Yesterday I gave a presentation to a group of Maternal and Child Health nurses from the City of Whitehorse about working with rainbow families. It was a fantastic session with a really engaged audience who asked lots of questions. I came away on a complete high and I’m still buzzing.
What I love about these sessions is that they are the perfect antidote to the hatred and ignorance about our families that clogs up my news feed. I think this group of 25 women – mostly middle aged, mostly straight, living and working in the suburbs – is pretty typical of what’s out there right now.
They have some experience of rainbow families and they don’t see any problem with gay people being parents – or getting married. They’ve got a sister/uncle/cousin who’s gay and it doesn’t really bother anybody. They worry about using the wrong words or ‘putting their foot in it’ because they don’t want to offend. For some, it’s a journey and they’ve a little way to go still, and that’s OK. Mostly, they are working out the best way to navigate this new territory in a respectful and supportive way.
Working with them reminds me that the Australian Christian Lobby, the Cory Bernardis and Pauline Hansons have loud voices, but do not represent the views of the ‘ordinary Australians’ they so often invoke. My 25 nurses are the real ‘ordinary Australians’ and they think very differently.
I tell lots of stories in my workshops, about my kids, about yours, and it’s always what people appreciate most. This group went away feeling like they know Jac, Sarah and their three children and that’s really important. I normally avoid anything overtly political – that’s not what I’m there to do – but I’ve started talking about the bigger picture recently, the ‘minority stress’ our community is experiencing. Having a new baby right now when politicians and social commentators are screaming ‘bad’ ‘wrong’ and ‘unnatural’ is tough. Just bear it in mind, I say.
The other awesome thing about running training is the conversations at the end, and the comments on the evaluation forms. This is what they told me yesterday:
The session provided me with a valuable insight into the challenges for rainbow families. I feel more confident in myself engaging with rainbow families in a supportive way.
It raised my awareness and made me think about providing the best service for LGBT people!
The most useful part for me was information about things to be mindful of with same-sex couples like home visits and new parents’ groups.
I know these nurses will provide a more sensitive and inclusive service to the LGBT mums and dads they encounter in the future, but I also think they’re more likely to speak up on our behalf when issues arise in general conversation. And if we’re lucky, they’ll tell other people about the presentation they heard at work. Then, my 25 people talking about rainbow families, turns into 50 people, or 75 or 100.
Now the election is over I’m hoping to run more training sessions and give more presentations. I’ve got a few lined up for next month, including my very first indigenous organisation, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency which I’m really excited about. So, if you work in child-care, early learning or education, or health and human services – or if you know of an organisation that could do with a little awareness raising – please spread the word. You can check out the training page on my website here. And you can also download OUTSpoken Families: Resource kit for rainbow families. And you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, and just because I can, here’s my favourite comment from yesterday:
‘Jacqui was very honest, entertaining and informative and presented the information in a way which is very helpful for me as a MCH Nurse. I really enjoyed this presentation. The time flew and I could have listened to Jacqui for hours. I liked the personal stories and I’m sure all of this information gives me confidence in working with same-sex couples and their children.’
Now, if I could just get my kids to listen to me…