Colouring The Rainbow
While there are every day challenges with raising children, queer parents in rural areas can feel alone with challenges that are specific to their household. With family units that challenge “the norm,” seeking guidance from other same-sex parents is a difficult thing to do. Many queer parents can find comfort raising families in the state capitals, it can be easy to feel like “the only gays in the village.” Enter the Cairns Rainbow Playgroup.
Creator of the group and LGBTIQ ally, Paula Castle, moved from her home in the UK to Australia in 1994 and despite taking a few years to adjust to the tropics, she now calls Cairns her home. As a Regional Representative of Playgroup Queensland’s Accessible Program, Castle saw a noticeable lack in LGBTIQ services in Cairns and decided to make a difference. After an expression of interest at the 2016 Cairns Tropical Pride Fair Day, three families were interested in being a part of an all-inclusive playgroup. A collaboration between Playgroup Queensland and the Queensland AIDS Council saw the birth of the Rainbow Playgroup. A year since its launch in 2016, Paula Castle and Rainbow Playgroup Co-Ordinator Tara DeCosta have increased the group to 15 families and 20 children.
As many readers can empathise, being queer can mean having to ‘come out’ to people on a regular basis. Some parents from the Rainbow Playgroup confess that when you become a parent, that only increases. Explaining how you adopted your child, or how your children were conceived, which mother gave birth, who the donor was, or who the surrogate was are usually things you’d talk about only with those closest to you – however they seem to be some of the first questions asked when people meet same-sex parents. Even if same-sex parents are comfortable answering these questions, it doesn’t take long to become exhausted by constantly explaining your family unit.
It also didn’t help that the recent Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey gave anti-gay falsehoods the green light. Much of the “No” campaign strategy was to focus on same-sex parenting rather than marriage itself, despite same-sex couples having the ability to raise families for years in selected states. This understandably became disturbing to the families at the playgroup. Some of whom had never questioned their resilience until this vote. Thankfully, the Rainbow Playgroup became was able to be a safe place for these parents to discuss their thoughts and feelings in an environment of empathetic support. “We feel that playgroup is important for our children to know that there are families like theirs. In the general community, they rarely come across other children from Rainbow families.” says one of the parents.
Rainbow Playgroup is a place where there is no need to explain their family units. There’s an understanding shared with the families. It helps normalise same-sex parents to just being parents. So much so that one mother didn’t even know that it was an LGBTIQ-welcoming playgroup during her first day! Upon taking her child to the fun-sounding “Rainbow Playgroup” she noticed that a lot of the parents were referring to their significant others as their “partners.” Knowing that she also specifically uses that word for her spouse, she then began to pick up on other hints throughout the day. By the end of the playgroup when her partner picked her up, she said, “I think I accidentally found a gay parents’ playgroup.” Her partner responded with, “Really? What’s the name of it?” To which the mother slowly replied, “…Rainbow Playgroup…” before they both broke out in laughter! “Recently we took part in the Cairns Tropical Pride Fair Day and gave away information on the group and some playgroup goodies. The response was incredible. Everyone we spoke to loved having us there and couldn’t believe Playgroup Queensland was so inclusive” says Paula.
Straight couples and those of multi-faith backgrounds also attend the Rainbow Playgroup, in the hopes of raising their children to understand that families come in all shapes and sizes. This group has become a catalyst for like-minded parents to connect with each other and create friendships outside of the playgroup itself.
If you are a queer parent, or an LGBTIQ ally who wants to be a part of this playgroup, contact Tara DeCosta on 4041 5574 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.