option is expensive, costing up to $30,000.

  2. Make an arrangement with a woman who wants to be a mother.
    This can be a single woman, often a lesbian or a lesbian couple. It may be someone the man knows well, an acquaintance, or someone he has met through advertising or a gay and lesbian-parenting group. The gay man must then negotiate the amount of involvement he hopes to have.
What is a parenting agreement?
A parenting agreement is a document drawn up by prospective parents (in the film, Fiona, Kellie and Darren) that outlines their intentions as to how they will conceive and raise a child. It is not a legal contract (although it may be referred to as such) and is not legally binding in the Family Court, although it can be used as evidence intention. Its main purpose is to promote discussion and help alleviate disputes.
What is a primary parent/carer?
In the film, Fiona and Kellie are the primary parents or carers of the baby, meaning that the child lives with them and they take on the day-to-day parenting responsibilities. Darren is an active parent in the sense that he has regular access, contributes emotionally and is involved in major decisions.
What is the birth mother called?
In the film, Fiona is the birth mother, meaning that she gave birth to the child. Other terms include mother, biological mother or blood parent.
What is the non-birth mother called?
In the film, Kellie is the non-birth mother, meaning that she did not give birth to the child. Other terms include non-biological mother, non-birth mother, and co-mother or non-blood parent.
What is the known donor called?
Although names do not necessarily imply a legal definition, they can vary depending on the role and relationship within the family, and often change over time. Examples include dad, donor, sperm donor, uncle, father, and co-parent.
What are the legal and social implications for gay and lesbian families?
Lesbian and gay families are not recognised by Commonwealth legislation. Without the legal and social safety nets that other families automatically receive, lesbian and gay families are at greater risk in a variety of ways. For example:
Members of a same sex couple cannot both be legally recognised as parents. This means the non-biological parent (such as Kellie in the film) is not recognised by Australian law as a parent even though she/he may be the main carer of the child.
A man who becomes a father via donor insemination (e.g. Darren) is also not legally considered to be a parent.
To help combat these problems, non-birth mothers and donor fathers can take out Parenting Orders as ‘persons having an interest in the care, welfare and development of the child’ after the baby is born.
Furthermore, parenting agreements (as featured in the film) are not legally binding. Disputes between gay men and lesbians over access to children they have created has seen several families in court setting precedents. As Leanne Kelly (the lawyer featured in the film) puts it, the law is not up-to-date with modern concepts of family.
Should the law recognize gay families?
There are numerous examples of social, legal and financial discrimination against same sex families. Changing the law would go some way towards alleviating this. For further information, the following websites are useful:
Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby
Love Makes a Family
The Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby
Sally Ingleton Nominated Best Achievement in Direction Australian Directors Guild Awards 2008
Winner Best Documentary ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Awards 2007
Winner Best Documentary Dendy Awards Sydney Film Festival 2007
Finalist Best Documentary Human Story Australian Teachers of Media Awards ATOM 2007

Official Festival Selection
Frameline 31 San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual Film Festival
Sydney Film Festival Dendy Awards
Feast Film Festival South Australia
QueerScreen Sydney
One World Festival Prague

Prospective Lesbian Parents (Melbourne)
A support group for lesbians wanting to be parents.
Maybe Baby (Melbourne)
A support group for prospective gay and lesbian parents.
Gay Dads (Australia)
Australian based website supporting gay men who are planning on, or who are already parents.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Legal Rights Lobby
Lobby group that aims to achieve equity and social justice for lesbians and gay men.
Royal Women’s Hospital
Website offers wide ranging information on lesbian health and parenthood
Love Makes a Family
A Victorian community education and lobbying group that aims to achieve equal rights and choices for lesbian, gay and bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI or 'rainbow') parents, prospective parents and families.
Rainbow Families
Support group for alternative families. Each year a Rainbow Families Conference is held in Melbourne including workshops, panels, discussions and presentations on a wide range of topics to do with alternative families.
Where to buy
Visit our online store: 2 Mums and a Dad
360 Degree Films
GPO Box 2009
Darwin NT 0800
tel: +61 4 1853 0550
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