ourfamily

So What If My Kids Are Gay?

ourfamilyI forget sometimes what outdated attitudes still linger outside of this nice little gay-friendly bubble in which I spend most of my life. Earlier this week, I recorded a podcast called Dadsaster. The topic was Gay Dads, and I was the gay dad they interviewed. I was a little surprised to discover that after interviewing me, the hosts were set to question a member of the anti-gay Family Research Council, as if “Gay Dads” was a topic that required a pro-and-con debate.

To me, the only thing anyone needs to ask the FRC is, “Why can’t you lay off gay dads, you obsessive creeps?” Maybe that was on their question list. I’m not sure.

What really surprised me was when the hosts, two straight dads — who were very polite and respectful, I should point out — said, “One of the questions people have is, are your kids more likely to be gay because they’re being raised by gay parents?”

It’s a question you hear all the time, which is what’s so maddening about it, because it’s a very easily answered question. Plenty of gays before me have explained very patiently and intelligently that they grew up with straight parents, but they still turned out gay, so why would anyone assume that my kids are going to be gay just because their parents are? That’s exactly the answer I found myself giving, yet I’m sure there are still plenty of people who will willfully choose to ignore that logic.

So now, with two days’ distance from the discussion, I’d like to offer another, more decisive answer to the question of whether my kids are more likely to turn out gay.

So what if they are?

The host prefaced his question by saying, “I don’t think it’s homophobic to suggest this.”

Wrong.

That’s exactly what it is, because the implication behind it is that it’s somehow bad or undesirable if your kids turn out gay. As a kid who turned out gay, I refuse to accept that.

Let’s say, despite all common sense, that gay parents were more likely to raise gay kids. So does that mean we shouldn’t be allowed to have families? Because the world would have — gasp — more gay people as a result? Nevermind that these would be happy, well-adjusted gay people raised by loving families. Just the fact that they were gay would suggest to some people that they weren’t parented properly.

And that’s not a homophobic position?

If we’re ever going to move beyond homophobia, we need to get over the notion that parents can or should steer their children in one direction or the other. We also need to stop making LGBTQ people prove their worth as parents. I initially asked the hosts if I could stick around and ask the FRC representative a few questions of my own. They declined, but when I thought about it, I didn’t really have anything to say to him or her anyway.

Who cares what those people think? They’re not going to stop me from having kids, and I’m damn sure not going to let my kids experience their bigotry as anything other than an amusing sideshow to our perfectly content lives. In a world that increasingly recognizes the anti-gay family brigade for the lunatics they are, they’re just fighting for relevance on whatever podcast or Fox News show will still have them on, so let them spew their hate. I’ll just continue to change the channel.

Before our kids were born, Drew and I speculated a lot about what they would be like. One day, Drew surprised me by saying he hoped they wouldn’t be gay. He was worried life would be harder for them — the same thing many straight parents say when speculating about their kids — and that if we raised a gay kid, it’d somehow lend credence to people’s fears about LGBTQ parents.

I know he doesn’t feel that way anymore, in part because our kids aren’t hypothetical anymore. They’re Bennett and Sutton, and they’re going to be who they are, and our job as parents is to make them happy, not to make them fit some notion of what the Family Research Council thinks kids should be.

Personally, I think it’d be fantastic if my kids were gay. You know what else would be fantastic? If they’re straight. Or bi. Or trans. Or jocks. Or bookworms. Or bookish jocks. Or whoever they happen to be, because whoever they are, Drew and I are going to do everything we can to make sure they’re comfortable with themselves and to let them know that their dads love them precisely because of who they are, not in spite of it.

Are gay parents more likely to raise gay kids? I don’t think so.

Kids who feel loved and supported, though? In a lot of cases, you bet they are.

UPDATE: The Dadsaster podcast is now up. You can listen to it here. It sounds like the FRC rep bailed on them, which is all for the best. In addition to me, they also interview Scout Masterson, one of the Guncles from “Tori & Dean.” It’s a good show. You should check it out.

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SupremeCourtJustices

How to Talk to Kids About the Supreme Court Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage?

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Yes, that’s a question mark at the end of that post title. Anyone have any ideas?

When news broke that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, I’m sure a lot of straight parents were stumped about how to discuss the subject with their kids. In the past, I’ve had a lot of sympathy for straight parents who wanted to explain gay parents like me and my partner to their kids. Well, this is one instance in which I say to straight parents, you’ve got it easy. For you, it’s as simple as, “They decided everyone should be treated equally. Hooray!”

As a gay dad, though, I need to have the exact opposite conversation. Before I can tell my kids how great it is that we’re now considered equal, I first have to explain why we weren’t equal to begin with. Our kids have always known that couples come in all varieties of gender combinations — woman/woman, man/man, man/woman, lady/tramp. What they don’t know — and gratefully, are still too young to understand — is that not all of those groups feel comfortable sharing plates of spaghetti in public.

ImageI wrote in a Lifetime Moms post how I don’t want to tell my daughter she can do anything boys can do, because, y’know, duh. Since I wrote that post, there have been a couple of times she’s heard from other people that girls can’t do something, and I’ve had to let her know that those people are horribly wrong, and also just plain horrible. As a result, my extremely girly little girl swears she’s going to be a construction worker when she grows up. Success.

I’ve always felt pretty much the same way about homophobia that I did about sexism: I’ll wait for the kids to encounter it, and then it’ll seem as bizarre and unfounded to them as it should.

Luckily, that plan has served me well so far, because my kids have yet to experience any direct homophobia. All of my fears about parents refusing to set up playdates with us, schools turning us away or landlords refusing to rent to us have been, so far, unfounded. There are the occasional moments we get some extra attention because we have two dads in our family, so my kids briefly get to feel like celebrities. But no one’s thrown any rocks through our windows or given us any negative attention. For the most part, we get treated exactly the way I want to be treated.

It’s not that I don’t want my kids to know about homophobia. It’s just that I’m not sure they’d believe me.

SupremeCourtJusticesThat may be the best part about being a gay parent, that my kids are the only people I’ve ever known who I didn’t have to come out to, who didn’t know about or assume the shame and fear I grew up with. To them, I’m just “Dad”, and the fact that I love “Other Dad” isn’t just natural and wonderful, it’s a fundamental part of their world view.

So, sure, I want to tell my kids about the Supreme Court’s ruling. I want them to see all the people celebrating and all the couples like their dads who are now getting married. There’s just no way they’d appreciate what a big deal it is and no way to do it without exposing them, just a tiny bit, to exactly the thing I’ve been trying to protect them from. I don’t want my kids to feel like victims, and I don’t want them to think they have to be fighters, either. I just want them to be themselves, and so far, they’re doing an awesome job of that.

This is undoubtedly an historical moment, but I’ve decided this is one bit of history they can wait to learn about until their high school history class, because the world the Supreme Court just brought us one step closer to, is one my kids already live in.

*****

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9 Incredibly Uncomfortable Yet Absolutely Essential Questions to Ask Potential Surrogates

Cover of "Vacancy"

This is the latest in a series of informational posts I’ve been doing on the gestational surrogacy process. This is for those of you who might be where I was about 5 years ago, weighing the options you have for becoming a parent… or for those who are merely curious about the process. This time, I’m sharing my advice on what questions you need to ask your surrogate before deciding if you’re a good match.

To the rest of you, I apologize. More peepee poopoo jokes next time, I promise.

Meeting with a potential surrogate is like the most awkward first date imaginable. You’re face-to-face with a woman you barely know, and both of you spend most of the time talking about making a baby together. Talk about rushing things.

There are probably a million things you want — and need — to know. I’ve seen some websites that suggest you approach your surrogate with a massive checklist of questions, many of which are not exactly subtle, like:

“Do you smoke?”

“Are you sexually active?”

“What were the results of your last pap smear?”

Sure, those are great things to ask… if you want the surrogate to throw a drink in your face and slap an instant “No Vacancy” sign on her womb.

Remember, this isn’t a job interview. She can reject you, too, and if you treat her like an employee or a menial laborer, she probably should.

Don’t worry, if there are any red flags, they’ll turn up in her medical and psychological exams, and you’ll be made aware of them by a professional, neutral third party.

When you sit down face-to-face with a potential gestational carrier, try to empathize with what she’s going through. After a huge amount of deliberation and soul searching, she’s decided to do something incredibly generous, terrifically inconvenient, and more than a tiny bit risky, for a virtual stranger. She’s nervous to meet that stranger, but also a bit thrilled.

Then you come in and ask about her pap smears.

So what should you discuss in your first meeting? First and foremost, it’s time to take the mystery out of your relationship and just get to know each other. If things go well, you’ll be creating a life together.

That being said, it’s not exactly a first date. You need to check your compatibility on some pretty weighty matters.

If you’re working with an agency, much of this subject matter will be covered by them, but if not, these are the questions you need to ask, in increasing order of unpleasantness.

1. What made you want to be a surrogate?

No one’s going to reply, “I need the money,” and if they do, you should probably run away as fast as you can. Sure, the money is a nice perk, but with all a surrogate goes through, she’s going to earn that cash, and it is a limited sum. No one’s getting rich as a gestational surrogate, so it’s a safe bet she has bigger motives.

Our surrogate heard a report about gestational surrogacy on the radio when she was 19, and it made her cry. She turned to her mother and said, “Someday, I’m going to do that for someone.” Once she’d completed her own family, she googled surrogacy agencies, and that’s how she was eventually paired with us. It was such a sweet story, and it told us so much about who she was as a person.

Raising this basic topic is a great way to get to know your surrogate and to show her that you appreciate the sacrifice she’d be making on your behalf.

2. What were your other pregnancies like?

Again, the medical exam will clue you in to any relevant technical info, so try to keep this as light as possible. How bad did her babies kick? Did she get morning sickness? You may not know very much about the surrogate at this point, but you know she’s been pregnant before (at least in most cases, since most gestational carriers have a proven history of successful pregnancies).

You, on the other hand, in all likelihood have never been and never will be pregnant. Show some curiosity and empathy by asking her to describe exactly what she’d be going through for your benefit. This is also a great way to show you appreciate the sacrifice she’ll be making on your behalf.

And if you find out pregnancy makes her crave pickles and ice cream, file that away. Someday, when she’s carrying your child, you’ll know just what to put in her care package.

3. How do your friends and family feel about you being a surrogate?

Surrogacy is physically and emotionally demanding, and no one can do it alone. Make sure she has a good support system, people who care about her who appreciate what an amazing thing she’s doing. If she’s religious, it’s very helpful if her spiritual leader is on her side as well.

This is especially important for gay intended parents. If your surrogate has a homophobic husband or goes to a gay-unfriendly church, you’re not off to a good start. Someday soon, she might find herself at the Wal-Mart in her tiny town when a woman comes up, points at her belly and says, “Aww, lucky you!” She’ll have to reply, “Oh, he’s not mine. I’m having this baby for George and Steven.” Is she ready for whatever may come next?

Let her know what kind of homophobia you’ve faced and how you’ve persevered. It can be very difficult for a (most likely) straight woman to willingly expose herself to homophobia, but that’s what she’ll be doing by having a baby for a gay couple.

One surrogate my partner and I met with had previously carried a baby for a gay couple, and she hadn’t encountered any resistance, so we knew she’d be fine this time around as well.

4. Are you comfortable with me/us being in doctor’s appointments and the delivery room?

Sorry, guys, when you came out of the closet, you probably thought you were exempt from discussing (and possibly seeing) ladyparts. Not any more. Obviously, let the surrogate know that you’ll respect her privacy as much as possible. But one of the main benefits of having a baby with a surrogate is being able to participate in all the exciting prenatal moments, like finding out the baby’s sex or seeing him or her for the first time on a sonogram monitor.

Most surrogates will fully anticipate and welcome your participation in the process, but raising the issue in a polite and respectful manner will set the right tone for when those intimate moments inevitably arise.

5. What kind of communication would you like to maintain after the birth?

There’s no correct answer to this. Some surrogates and intended parents want to stay in close touch. Others might want to be your Facebook friend so they can see pictures of your kids growing up. Still others may be content merely to get a holiday card every December. As long as both parties are on the same page, anything can work.

My advice is to offer up a safe but minimal amount of contact. If you and your surrogate hit it off (as we did with ours), you can always have more contact than you planned.

It’s important to reiterate that your surrogate will have no legal rights to your child. Once your baby is born, you are well within your rights to cut off all contact with the surrogate and never see her again. I’d imagine that kind of clean break only really happens in extreme circumstances. Most people and their surrogates form a bond through the process and want to stay in touch afterward.

Once your child is old enough to understand how he or she came into the world, they’ll likely be curious about who their surrogate was, so it helps if you’ve kept up the relationship.

6. How many fetuses are you willing to carry?

My partner and I were very lucky to have twins with our surrogate, but it made the pregnancy considerably harder on her. She was confined to bed rest for most of the third trimester and there were a few scares where we thought she might be miscarrying one or both of the fetuses, which meant some late-night trips to the emergency room.

Thankfully, everything worked out okay for us, but the more fetuses involved in your pregnancy, the higher the risks. A woman carrying triplets is almost always put on bed rest. It’s not surprising then that many surrogates limit the number of babies they’re willing to carry to one or two.

If you were hoping for octuplets, in other words, you’re out of luck.

7. Would you be willing to undergo a selective reduction?

Here’s where the questions start to get really dicey.

Even if your surrogate only wants to carry one baby and you only want to have one kid, you may still want to transfer multiple embryos to increase the odds that one of them attaches.

So what happens if your surrogate becomes pregnant with two or three embryos? In that case, she may undergo a selective reduction, where excess embryos are removed from her uterus at a very early stage, leaving only the number of babies you’re willing to have.

We interviewed a surrogate who had undergone this procedure with a previous pregnancy and, for various reasons, didn’t want to go through it again. She was asking that we not transfer more than two embryos, so she could be mostly assured she wouldn’t have to carry more than twins.

Some IPs plan to transfer as many embryos as they can, then reduce down to just one or two if too many of them take. That’s fine if the surrogate agrees to it, but not everyone will be comfortable with that.

This is obviously a very tricky ethical situation, so for everyone’s benefit, it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page.

8. If we were to decide, due to complications with the fetus, to terminate the pregnancy, would you be willing to do so?

You and the surrogate are both entering into this agreement with the same goal: to make a baby. Neither of you wants to think about terminating a pregnancy, because that goes against the very reason you’ve come together.

However, everyone knows that things do sometimes go wrong, and the baby will be yours, not hers, so if there are complications and you become concerned with what your child’s quality of life would be, it should be your call to make.

There are people — surrogates and intended parents alike — who would never terminate a pregnancy under any circumstances. That’s fine, of course, but if you feel that way, it’s good to have a surrogate who would defer to your judgment in the case that your feelings change.

Again, no one wants to think about the worst case scenario. You both want a healthy baby. So bring this up now, and then forget about it. Hopefully, it won’t end up being an issue.

9. What concerns do you have about us or this process?

You never know what your surrogate may be thinking or how you may come across to her. She might have a special request that’s very important to her or a fear she’s working to get over.

Our surrogate had two requests: One, she wanted an epidural, because she went without one when her son was born and didn’t want to do that again. And two, she wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t be handed the baby in the delivery room. When doctors first handed her her son, that’s when she bonded with him. To make sure to establish the right boundaries, she didn’t want to see the baby until later on, when she was in the recovery room.

Let her know that her concerns are important to you, and in case she does have a vastly different idea of how the birth should go, it’s better to find out now rather than a trimester or two into the pregnancy.

 

Hopefully, you’ll find plenty of common ground with your surrogate on these topics, because once you’ve discussed them and agreed about the important things, you’ve earned the right to never discuss them again. In all likelihood, you won’t have to, and now that you’ve gotten past the tough stuff, you can talk about things that don’t really matter: what her favorite sports teams or TV shows are, what kind of sense of humor she has and what she thinks of the baby names you’ve picked out.

Then, finally, you’ll know for sure if you’ve found “The One.”

A Happy Election Day, At Last

I don’t know why I like Election Day so much.  It always lets me down.

In 2008, the passage of Prop 8 pretty much ruined whatever excitement I had about Obama winning the presidency.

In 2004, I was so angry with the results, I wrote this.

Let’s not even talk about 2000.

Still, something about the interactive maps, the endless statistics being churned out and the pageantry of democracy always brings out my inner patriot.

I try not to take the results personally.  After all, who wants to be one of those jerks who’s proud to be an American only when things go their way?  That’s not the point of democracy.  We all vote, not just you, so if you don’t like the outcome, well, you had your shot.  That’s what I tell myself, at least: Don’t take it personally.  It’s not about you.

Still, for all of my voting adulthood, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this country.  I love it; it hates me.  At least, that’s what I always seem to come away with after Election Day.

The first time I was old enough to vote for president was 1992.  Bill Clinton won, and he supported letting gays and lesbians serve openly in the military.  I should’ve been ecstatic.  But the same night I was celebrating his victory, Colorado’s viciously homophobic Amendment 2 passed and let me know where I stood in society.  We all know how the gays in the military thing turned out, too.

It was such a relief this year that neither candidate talked much about gay rights.  The president was on record as a supporter of gay marriage.  I just want to type that again: the president was on record as a supporter of gay marriage.  And his opponent barely brought it up.  Occasionally some old video would surface where Romney would show his disgust about gay parents or something like that, but for whatever reason, the new Romney was mostly keeping his bigotry on mute.

Still, my guard was up.  Something would spoil this.  It always did.  With four states voting on gay marriage issues on Tuesday, there would be plenty of opportunities for a punch in the gut.

Then, minute by minute, the news kept getting better.

Barack Obama Re-elected.

First Openly Lesbian Senator Wins Election in Wisconsin

Openly Gay Candidate Wins Congressional Race in New York

Openly Gay Candidate Wins Congressional Race in California

Maine Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Maryland Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Washington Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Minnesota Shoots Down Amendment That Would’ve Banned Same-Sex Marriage

Four ballot measures, four victories.  In one day, four states agreed that gay people are as good as anyone else and deserve the same rights.

This was only 4 years after Proposition 8.  9 years after the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws.  13 years after Maryland got rid of its sodomy law.  It was 20 years exactly after Colorado’s Amendment 2, and I couldn’t help thinking back to that election.

In 1992, I was in college — and in the closet.  The end of college was looming, but the end of my fear and self-loathing was nowhere in sight.  Today, I’m totally open about who I am.  I even write a blog about it.  I have children with my partner, and I have the right to marry him in more places than ever.

This Election Day, there was no down side.  Voters embraced gay rights and gay candidates like never before.  As the statistics poured in, I could geek out and enjoy the night without feeling like I was crashing someone else’s party.

So I’ve decided to take the election results personally again.  And I want to say thanks.  Thanks to the people who voted for equality yesterday and to the people who believe in it in their hearts.  Thanks from me and thanks from that scared kid from 1992, who never thought he’d see this day.

Thanks, America.  I’ve always loved you.  It’s nice to know the feeling is mutual.

mommydearest

A Gay Dad Wonders… Do My Kids Deserve a Mom?

I almost wrote this post a few months ago when Bristol Palin said something annoying about gay parents.  Now, it’s Rupert Everett who said something annoying about gay parents.  Forgive me, but I’m having a harder time lately getting annoyed.

It’s the same argument every time: hey, moms are great.  Kids should have one.  (Ditto for dads, but I’m covered there — my kids have two!  Whew!)

OK, you win.  Moms are great.  I agree.  I have a mom.  My mom has a mom.  Abraham Lincoln had a mom.  (Turns out she died when he was 9.  Think how much more awesome he would’ve been if she’d lived a little longer.)

So sure, if you have a mom or two, count yourself lucky.  But don’t look down on my family just because we’re different.  You think my kids are better off with some smack-talking piece of trash like Bristol Palin than with me and my partner?  Or do you want to take her kid away, too, because she’s a single mom and a worthless idiot?  Either way, you’re wrong.  (See that, Bristol?  I’ve got your back.)

A model family

It’s almost too easy to make the counter-arguments to the people who insist that all kids should have exactly one mom and one dad.  Yes, there are those studies that say that kids raised with gay parents aren’t any more likely to knock over a liquor store someday than any other kids.  But all that science overlooks an even bigger argument — namely, what if your mom’s an asshole?

Ever heard of alcoholics?  Child abusers?  Dina Lohan?  Ever seen a little film called Mommy Dearest?  Trust me, plenty of gays have seen it, so it’s no wonder we think we can do the job better.

Come to think of it, I should take it easier on Bristol.  Her mom kind of sucks, too.

Lots of mothers are just plain horrible, and if you’re stuck with one of those train wrecks, you have my sympathies — and an open invitation to come hang out at our place sometime.  You’ll love it.  We don’t have any female role models, but we do have all three major video game consoles and a trampoline.  Sweet, huh?

Again, I’m not trying to badmouth moms, most of whom are loving, nurturing, patient, incredibly generous people.  I just think the anti-gay parents brigade are missing the point.  Since when do we expect every single family to fit some ideal of How Children Must Be Raised, and why is that ideal so often limited to gender roles?

Couldn’t you say kids are better off in smaller families, where they can get more attention from their one mom and one dad?  That they’re better off in affluence than in poverty?  With access to health care than without?  With a good education than in an underfunded public school?  With jetpacks and laser guns and a computer chip implanted in their head that helps them do long division?

You can’t just hold up some hypothetical ideal and tell everyone who can’t provide it that they shouldn’t be having kids at all.  Who would be left?  And what if someone in one of those ideal families dies or gets laid off or moves to Cancun with their secretary?  Families face all kinds of circumstances, positive and negative, and they persevere because they don’t have a choice.  That’s why we need families in the first place — to get through all the garbage life flings at us.

Besides, just having one mom and one dad is no guarantee that all the gender-related territory is covered.  Even with straight couples, some dads are girly and some moms are manly.  Just because a kid has a mom and a dad, it doesn’t mean he’s baking cookies with her and driving monster trucks with him.  It could be the reverse, or neither.  Tell me, Prince Charming from Shrek, how much micromanaging of familial gender roles is necessary to protect children?

Deep down, those of us in the trenches know the truth: families aren’t made by a mold.  They’re made by people who love each other, and they come in all different forms, some of which seem weird to outsiders.  Ours has no mom.  Maybe yours lives in a Winnebago or has a reality show on E!  Nobody’s perfect.  But even though we can’t all give our kids everything we’d like them to have, we do our best.

Before we had kids, my partner and I thought a lot about what they would be missing out on with no mommy.  I was satisfied we could still provide them a good home, but I realized I could never satisfy the people who don’t think two dads should be raising a family.  You think my kids deserve a mom?  Fine, maybe you’re right, but they’re not getting one.  I’m just not capable of loving a woman the way I love my partner, so if we’re going to do this, it’s him and me.

And like it or not, we’re doing it.  We have twin 3-year-olds who rely on their two dads to feed them, tickle them, wipe their butts and protect them from monsters — plus a few million other things we do because we love them to an unfathomable, sometimes ridiculous degree.

I know a hypothetical mom might add certain wonderful things to their lives.  I think about that constantly, because like all good parents, I want my kids to have it all.  I worry what’s going to happen when my daughter hits puberty and my partner and I have to Google menstruation to talk her though it.  It breaks my heart when I pick them up from school and overhear the teacher telling the class, “OK, let’s see if your mommies are here to get you!”  At three years old, they already know our family is different.  Someday, they’re bound to hear the hurtful things that Bristol Palin and Rupert Everett and so many other people say about us, and that bums me out big time.

But that’s the world my partner and I chose to bring kids into, and ours is the family we knew they would have.  And you know what?  I still think we made the right choice.  Our family may be a bit different than most, but our kids know that they’re loved and that their two daddies will always be there for them, possibly with a female friend along if we’re buying a training bra or something.

The good news is that, other than the rantings of a few homophobic celebrities (including at least one self-loathing gay man), gay families are getting some pretty good PR these days.  We have sitcoms like The New Normal and Modern Family that make us look (mostly) good, celebrity ambassadors like Ricky Martin, Elton John and Neil Patrick Harris, even the support of the President.  It’s not always going to be such smooth sailing, though.

Someday, maybe even soon, there’ll be a major news story about some horrible gay parents who kept their kids locked in a subterranean torture prison or made them work at an iPad factory or something horrific like that.  You know it’ll happen, because every sexual orientation, not to mention every gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability status, blood type, Edward-or-Jacob affiliation and grouping of any kind has its share of douchebags.  And when the media circus springs up around Doug and Bob and the half dozen foster kids they used as drug mules, the Bristol Palins and Rupert Everetts will point at them and say, “See?  See???”  Kind of like what global warming deniers might say on a cool day in August.

You know what?  Doug and Bob are jerks.  But if you think that says anything about me and my partner, then so are you.

So I don’t have time to be outraged every time someone in the public eye says something negative about gay families.  It’s going to happen again… and again, and again.  Ultimately, though, it’s not what a few people say but what the rest of us do just by living our lives that speaks the loudest.

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Chick-Fil-A Took My Baby Away

My daughter was looking out the car window on a particularly sunny day last week.  “The sky is purple!” she announced.

The sky looked like it did on just about any other day.  Except for a few puffy white clouds, it was bright, brilliant and blue.  I vaguely remembered a few weeks earlier when I pointed out a picturesque sunset to the kids.  It was purple that day, kind of.  Why rock the boat?  “Yeah,” I said.  “The sky can be purple sometimes.  It could also be orange or gray or…”

“The sky is blue!” my son interrupted.  He shouted it, like a challenge, as if to shame me for humoring his sister.

“No!  The sky is purple!” she countered from the seat beside him.  “It’s purple!”

“It’s blue!”

“Purple!”

“Blue!”

“Purple!  DADDDDDDDDY!”

Now it was a debate.  Was the sky blue or purple?  The dad in me said that I shouldn’t take sides.  Respect both their viewpoints, claim the color of the sky is a matter of opinion or perspective.  “The sky is however you see it!”, I’d cheerfully declare, then try to change the subject.  Can’t we all just get along?  There was just one problem.

The sky is fucking blue.

Everyone knows it.  It’s not an opinion.  It’s a fact.  And not just any fact.  It’s the fact people cite when they want an example of something that’s unquestionably factual.  It’s the fact.  The sky is blue.  End of discussion.  If I said anything else, I’d feel like an idiot or a fraud.

“The sky is blue,” I announced.

“No, it’s purple!”

“You’re wrong, Honey.  It’s not purple.  It’s blue.”

She started to cry, but I refused to give in.  Whining doesn’t win you arguments in my minivan.

“It’s purple!!!!!!”

“Not true.”

“It is!”

“Nope.”

“WAAAAAAAAH!!!!!”

This little story pretty well sums up my feelings about the Chick-Fil-A controversy.

I’ve heard so many people claim they support the company as a matter of free speech.  It’s not about homophobia, they insist, as they proudly post pictures of their #2 combo to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever else they can show it off to everyone they know.

There’s a voice in my head that says to just let it go.  Maybe that’s how they see it.  Let them say what they want.  I’m sure as Hell not going to eat there, but who cares what anyone else does?

The problem is… the sky is fucking blue, and people who flaunt their support of Chick-Fil-A in the face of this controversy are bigots, plain and simple.  It’s not my opinion, it’s a fact, and I’d be a fraud if I pretended otherwise.  This falls squarely under the Judge Judy rule of “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

You’re not waiting in line 20 minutes for waffle fries to make a point about free speech, or you’d be just as quick to defend the speech of someone you disagree with, like me.  You’re showing your “appreciation” for Chick-Fil-A because “I hate gay people” is so unpleasant to utter aloud.  It’s much easier to say, “I’m going to eat this chicken sandwich.”  Right now, appreciating Chick-Fil-A is the safest form of homophobia there is.  No wonder so many people are flocking to their restaurants.  And if anyone gets offended, you can plead innocent.  “What?  I don’t hate gay people.  I just like fill-in-the-blank [breast tenders, religious tolerance, the First Amendment].”

If that’s your argument, then at the very best you’re kidding yourself.  Let me make it perfectly clear, though, that you’re not fooling me.

Chick-Fil-A has donated millions of dollars to anti-gay groups and has given every indication that they will continue to do so.  We’re not just talking about organizations that oppose gay marriage.  These are hate groups that claim that homosexuality can be cured, that being gay is linked to child molestation and that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to raise children.  You can imagine why this would be a particularly sensitive issue to me.

There are kooks out there — kooks with real influence and national platforms — who think my kids should be “liberated” from me and my partner.  You want to support the homophobia of people like Dan Cathy?  This is where it’s headed, so don’t expect me to sit back and make nice.

Yes, Dan Cathy is entitled to his opinions.  On that, we can agree.  He’s also entitled to make whatever donations he wants.  The one thing he isn’t entitled to is my patronage, and if he’s actively supporting and encouraging the people who are out to hurt me and my kids, he’s not going to get it.

I’m not saying that everyone who dines at Chick-Fil-A is a bigot or my mortal enemy.  It’s possible some people go there out of convenience or necessity.  Maybe it’s the only place at the mall food court their kids will eat or it’s the only drive-thru they pass on their way home every night.  It could be that they work there and rely on the employee discount.  I’m not going to judge everyone who patronizes the business.  Life’s complicated, and we all have our own reasons for doing the things we do.

But if you’re going to eat Chick-Fil-A to make some political point, at least have the courage to be honest about the point you’re making.

You don’t like gay people.

The sky is blue.

End of discussion.

 

My Son Wants To Wear a Dress

If you’re wondering whether gay parents are more likely to raise gay kids, you should know that my 2 1/2 year-old daughter has already announced that she wants to marry a boy when she grows up.  No particular boy, not at this point, just “a boy”.

Where did she get this crazy idea that you can marry, you know, people of the opposite sex?  I blame Disney movies.  Ariel and Eric, Tiana and Naveen, Beauty and the Beast.  Daddy and Daddy just can’t compete with love stories like those, especially without any Menken-penned showtunes of our own for her to dance along to.

I’ve even reminded her that girls can marry girls, at least here in New York.  No thanks, she’s marrying a boy.  And her brother is going to marry a girl.

So she says.

Like most boys his age, Bennett hasn’t shown much interest yet in marrying anyone, of either gender.  But he does want to wear a dress.  Badly.  Lately, he’s been asking me every day.

I read absolutely nothing into this, of course.  It’s not like either of his dads was ever into the drag thing, but he certainly hears about dresses an awful lot.  His twin sister is obsessed with them and gets a lot of attention for them, so I don’t blame him for thinking something magical will happen if he puts one on.  He’d definitely get a lot of attention.

Of course, that’s my fear.  I don’t care if the kid wears a dress, whether or not it ends up being something he wants to do when he gets older.  But I know if he wears a dress to the playground or the zoo, some schmuck kid (or, perhaps more likely, grown-up) will feed him that nonsense that “boys don’t wear dresses”.

If that happens, it might not be a big deal.  He might go, “Oh, really?  They don’t?  Why didn’t you tell me that, Daddy?”  Then again, he might cry.  I’m just not ready for the world to teach my kid shame.  I grew up in the closet myself, albeit a slightly different one, and I don’t want that to happen to him.  For now, I don’t even want him to know there is a closet.

So when he asks me to wear a dress, I don’t say no.  I tell him he can do it “later” (as in when we’re not going outside for a while).

“Later” also means when he’s old enough to understand how other people might react.  And if he wants to wear dresses anyway, then I’ll have his back — plunging, ruffled or otherwise.

I’ll also remind him that he can marry whomever he wants, no matter what society – or his sister – might tell him.

cameron

I Won’t Be Your Gay Friend If…

English: English: Actor Kirk Cameron, at Calva...

Image via Wikipedia

“I’ve been encouraged by the support of many friends (including gay friends, incidentally).” – Kirk Cameron

It’s become the latest cliche of homophobia that every time someone in the spotlight spouts something anti-gay, they’re quick to point out that they have gay friends. Really? I wonder if any of these people actually know what being a friend means.

Take Kirk Cameron, for example. He said a bunch of crazy stuff about homosexuality, then acted surprised that gay people took offense.  He has gay friends, after all.  Or so he claims.

Now, let me just state up front that Kirk Cameron’s or anyone’s opinion of homosexuality means about as much to me as my kid’s opinion of eating broccoli, which is pretty similar to how Kirk feels about the gays, actually.  I mean, it’s not like Tina Yothers condemned me.  Then, I’d be crushed.

But how does this guy develop such bigoted views and still think he’s admired by the people he’s bigoted against?  That’s when I realized what’s going on:

You guys, we’re being too nice to Kirk Cameron.

Sure, he thinks he has gay friends.  Most gay people I know are pretty cool.  They’re not going to spit in a former child star’s face just because he grew up to be an insane, reactionary a-hole.

Take me for example.  I’ve scooched over on the train so a bigoted person could sit next to me.  I always let bigots get off the elevator before I get on.  I’ve dropped pennies in the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray knowing that whoever takes my penny may have voted for Prop 8.  What can I say?  I’m very tolerant of people with different viewpoints than my own.  But please, bigots, don’t mistake any of that for friendship.

Just so we’re clear, there are a few dealbreakers to us being buddies which you may not be aware of .  Let me spell them out for you as clearly as I can before you go telling the media that I have your back.

I won’t be your gay friend if…

- You’ll let me cater your wedding but not have one of my own.

- You don’t think I should be able to adopt children because I might be “attracted” to them.

- You think merely saying you love everyone is equivalent to actually demonstrating that love.

- You use your religion both as a basis to attack me and as a shield to defend yourself from my rebuttal.

- You would treat your gay child with anything less than complete acceptance, unconditional love and a raging desire to kick the ass of anyone who made life hard for them.

- You joke in some movie that electric cars are “gay” and expect me to laugh.

- You still wish Will & Grace had hooked up at the end.

If any of those apply to you, that’s fine.  You have every right to be exactly as horrible and wrong-headed as you want to be.  As I said, though, don’t expect me to be your gay friend.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to address those people who actually are my friends, because clearly we’re giving those other guys the wrong impression.

So here’s what I propose:

If you see Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin or any other blatant homophobe, don’t be nice to them.  It confuses them.

Don’t shake their hand.  Don’t style their hair or do their interior design or perform “Rent” for them.  And for the love of God, don’t play your 1970s classic rock hits at their wedding, Elton.

Just cut them off and say, “Sorry, I only do that for friends.”

It’s not polite and it’s not subtle, but I’m afraid it’s the best course of action from here on out.  Sometimes the only way to get through to these people is to be a complete douchebag.

You know, like them.

Confessions of a Bad Dad: My Sick Kid

Of all the roles being a dad has forced me into, the one I’ve been least prepared for is “doctor”.

It took three nights of Bennett throwing up before I took him to see a medical professional.  She checked him out, diagnosed it as the flu and sent us home.

It was half an hour later when I remembered that big head injury the boy had suffered the day the vomiting started.  I called the doctor back.  Hmm… could that be a factor?

She told me to rush him to the ER.

The ER doctor wasn’t as concerned about the head injury as she was about how dehydrated my kid was.  She could tell just by looking at him that he was dangerously low on fluids, and sure enough, the blood tests backed her up.  She put him on an IV and told us we’d be staying there overnight.  She couldn’t believe the first doctor hadn’t recognized the symptoms as easily as she did.

I couldn’t believe I let my kid get so dehydrated that he had to spend the night in a hospital.

On the bright side, being in the hospital meant he got unlimited use of two things we usually minimize his exposure to – his pacifier and the iPad.  That kept him happy for an hour or so.

The doctor said Bennett could eat whatever he wanted, and he shouted out, “Peanut butter sandwich!”  I may not have given my kid enough to drink over the last couple of days, but I was going to make sure he got that peanut butter sandwich, pronto.

We were lucky to be in a very well-equipped children’s ward.  They had a big playroom full of toys and books, a life-size firetruck kids could climb in, and outside, there was a full train car sitting on the lawn.  We spent about two minutes in the firetruck before Bennett was put on “contact restrictions”.  That meant he couldn’t leave his room, and everyone who came in had to wear a rubber gown and gloves so they didn’t catch whatever he had.  It was kind of like the third act of E.T., where they terrifyingly tent and sterilize the house, only without a magical alien to calm the crying kid.

I hate hospitals.

Just to rule out a serious head injury, Bennett had a CT scan, which thankfully scared me more than it did him.  That came back negative.  Whew.  Next was an EEG.  By then, he was insisting, “I feel better!”  In other words, “Get me out of this place!”

The EEG technician wanted to get a reading of Bennett’s brain waves while he was asleep.  “Do you have a way to get him to sleep?” she asked.

It’s one of those completely asinine questions a parent secretly craves getting.  “Um, you might try unhooking him from all these terrifying machines, for starters.”  “Yeah, I know the secret to getting two-year-olds to fall asleep, and did I mention I’m the world’s richest billionaire?”  The possibilities for snark were endless.

He did eventually fall asleep.  It turned out the tech only needed about five minutes of sleep readings, after which she stood over him and announced, “He can wake up now.”

Then, before I knew what was going on, she stuck her hands in Bennett’s face and started clapping loudly to wake him up.  To be honest, I think what woke Bennett up was the sound of me screaming at this lady for being such an idiot.

The next morning, Bennett’s fluids were back in the acceptable range, and the doctors told us we could go home.  Bennett couldn’t wait to see his sister – and, more importantly, the train car outside which he’d been able to stare at through his window but not visit.

Just as we were packing up, the doctor returned.  There was something questionable on the EEG, so she decided to keep us another night and do a 24-hour video EEG on the kid.  Forget waterboarding.  Try telling a two-year-old that the tiny box he’s confined to will be his home one more day, during which time a rotating group of strangers will continue poking painful holes in him.

“Remember that hat you wore with the wires on it?” I explained.  “Well, you’re getting another one.”

“Go home!” he cried, in the saddest little voice a daddy’s ever heard.  “I’m done!  Go home!”

I assumed the second EEG would be much like the first, but when they need the electrodes to stay on for 24 hours, they use glue.  In order to make the glue dry fast, they blast it with pressurized air from a deafening, rumbling machine.  Over and over, for 45 minutes.

(You’ll notice fewer pictures from this point on.  I took some, but I can’t bear to look at them again.)

Until this point, Bennett had been a super sport about the whole experience.  A few seconds of tears with every blood draw, and that’s it.  But this procedure led to 45 minutes of solid screaming – and who can blame him?  To me, it sounded as if he were saying, “Why, Daddy, why?” on an endless loop.  All I could do was shout over the sound of the air machine to tell him how well he was doing.

When the procedure was done, he was tethered to a machine and couldn’t move more than three feet away from his bed at any time.  It was the least free space he’d had since he was in the surrogate’s womb 2 1/2 years ago.

Drew slept in the hospital the second night, and I went home to stay with Sutton.  As difficult as it was being in the hospital with Bennett, it was much harder being away from him.  That’s when I really began to worry.

Sutton had been in bed for two hours when I heard her screaming over the baby monitor.  I ran in and was overcome by the smell of regurgitated mac & cheese.

“What happened?” she cried.

I checked her crib.  It was everywhere.  On her blanket, her dolls, the mattress.  “You threw up,” I told her.

She stopped crying.  “I threw up.  Like Bennett did?”  A smile broke out on her face.  “I threw up like Bennett did!”  I had never seen her prouder of herself.

I smiled a little bit, too, because if she caught Bennett’s illness, that meant it was unlikely he had a concussion.

“How would you like to drink a big glass of water?” I asked.

The next day, I returned to the hospital so I could be there when Bennett got his electrodes removed.  The EEG specialist looked at me and Drew standing over our son, and her eyes widened.  “Are you two dads?”

It was hard not to wonder where she might be headed with this question.  When people make the case for gay marriage, they always mention how crappily gay couples are treated in hospitals.  “Uh… yeah.”

“Oh my God!” she shouted.  “I can’t believe it!  I need to give y’all a hug!”  She tore off her rubber gown and gloves and did just that.

“You’re the first two dads I’ve ever met!  I’ve only seen them on TV!”

Another nurse told her to get over it, but Drew and I made it clear we enjoyed the attention.  We’re shameless, I tell you.

“I hear people saying bad things about two dads, and it makes me so angry.  Just let everybody do their thing, that’s what I say!  I think it’s terrific!”

Bennett was laughing.  We talk a lot about how cool we are for having two dads in our family, and finally, we had a complete stranger to corroborate it.

Thankfully, the electrodes came off much easier than they went on.  A few minutes later, Bennett’s special hat was gone.

We still had no idea when we were going home.  We had to wait for someone to do a reading of 24 hours of squiggly lines and make sure there was no bad news inside.  Drew went home to see Sutton (whose uncles were taking good care of her – another reminder why we moved back East), and Bennett and I decided to take a nap on the pull-out couch.  I curled up with him under a blanket, and we both fell asleep.

An hour or so later, we were awakened by a knock on the door.  “How would you like to go home?”  The doctor said the EEG looked OK, so we were being discharged.

“Like, we can leave right now?”

“Yup!”

I packed up our stuff in record time.  I wasn’t going to sit around and let the doctors change their minds again.

“Bennett, see that train out the window?  What do you say we go check it out?”

Trains are probably Bennett’s second favorite thing in the world.  His favorite is balloons, but the one balloon he had no interest in was his get well balloon.  He decided he didn’t want to bring it home with him, so we left it behind with all our half-eaten cafeteria food.

Soon, we were outside.  Bennett ran up to the train, only to find the gate was locked.  After all that waiting, the train was just for show.  You weren’t actually allowed to go inside it.

Like I said, I hate hospitals.

EPSON MFP image

How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents, By a Gay Parent

English: Train Board at Grand Central Terminal

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine you’re at the train station, taking your kids into the city to see the Lion King.  A man steps off the train, and two toddlers run up to him shouting, “Daddy!  Daddy!”  He gives out two hugs and about a thousand kisses and tells them how much he missed them while he was at work.  You’ve witnessed scenes like this many times, but as always, your heart melts.  Then the dad stands up, walks a little further down the platform and kisses… another man.

Well, that’s different.

“How was your day?” the first guy asks, and the other one starts talking about who got time outs, why the kids have maple syrup in their hair and who flushed what down the toilet right before they left.

OK, back to normal.

You’ve probably done the math by now — Look!  Gay dads! — but there’s a decent chance you’ll feel a tug on your leg, and your kid will look up at you and ask, “Yo, what’s the deal there?”

This is the story of my life.  I am a gay dad, and I confuse children.

I’m sure it happens more than I realize – at the supermarket, at the park, at preschool.  Just by acting like any other parents, my partner Drew and I are inadvertently sparking countless conversations that start with, “Where’s their Mommy?”

You’re free to handle that question however you want, of course.  But if you don’t know where to begin, allow me to help.

You see, when Drew and I decided to have kids, we knew that the gay dad job description would include explaining our family to the world for the rest of our lives.  That’s one of the reasons I started my blog.

It’s also why I am kindly providing you, the sympathetic straight parent, with some guidelines.  (Unsympathetic straight parents are free to ignore my suggestions, in which case, I’ll enjoy watching them squirm.)  Obviously, what you say will depend on how old your kids are and how much exposure they’ve had to gay people previously, but in a broader sense, these suggestions should apply to anyone.

I’m not a child psychologist, just a gay dad who’s thought a lot about the issue and who has a big stake in it.  After all, I don’t want your kids coming up to my kids one day and telling them they’re weird for not having a mommy.

If you don’t want that either, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Use the word “gay”.

Everyone’s concentrating on taking the negative connotation away from the word “gay”, but at the same time, let’s not forget to encourage the positive.  We don’t want “gay” to be a curse, so go ahead and teach it to your kids.  That’s how we’ll really take the sting out of the word.

“Oh, Uncle Doug and Uncle Max?  They’re gay.”  “Aunt Vera and Aunt Debbie aren’t sisters, honey.  They’re lesbians.”  “Well, statistics suggest at least 3 of the Smurfs must be gay.”  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Just say it.  If your kids hear some jerk at school sneering, “That’s so gay!”, their response will be, “Yeah?  So what?  So are Uncle Max, Aunt Vera and, most likely, Brainy.”

2. You don’t have to pretend half the world is gay. 

Don’t play down the fact that your kids may have witnessed something unfamiliar.  “Geez, Madison.  They have two daddies, what’s the biggie?”  It’s natural for poor little Madison to be confused, so give her a damn break.

Kids are probably going to assume all families have one mommy and one daddy, because that’s all most of them see.  You can be honest. Use words like “most” and “some”.  “Most families have a mommy and a daddy… but some have two mommies or two daddies.”  As long as you don’t attach a value judgment to that statement, it really is no biggie. (The same goes when explaining single parent families, divorced families or anything else your child might be witnessing for the first time.)

Some kids might say something like, “That’s weird”, or they’ll think you’re playing a joke on them.  That should just be a reminder of why you’re having this conversation.  Get to your kid before ignorance does.  If you’re honest with them, they’ll get it.  Explain that gay families are less common than the usual mommy/daddy family, but they’re every bit as valid.  “It’s not weird, it’s just different than our family.”

3. Get your mind out of the gutter.

It seems silly that I even have to say this, but when some people think about homosexuality and kids, they imagine that you’re suggesting they graphically describe intercourse to kindergarteners.  Um, no.  All you should be doing is answering the questions they’re asking, and save the rest for junior high health class.  If they wonder why Owen has two daddies, it’s because “His daddies are in love”… or because “Some men love other men.”  Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to understand what love is, so no further explanation should be required.

And do use the word “love”.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  You don’t need to say “attracted to” or “some boys like boys”.  “Like” is how they feel about each other.  A kid might think, “Well, I like boys.  I guess I’m gay.”  Compare it to your own relationship (assuming you have a good relationship).  “You know the way Mommy and I love each other?  That’s how their daddies (or mommies) feel about each other.”  And if your kid says, “Yuck!” it’s probably because they feel the same way about when you and your spouse get all schmoopy-doopy with each other.  That’s progress.

4. Don’t make it about your kid — yet.

Understanding gay parents is a big enough topic of discussion, and your kid probably won’t be prompted to wonder about their own sexuality at this point.  You don’t need to say, “You might marry a man someday yourself, Junior!”  While it’s great to plant the seeds of acceptance early, you’ll probably just end up confusing them more.  Your kids have plenty of time to figure their own feelings out, and when the time comes, make sure you let them know that you love them no matter what.  But no, they can’t marry Brainy Smurf.

5. If your kid does ask you to speculate, you can tell them they’ll “probably” be straight.

Again, only if your kid expresses some curiosity should you even broach the subject.  But if they’re wondering, “Who will I marry someday?”, feel free to tell them, “You’ll probably marry someone of the opposite sex, but I’ll accept you either way.”  Of course, if you’re like the mom from the amazing blog Raising My Rainbow, your “probably” might lean the other way.  Just take your cues from your kid.

6. Remember the magic phrase, “Love is what makes a family.” 

It’s possible your kids will ask something like, “But doesn’t everyone need a mommy?”  Even kids who don’t know exactly where babies come from understand that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.  When that’s all you know, then two daddies just don’t add up.

Again, don’t go into any more detail than you need to.  Remind your kid that while it’s a woman who gives birth to a baby, your Mommy(-ies) and/or Daddy(-ies) are the one(s) who raise you. It’s no different than how you’d explain adoption by a straight couple.  “The Strattons flew to Beijing and brought little Daisy home.  Now they’re her Mommy and Daddy.”

What kids want to know is that the little boy or girl they see whose family looks different is still being well taken care of. Assure your children that the kids are in good hands, because love is what makes a family, and those parents love their kids as much as you love yours.

7. Most importantly, just talk to your kids.

Your kids are bound to see a gay family sooner or later, even if it’s just Mitchell & Cameron on Modern Family.  So if they come to you with questions, it’s really important that you don’t get weird about it.  Don’t change the subject, don’t tell them they’re too young to understand and definitely don’t lie and say that the mommy is home doing dishes or off fighting in Afghanistan.  Otherwise the message you’re sending is that there’s a reason to be uncomfortable around gay families.  The same goes for all kinds of families, whether they have two moms, two dads, a single mom, a single dad, foster parents or if they’re being raised by wolves – just explain that that’s a different kind of family and gee, isn’t it nice that everyone’s a little different.

… which leads me to a big secret.

You see, there is a gay agenda.  It’s true.

What most people don’t realize is that the gay agenda isn’t “everybody should be gay”.  It’s “everybody should be themselves.”

Be a nerd, be a Yanni fan, be a real housewife of your particular geographic region.  Whatever.  It’s all part of the same cause, and it’s a great message to teach your kids.

I shouldn’t have to say this in the 21st Century, but for anyone who’s still wondering, NO, I don’t want to make your kids gay.  I just want to live my life with a sense of mutual respect for everyone else on this planet.  If you want the same thing, then let your kids learn by your example.  Show them that nontraditional families are nothing to be afraid of.

Teaching your kids to be accepting of gay people and gay families is a great way to teach them acceptance in a broader sense – and to teach them the ultimate lesson: to be accepting of themselves.

I know some people think differently, but that’s what I call family values.