On Being a Gay Parent
In the last two days, I’ve received phone calls from three different casting agents who are “looking for LGBT parents with a unique parenting style. We are starting a new reality-show cable series. Are you a spoiler? An authoritarian? Permissive? Free range? Unschooler? Or, have a style that is all your own? We’re looking for moms and dads with unique perspectives on parenting for a new series on a top-rated national cable network” (read “Bravo,” “TLC,” and “MTV”). They contacted me because of my writings on gay parenting and LGBTQ advocacy, both through my blogs and this column in qnotes. Initially, the inquirer wants to know the age of my children (both are over 20 years old) and whether or not the children are living at home. Because both children are now young adults and are no longer living at home, the inquirer then wants to know if I know any unique lesbian or gay couple who are parenting children under the age of 18 years old and living at home. I take down their phone number and email addresses politely, but that’s where it usually stops. All the lesbian and gay couples I know are not willing to place their families under the constant glare of klieg lights for a reality show that produces an Andy Warhol-type “15 minutes of fame” motif that may leave the family destroyed after the fame is over and the darker side of the family exposed for the world to witness.
Why all the interest in our families? We are the new “rave” item in terms of modern society’s attention. With all the focus on marriage equality in the context of the states here and the world around us, the next logical line of inquiry after we get married is the one which is true for opposite sex couples as well: When are you going to have a baby? With surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, home remedies and adoption as the primary means of bringing children into our LGBTQ lives, having a baby as an LGBTQ individual’s or couple’s life is not far-fetched. Instead, my hunch is that it will soon become the norm — dating, engaged, married, then we welcome children into our lives (though not necessarily in that order, so create your own sequence of events).
As I write this column, I smile at this sudden rush of attention on our families and the safety of identifying our families as “unique.” When I told my immediate and extended family members that I was gay 18 years ago, my daughter was seven and my son was three. It was news not to be shared widely, but only shared among those whom I loved. It was news to be kept within and among a small cadre of people I trusted. Around me, there were no television shows with gay dads on any of the main channels, just the fabulous life of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Queer as Folk” on cable channels. There was no “Modern Family” or the now defunct “The New Normal,” with storylines involving gay dads who only kiss and never have sex. There was an episode on “Will and Grace” in which the characters of Jack and Will took care of one of their gay friends’ children, showing how inept gay men were supposed to be at raising children (even the children’s gay dads on “Will and Grace” were constantly bickering). No one was calling me with a possibility of being on a reality television show. Our kind of family was to be “seen and not heard” from. We were the first generation of out LGBTQ parents.
Times change. Attitudes are changing. The second generation of LGBTQ parents is now the focus of society’s attention. They are the new darlings of the media’s attention. It is wonderful to see that who’s was once “new” and a “threat” to society’s “ideal” of being family is slowly becoming part of the American mainstream way of being family. : :