I woke up this morning feeling as though some existential threat had been lifted from me. The way Israel might feel if Iran disappeared. As both a woman and the daughter of lesbians, I had a lot riding on this election. With the gains made in terms of same sex marriage in Washington and Maryland, the retention of Justice Wiggins in Iowa and the record number of women candidates prevailing, progress saved the day.
But before I move on and selectively forget the names and faces of those Republicans who caused me so much anxiety over the last few months, I’d like to say farewell and goodbye to those relics of repression and hate. Goodbye Todd Akin, Richard Murdoch - otherwise known as the “Rape Team”. Thank you for inspiring women to turn out to the polls. Goodbye Republican Presidential nominees one and all, I hope the next set builds their careers on something other than our families backs….. See, every few years often concurrent with the electoral cycle, gay families are brought to the foreground of political debate. No other group, other than perhaps welfare mothers, is used so regularly as political fodder.
I’d like to point out that contrary to the way it was portrayed in this election,my family is not a point to win in a debate, not something to be used as political leverage. It’s a Civil Rights issue, plain and simple. Imagine if it were another demographic being spoken about in this manner, a racial group for instance that it was being suggested was unfit to parent, imagine the outrage that would cause. What if someone asked what the consequences of their parenting would be? There are an estimated 2.3 million children of LGBT parents. When politicians degrade our families it feels like a punch in the gut to every one of them. And although I was hardly harassed growing up in the most liberal corner of the country, I consider the statements made by the Republican candidates to be a call to arms for anyone who might be interested in perpetrating violence against our community.
Here’s a few of the highlights from this round.
Caught on tape back in 2005, the Boston Globe’s story highlighting Mitt Romney’s actions and statements around children with same –sex parents did not surprise me. He joins his former Republican rivals Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum in the club of politicians who say ignorant things regarding gay families. It seems to be some sort of GOP initiation rite at this point. The pattern seems to be a denial of our very existence, followed by denial of the numerous studies that say our families are healthy and finally, denial of our rights.
Never once in that process are we as potential political constituents sought out or listened to. According to the GOP, direct testimony as to our experience is considered untrustworthy and so we have to depend on outside opinions and studies that corroborate for us what we already know, our families are legitimate places to raise happy children. Unfortunately for some, like Mr. Santorum, even the opinion of a well respected group like the American Psychiatric Association on the subject of gay marriage is held suspect. In a video that circled the web, Mr. Santorum gets in an argument with a college student. She says the APA has come out in support of gay families and he goes on to say that they are just a group of people who agree with each other. Sure, a group of people we put a lot of faith behind, because after all we depend on them to decide what’s crazy and what’s sane.
Finally Michelle Bachmann in a confrontation with an eight year old boy. Although Dan Savage disagrees with me, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a child to defend their family’s right to exist to a politician. What I find offensive is that we as a society have put children in the political cross-hairs. Growing up with gay parents puts one constantly on the defensive and until there is equality that will continue to be true.
I wish I could stand behind a statement like the one made today by Zach Wahls, that the anti-Gay Culture War ends now. I can at least have a momentary faith though that the war will ultimately be settled in our favor. I’d like someday to have a chance, for instance, to vote for candidates without taking their views on my families right to existence into consideration. I am forced to be an issues voter instead. Regardless of how I might feel about the economy, I will be voting democrat for the forseeable future.
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.
So as i’ve mentioned, I write for an online parenting magazine- InCulture Parent and this month my column is excitingly titled “Why Gay Parents are Superior to Hetero Parents,” I hope this controversial moniker will inspire folks to check it out ! I don’t seriously think gay parents are better, just that mine are the best… but I do have some stuff to say about positive parenting that I associate with the gay community.
I’m impressed that found so many insightful tidbits on the interweb….
I got babies from the NYTimes, in an awsome article describing “The movement to restore children’s play”, while i’m not trying to hate on Tiger moms out there ala’ Amy Chua in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I do believe in the value of letting children explore and imagine without adult direction. My kid are more likely to go to a Waldorf school than take piano lessons in the end. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/garden/06play.html?emc=eta1
Being that we are half way back towards Summer and in LA it always feels like June, I found it appropos.
Since I got the Babies and Jews covered, let’s go Queer: Another NY Times piece, this story about the beautiful life of an adopted black son of Gay parents, totally made me cry. Not only does it show the sort of beauty found in an unwanted child loved by unwanted parents, but there is a horse involved. Get out your hankies folks, you’re going to need them….http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/24/nyregion/24towns.html?hp
Now the only quadrant of interest left untouched would be Acting and it is perhaps a mirror of my current life in Lalaland that shows the asbsence therein. I’ll keep trying, we’ll see how “The Kids Are Alright” does at the Oscars…..