There’s a new playgroup for queers* in the capital, writes Jo Falvey.
When Frankie (he/him) and Aevi (they/them) were living in Melbourne they had been surrounded by members of the queer* community. When they first moved to Canberra, friends from Melbourne would send love and were in regular contact but it wasn’t the same as being with their community.
When the couple had their first child seven months ago, they were so focused on raising him and adjusting to the unique challenges they faced as a queer* family, especially that of accessing health services. The new family experienced everything: from coming up against blatant homophobia to having to repeatedly reiterate who you and your partner are and the nature of the relationship.
It felt like the health system had ignored a fundamental aspect of the queer* pregnancy journey: the unique way that queer* couples come to pregnancy and the difficulties and complexities around this that sometimes come with their own set of traumas.
To find peers with similar experiences and to connect with other queer* families, the new family were excited to throw themselves into finding a play group. Frankie and Aevi were sure there would be a queer* playgroup in Canberra because wasn’t it meant to be the gay and lesbian capital of Australia? When they realized there wasn’t one, they found themselves uniquely placed to establish a playgroup which catered for families like theirs.
Frankie, a community engagement officer, drew upon his skills to get the ball rolling. Both Frankie and Aevi had taken a year of parenting leave, which meant they could focus on the project together between nappy changes and feeds. A website, registration forms, finding ways to engage the queer community and advertising all needed to be done.
Seahorses are the only species in which the male gets pregnant and gives birth, hence the reason why they settled on the name ‘Seahorse Playgroup’.
Frankie explains, “Seahorse is a transmasculine symbol of parenthood. I’m our child’s birth parent and I’m trans masculine”.
They are grateful for the support they received from Childcare ACT and Rainbow Families Inc to get the playgroup started. The latter has been so encouraging that Seahorse Playgroups is now one of Rainbow Families family catch ups and part of its organisation.
The Seahorse Playgroup meets from 10am-12pm on the first and third Friday of every month at the Child Care Education area at Bruce CIT and caters for unborn to 3 year old children. Yes, they accept pregnant members!
They have created a roster of activities and have many creative members who bring their diverse and useful skills to the group. “
During the first session we play a get-to-know-you game and some welcome circle stuff, nursery rhymes, a baby acknowledgement of country and every session has an activity,” explains Frankie.
Some of the activities Seahorse Playgroup has lined up for the rest of this year includes dancing, teddy bears and parachutes, paint and playdough, pillow fort construction and an excursion to the Botanical Gardens.
They are currently at capacity but suggest people register interest as there will be spots available in the new year. Frankie and Aevi are especially keen to hear from other queer* families who are wanting to help and organise playgroup sessions and then potentially establish more sessions. They are always happy to hear from new people.
So far, everyone that has filled in the intake form has mentioned that it’s a queer* community they are seeking for themselves and their child.
“It’s special that we get that and also hold space for it,” says Frankie. “Queer* culture is such a wonderful place to raise a kid. We are creative and supportive and interested in issues that not only relate to us. We do gender differently because of who we are and we do parenting differently because of who we are. We don’t have these strict gender expectations. This is the joy of queer* parenting.”
For more information on Seahorse Playgroup please check out their website https://www.rainbowfamilies.com.au/canberra_rainbow_parents_social_group