I used to have a photo of my wife and daughter in a frame on my desk next to my computer screen at work. Not one person who looked at it assumed that they were my family. Often, they asked “Who is that in the photo?”
Once I was even asked if the picture was of my mum and I as a baby. The idea that I was born an Asian looking child is a more realistic prospect then the possibility that this could be my family.
You see, I am of Sri Lankan Tamil background. I was born in Canada, but grew up in Australia. I am queer and also a mother of two children. My wife Patricia is of Chinese background and grew up in Young, in country NSW. We fell in love 15 years ago in typical South Asian style while we were both working at an accounting firm. We got married in in the Hunter Valley with 50 of our friends in 2011. in a beautiful ceremony and celebrated until the early hours of the morning. The second time we married was with after our kids were born after same-sex marriage became legal.
Despite knowing that it would be hard, we decided to have kids.
Once of the questions I have been asked is how we picked the donors. It was a very surreal experience for us, sitting in a sterile white fertility clinic that smelled of bleach looking through a huge folder of baby faces, filled with bios and medical histories and trying to decide who would be the ideal donor for our family. You get limited information on the donors and the photos you get are only from when the donors were babies, as the donors themselves are anonymous. After spending some time going through these folders I realised that I really wanted to have a South Asian donor.
My daughter once asked me why it wasn’t my eggs and why I decided not to give birth. My wife and I discussed who was going to have the babies and if one of us couldn’t, the other one could try. For me personally, if my wife was willing to get a big stomach, cankles, go through childbirth and then breastfeed and I still ended up with two beautiful babies, who was I to take this beautiful experience from her? In all honesty, I never believed that being genetically related to my kids would make me love them any more so I was not too concerned with which one of us had the pregnancy and gave birth. Happily our first child was born in 2013, followed by our second in 2015 without complications
Being South Asian is such a big part of my identity and has shaped so much about me that having that in common with my kids was something I really wanted.
My kids’ skin is something they wear proudly. They often say that they have brown skin just like me, their Amma. I joke that having a South Asian donor would also mean that the kids would have all of those special brown qualities that simply cannot be taught but have to come from within – like being able to eat chilli on anything, feeling discomfort when wearing shoes in the house and having an aptitude for accountancy.
It’s been a long journey to this place of creating my unique family with hurdles along the way. What I do know is that my kids and my wife complete me. They make me so proud, which is why despite the puzzled looks, I display them on my desk. To me they are picture perfect, and by showing them off I want to normalise the reality of my hard fought for family – one that is as real and as full of love as any other Australian family.
Laavanya Paripurapavan is an accountant based in Sydney.
This article is an adaptation of a performance made for the ‘Queering the Brown’ event in Redfern, developed and hosted by film-maker Gary Paramanathan. You can follow Gary's podcast ‘The Skin We live In’ here.