12.19.2005

Some posts just don't know when to die (edited to add a diagram of what I'm talking about)

Or:

Certain people will be returning the presents they bought for me for Christmas after hearing about this.

Is it too much to hope that they won’t hear about it? I don’t want to ruffle feathers again. But I also want to be very clear and it appears that to some it looks like I overreacted. Since this sentiment (you’re just overreacting to perceived traces of homophobia in the way people speak and interact with you) is what allows the radical right to make such progress in their attempts to marginalize and legislate against families like mine, (like kudzu – chopping off tendrils doesn’t eradicate the plant, you have dig out the roots) I thought I would (again) clarify just where the homophobia lay in the rhetoric behind the conversation. I’m not linking to the original post. That would be too much. If you’re so interested, and you don’t remember, you’ll have to do the work to find it in my archives yourself. Just keep this disclaimer in your mind. I love the people involved. They are good people. They have come a long way. They would never knowingly or willingly hurt me. The original post was not about calling them, individually, Bad People. It was about attempting to discuss how insidious homophobia can be and personalizing it to show how it has/is affecting me.

Standard Disclaimer: Again, like so many of my “intellectual posts” this one is long and rambling and occasionally not as focused or incisive as I’d like.


“That's not to say that any child, gay or straight will have it easy, but certainly you'd stipulate that a GLBT child will have just a little heavier burden to carry, right? So was it actually a homophobic reaction or was it wanting the easiest life for [your child]?”

Yes, LGBT kids carry an extra burden than straight kids; but in our society there are so many extra burdens to pass around: mental illness, birth defects, color, class, learning disabilities, introversion, paganism, Republicanism etc. Really, can you plan on a child never having any of them? Ever? Should you choose not to have a child because of the possibility they will have to carry one of these burdens? Perhaps, if the burden is severe, if the child would be crushed under it, if it is certain that your child would, indeed, have to bear that burden (and of course, I am thinking about Republicanism here) because the child would be born with it. Then, perhaps, it would be best not to give birth, maybe you should adopt. Or perhaps if it goes that far (if, for instance your child would be certain to have fetal alcohol syndrome -- a huge burden--) you shouldn't parent at all (because if you can't stop drinking while pregnant to create a healthy baby, then why would you think you would ever be sober enough to raise a healthy child). But not to have a child, or not to have a particular sex of child so as to avoid the possibility of that child carrying an extra burden? Does that strike anyone else as ridiculous?

Are you wondering why I am comparing a gay child to a child with birth defects and/or child abuse? Well, a) I'm trying to show how silly it is to consider gayness a burden compared to other burdens children can have and b) because many, many people consider gayness equivalent to a birth defect or a serious illness or child abuse. It's why I both hope and fear the discovery of a genetic/biological cause of homosexuality. Once it's scientifically proven to be biological it becomes harder to discriminate against us, but it also becomes a birth-defect, something to test for and (maybe eventually) abort if found. Where will the religious right stand then? Pro-life, but only pro-straight life? No, I know the answer to that question because they don't care about the quality of the life of the about-to-be or possibly-to-be-aborted fetus. If they did, they’d spend more time working to improve the quality of life for the children they “save”. No, they'll advocate against aborting gay fetuses at the same time as they advocate for gay people to be celibate, and closeted, and lonely, and quiet, and continuously trying to be "normal".

Because I believe that homosexuality is based largely on genetics (queerness is not genetic, though, queerness is placed upon/grown into) I do believe in that mysterious creature called the gay child. I have met some. I have recognized them even as everyone else is counting on a straight future for the little tyke. And I know that I have met some that I did not recognize; the way no one would have recognized me as gay at the age of 7 or 8 (though, believe me, I was). These children are not made to be gay by straight parents, they just are. And they do not have a problem with being different until it is pressed upon them that they should have a problem with it because everyone else does. Unlike some of the burdens faced by children, the extra burden gay children have is not endemic to gayness, it is a social thing. It does not arise from differences in abilities, but rather from a perceived violation of an unspoken social contract. And this burden is often placed upon the children not only by society in general, but also by family members. In their own home, children are told that they are not ok. That they will always be sad and lonely and outcast. That they would be so much happier if only they could change (a corollary to this is that society and the laws will never change, so they might as well give up and try to change themselves). So, given that, a gay child in a household headed by gay parents has less of a burden than one in a straight household (unless the gay parents are burdened and acting out their own internalized homophobia).

But wouldn’t a straight child then have that burden placed upon them? Doesn’t it follow that a person who is out and proud would want everyone else to be gay? Well, I can’t speak for all well-adjusted LGBT people, but I can say that the fight to be who we are and accepted for that means that we would never want to put someone else in the position of trying to change or hide their essential being. So, a straight child will be allowed to be a straight child without me trying to force them to try harder at being gay, though that child will have to be open and tolerant. And by open I don’t mean experimental.

The crux of homophobia is that the person is lost behind the perception of that person. A homophobe looks at an LGBT person and sees only sex acts, only difference, and often (but not always) only perversion. Even someone who “tolerates” LGBT people can be homophobic by seeing homosexuality (or being transsexual) as a problem that the person is working hard to make the best of. The LGBT person is reduced to only one note; all their actions, all their desires, all their motivations, all their plans are brought back to that one note whether the person doing the reducing sees that one note as bad or good. Hence the fact that despite everything my brothers know about me as a person, about my fierce defense of human rights, free will, freedom of expression, they would be concerned about my ability to raise a girl to be the person she was meant to be rather than a mini-me. And it is telling that they would not be concerned about my raising a gay boy. Because if I’ve been reduced to one note, my sexual and romantic attraction to women, then I cannot move beyond that enough to encourage (or actively force) a boy to be attracted to boys. It’s the same rhetoric that says that gay men shouldn’t raise boys. The fact that the original conversation I am referring to hinged on the belief that I would force a child at the very least to experiment with same-sex dating and at the most actively forbid them from being straight reduces me, as a parent, to my sexual orientation as well as making it clear that that sexual orientation is a problem that I shouldn’t pass on to my children. And it works to try to gain my complicity in making certain my children end up straight – so I won’t be seen as forcing my child into being gay. And (moving just slightly off point here) that’s what angers and bothers me about the studies on gay parents that trumpet the fact that children of gay parents are no more likely to be gay than children of straight parents as a reason to go ahead and let gays parent. As if, if it were different, if gays did have more gay children, it would not be ok to let them parent, because the last thing society wants is to have more gay children being produced. For the children’s sake, of course, because what decent person would wish such a burden on an innocent child? God, that’s like wishing them to have a birth defect so we can work towards equality for the physically challenged.

And if you’re going to tell me that I am, myself, either homophobic or heterophobic, all I can say is that you’re probably right. I most certainly have traces of these prejudices within me. But I work hard at eradicating them and not projecting them upon others. Sometimes I am more successful at this, sometimes I am less. So, I don’t think that being homophobic is necessarily a bad thing – unless one is comfortable and complacent and acting out.

Here is one of my magnificent drawings to help explain what I'm saying (and that I am not actually lumping the crazies with the ones who are just uncomfortable with homosexuality. Well, OK, I am to some extent, but I'd also like to point out that I think we all fit somewhere on The Kudzu of Fear and Prejudice (it's a big plant))



Ok, so how many people did I offend this time? Don’t tell me.

PS -- Sacha and M have 2 great posts that relate to what I'm talking about. This one and this one.

Posted by Trista @ 2:13 PM

Read or Post a Comment

You didn't offend me.
I am someone who does tend to believe that, in a perfect world, gay people should not have children. It was a VERY big push as to why we wanted to adopt rather than birth. I felt it was unfair to bring a child into this world with gay parents. Was I right or wrong? I don't think either. Our child is here. We love him, we nurture him, we might even let him date girls when he's 35 :). BUT, I would rather have taken a child that already existed, versus making another one.
Also, if being gay is genetic, then it runs in families. Meaning, gay people ARE more likely to produce gay kids. So, maybe we SHOULDN'T reproduce. Weed out the defects.
I don't really mean that, but it;s a thought.

Posted by Blogger Estelle @ 11:50 AM #
 

I think you make some awfully big generalizations there but I can understand your perspective. I also sense that your maternal instinct is strong, irrespective of a biological relationship.
But I think we still get back to, all other things being equal, a gay child will face more obstacles that a straight child. So your family member's concern for your baby I think was heartfelt. Now their assumption that a girl would somehow catch gayness easier that a boy is probably a little ridiculous, but I wouldn't attribute it to anything other than ignorance rather than malice.
Don't you think it's a little harmful to lump those who may be a little uncomfortable with GLBTs into the same homophobe stew as those who actually wish ill-will toward homosexuals? They're certainly not a homogenous group.

Posted by Blogger Anonymous Assclown @ 12:09 PM #
 

estelle, is your preference for adopting more about being gay parents or more about not being able to conceive together the way heterosexual couple do?

any child faces difficulties and discrimination in one form or another regardless of who her/his parents are. i tend to stereotype gay parents as being more accepting and open-minded than many hetero parents, which leads me to think that having gay parents is like an extra blessing - a slight lessening of that proverbial burden children carry to meet their parents expectations. if i had to choose, i’d say gay parents are less likely to raise a mini-me.

Posted by Blogger betsy @ 2:16 PM #
 

That stuff drives me crazy, too, especially from my parents- not surprisingly the people who have hurt me the most in my life, though they have loved me and tried hard, especially in the last couple of years. As straight and heterosexist parents, they provided me with zero knowledge about anything but straight sexuality. So, as a lesbian girl I couldn't imagine what my future would be, and I experienced internalized homophobia that really destroyed my mental health for all of my tween and teen years. I was harassed at school during that time, but I wasn't so much hurt as angry about that, and I started a Gay-Straight Alliance in response. The pain I remember is from the fear of my parents' rejection and the void that was the future in my imagination, because no one let me know that I could have one. When I finally came out, my parents rejected me and we had no relationship for more than two years, some of the worst emotional trauma I've known. I have always felt that homophobia from society and my peers was not what hurt me as a child and young woman- it was my fear of (and later experience of) my parents' rejection that hurt me. This is true now, as ever- the homophobia of others doesn't really phase me- I am still frequently amazed by my thick skin- but my parents still have the ability to shake me with their now-much-disguised homophobia.
It isn't so much society or peers that hurt children who are or live with parents who are not white, straight, middle/upper class, Christian, without disability, etc. After all, careful parents have been raising strong and happy children to see through the prejudices placed upon them for generations upon generations- one of the best examples of which might be the careful parents of children of color in our particularly racist society here in the U.S. who have worked to strengthen their children and help them to see racism for the set of lies that it is, and to see the truth of their own value. It is society that needs to change, this is true. But it is parents (of any race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, ability, etc) who can fulfil the needs of their children by being the most empowering parents they can be.
And to quote Sadie F. Dingfelder's review of 30 years of research into the topic: "Patterson's and others' findings that good parenting, not a parent's sexual orientation, leads to mentally healthy children may not surprise many psychologists. What may be more surprising is the finding that children of same-sex couples seem to be thriving, though they live in a world that is often unaccepting of their parents."

Posted by Blogger starevelina @ 10:22 PM #
 

You hit the nail on the head. The constant justification of parenting from the gay and lesbian community is centered around leaping for approval. If we don't make kids gay then we'll be allowed to parent by the straight world. It's the newest, hippest internalized homophobia accessory for queers to wear around their necks. As a result we join the race to be perfect parents raising perfectly straight children. If we can achieve perfection we can deflect the criticism that gay and lesbian people should just know that their very presence in a child's life will fuck it up.

All I hope for my future child is that they can grow up liking/loving/lusting after whoever they want. Be it someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. If they are gay I hope they will never have a coming out moment, that it will be who they are from day one.

I just see the child's sexuality as a non-issue. They'll be who they are and I can work to help mold their values and give them a good emotional tool kit, but I can only watch them become who they were meant to be.

Posted by Blogger Sacha @ 10:23 PM #
 

Hey, Trista.

I'm sorry you've been so hurt by people's reactions to your new family. Thanks for trying to translate your hurt into a productive dialog on your blog.

IMO, all any parent can do -- regardless of their circumstances -- is try to raise a healthy, well-adjusted, happy, moral child. And I know that's what you and Kristin are trying to provide for Julia.

Not quite yet being a parent, I've only had limited experience with people foisting their opinions on what Jill and I are doing having kids, but it seems like "telling new parents what to do" is a time-honored and long-hated tradition for all new parents.

As with all the "how to be a good pregnant person" advice, my intent is to listen as politely as I can and ignore anything that doesn't seem helpful.

I do think Anonymous Coward made a good point. People who are homophobic by choice, who actively think that we're doing something wrong or dangerous, are different from people who are homophobic by ignorance to some degree or another.

It isn't "fair" or "right" that we have to share our world with them, educating them and demonstrating to them that we're equal parents and citizens.

But that's how it is. And IMO, the more we can be patient with those people, the more difference we can make in changing social attitudes towards LGBT people, families, etc.

Sometimes that's a whole lot easier said than done. Which is why having a safe place to vent our frustration and get support is ALSO important. :)

Good luck and thank you.

Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 5:46 AM #
 

Well here's something that totally shits me off...
when people say to me "but what if your child is gay?" and I answer "I hope they are" and people look at me horrified. Because for me being gay isn't a negative thing, it's something that has given me some of the best experiences and worldly knowledge of anything that could happen to me. People honestly expect me to answer with the whole thing that "it would be OK if they are but I hope they're not cursed with the burden I've had yada yada yada" but that's just not how I feel. To me it's not a burden and I'd be happy if our child turned out like us. I'd be happy for them if they didn't too, because all I want is for our kids to be happy and healthy and wise. But why should I want them to be straight any more than I'd want them to be gay?

Posted by Blogger mermaidgrrrl @ 6:14 AM #
 

Anoncow: One person's "awfully big generalizations" are another person's brilliant rhetorical leaps... :)

Posted by Blogger Trista @ 8:52 AM #
 

I'll try to remember that when you're rounding up us Republicans in concentration camps.

Posted by Blogger Anonymous Assclown @ 5:30 PM #
 

AC, I think the Republicans are too well armed to be rounded up in concentration camps!

Trista, I can't actually read the diagram. When I click on it, the text grows too, but not in proportion. :(

Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 8:56 PM #
 
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