‘Family like ours’ over the rainbow

Newtown’s Gavin and Steven Sloan with their three children Rupert, 6, Audrina, 9, and Byzantia, 6.

By Luke Voogt

Four in five LGBTQIA+ parents struggle to find “a family like theirs” in children’s media other than books, according to a Deakin University study.

The study, primarily aimed at picture books, also indicated 83 per cent of ‘rainbow’ parents did not feel represented in “anything else aimed at young children” including TV shows.

Newtown father-of-three Steven Sloan said he and husband Gavin had struggled to find “scraps” and sub-plots featuring rainbow families.

“There will be a one-minute segment where we can say, ‘look, here’s a family like ours’.”

While representation was increasing, only sitcom Modern Family and a few other shows depicted LGBTQIA+ families meaningfully, he said.

Almost a third of rainbow families struggle to find children’s books that represent them, according to the study’s preliminary findings.

“They were always American and they weren’t beautifully-drawn like other children’s books you find in Kmart and bookstores,” Mr Sloan said.

The very “cheesy” and “American” narratives focussed on how the family began or how they were “rainbow”, he said.

“I don’t think kids really want to know that – they just want to see families like theirs do normal things, like camping.”

Every respondent in the study’s preliminary survey said finding a “family like theirs” in a picture book was important to them, researcher Helen Young said.

“While children’s picture books representing queer parents have been around since the late 1970s – earlier than many people expect – they haven’t evolved much over this period to represent families from a variety of cultures or backgrounds.”

A lack of tittles outside North America and inconsistencies in cataloguing online or in libraries made them difficult to find, Dr Young said.

Rainbow parents and guardians can participate in the study up until July 31 at: researchsurveys.deakin.edu.au/jfe/form/SV_e9cl8tnoAkUG4FT.

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