By Flavia Francesquini
How many lesbians do you know? This question was posed to me by a 92-year old woman who told me that when she was growing up in western Massachusetts she didn’t even know the word lesbian, and thinking that such women existed was far beyond her imagination. For the first 40-year of her life Ms. Cooper could neither name nor identify what made her feel utterly different and disconnected from everyone she knew. She told me that meeting another lesbian was like opening the window in a dark and lonely room.
Visibility has been one of our most reliable stepping-stones. We find strength in knowing that we are not alone. This is just one of the reasons I admire those who make it their mission to bring our community to light, to name us, and to help us claim our places in society by sending the clear message that yes, we are here and we are not going anywhere.
Silke Bader is the owner of Avalon Media, the Australian publisher of LOTL (Lesbians On The Loose, www.lotl.com) and now publisher of Curve (www.curvemag.com), a magazine that has been on our own stands for the last twenty years. Bader’s dedication to offering a platform to our community is remarkable. She is an amazingly savvy businesswoman and an avid advocate for adoption by same-sex couples in New South Wales, Australia. Bader was kind enough to allow us peak into her world.
Gay Parent magazine: Starting with the basics, where are you from and when did you move to Australia?
Silke Bader: I am originally from Germany and moved to Australia at the age of 22. I have lived in Australia for 24 years and have German and Australian citizenship.
GPM: How did you get started in the publishing business?
SB: In 1992 I started a lesbian travel agency, which I advertised in LOTL, Australia’s only lesbian magazine. This publication was very important for me as 90% of my clients were generated through my advertisement in LOTL. When the owner decided to sell the magazine, they approached me to see if I was interested in buying it, which I did in 1999. My publishing career was launched.
GPM: Before Avalon came along there weren’t many lesbian publications out there. What prompted you to embark on this “less traveled” road?
SB: Lesbian media is so important for equal rights. Lesbian media – being in print or online – offers visibility for lesbians. Mainstream publications don’t feature lesbian weddings, lesbian parenting or lesbian health issues. Without media there is no community. Media creates an infrastructure from businesses that target the community; it’s the key of communication. This energy of creating community has always attracted me and I have enjoyed building towards a better future.
GPM: How is Curve different from LOTL?
SB: There are two distinct differences, geography and content. Curve focuses on our readers in North America. LOTL focuses on readers in Australia. Content differs as LOTL is a free publication and has no budget for pro-active editorial, which means that LOTL features community based editorial. We focus on community events and groups so that if [a local group] needs to announce a meeting we will work with them to create an article and promote the event. Curve is for sale and therefore has an editorial budget and we commission independent journalists and contributors.
GPM: Have you always been “out” in the business world?
SB: Yes, I have always been out, which is unavoidable in my profession and niche market.
GPM: How did you meet your partner Tanya Sale and how did you two decide to start a family?
SB: I met my partner in January of 1999 through a business function in Sydney. LEZBIZ was an organization I started for lesbians in business. Tanya is in finance and was looking at targeting the lesbian demographic. When I met her I was 32 and really wanted to have children. Almost from the very beginning of our relationship did I tell her that I wanted a family. It was 4 years later when our two children came to us.
GPM: You have been very active in trying to raise awareness and changes to the adoption laws in Australia. In short, what were the laws regarding LGBT adoptions before and how have they evolved?
SB: In 2010, the New South Wales Parliament amended the Adoption Act 2000 to allow same-sex couples the opportunity to apply for adoption. Same-sex de facto couples are now treated in the same way as opposite-sex de facto couples in adoption laws in New South Wales. [De facto relationships, for those not familiar with the term, describe two people in a committed relationship but who are not legally married, that now includes same-sex couples.]
GPM: How old are your children?
SB: Our children were 3 and 4 when they came to live with us and they are now 13 and 14 years old.
GPM: What advice can you give to other parents trying to adopt in Australia?
SB: We have not adopted the children yet, we are still in the process and our experience is very unique. We found that while working with the department of community services, the best attitude is to go with the flow and not fight the system. But, as I said, our situation is very unique and this advice might not work for another family; sometimes fighting the system might be necessary.
GPM: When it comes to motherhood, what have been your biggest challenges?
SB: Not to lose my own identity. During all those years there were different types of challenges. I could list the individual stages and their challenges, but in the end my biggest struggle is to keep a sense of myself.
GPM: What advice do you have for other parents raising teenagers?
SB: Ours just hit teenage years and it’s a challenging time. Be in synch with your partner, be a united front, [practice] tough love and consequences. Be there for them when they come home from school, monitor digital devices and their friends. In the end it won’t be up to you anymore, but at least you have given [them] guidelines.
GPM: Tell me a little about the recent vacation you took with your family.
SB: We just completed an around the world trip, traveling in two months to Germany, Switzerland, New York, Orlando, Dallas, and we finished it off with an Olivia Cruise to the Bahamas. While the wounds are still fresh, we have decided not to travel with our children again while they are still teenagers. Looking at any of our pictures, [we] look stressed, unhappy and just exhausted! The fights and arguments we had every day, without a safe place to retreat, were challenging to say the least. At one point our son stormed off in the middle of a remote Swiss village in complete darkness. He almost got lost and it took us an hour to find him! Being together 24/7 for two months was the real issue for us. At home, when you have fights the children still go off to school or you go to work and the situation can defuse, but not when you travel. We do know that our children will most likely only remember the highlights – us teaching them to snowboard and the white Christmas with their grandparents in Germany – they’ve never had a white Christmas in Australia. Also, the comedy club we visited in New York, and Harry Potter World in Orlando. Those memories will stick with them, which makes it all worthwhile.
While the world is still debating whether or not we are even entitled to have families, we steadily march towards equality, raising our children, doing our jobs, and becoming visible. By supporting those who promote and defend our community we ensure that our rights are not forgotten, our families are not yesterday news, and every kid knows a world they can identify with when they look in the mirror.
This article was first published in Gay Parent magazine’s May-June 2013 issue #88.
Photos courtesy of Silke Bader