Look Who’s Talking – the Rise of Rainbow Families in South Africa


Enrique Grobbelaar was once adamant about not wanting children. Today he’s a loving gay dad and part of a growing number of rainbow families.

I can distinctly remember a time when I was adamant about not wanting any offspring. Should anyone ask, my explanations were anything but original: I like white linen, I can’t bear the thought of watching the Teletubbies on repeat, and I like my strawberry milkshake in a glass and not spilt across the restaurant table.

While these, and other more serious motives, are all extremely valid for most people, I knew better than to believe my own arguments.

The lyrical lines from Philip Larkin’s hackneyed 1971 poem This Be The Verse, fed the lies I told myself and kept me content in my childlessness. “They fill you with the faults they had. And add some extra, just for you.”

Besides, how do two men even make a baby? (“We’ll keep trying” is how the joke goes.)

When someone announces their pregnancy, we don’t ask them for reasons, and equally so no one needs to provide justifications for not wanting to become a parent.

It is important, however, for LGBTQ+ individuals, and gay men in particular, to know that starting a family is not only possible but there are options for those who do want to be parents. As South Africans, we are in luck, we have a legal system that is “mostly” blind and doesn’t discriminate.

As an entrepreneur, I tend to be risk-loving with no fear whatsoever of falling flat on my face. The decision to become a dad, however, was different. There are no do-overs, no takesies-backsies, no definite manual. Above all, this is someone else’s life more than mine.

“Get out as early as you can” continues Larkin’s poem.

How will my future child/ren respond to growing up in a world where their parents are often shunned and ridiculed by society? How will they navigate a world filled with landmines of hate?

During our surrogacy journey, our assigned psychologist assured me that an awareness of my flaws and a reasonable fear of failure, and the world, were all promising signs. Traits, I have since come to learn are shared by all the parents whom I deeply admire.

As for the questions about the effects on children being raised by queer parents – science, and research by people much smarter than me quiet my angst.

Just to mention a few:

  • 34 studies published between 1989 and April 2022 all indicate that parents’ sexual orientation is not an important factor in children’s development.
  • An analysis by BMJ Global Health showed children in families with sexual or gender minority parents outperformed their peers from traditional families, on certain metrics like psychological adjustment and child-parent relationships.
  • Studies reveal that children raised in same-sex parent families fare just as well as children raised in different-sex parent families across a wide spectrum of child well-being measures: academic performance, cognitive development, social development, psychological health, early sexual activity, and substance abuse.

While statistics on the number of rainbow families in South Africa are hard to come by, we do know that the number of LGBTQ+ parents is on the rise, with most gay couples opting for adoption or surrogacy to build their families.

A 2020 US survey revealed that 14.7% of the 1.1 million same-sex couples in the United States had at least one child under 18 in their household (compared with 37.8% of opposite-sex couples). Various studies done by organisations like Family Equality suggest that the gap is closing with more and more LGBTQ+ millennials planning to become parents.

Our firstborn just celebrated 14 months on earth. Yes, we refer to our baby’s age in months, weeks, and seconds. And yes, it has been the best 14 months of our lives! Even in the last five years, since starting our journey to parenthood, my husband and I have been delightfully surprised by the increase in visibility and resources available for rainbow families in South Africa.

We’ve even been able to pick up an Afrikaans translation of Mary Hoffman’s popular Welcome To The Family children’s book, which explores how different types of families are made.

I have yet to meet a same-sex couple who had a completely smooth journey to parenthood, but for a lot of us, the results are pretty much the same – we all end up in a booth in the Spur with a pink milkshake dripping onto the restaurant floor.

For same-sex couples, the road to parenthood can take some uncomfortable turns and lead to unexpected obstacles. Fear, however, more often than not, should be treated as a green light instead of a dead-end.

I say this, with the Teletubbies Eh-oh-ing in the background!

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend