When I saw that the NY Times was holding an essay contest on the subject of why it’s ethical to eat meat, I knew I had to submit something. Though I didn’t make it into the finalists, I was glad to see some of the same logic used in a few of those that did. Here is my essay for those interested :
As a vegetarian poised to inherit a cattle ranching operation, I have put some time into the mental gymnastics that is rationalizing my role in the family business and the justice of the work itself. I can find no justification for modern factory farming, indeed that ugly version of animal husbandry is what made me an herbivore, but in its more traditional guise, one in which the animal’s quality of life is taken into account, I see little wrong. While I lack any formal education in ethics, my sense is the greater good can be served on the same plate as supper.
The cows we raise, with minimal intervention, live happy unadulterated lives before dying in an instant and in a way that benefits others. If I could choose, I’d live my life and die similarly. The struggle to find one’s place in the world, to create or attain a sense of meaning regarding one’s time here is what makes us human. If we generously assign animals equal feeling and sentience might they not grapple with the same concerns and in some way find peace on the dinner plate, if only in fulfilling the journey of their lives? Like Mr. Pollan’s book, Botany of Desire proposes, I think the argument can be made that through domestication certain species have assured their survival. The animals we don’t eat go extinct much quicker and with less purpose to their deaths.
Eating meat connects us to the cycles of birth and death, even if it’s been carried home in a plastic bag, sealed inside by layers of cling wrap and pressed against Styrofoam. The unconscious does the work for us. The Hebrew word for sacrifice- “korban,” means “close.” In the intimacy of consuming flesh we bring ourselves closer to nature, to the cosmic cycles of life and to each other. We cringe when we think of the animal that becomes meat and in the “cringing,” we are brought to our own mortality and the gratitude that accompanies that reminder causes us to treat each other better. Thanks to the suffering involved, it brings us outside of ourselves. There is both something given and taken in the process of killing. There wouldn’t be the same gravity with a carrot. It is no surprise that meat is at the center of our culture’s traditional gatherings: The Easter Ham, The Christmas Goose, The iconic Thanksgiving Bird.
In a more ideal setting, one in which the relationship between the prey and predator is greater, the dialogue with mortality becomes clearer. Imagine a hunter who has spent himself racing through the woods after a buck, unsure if the animal will escape and leave him hungry. If he prevails to find himself dripping sweat over the bloody carcass, what guilt is there in that hard won victory?
We are still animals ourselves, and to remove ourselves from the natural order, the ebb and flow of the animal world is its own sort of arrogance. Anthropocentrism, they call it. By eating meat we return to our baser selves, the hungry, wanting, warring bits that we regularly keep in check. It is a way to visit our natural state in a rational way. A release valve for the pressures of civility. If we want to behave the rest of the time, we may need to feed our inner beasts.
In limiting consumption to humanely and locally produced meat, eaten in moderation and ideally with community, most of the environmental and health concerns are mediated. I hope the ethical concerns have been addressed above.
P.S. Still vegetarian myself … the ethical remainder applies.
I make no excuse in regard to my love for the reality TV show, “Toddlers and Tiaras.” On some level I know I am watching the exploitation of young girls turned into commercial entertainment. The show is an hour long orgy of mothers forcing grotesque standards of beauty on their often pre-school aged daughters in the form of fake teeth and spray tanning. Every episode features countless toddlers wrestling on the floor in piles of taffeta while their mothers’ own aspirations and need for attention are satisfied. I know this is wrong. But I can’t stop watching.
I think I like the show because it’s absurd and the presentation doesn’t lend itself to critical analysis of what it is we’re watching. It’s how I can get away with not thinking about what happens to the little girls who don’t win or the long term prospects of those who do.
I have often joked that the reason I am not famous is that my own mother wasn’t a good enough stage mom. I tried acting as a kid but if on a Saturday morning I decided that I’d rather stay home and watch cartoons than attend an audition, she’d let me do just that. I didn’t want to drive you anyway, she’d say. I joke that her lack of pressure was what separates me from Lindsay Lohan, the joke of course being that in reality my well-adjusted obscurity is enviable in comparison to Lindsay’s out of control celebrity life. On the stage mom front, the mothers of the pageant circuit take the cake. They would have dragged their children to who know where in the pursuit of fame; a few dark alleys come to mind.
The subject of my fascination, however, are not the ladies who daughters are primped, plucked and pimped in service of good television, but the children themselves. Young girls who are being endlessly prepared to flirt with the middle aged female judges, with the occasional odd male judge thrown in, as part of their pageant training. The bikini wearing three year olds freak me out. The kisses being blown and the winking makes me sick, which in turn keeps me glued to the TV. How can this be happening, I think, people are so weird, is this legal? The exacting ideas of what is beautiful is based on who knows what dark thoughts, but my former roommate used to say that he felt uncomfortable watching the show and wouldn’t admit to friends or coworkers that he had. If you weren’t in the room with me, he’d say, it would instantly classify me as creepy.
I’ve also joked that ballet school with its’ punitive discipline and anxiety producing body fixation is the launch pad for a million stripper careers. It takes strength and flexibility to work the pole and the dexterity and grace displayed on so many strip clubs has to be learned somewhere. Maybe that’s where all the girls who get too curvy for ballet go. So many girls study dance and there are so few professional ballerinas. In that vein I believe the pageant world must be another feeder source for the exotic dance community. For girls whose self-esteem and sense of self-worth was attached at such young ages to bodies used for the entertainment, judgment and enjoyment of other, it seems an easy leap. Those girls already have so much practice preening to other’s specifications, and so many beauty skills. By age ten they are already well versed in make up and hair. Why it’s the same curling irons and tan in a can on the counters of pageant queens and strippers alike; the same fixed smiles attached to their faces.
So one of the few true joys of living with people you met off craigslist is learning about things you might otherwise never know existed. That was the case with me, some guy named Joe, and Reddit. For those not in the know Reddit’s motto says that it’s the frontpage of the internet. True, if somewhat self-selecting for cat photos. I immediately introduced myself to the community by posting a video made by Planned Parenthood touting the efficacy of the Pull-out method and asking what movies featuring only token black people (ahem, The Royal Tenenbaums) should be remade with all black casts. My favorite suggestion given in return to my query might have been Top Gun. Having had so much success in my first casting about,I made a leap of faith and submitted myself to the fickle prejudices of Reddit readers by posting an IAMA AMA. This is Reddit parlance for describing oneself in salacious terms like ‘daughter of four lesbians’ and then allowing them to ask you anything. I had a great time answering their questions and offer the thread up for when you might be bored and wanting to know what random strangers wanted to know about me. I plan to use it for the next book I’m going to write about my mothers, tentatively titled Stubborn Misbehaving Women.
Greetings from the future! Ms. Bolick, I am a representative of what’s to come…
I can’t help but think that being raised by lesbians put me ahead of the game. Having just finished reading Kate Bolick’s tremendous article in Nov. 2011’s Atlantic Magazine, I was struck by the differences and similarities in our perspectives. I, too, had spent my mid-twenties in a long-term relationship (disclaimer: I got dumped and probably would be married right now if it had been up to me).
Still, I’d often reflected on the institution of marriage and struggled against the notion of “settling down.” I, too, had been raised by second wave feminist(s )who encouraged me to wear Osh-Kosh overalls and play with Tonka trucks and assured me that I could do anything I set my mind towards. And while I am almost a decade younger than the author I have also considered at times whether I have missed my chance at true love. Heck, I wrote a memoir to investigate whether I might have, that’s how much I’ve considered the idea. But I’ve found redemption from my heartbreak thanks to the facts of my upbringing.
I was raised in what might be fancifully described as an “Amazon Shangri-la,” a universe largely devoid of men but filled with intelligent, resourceful and colorful women. The particulars: In 1981, my mother gave birth to me, at home, in the company of a midwife, her lesbian lover and her best friend. When she and the lover broke up, they continued to parent together. When I was five my mom married (in a legally non-binding but lovely ceremony) a women she would then be with for the next fourteen years. When teachers asked me how many moms I had the answer varied depending on whom I was counting, which various ex-girlfriends I threw in the mix. Nowadays I stick to the number four, since four women have continuously supported me since childhood. Lots’ O’ Mamas!
That abundance mother-wise contributed to me having what I see as the perspective of the future Ms. Bolick imagines; the one in which women communally parent and support each other. My life has made clear that women don’t need men around to raise children and that an all female household can create a healthy environment for child rearing. I have never ascribed to the idea that family needs members of each gender to create balance and I grew up aware that marriage was an option not an obligation.
Do we need men? No, but I sure like them. Even the deadbeats and players on occasion. The words, “overcompensation,” have been mentioned in conjunction with my healthy sexual appetite. My attitudes towards sex are more progressive than most thanks to the sex education I received that emphasized that my body was mine to do with what I pleased. My mother’s sex positivity is reflective of the gay community’s stance as a whole and I credit my sense of sexual empowerment to having grown up in it’s bossom, so to speak. They (the gays)have a healthy perspective on sex- sometimes you sleep with someone and something comes from it, sometimes you sleep with someone and zilch. Both kinds of sex are fun. There were multiple points in the article that led me to think sex positivity is the hinge on which women successfully navigating the future swings.
I know in my own experience, that I have profited from my own sexual hedonism. The article posits that “hook-up culture” is something modern college women endure, with 80% of them generally bowing out of the race in response. I was one of those 20% of women who were actually having sex and it was GREAT! The prudes on the sidelines have only themselves (and their parents) to blame. The assumption that casual sex rarely leads to enjoyable, if not necessarily monogamous, relationships is one I’d like to challenge as well. Almost all the serious relationships I’ve been in, even the monogamous ones, started out as hook-ups.
And while the line “Or is it that pornography endows the inexperienced with a toolbox of socially sanctioned postures and tricks, ensuring that one can engage in what amounts to a public exchange according to a pre-approved script?” really resonated with me, I couldn’t help but think that so much of life is a performance and it’s feels good to have a lingua franca, even if a flawed one, to start out from. We may have to work towards sensuality. Sensuality is intimate. We may have find balance between freedom and callousness cross gender when it comes to sex. But our era of “heady carnal delights” I think need not be stifled.
However if 80% of college kids disagree with me, it would be in their hands to change it- like Gandhi says, be the change you wish to see on the world. Virgins continue to be hot property through their early twenties at least, so they aren’t taking on that big of a social liability. Wear your purity ring and I’m sure your prince charming will arrive. Just don’t bother the rest of us over sleeping around. Live and let live should be the sexual standard and then things would work themselves out. I am sorry for all the young women who have had less than satisfying sex lives but I can’t help but hold them partially responsible for their own malaise. Sexual satisfaction thrives on communication and I doubt these women are being honest with themselves or their mates about what they desire. The women who are upset are as I see it holdover of the days in which catching a man with one’s virtue was commonplace. If one views sex as a bartering tool for commitment, times are tough. But if one views sex as a mutually pleasureable bonding activity that exists for its own sake, things aren’t really that bad. Lots of men are happy to have sex, that is generally not a problem, and personally I want any commitment to be based on desire not blackmail.
There are compromises to be made in the marriages of the future, perhaps some in terms of expectations of monogamy, but honestly, humans have never excelled at that (See: Sex at Dawn, great book!). Regardless, there are many alternatives to the current norm. The prevailing insistence on getting married at a standard age and in standard fashion I ascribe to the conformist instincts of humanity. The sister heroes of yore: Ms. Millay et al. were artists on the fringe of society and artists are non-conformist by nature. I have been shocked to find that as much as I thought of my liberal girlfriends as progressives, even radicals, they’ve all lined up for relatively conventional lives. Maybe they’d have home births, although so did their mothers, maybe they’d take pole dancing classes and proudly own vibrators but they would get married, stay monogamous, bare children and balance careers with all that. They would try to live up to standards set up in the media and when they failed they would berate themselves. The single ones all admit that if they only could find the right man to settle down with, well then they’d be happy. Our culture is so pervasive, it can force us all to “swim upstream.”
Our generation(s) has been led to believe that somehow between 25 and 35 we are supposed to jam building a career, finding a mate and starting a family. All while looking good and keeping a clean house. It’s stressful just summarizing that. The truth is we each prioritize in a slightly different manner and our lives show the results. Despite the gains made by our second wave mothers many of us still intertwine our sense of identity with our success in maintaining a mate and family. As much as we may value the idea of career it is generally secondary, as it often was for those who raised us and endowed us with their dreams. Even my lesbians hold their personal accomplishments above their professional ones. They would all say they are most proud of being my mother. They would argue feminism wasn’t an attempt to devalue the domestic sphere as much as one to elevate and redeem it, coupled with an expansion of the possibilities available to women outside it.
The consequence of living in an era post- women’s movement may be that at times I feel like good men are hard to come by. I have been kept sleepless on occasion, exhausted but strung out on visions of growing old alone or a future in which it will be me and a mass of aging lesbians, but in those moments my mothers lives act as a talisman, a reassurance that You are the only one who can make happiness for yourself. I have seen them manifest the lives they want to live. They keep their own company and enjoy their own eccentricities. They can be annoyingly self-satisfied. They are strong and rarely lonely.
My mothers reflect the modern woman. They are all four college educated professionals who have been leaders in their fields while maintaining warm and enriching personal lives. They are my heroes and my inspiration in life. They have opened my mind to all the possibilities both in terms of seeking self-satisfaction and forming family. Maybe I will marry, maybe I’ll stay single, maybe I’ll raise kids with friends. They have done all of the above and excelled at it.
Being raised by a quartet has allowed me to think critically about the merits of the nuclear family and I am intrigued by the alternatives. Why not take abundant advantage of the choices offered to us? My parents’ arrangement, four moms, two kids worked out well. I have ample friends in the gay community who might be interested in co-parenting. I agree that “there are many ways to love in this world.” I don’t think it behooves us to limit ourselves when it comes to love.
So my plan to navigate the new reality in which men are scarce and good men even rarer is- I plan to continue to sleep with men I am attracted to, in whatever organic time-frame that occurs and keep my mind open to romantic possibilities without too much concern for my age. My mothers’ lives assure me that sexuality is not defined by how attractive society finds you. My mom gets hit on all the time by members of both sexes and she’s in her late fifties. Sexiness is a state of being without an expiration date. I will get married if the right person presents himself and if not I will nonetheless live a full and happy life. I know that second part is mine to control and that makes all the difference.
Part of being a starving artist has included giving up cable television in the last few months. I have never been all that attached to TV but I have been surprised by what I find myself missing. The shows winning Emmys are not on my list.
Admittedly, I always liked the show “Hoarders.” Give me the A&E version or even it’s TLC rival and I am set. I love watching the family dynamics unfold as the hoarders defend their material belongings.
“A Hoarder’s going to hoard,” was a popular refrain in my living room during the times in which the show was on. While I took a detached joy in watching what was often clearly a tragic situation, it wasn’t due to a lack of empathy on my part. I know that my cluttered shelves hardly qualify me but the tendency is there. How liable am I to collect the plastic cartons that previously held feta in theory to use again? That’s the tricky part, the theorectically green mentality of recycling and reuse becomes insanity when taken too far. I’d like to think Hoarding is in reaction to the abundance our culture has afforded us. A vestigial instinct perhaps…
Hoarders seem to come in two varieties. The Poor and the Traumatized. The first group hoards stuff because they feel insecure having once had to go without. My Mom fits this “Hoarder” mold in the sense that she grew up in abject poverty and is therefore unwilling to part with what other people would consider “trash.” she has in recent years furnished a vacation home entirely with materials she already had- she literally had a second house worth of stuff waiting in the wings.
Mom thought she was pretty much genius for not having to buy a thing. “That’s the point of keeping everything,” she has proudly said. It’s perfectly reasonable in that sense but also in direct conflict with our consumerist culture’s binge and purge cycle. Hoarders do great on the acquistion side of the cycle, but less well on the letting go part. Although, hoarding makes some sense on a bioevolutionary level. One might think Hoarders may be better off were an apocalyptic scenario to unfold. They’d have more stuff at least, assuming it’s not one of those really filthy situations in which most of the stuff is totally unusuable anymore.
I admit to a lingering paranoia of my own, in which right after i’ve cleaned out my car of things like empty water bottles and fast food silverware I think, what if I now get stuck in some sort of disaster (an avalanche? an earthquake? lost in the desert?) and the supplies I am restricted to are the items from my car? Bear Grylls has traumatized me. Wouldn’t I be sad to have tossed that silverware then?
Speaking of trauma,the other half of the Hoarders start collecting stuff to fill some emotional hole left after someone dies or leaves or robs them at gun point. I think those are the sadder situations but the “Hoard” usually looks identical. Did that noun always exist btw? Or did reality TV create it- “the Hoard!” I question the shows’ propensity for forcing these “trauma-driven Hoarders” to confront whatever ails them. I saw one episode in which the camera followed one lady back to where her life had been threatened. As she looked visibly shaken and began to weep, I thought, hmm, if her current coping skills consist of rabid retail therapy are we sure this is safe for her? Not retraumatizing perhaps?
I felt similarly overprotective watching an episode in which a mother whose baby died in infancy was encouraged to let go of her now molding baby clothes. I thought if I had a baby who died, good luck prying those onesies out of my hands. Why shouldn’t she get to keep at least one? The therapist argued that tattered clothing wasn’t a great representation of her daughter’s memory. In the confines of my living room I argued that sometimes that’s the best you’ve got. Material belongings are a poor subsitute but they’re something. Maybe i’m a Hoarder in training, one trauma away, look I’m already attached to my television.
In the continuing saga that is my fangirl relationship with Ms. Melissa Etheridge, I got to be a call-in guest on her Radio Show. It all started when post-bothering her at breakfast, I came home to see whether I might continue to bug her, preferably through social media. Though I was sad to find her missing from Twitter, some consolation was found in the discovery of her aforementioned radio show. Who knew she was a radio personality?
On the website for her show there was a contact form to fill out if you wanted to talk to her. They offered the chance to call-in to Melissa! Well, I pounced on the chance and filled out the form, explaining my run-in with her and how I’d love to talk to her about gay parenting.
In the end we did talk parenting a tad, but the gay part wasn’t mentioned. What happened was that they called me one morning and asked if I wanted to join in on a conversation about who I’d rather meet the president or a big celebrity. They mentioned that back in the day everyone would have picked the president but that it was no longer the case. I’d much rather meet Obama than Brad Pitt, but if it was Bush being talked about the story would be different. They said they’d call me back in a minute because the connection was bad.
I formulated some cool response about how it comes down to the impact people perceive either of the profferred figures had on their lives. Like people care to meet those that matter, that have somehow touched their lives. It used to be people felt the President, regardless of Party, had the greatest power over their lives. People might not feel that way as much these days given all the talk of corporate interests running things behind the scenes. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to say all of that but I figure’d I could come across smart. They never called me back. I called them twenty minutes later, cold tea in hand, and they said they’d try to call a bunch of times but it hadn’t gone through. It happens sometimes, they said, and promised to give me a call again in the next couple of days.
I was bummed. But early the next week, as I was clocking hours at my own personal version of the office, aka the playground, who should call? The guy from the radio show. This time he asks me if I consider myself a patient person or an impatient person? I think I’m somewhere in between, personally, but since I was at that moment rather patiently following a two year old aorund a park I thought, let’s go patient. He asked if that meant that extended into my tech life- So I don’t pay the extra money to overnight things and such? I thought about my old-ass computer at home and how being broke really does train one patience wise. Yep- definitely not overnighting things. This time he put me on hold and when a few minutes later it reconnected, Melissa Etheridge was the voice on the line.
Hey, We’ve got Kellen on the line who says she’s patient and do I hear children in the background? Because kids will definitely require someone to be patient…We bandied about over the idea of patience being really tied to staying in the present moment and about how kids will force one to be present as well. She mentioned a line about the present being a gift.I said something about how I bet she was a great parent and she said, well, now you’re just being sweet. It was pretty sweet all around. Although, I didn’t get to mention meeting her. She has a real knack for framing short interactions gracefully, saying well, thanks for calling Kellen as she leads me off the line once I’ve given my soundbite on patience.
I call a mom immediately to brag about it. Afterwards a mother at the park tells me that she couldn’t help but overhear and did I really just talk to Melissa Etheridge? I’d say only in Hollywood folks, but I’m pretty sure you can call-in from anywhere.
Okay I am 99.9% sure it was her. If it wasn’t and it was just some poor lesbian who looked like her having lunch at Hugo’s in Studio City, well at least I made her day with my enthusiasm. I didn’t have any lesbians with me to confirm her identity but I’m really good with faces and I’ve always kind of thought she looks a little like my mom, so as I said 99.9 %. Upon seeing her picture again i’ll even add .05% to it.
To set the scene, I was meeting a friend to get feedback on my memoir and it being LA, I noticed upon plopping down that Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical “I dated Zach Efron” Fame) was sitting at the next table over, with only a thin pane of glass between us ( we were seated outside). While I admit to reading gossip blogs, I couldn’t bother to be impressed by her- I know who she is but that doesn’t necessarily make her special. I have not heard good things about “Suckerpunch.”
So I went about advising my friend on her personal problems and neglecting the question of tense in my writing, and Vanessa leaves after kissing who assume to be Austing Butler? I think that her boyfriend’s name ? and towards the end of the meal once we’d finished our egg-white oatmeal frittata, which was better than it sounds even though it included kamut, who should be seated right in my eyeline on the opposite side of the glass but Ms. Etheridge out to lunch with a lady friend.
I about died- and that is why I think it was her, that instant heart based gut reaction. I immediately began to strategize how to approach her and what to say. A few minutes later I strolled into the restaurant with what I hoped was casual purpose and veered in the direction of her table.
Despite my planning, I believe I came off as a babbling fool and probably overwhelmed her. I approached the table, leaned in a little and said, “Excuse me, I hate to interrupt but I just had to say Hi, because I was so excited.” She took my hand and asked me to introduce myself, “I’m Kellen Kaiser and I’m Queerspawn and my little brother, who’s a decade younger than me, loved your songs so much as a little kid and at three knew every word to them, and used to sing them out loud in the car, and now he’s a frat boy at Long Beach State.” I’m not sure why I’d decided that was the most important thing for her to know but there it was. She smiled and said it was nice to meet me, her companion seemed amused at the encounter, like well, this is what happens to you when you’re Melissa Etheridge, crazy people approach you as you peruse the menu. Or at least that’s what I imagine she was thinking…. It’s funny to find out who you really are in awe of- She qualifies. She’s a Big Fish of Famous Lesbians. It’s like her and Rosie O’Donnell. I’m coming for you Rosie- watch out!
Zach Wahls has gone viral. The video of the handsome young man speaking to the Iowa legislature on the subject of his lesbian mothers has been viewed over fifteen million times. He has become the face of children with gay parents for a large part of society. He sat down with Ellen Degeneres, he’s writing a book. The response to the video has been overwhelming. Though it originally came out last year, in the past few weeks it’s been sent around the internet with the kind of fervor usually reserved for cat videos. I was sent it by at least thirty Facebook friends, each of whom must have thought upon seeing it- I know someone with gay moms, I better send it their way. Thanks guys- I got it.
Reading over what people posted in the comments section, I was struck by how many people’s minds were changed by the viewing, Marines and Baptists who, once devout homophobes, had been shown the light. There is something about the speech he gives that is so identifiable, so trustworthy and persuasive that it makes you want to vote for him,(many people have suggested he go into politics) or buy whatever he’s selling. The comments on the video lean heavily towards proposals of romance, from both men and women. If I didn’t realize that I’m ten years too old for him, I’d probably give it a shot. It’s no surprise everyone wants to marry him.
He’s just so perfectly American. Sweet, Wholesome, perhaps even slightly sanitized- though when he offered the Reddit community the chance to ask him anything he was refreshingly candid about his porn viewing habits. He comes across as hardworking, loyal and achingly earnest. If you didn’t pay attention to his being an engineer, you might assume he’s a farmer- he’s got a touch of salt-of-the- earth charm. I think it’s the line- “We’re Iowans. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems for us. We’ll fight our own battles. We just hope for equal and fair treatment for our government.” In another moment he goes a tad Italian, his hands folded in front of him, a slight jersey lilt to his voice. Then he strikes a more preacher like tone, a man on a pulpit. He settles eventually into the stride of a natural orator, passionate but in control. He lists his academic achievements and tells the chairman he thinks he’d make him proud if he was his son.
He is the perfect representative for us, I just wish that we didn’t need someone quite so Perfect. We shouldn’t all have to be Eagle Scouts. Our families right to exist shouldn’t hinge on being well spoken, well educated and well behaved. We should allowed to be starving artists, rabble rousers and dilletantes like everyone else…
I also felt some concern with his ending. He says, “In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple, And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero affect on the content of my character.” Because being raised in the gay community had a huge influence on who I am (check out my blog post for Inculture parent magazine, “Why Gay Parents are Superior”). Why are we back to pretending we are like everyone else?
I spent a bit of time playing normal in the media myself. In seventh grade- 1993 – I appeared on CNN to speak about having lesbian moms. The soundbite chosen was very much in line with Zach’s perspective. I said something to the effect of, “We’re like any other American family. We eat dinner, they help me with my homework, we watch television.” The discourse centered around us proving our normalcy, as though that were the trade for equality. We promise we’re normal and therefore deserving of your acceptance. In the years that came after, I slowly changed my arguments in the media towards a perspective that celebrated the differences in our families instead of trying to downplay them. There is something frustrating and sad for me in the fact that twenty years later we are back in the same place dialogue wise.
That being said, I have always believed in dealing with what is instead of dwelling on how we wish things were and in that case Zach Wahls is the perfect person to convince middle America that Gays parenting people is alright. I am much less normal and it would be a burden to have to pretend otherwise. So thank you Zach, from all of us freaks. Fight on!
You know something’s wrong when I am siding with the Salt Lake City Tribune against Jonah Hill. The worlds gone topsy turvy, my Friends. But a new cartoon show on Fox, produced by and starring Mr. Hill has made me do it. When I saw the headline of the papers article,”Fox’s Allen Gregory is an abomination,” I expected the writers to be a Christian Fundie. Instead we both agree that “this is the most homophobic thing on network TV right now.‘’
In the premiere episode of “Allen Gregory,” the unlikely and unlikeable protagonist, a very cosmopolitan, by which I mean pretentious, 7 year old is being raised by a gay father and his larger, butcher, prettier life partner, Jeremy. The episode begins with Allen Gregory, a Golden child replica of his daddy, winning a Tony award. He and his Dad use the social occasion to patronize and embarrass his adopted Cambodian daughter/sister Julie, a character who becomes instantly sympathetic with their bad treatment of her. Thus we are introduced to the world of the show.
There are still states that don’t allow gay adoption, I say it is therefore too early to be joking about gay parents treating their adopted children badly on TV. We have had all of one example so far to distinguish ourselves before we are being knocked down. Modern Family does it right; the Gay Dads aren’t perfect people or parents, but they clearly love their daughter Lily. In “Allen Gregory” the treatment of the father towards his adopted Cambodian daughter is downright offensive.
The only good parenting exhibited in the show comes from the father’s lifepartner, Jeremy, and he admits in the first episode that he isn’t actually Gay and has been coerced into his relationship by the sheer will of the Dad. Great so the one nice guy is straight. Awesome. Could this show get any lamer? Oh wait, it’s not even funny. As the writer from Utah mentions, the big joke the first episode revolves around is the seven year old’s attraction to his older and overweight principal, and his subsequent crapping his pants when she rejects him. Hilarious. Not. I loved Superbad and all but Mr. Hill just lost a lot of respect in my book.
We learn so much from watching television, enough episodes of “ER” and “House” will make anyone think they’re a doctor, or at least know a little more about medicine. I am worried that even though the show is a tongue and cheek send-up of coastal urban culture, it will lead people to think they know something about the types of people the show portrays. I get the feeling it’s a dig at the power gays who work behind the scenes in Hollywood; there’s a more LA feel to the characters than New York a lot of, “let my people call your people attitude.” The kid eats sushi with Pinot Grigio at lunch. I have no love lost for the wheelin’ and dealin’ power-suiters of my adopted hometown but so far the queerspawn on TV have been Lea Michele’s Goody-goody on Glee and then this kid. There are so few examples in popular culture of gay parenting that everything put out there helps to define the evolving image of our families. We aren’t doing great.
On one hand there are more gay characters and themes on television than ever before and Fox is actually leading the network pack. On the other hand some of those characters, in particular the father on this new show are not doing our community justice. I was especially upset when I read an interview given by the actor who voices the father in which he, a straight man, said he’d looked forward to taking the part because he had lived in West Hollywood for many years and felt part of the community. And this is how you repay us? (insert Jewish Mother accent and guilt here)
I wonder if the flaws of this show aren’t a result of people outside the community overstepping their liberties in lambasting it. The ole’ I can talk about my mama but you can’t complaint. There is such a thing as feeling overly comfortable. I will give you a domestic example. My best friend came over this weekend and in the process of working on a Halloween costume, trashed my room. Despite multiple vacuum attempts, my carpet is littered with glitter. She felt far too at home. She clearly did not concern herself with possible consequences and hurt feelings.
I think this might be what happened to Jonah Hill. I am guessing that he thinks of himself as an open minded and tolerant type. I’d bet he has gay friends and maybe with their encouragement even he felt comfortable creating a character like the Dad on Allen Gregory. Far too comfortable by my mind. I don’t care if he had a whole chorus of Gay Boys whispering in his ears the whole time,“this is SO true, there are men just like this everywhere, hahahahaha….” I don’t care if the head writer is gay and has three kids himself. The show is no good.