Flat White

Marriage equality, father figures and family trees

13 September 2017

1:40 PM

13 September 2017

1:40 PM

We can all agree that adoptive parents – including same=sex couples – can be as loving and caring as biological ones. But there is much more to ‘family’ than a loving hug, as we can all recognise as soon as we start talking about family gatherings, family trees and all important male role models, or father figures.

The biological links of family through generations are like the roots of a tree, largely unseen but powerful. Biological grandparents are the most visible and familiar representations of the genealogy that makes us who we are. Connected by the blood of both parents, a child’s four natural grandparents are the extended roots supporting his/her life. They play a crucial role in the concept of our human continuum. That is one reason why adopted children have the urge to find their biological parents.

Adoptive parents have their own parents to play the roles of grandparents, if they are so inclined and able, but these are surrogates as much as the adoptive parents are surrogates. Such an extended family is formed by an agreed social construct, not bound by blood, not linked by inheritance.

But most problematic of all for a male child in a same-sex marriage is the absence of a father figure, a male role model. It doesn’t diminish the character of adoptive parents to recognise that a father figure is unique to a father, gender fluidity concepts notwithstanding.


There has been much research into the damaging effects of boys growing up without fathers, but that has been in the context of heterosexual relationships where the father has been absent.

In a same-sex relationship, the role of ‘father’ is either taken by a lesbian female or a homosexual male. This is not the same; it’s hard to see how such an environment leads to promoting the value of men and a range of positive male identities. Will boys in same sex marriages grow up with a sense of isolation, a kick-starter to other problems?

Is it fair on children to impose on them a psychological experiment of such impact and magnitude?

Andrew L. Urban worked with psychologist Agi O’Hara to develop What Makes A Man A Man, an online resource offering ‘virtual’ mentoring for men through interviews with a variety of male role models.

Illustration: vintage Ovaltine advertisement.

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