[Update 6/18/2013 — This post gets a slow but steady stream of visitors who, judging by the source of the links, are fundamentally opposed to gay and lesbian people parenting children, and link to this post as evidence that children in families like ours are being deeply harmed. Please see here for my response. If you found us in this manner, I hope you’ll stick around for a bit and read with an open mind. You might start with some of our best posts.]
Last week, before we went to the queer pride parade, Lyn and I were talking with Leigh about what pride is and why we have it. It was a good conversation.
Then suddenly Leigh blurted out, “I wish I had a mom and a dad!”
Just as we were both opening up our mouths to say something, she quickly and fervently said, “No, two moms! Two moms!”
I assured her that it was OK to wish she had a mom & dad family, and that we know she loves us and being part of our family, but it seemed like she didn’t want to talk about it any more.
A little while later, Lyn tried again, “Is it a little confusing when sometimes you might feel like you want a dad even though you love our family so much?”
Leigh nodded quietly.
Lyn told her that it was OK to feel that way and that it might be hard when so many other kids have dads. We also both noted that even though it might be hard, there wasn’t anything we could do to change it.
Lyn then asked if she wanted to spend some time with someone who is a dad, even though she doesn’t have a dad of her own. She liked that idea, so we’ve talked to a good friend and he’s going to spend some one-on-one time with Leigh soon. Leigh is looking forward to it, and is mostly attempting to parlay the plan into an excuse to get ice cream.
It’s clear that there are lots of confusing issues rattling around here. Is Leigh wanting a dad for herself, or is she wanting to have a dad in order to be like other kids? I talked to her today about that and she said that most of her friends have moms and dads, and she wants to be like them. So, it’s to some extent about being like everyone else. But she’s also very excited at the prospect of spending time with her friend who is a dad, and she doesn’t seem to think that will make her or her family look any more like all the others.
It’s also clear that these feelings are really hard for her to talk about. When I hear her say that she wants a dad, my first instinct is to protect her. I think we’re doing pretty good at that so far, and I sense that Leigh feels more comfortable now talking about this wish for a dad. But when I take some time, away from Leigh, to connect with my own feelings, I feel a deep sadness.
What is that sadness about? I think that Lyn and I have created a great family for Leigh and Ira, and it’s a family that they clearly love. But I can’t give them everything. Leigh asks for things regularly that she wants but that we don’t give her, like the Baby Alive that she really wants for her birthday and that I simply don’t want in my house. I don’t feel sad when I don’t give her a Baby Alive, but a dad is kind of different. After all, most other kids do have a dad, and in reality only a few have a Baby Alive. And then there’s that little homophobic voice inside of the head of all queer parents telling us that we are being selfish and depriving our children of a normal family, that voice that says Leigh really does need a dad. In my head that voice is really really tiny because I have so much support from family, friends, and the wider community, but it’s still there. So when Leigh gives voice to her own challenges with living in a two-mom family, challenges that I never faced myself, but that will be with Leigh for her whole life, that voice speaks in the voice of my daughter and I feel it right in my gut. That makes me sad.
But I also I feel the sadness of the reality of homophobia and the impact on my kids, no matter how well insulated they are from it. Yes, Leigh’s desire for a dad makes me feel a little sad, but what makes me even more sad is that she needs to protect me from that desire. Even with just five years under her belt, even living in the queer paradise of Cambridge, Massachusetts, I am terrified that maybe Leigh hears this homophobic voice inside of herself too, and she knows that this voice can hurt her parents. It is profoundly sad that in one of the most secure and supportive places on the planet, my daughter may have some internalized homophobia, because if she does, she got it from us, her loving queer parents. She didn’t get it from any of our friends or family. She didn’t get it from our neighborhood or her school or the doctor’s office. What she knows about homophobia she picked up at home, from the subtle things that we do and don’t say, from slightly pained faces and uncomfortable silences.
Lyn thinks it might be simpler than this, that maybe Leigh backpedaled so quickly from her statement that she wanted a dad just because she knows how important our family is to all of us, and loves us a lot, so she didn’t want to say she might want something else. Maybe. But maybe my daughter is already starting to battle her own homophobic demons, and that is a fight that I really wish I could spare her.