On Being a Gay Parent
In an article posted on the “Independent Gay Forum,” Walter Olson — a gay dad — dug through the latest “dump” of information gathered by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). What was discovered in this dump was one of the strategies that NOM used in stirring up hate toward LGBTQ people. One strategy was fanning the flame of division between those of us in the LGBTQ community and straight allies with people of other ethnicities, nationalities, and races. This strategy was successful in the passage of Proposition 8 in California, where many in the African-American, largely Church-based community voted against marriage equality.
NOM had also set aside $120,000 on a project of finding straight children in households headed by LGBTQ parents. The idea was to take straight children and have them talk against their LGBTQ parents on camera. This idea is to attack our families in the most intimate and vulnerable parts of our lives: a child-parent relationship. Olson writes, “Whenever I hear NOM described as ‘pro-family’ from now on, I will think of that fact.”
In reading Olson’s article, and in light of Amendment One election in the state of North Carolina, I realize that what is being organized around us is what I call their “pro-family” tactic: “Project Hate.” Here’s what NOM did not anticipate in their version of “Project Hate”: our children are smarter and more well-adjusted than probably many of their peers.
In large part, this is due to those of us who are LGBTQ parents living openly and honestly with our children in a world that is largely populated by straight parents. Our continuous conversations about being LGBTQ in this world, as the “other,” the “gay” or “lesbian” parent(s) in schools, faith communities, public events and daily interchanges with others and our children, provides ample opportunities for our children to see and hear how society perceives us.
As my mother would say during frank and open discussions we would have around my children regarding being a gay parent, “little pitchers have big ears.” My children heard and observed the reaction of others in learning that I was gay, both in my family and in my former wife’s parents, and watched carefully the way my partner and I interacted with each other. An attitude of welcome openness, an ambivalence or wary acceptance or apathetic close-mindedness is not only recognized by those of us who are LGBTQ parents, but by our children as well.
Through it all, many of our young children who are now grown adults are speaking out and making us proud. Nationally, in Iowa Zach Wahls, the son of two moms who are lesbian, made YouTube history as he lectured anti-LGBTQ legislators who were debating civil unions and equal marriage in Iowa. In response to a Tea Partier who is against marriage equality, especially upon the effected upon children, Wahls said, “No, I don’t feel damaged or that my childhood was somehow scarred.”
Closer to home, my daughter recently posted “I protect ALL NC families…Vote Against One” on her Facebook webpage without any promptings from her Dads. And, my son focused on my biography of being a gay dad in a recent paper for his sociology paper in his online course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
NOM is not “pro-family.” Try as hard as they might, what NOM is running up against in their self-destructive Project Hate is the very thing that makes a family “a family”: the conservative and long-lasting virtues of love; perseverance; honesty; and a spirit of grace. These attributes, embodied in the way we embrace and live our lives as couples and families, will always un-do NOM’s vice-tinged tendrils of envy, anger and a confused sense of “pride.”
NOM will come to an end. As for our families? We will continue to grow and add our voices and be a presence in the growing diversity of this American life. : :