Modern family: same-sex couple comfortable in the country

NEW parents Regan Ferguson and Claire Noonan expect some sideways glances as one of Orange’s few same-sex couples with a child.

But the country-raised pair made a conscious decision when they chose to raise their son Elliott, born on Christmas Eve, in a regional area.

Latest census data shows 21 female same-sex couples and eight male same-sex couples in Orange accounted for just 0.2 per cent of total households in 2011, while the city’s 7208 heterosexual couples made up almost 49 per cent of households.

In the neighbouring cities of Bathurst and Dubbo same-sex couples also accounted for 0.2 per cent of households.

Manildra had the highest proportion of same-sex couples in the central west, with four female same-sex couples accounting for 1.3 per cent of total households.

Ms Ferguson and Ms Noonan were surprised at the low numbers of same-sex couples in Orange and Millthorpe and felt some people may be reluctant to identify as a same-sex couple even to the government.

Although they expect raising their son as a same-sex couple in Orange to throw up some challenges, the pair hope to educate the community to show they are “normal people”.

“We’re not scary or different,” Ms Ferguson said.

“It was a really hard decision to have [Elliott] at first because we were worried he’d be teased and cop flak because of who his parents are, but he’s very wanted and we had to go through a lot to have him ... he’ll be raised with love and respect.“

After a stint in Newtown, the couple no longer feels the need to live in the inner-Sydney suburbs with larger gay populations.

“We don’t identify as having to live in that box,” Ms Ferguson said.

“We’re country people, we love Orange and we want to contribute to the community of Orange.”

Ms Noonan said the couple just wanted to give their son a good life and he would have no shortage of male role models with their anonymous donor happy to be contacted by Elliott in the future and the couple made aware of his medical history and even his likes and dislikes.

“It concerns people here whether or not he’ll miss out on having a father, but he’ll have two loving parents and we’ve both got brothers and great male friends,” she said.

“There are all sorts of families out there, some people are raised by their grandparents.”

Growing up in Scone, the pair know all too well how difficult it can be growing up gay in a regional community and hope by sharing their story they can give young gay and lesbian people hope for the future.

“I didn’t realise [I was gay] until I was older,” Ms Noonan said.

“I knew I had feelings ... but at school the ultimate insult was being called a ‘leso’.”

Ms Ferguson agreed.

“Little things chip away at you and plant the seed of homophobia in your own mind,” she said.

“In regional areas like this you have to come out again all the time.”

The couple have been together for 14 years and engaged for six, but have no plans to marry until it is legal and they are able to wed in Orange.

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