Having turned 30, fashion guru, TV presenter and journalist Darren Kennedy is questioning if he wants to become a parent. Speaking to Suzanne Byrne he reveals that his documentary, Gay Daddy, investigates the challenges gay people in Ireland must face when they want to start a family.
Fashion stylist, TV presenter, journalist and all round nice guy Darren Kennedy is stepping outside his TV norm to make a documentary in which he has allowed cameras into a very personal side of his life. Having turned 30 this year, Darren has hit a ‘life stage’ where he is starting to think about having children of his own, but as a gay man, making this decision comes with more challenges then other people would face.
Like all would-be parents who cannot biologically conceive themselves, the road ahead for Darren involves overcoming some serious obstacles and facing some difficult choices.
Gay Daddy is the first in a new season of Reality Bites documentaries on RTÉ Two and it follows Darren on his journey as he explores the options of surrogacy, co-parenting, adoption and fostering, taking a close look at the kind of society we think we are, and the stark realities of parenting in the 21st century.
Gay Daddy is a very personal look at your life, why did you agree to make this documentary?
The easiest answer to that is stage of life where I am at. A lot of people in my life are having kids – friends, family. My first two nephews arrived two years ago. Plus I hit the big 30 which was a bit of a milestone. It is a natural stage in my life and that’s what led to the documentary.
What did you know about gay people becoming parents in Ireland before you started making the programme?
Very little to be honest. I know a couple of people who have kids who are gay but that is purely by fact that they were married previously and then discovered they were gay and came out. I immediately thought of adoption as the obvious option – it’s not let me tell you! Then surrogacy because it is in the news so much with the likes of Elton John, Ricky Martin, but apart from that I didn’t know the intricacies, I didn’t know how easy or difficult it would be.
What did you learn while making Gay Daddy?
I learned that it is not very easy! One of the big things is in Ireland is the situation legally is quite behind even in comparison the UK. Most importantly, regardless of anything else, I have learned that the most important consideration is the welfare of the child, whether you are adopting, fostering or anything else. The quality of care, the quality of love and the opportunity that the child has to flourish, they are the most important factors. It’s not whether they have mum and dad, a mum, a dad, two dads, two mums or whatever.
Where you surprised by the laws in Ireland with regards to gay people becoming parents?
It kind of was in a way because we have civil partnership now in Ireland and you would think this is a massive leap forward. It is in one hand, but in terms of children it isn’t and the law is actually quite archaic and it hasn’t kept pace with the change in society. As far as I am concerned it is an issue for me going forward, but even more worryingly people who are in that situation and have kids and in same sex relationships the kids aren’t protected really. (Both people in a gay relationship in Ireland cannot legally adopt the same child)
Tell us about the show – what will people see when they sit down to watch Gay Daddy?
What they are going to see is a glimpse into me and my life. They meet Harry my little dog and also the journey to discover what options are open to me. So I look at fostering, surrogacy, adoption and co-parenting. I meet people who have done it and also get the reaction of the people closest to me, like my mam and dad and seeing what they think. I meet kids who are now adults that have been brought up by gay parents - it’s not rose tinted glasses stuff. Life is tough we all know that and I ask the question, would I be making life tougher on a child by having two dads. It certainly challenged me as a person making it and it will question the society we live in Ireland today.
Of course this documentary also delves into a very personal side of your life and looks at your relationship with your partner of 10 years. Was this a big decision for you and Aidan?
It was definitely. Now it has to be said that Aidan is a bit camera shy so there are just glimpses here and there. He wasn’t overly enamoured at the thoughts of being filmed – it’s just not his bag and that is absolutely fine but the premise is the same. I think really from a simplistic point of view it was also a journey to see not only how, but if I actually am ready to become a parent, not everyone is. It’s a dual journey.
How do you feel about allowing the cameras into the personal side of your life now that you have made this documentary?
On a personal level I am really proud of the documentary I genuinely am, it’s achieved what we set out to achieve. I am a bit nervous about it because obviously it is such a personal thing to me and when you put yourself out there like that you don’t do it lightly or at least I wouldn’t do it very lightly. So I am little bit nervous about that but I eased my nerve slightly by saying that’s who I am, it is an honest portrayal of me and I think once you are being honest then you are happy, at least for me.
And what kind of impact would you like it make on a public level?
I think it’s certainly encouraged conversation and discussion and debate around this issue, it is not something we really think about. If you think of a gay parent you think of Elton John and that’s it. And let’s get real Elton John’s life is not a fair representation of life for 99.9% of people on this planet let alone in Ireland, so I think it is going to encourage debate. There are a lot of people out there who are getting pregnant as we speak and their family unit is not protected and I think that is the worrying thing about it. Irish law and the constitution hasn’t kept up with society and we are creating a generation of kids and some of them aren’t protected and that’s wrong.
Gay Daddy, RTÉ Two, Tuesday, 9.30pm