Sunday, January 30, 2005

Gay Parents: "I am part of a family. My family is very real and existed long before Bush got to the White House"

"Al" was raised by his mother and her same-sex partner. As part of our continued highlighting of college students and issues that matter to them, we decided to interview him. Al was perfectly willing to provide his real name but having set the pattern that people who speak can do so without being identified, we have chosen to continue this pattern.

Third Estate Review: In class, you were talking about The New York Times front page article with George W. Bush.

Al: Yeah. That was bad reporting. It was irresponsible. It betrayed readers. Just yesterday they do an article on how PBS is being forced to not air a segment with a kid with two mommys. Then today they follow up with this shit? It sends a message. They should think about that. There's no reason they can't print the idiot's remarks and also note that there are no studies to back up his comments.

Do you want to talk about your own life?

My parents divorced when I was two. My father went off and did whatever he did. Never saw him or heard from him. Not even a birthday card. Or Christmas card. And my mom got the house. It's the same house they lived in. I grew up there and she still lives there. So it's not like he doesn't know the address.

I think I was four when I started noticing Kelley hanging around. A lot more than other people did. And right before it was time for me to start school, Mom sat me down and told me Kelley was moving in. And she said that she and Kelley were a couple.

Were you shocked?

I don't know that I knew what a couple was. Outside of Go Fish. You know, "you got any twos?"
It wasn't a big deal to me.

When Kelley moved in, I got to know her better and she seemed cool. She still is. She's really into science and I've always had fun with her. I learned all about butterflies from her. I knew what photosynthesis was by first grade because she taught me.

Do you remember any big problems growing up?

When I was in fourth grade, I lost my friends at daycare.

Because your mother was a lesbian?

Yeah, but not that they cared. They knew. With one or another woman always picking me up, it was obvious even if I hadn't shared it. But what happened was one evening, the woman running the program is there when the last of us are being picked up. And she met Kelley for the first time then. She goes, "You can't pick him up." And Kelley goes "I'm on the card." And she was.
But the woman goes to check and sees that Kelley is on it. So we're about to leave and the woman goes, "So you are Jean's sister?" Kelley goes, "No." And the woman keeps pressing and Kelley ends up going, "We live together." The woman goes, "Roommates?" And Kelley goes, "Partners."

I was in fourth grade at the time and it had never been a big deal. A kid or two had said, "That's gross." That's about it. But I go back the next day and Mom comes to pick me up and she's told she needs to go to the office to speak to that woman. She does and comes back to pick me up.
And on the drive back she explains that the woman is small minded and a bigot and that the woman doesn't want Kelley picking me up because of "the message it sends."

Because of their work schedules, Mom and Kelley had to rotate on who picked me up. Mom knew I had 3 good friends at the daycare. I don't think she'd decided yet what to do. But I go, "If they don't want Kelley there, I don't want to go there." And I didn't. Because Kelley's not my father but she's certainly a parent. And more of a parent than my father ever was. Like, I don't even remember my father. He wasn't the one who bought me a kite and taught me to fly it. That was Kelley. And it was her and Mom teaching me to ride a bike and everything else.

I'm sure other people have had different experiences but it wasn't a problem for me. I was born in 1986. If I'd been born earlier or if we lived somewhere else it might have been a problem. But it wasn't for me. I had two mothers and no one seemed to make a big deal about it.

Bush said the ideal was "a married man and a woman."

Yeah, what was that shit? "A married man and a woman." Not a man and a woman married to each other? Is he courting the mistress vote? That may be the ideal but we don't live in an ideal. We don't live in a lab. We live in a real world and so many factors are at play that we have to adapt and not hold out for an ideal. Maybe if you're born rich and everyone caters to you you can try to live in an ideal place but even there reality intrudes.

The ideal should be a person that loves a child. That person can be gay or straight but that's all that's needed for a happy home. Now if there are two people that love a child, that's even better but not necessary. And the two people's gender does not matter a great deal.

Bush seemed to be reflecting some notion that boys need men around to be taught about masculinity?

Well maybe that's a big concern for him because he was a cheerleader and I'm sure that was a huge stigma in the sixties. But I played sports all through school and never had anyone question my masculinity. But when you're a grown man playing dress up, I guess it's natural that you'd be obsessed with masculinity -- both whether people thought you were and whether other boys were being taught it.

I don't know what he's concerned about. I piss standing up if that's what's got him so all worked up. I got love from my parents, Mom and Kelley, and I got respect and encouragement. I really think the issue of gender is more something you sort out among your peer group as you compete with them and relate with them. But I understand Bush didn't have that peer group, that he was a cheerleader at his school back east but couldn't open up to his friends in Texas that he did that. I mean, he grew up having to hide himself so of course he would question others masculinity because he felt like a fake in his teenage years. But that's his problem and unless he knows something he's not telling, his parents were straight, so don't push your baggage off on me.

Were there any problems for you growing up?

No. I knew my father wasn't around and wasn't going to be around. I could have gone through life with just Mom. That would have been fine. She's a great parent. But I was lucky enough to have two parents thanks to Kelley. It's a bonus, not a liability.

In fact, I worked the system if I'm being honest. When I wanted a dirt bike and they both said no, I was able to roll my eyes and say, "Well this is a guy thing and you don't understand because you're women." They'd fall for that a lot. It was bullshit and I knew it when I said it. But kids learn what points to press and because of dopes like Bush that's a point I was able to press.

Did it always work?

No. Once I got into big trouble at school for doing something stupid and I knew it was stupid when I did that. And I tried that excuse and Mom said, "Cut the shit!" I laugh when I think about that because before that and after that I could always use my "guy thing" excuse to get a dirt bike or whatever. But when it came to appropriate behaviors, they both saw right through it and they demanded that I conduct myself appropriately.

What do you make of all this?

It's nonsense. I remember seeing Rosie O'Donnell on TV on 20/20 or Prime Time Live a few years back. My parents look nothing like Rosie or her partner but because Mom has Kelley and Rosie has a Kelley, we usually laugh about that. So we were watching together and I don't remember if O'Donnell was addressing Jeb or George Bush but she said something like they need to see her family. Her point was they don't know what they're talking about and they're talking out of ignorance and fear. That's what's going on.

And it's all such crap because I am a part of a family. My family is very real and existed long before Bush got to the White House. We'll still be around after he's gone back to Texas. There were families like mine before and they'll be around after. So when people like Bush say they're thinking of the children, I think people need to ask, "Which children?" I mean PBS's decision doesn't effect me a great deal. I don't watch Arthur. But if I were younger and watching, seeing those two Moms would have meant something to me.

We're here. We may or may not be queer. I'm straight myself. But we're here and we're being raised by gay parents. We exist. So when someone starts talking about thinking of the children, well we're part of the children and you aren't thinking about us. And you're insulting my family.

Which is what you were talking about in class.

Right. How dare the paper print those remarks and not point out that Bush didn't know what he was talking about. He can make a speech on TV and they can show the whole thing. But in a paper, especially one like The New York Times, I expect that they'll do something more than stenography. I am so insulted by that and my mom called before class and said she and Kelley are trying to decide whether or not to cancel their subscription. It's bad enough that Bush spits on my family but for the paper to do the same? This wasn't some opinion piece, this was supposed to be news reporting. There was no reporting there, just stenography.

If Bush had said the same thing only that children needed two white parents would the paper have just printed it without their reporters noting that there's no study demonstrating two white parents are better than two parents from another race or an interracial couple?

No, but it's okay for Bush to spit on my family and for The New York Times to make sure his loogey lands on us. That was irresponsible and offensive.

"It sure as hell wasn't journalism." That's what you said in class.

Right. Journalism is supposed to be about perspective and making sure that voices are heard. This was about one man's homophobia printed unchecked. There's no excuse for that.

There's no scientific backing for his remarks and there's nothing in the animal kingdom that proves him right. In fact, everything in the animal kingdom proves he's dead wrong. Or maybe he thinks animals are pairing up some great ark and living together to raise their offspring together as couples. Humans and other species have survived because they've adapted to changes. I don't think there's any hope for Bush or others like him. They refuse to adapt to something that's already happened.

They can make it illegal for two men or two women to adopt. That won't stop two men or two women from raising a child. It'll just add difficulties and hurdles for the couple and the child.
Fuck the rhetoric, there's no way that homophobic attitude is about what's best for the children.
And coming on top of his administration's attack on PBS and PBS falling in line and turning their back on countless families like mine, The New York Times assisting Bush in hocking his loogey on my family is just appalling and shameful.

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