On Being a Gay Parent
For those of us who are straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer expressing or questioning parents of one or more children, we are well-acquainted with the fact that it takes at least two people to have a child. That about covers all of us. And, the recent release of Lisa Cholodenko’s movie “The Kids are All Right,” calls on us to focus on how well the children are doing in light of having moms who are lesbians, especially in light of the unexpected introduction of the sperm donor.
In my life, the dance of being and becoming family has truly never been boring: separating and divorcing from my children’s mom while beginning to date and then move in together with my partner, fighting against employment discrimination, all the while maintaining, if not growing, in my identification as a dad to two fascinating, challenging, loving, irritating and honest children…well, the whole darn family system went through an enormous upheaval. Individually and collectively we’ve spent many hours talking and listening to what is happening and happened. Over coffee, meals, a glass of wine, holidays celebrated together, special days in which we did not gather together, pulling the family in for family therapy sessions, along with silent retreats, we’ve been found kibitzing with each other, friends and other LGBTQ parents and children. While my children’s mom, my partner and I focused on the short-term and long-term well-being of the children (they’re doing really well, by the way), it was equally important that we were well, both individually and with each other. What we discovered is this: while it takes a village to raise a child (to quote that popular African proverb), it also takes a child to call into being and create a village…or in this case, a family.
What makes our kind of families novel — among many unique characteristics in the American dreamscape — is that there is almost always more than your usual number of adults involved. Unlike many who follow the 1950s model of the nuclear heterosexual families — which included one mom and one dad, along with two children, a cat, a dog, and the family car — our families with children have one more adult added to the mix. For example, along with my partner and I, there is, of course, their mother, who is also raising our children. Likewise, lesbian couples with a child or children include another adult (known or unknown) who is the sperm donor. Gay couples with a child or children may choose to have a surrogate mother who is a part of the family in some form or fashion. And, those who self-identify as a “single” parent also became a parent because of another adult who made the creation of the child possible.
In my family, what this has meant is very significant: there are three sets of adult eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings focused on my children at all times. We include one more set of “apron strings” in our family mixture. Granted, even with three sets of eyes on the children, they still get away with certain questionable actions or misbehaviors that surprise us all at the end of the day, with all the adults asking the question, “Did you know?” But here is where the beauty is also found: first, my children know there are many more ways of showing and sharing love than many others in so-called “normal” family systems. But, best of all is this: the adults have figured out how we can do our dance of parenting together. The adults are all right…as are the children. And, the children know they are loved for who they are, right where they are, in a web of love that is present everyday, pulling for their well-being, come what may. : :