I was really proud when my parents eagerly put on the pro-gay marriage rings that my work is distributing and happily posed for a picture to show that they were voting no on an amendment that would discriminate against gay couples.
Despite their eagerness to show their support, I know that if I had been gay and come out in high school, about 7 years ago, they probably would have been very upset. Not because they think being gay is wrong, but because having a gay child means:
A) Your child is not going to bring you grandchildren.
B) Your child is going to suffer from a lifetime of discrimination.
Most of the gay people that I knew growing up experienced just that – a crying, mournful parent when they came out of the closet, as if a part of their child had died. But if you think about it, point A and point B are not inherent conditions of being gay. They’re current circumstances that make being gay incredibly stunting in a society full of discrimination. There’s no reason that a gay person should not be able to have children, adopt children and raise children with the partner they love, and there’s no reason that being gay should inherently mean that a person has to live their life in fear. Yet currently these are conditions that society is still fighting against.
Since being in high school back in the early 2000’s, a lot has already changed. We have a president who supports gay marriage and tons of major national corporations and local communities are showing their support as well. For the first time, it’s considered controversial not to support gay marriage, and that’s one reason why parents may be finally willing to change their thinking from “disapproving” to “worried/sad” to “neutral” or even “excited” that their child might grow up to be gay.
But we still need more structural change in the way that we think. For example, I recently saw a “vote yes” commercial that argued that if gay marriage was legal, children would be taught in school that a man could marry another man.
I just want to point out some troubling things about this argument.
First of all, children are not born thinking that marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s something that is taught.
For example, last year I went to the apple orchard with my family, and my 3-year-old niece made a girl friend in a treehouse who she was instantly enamored with. They played together all day, holding hands and running around in their princess costumes, telling everyone that they were going to get married. Despite knowing only families that have both a mommy and a daddy, she assumed that if she loved someone enough they could get married.
That’s probably because her parents don’t find dispelling this notion to be high priority, or worth doing at all. When my niece was first born, my sister told me that having a daughter had made her realize that she should support gay marriage. Why? Because she realized her daughter could grow up to be gay, and she wanted her to be able to get married no matter what.
Isn’t this how people are supposed to think? “My child could be gay, and I want them to live in a society where they can still be gay and have a happy life.” It’s not as if gay children are only born to certain types of parents. Even you, couple in the Vote Yes commercial, could have a gay child. If you do, do you want that child to be taught in school that they are never allowed to get married, so that hatred and discrimination will begin to crystallize in all of their peers, so that gay kids in class will get bullied and feel compelled to hide who they are? Is that all worth it so that you will never have to face the reality that your child might be gay?
You don’t get to select what type of child you get, but you can help that child retain the tolerance and open-mindedness that they’re born with. Your child may grow up to be gay or straight, but at least you can know that you’re helping them be part of a society that does not force gay people grow up in fear.