Bibliophile | ‘The Ginger Child’ explores family, loss and adoption

The Ginger Child
by Patrick Flanery
Allen & Unwin

In November 2012, Patrick and husband Andrew were asked by a brunette social worker if they would adopt a ginger child. There was a two year-old boy no one wanted to adopt and the reason given was because people thought ginger children would behave badly.

After considering the legal and ethical impossibilities of surrogacy in many countries, Patrick and Andrew were prepared to adopt a child from anywhere, of any race, religion or national origin. For two years, they had filled in forms, undergone interviews and marshalled evidence to prove they would be good parents.

This book is their journey as they shaped themselves to a system in order to give the continuing parade of social workers what they want even though, as an author Flanery notes, writing complete sentences, with commas and correct grammar might make them appear less than ‘ordinary’.

“We are a politically radical queer couple who, although appear in the world as male, inhabit identities more complex than binary gender allows, and who want more than anything to raise a child who will be their own person, whatever that might be, and to give that person all the love we have to offer.”

Nearly all the children available for adoption in Britain have been forcibly taken from their parents because of abuse or neglect and the complexities and uncertainties involved in adopting mean that it takes a long time. They do, however, find that in competing against straight couples, the social workers are displaying prejudice towards them as a male couple.

With social workers who struggle to understand the most obvious things about their lives, they feel dis-empowered by the system which does not give reasons for continually refusing their requests. Flanery turns to books and films to try to come to terms with concepts of family, gayness versus queerness and even loss.

This powerful memoir shows the personal impact of bureaucratic decisions that create traumas for both people wanting to adopt and the charges they are meant to be helping find a better life. The four year battle to adopt a child changes Patrick and Andrew’s lives forever … but certainly not in the ways they imagined it would.

Lezly Herbert