Mum, Mum, Dad and Me

 Raising children in families with «non-traditional sexual relations»  01/23/2014, 21:04

Natasha Pugaeva
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Mum, Mum, Dad and Me
Illustrations by Zhenya Hashimova

Read this interview
in Russian

Bulat Barantaev, LGBT activist and the most well-known gay in Novosibirsk, has become a father. Little Mira, in addition to her dad, has two mums, who live together, and love each other and their new-born baby girl. Sib.fm’s correspondent questioned the parents on how they are going to raise the child, whether they are afraid of being deprived of their parental rights, and why they want to remain anonymous.

Did you want the father to be gay on principle?

Mum: Essentially, we considered straight men too. But at one point, analysing the experience of friends, we got scared that a straight father might want to raise the baby himself, and then he would have a reason to take the child away — our family is non-traditional.

Actor Ivan Okhlobystin asked the Russian President to return Article 121, making «sodomy» illegal, to the Criminal Code in an open letter

I always wanted children, just like my other half — it’s our normal desire for motherhood. Recently, we both realised that we’d saved up a minimum amount which will allow us to give the baby something financially, spiritually and morally. We were ready to become parents and really wanted a new addition to the family.

I think that Bulat is ready for fatherhood too — he’s not 20 any more. He’s a very responsible dad: he went to all the ultrasounds with us and came to the maternity home straight away. I don’t know what his main motivation was.

Dad: I met one of Mira’s mums at a party. Some time later, she wrote to me on [social network] VKontakte: «Could you recommend us one of your friends to be the father of our baby?» I suggested a couple of people.

Then she wrote back two weeks later: «What about if we ask you to do it?» I replied that, basically, I was for it.

I really wanted a baby. I actually get on really well with kids — I have nieces and a nephew. I’m good at raising children and always knew that I’d have my own. The circumstances were favourable at that specific moment in time. That’s it.

From 2014, residents of the Novosibirsk Region will have access to free IVF treatment

How did conception occur?

M: Artificially. That was the only possible way for both Bulat and ourselves. We didn’t even discuss any other options.

D: It’s called artificial insemination. In vitro fertilisation is when they take an egg and sperm cell, and fertilise them in a laboratory. Twins are usually born in such situations. That’s probably why Ricky Martin and Alla Pugachova have two kids each. We chose artificial insemination, which is when, to put it crudely, they take a special syringe and inject the semen in the mother.

According to statistics, same-sex couples are much more likely to express a desire to adopt children with disabilities and HIV than heterosexual couples

Are you going to bring up Mira together?

D: I’m going to be a weekend dad. I’ll come to help and fuss over her. Just like everyone else. We chose our daughter’s name together, the three of us. I suggested Mira, they liked Damira. But in the hospital, the mother of our daughter said that she couldn’t bring herself to call the girl Damira — it’s too long. I was delighted, of course: Mira is a universal name. It’s Hebrew, has the word «mir» [peace, world] in it and so on.

M: We don’t have a fixed visiting schedule. I think that as soon as Mira will be able to go to dad’s for a few days, she’ll stay there and spend time with him. Now, Bulat comes to see us whenever he wants. You could probably say that we’re like good friends. If Mira has tummy ache, I can write to him and tell him that we haven’t had enough sleep. He’ll give some advice, sympathise with us, come to see us and sing our daughter some lullabies. We don’t have any strict rules, it’s all from the heart.

Are not you afraid that the child could be taken away?

M: We’re afraid, of course. Everyone is. In fact, there are loads of families like ours; it’s just that no one flaunts it.

Everyone’s scared, but they all hope that people will be reasonable, really. Although many are already leaving, a few of our friends have already moved abroad.

Our father is an activist and a fighter, which is great. We respect what he does, but want to protect the baby from everything — you know, not all people react reasonably.

Children’s Rights Commissioner Pavel Astakhov believes that «in very many cases, paedophilia is directly related to homosexuality»

D: On the one hand, I don’t think that anyone will do something that stupid, but on the other hand, we’re still afraid, which is why we’re hiding Mira’s mum. I do anything I can to keep her out of the spotlight, and never mention her name.

Do you think that your family can be considered a form of homosexual propaganda?

D: First of all, there’s no such thing as «homosexual propaganda». The phrase «propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations and recognition of their equal value» appears in the law, or something like that. Secondly, what are «sexual relations»? What sort of sexual relations did your parents teach you about?

M: After all, we don’t have sex in front of the baby. We live normally and don’t grope each other. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s roughly like sisters living together. Half the country was brought up by their mothers and grandmothers, and there’s no difference here. We really want our child to grow and develop well.

If she likes men — that’s all well and good. Women — well, that’s all right too, what can you do.

As practice and statistics show, children in families like ours usually grow up with a traditional sexual orientation. So we really hope we’ll get to celebrate our daughter’s wedding.

Studies have shown that parents’ sexual preferences have no effect on the development of emotional problems in adopted children

What do the people around you think?

M: The doctor who treated me knew that I live with my girlfriend. It didn’t cause any problems. I told her everything honestly during my first appointment. What can you expect from your friends? They all support us and are happy for us. Our parents are happy too, they were really looking forward to having a granddaughter. Thank God, the people around us are all nice and lovely.

D: Everyone was delighted of course. It seems only natural that they’re all happy. My circle of friends is completely cool.

The arguments of people who associate homosexuality with reproductive function make me wonder. There’s this strange opinion that gays can’t have children. Thousands of gay men are married and have kids.

Is Bulat the official father? Whose surname does your daughter have?

M: Barantaev is a big name. That’s why our daughter has Bulat’s patronymic [middle name based on father’s name] and he’s recorded as her father, but Mira has our surname, to avoid unnecessary questions and trouble.

D: Mira’s mums both changed their surnames — they took a joint one from a distant relative, and Mira will go by it too. This practice is gaining popularity in Russia: when the registry office doesn’t want to register a marriage, people just change their surname.

Do you worry about your child’s psyche, considering that she will have two mums and a dad?

M: In our country, there are a lot of divorced couples and children who live with a stepfather while communicating with their dad at the same time. It’s not a big deal, right? Mira has a mum, a godmother and, if you want, a part-time dad, who interacts with her, loves her and has a lot to give. We wanted our baby to know that she has a dad. From a psychological point of view, I think a father is essential, because women can’t do everything. Anyway, the father has a different way of educating, explaining and teaching some things. Even a father’s love is different from a mother’s. That’s why we wanted our baby to be fully surrounded by love and attention, which is, in fact, the case.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia violates the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by discriminating against homosexuals

D: The most important thing for children is love. It doesn’t matter if it’s two mums, two dads or a mum and a dad.

I believe that the interaction between parents and children is a unique process. For example, when children are born — Tatar or Altaian, Buryat, ginger, too tall or too small — they’re not like the others. Parents have to teach them how to cope with this «otherness» and take some action themselves. We’re not going to sit idly by if our daughter has problems at school or nursery. The most important thing is parental affection; it’s the only thing that makes a child feel confident.

Who will explain to Mira than her family is not like most others?

M: We thought about it for a long time and came to the conclusion that what will be, will be. The time will come, and I think we’ll find the right words. All three of us are educated people.

We’ll probably say that there are all sorts of different families: some people have one mum and one dad, others have two dads, others still have a stepdad. Some people only have their grandmothers, others have no one at all.

The word «gay» entered the English language in the late 14th century from the Old French «gai» — joyful, happy, pleasant

D: Why tell her if she sees it anyway? Why explain something that’s obvious? I don’t plan on having a special conversation. I’ll probably say that all people are different, and there are some men who live with men, and some women who love women.

You know, I read a story about this on Twitter. It’s about a mum explaining same-sex relationships to her three-year-old son. This dramatic event played out as follows:

«Mum, what’s the relationship between Peter and John?»

«They’re together and they love each other, like mummy and daddy.»

«Oh, I see. Can I have another biscuit?»

It’s just that adults exaggerate the problem.

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