(another chapter of The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage)
The Inevitable Question
Sometime, in the light of all this, someone is going to ask us “the question” again. Do you want your kids to be gay?
It’s come up plenty over the years. It’s the universal question gay and lesbian parents get asked, and not just by straight folks. It comes somewhere after, “Where did you get your son and/or daughter?” and “Who gave birth?” Assumptions vary. Some assume we would do anything to prevent our child from suffering the same fate that makes us a member of a persecuted minority, the very timbre of their voices implying how cruel it would be to wish this upon a child. Others assume that if we took on parenting as a gay man or lesbian, we did it to perpetuate the species, and intend to mold, cajole, or genetically influence our kids’ orientational outcome.
Both assumptions blow my mind.
But not the minds of other parents I’ve heard answer this question over the years. We were privy to one of these conversations awhile back, and when the lesbian mom involved was asked “the question,” she made it clear she didn’t want her son to be gay, that it would be more difficult, that she wouldn’t have grandbabies, and that it wasn’t “normal.”
She didn’t beat around the bush.
This is a response I’ve heard echoed over the years. Often, gay parents will say they’d have things easier for their children. Sometimes, they have suffered from homophobia almost beyond endurance, been rejected by family and friends, or experienced hate crimes, and one can understand their desire for something easier for their child.
Other times, I’ve heard responses that practically affirmed the old recruitment propaganda right wing America used to publish as truth. To these parents, being gay is a culture; they are raising their child in that culture, and they would like them to become full members in standing when they reach adulthood. They are happily living in a gay bubble surrounded by those like them, and hope for the same for their children.
We all want what’s best for our children, but best comes in many guises.
With the new emphasis on genetics in childrearing and bioengineering the “perfect” child, people are bolder about this kind of question, as if tomorrow one could choose to have a gay or non-gay child at will. The assumption being that since the majority of parents would choose non-gay there is a responsibility to purposefully breed some potentially gay adults.
Though as my wife’s straight surgeon said, when the topic came up regarding her new baby girl’s eventual orientation, “That’s the least of my worries.” She was more worried about drugs, illness, and violence. Whether or not her daughter will be gay was just not a blip on her radar.
As parents, we are in neither camp, pro-gay or anti-gay. I’d like to say that I was purely and uncomplicatedly sure that I just want them to be who they are, solid, strong, gay, straight, or in-between, with no prejudice either way and happy at either outcome.
It’s not that simple. While the goal is healthy, happy self-hood, whoever that may turn out to be,
I have fears for that self, gay or straight. For my daughter, I have preconceived notions of heterosexual dating based on my experiences in high school. I can’t erase that memory, and send her out into the hands of sixteen year-old boys someday without fear. Nor would I be carefree should my beautiful blonde sons come out as teenagers, knowing that a trip through the gay subculture is de rigueur and that the standards of appearance, the emphasis on sex and partying, and the objectification of young men would be a rough river to navigate safely and find healthy purchase on the other side.
That doesn’t mean that I will greet our daughter’s date at the door with a shotgun, or attempt to “scare straight” a gay adolescent, but I can’t help but worry. Both sets of fears indicate preconceptions and prejudice, even internalized homophobia, but they are inside me, and I cannot change that, though I can certainly choose what I do with it.
Including understanding that it is not about me, it is about them, and their right to a happy, whole life, wherever that life takes them.