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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Marriage, As My 3-Year-Olds See It

weddingSutton: “Daddy, did you know girls can marry girls?”

Me: “Yes, I did.”

Sutton: “That’s silly!”

Me: “Well, I don’t think so. If they’re in love, then I think it’s really nice.”

Sutton: “I’m going to marry a boy.”

Me: “Great.”

Bennett: “Me, too!”

Me: “Awesome. You both should marry whoever you fall in love with.”

Sutton: “And I’m going to have a daughter, and I’m going to name her Sutton.”

Me: “That’s very sweet.”

Bennett: “And I’m going to have twenty kids!”

Me: “OK…”

Bennett: “They will all be boys, and they will all be named Bennett.”

Me: “Great.”

Bennett: “And I’m going to marry them all!”

Me: “Um… we’ll talk about that, buddy.”

(We’ve actually had many conversations similar to this one. Sometimes, they say they’re going to marry each other, and sometimes, Bennett announces that his 20 Bennetts will have 20 moms, which is also something I hope he’ll reconsider.)

UPDATE:  In the 5 minutes since I posted this, the subject of marriage came up again. First, Bennett said he was going to marry me, then Sutton said he couldn’t because she was going to marry me. Bennett told her she could marry the other daddy, but I belonged to him. They fought over me for a minute. Then Sutton announced that she was going to marry another girl and ran off shouting, “Hooray!”

My point is, we’re all evolving on the subject of marriage.

What Rob Portman Means For Parents

Rob Portman, Will PortmanAs a gay man, I’ve always felt like parents were my enemy — politically, at least.

Whenever someone felt it necessary to identify themselves as a parent in a debate about gay rights, it was almost always as a shield for their homophobia. The gays they talked about were coming to get their kids, convert them to homosexuality, teach them about sodomy in schools. We were boogeymen Karl Rove could use to manipulate paranoid moms and dads into voting his way.

The term “family values” seemed designed specifically to exclude those of us at the wrong end of the Kinsey scale. Our values, it barely needed to be said, were distinctly anti-family.

This is what’s so significant about Rob Portman’s change of heart on gay marriage. A family values conservative, a co-sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, has acknowledged that treating gay people equally is a family value. He did so suddenly and decisively, without “evolving” or obfuscating the way many other politicians do. Why? Because he was able to present his reversal as something deeper than a mere political calculation. It was a gesture of love from a father to his son.

Portman certainly didn’t have to change his position. When his son Will came out to him, he could’ve supported him privately, while publicly pandering to his constituency. He wouldn’t be the first politician to do so.

What Portman’s reversal seems to signify is a broader change in thinking. No longer are gays seen as “others” out to hurt our kids. Now, gays are our kids, and moms and dads are the ones with the potential to hurt them. Gays aren’t the monsters anymore. Parents who turn their backs on their children are.

Portman has taken a lot of criticism for not supporting gay marriage until it affected his own son. It’s a fair point, but it misses the bigger victory in this story, which is that now, fewer people might need a gay son or daughter to change their mind on this issue, because anyone can see their own family in Rob Portman’s. Anyone can imagine their own kid as the next Will Portman. Nobody wants their kid to be the next Tyler Clementi.

Even more importantly, what Portman’s shift signals is that politicians no longer feel beholden to the image of the gay boogeyman. It’s not that family values no longer matter to voters. It’s that more voters than ever acknowledge that gays are part of our families. According to Buzzfeed, representatives from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage spoke to a nearly empty room at CPAC this week, while a panel on increasing tolerance in the GOP was standing room-only.

The message Rob Portman’s action sends couldn’t be clearer: supporting same-sex marriage is good parenting. Increasingly, it’s good politics, too.

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.

An Open Letter To Everyone With a Vote

Look, I know no one needs me to tell them how to vote.  I’m just a guy, like you, and while I’m full of opinions, I know the cool thing about opinions is that everyone’s entitled to their own and that if I don’t like yours, I can clasp my hands over my ears or put down my newspaper or click on one of the other ten gadzillion blogs written by someone I don’t really know and go, “Hmm… I wonder what they think?”

Besides, if you’ve read my site before, you probably can probably guess how I’m voting tomorrow.

I don’t want to talk too much about this, because I know some people I care very much about will be voting a different way from me.  Let me first tell those people no, I won’t hate you forever.  Some other people I care about have been arguing very vehemently that Romney is so anti-gay (which he is) that voting for him amounts to some kind of personal attack against every gay person you know (which it isn’t).  I mean, it sucks.  You want to vote for Romney?  Yeah, that bums me out.  But I’m not going to take it personally.

I’ve written before about how I don’t want to be anyone’s token gay friend, and I stand by that.  But I’m not looking to shun half the voting public forever.  So if you support my equal rights but you’re voting for Romney anyway, that’s OK.  Just don’t tell me that you’re voting for him in spite of his stance on gay rights — tell him.  Tell everyone you vote for.  Make sure politicians of both parties treat this as what it is — a human rights issue, not a partisan one.

If you live in Washington, Minnesota, Maryland or Maine, you can do this tomorrow, because your state has a ballot measure on gay marriage.  I’m sure you already know this because you’re probably sick of all the TV commercials, flyers, yard signs and personal haranguing you’ve been subjected to over the last few months.

Yeah, I’m sick of all the hype about this subject, too.  I wish we didn’t have to debate it again every single election day.  But the only way that’s ever going to stop is if people support gay marriage sooner rather than later.  The homophobes aren’t going to stop fighting until they realize they can no longer win, until the millions and millions of dollars they pump into fighting my equality every chance they get nets them exactly nothing.

So far, they’re undefeated.  Every time gay marriage has been put to a vote, the public has voted against it.  And that’s the #1 argument against gay marriage.  Most people don’t want it, they say, so vote against it.

Well, now’s the time to tell them you’re not falling for that argument anymore.  You know what’s right.  You believe in equality.  You may still be uncomfortable with gay people personally, maybe your religion assures you all gay people are going to burn in Hell, but you believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Yes, I know the Declaration of Independence says “All men are created equal”, and there was a time when they did mean “men” only.  White men, even.  But you know what?  That was wrong, and so is limiting equality to heterosexuals.  Over time, America has gotten more fair, not less.  Let’s keep moving forward.

And to those of you who aren’t cool with gay people, who worry what will happen to this country you love if you vote to support gay marriage, let me give you a glimpse of the future as I see it.  I know the TV commercials are telling you that legalizing gay marriage will lead to kids being indoctrinated in the mechanics of sodomy in preschool, but I’m guessing that’s a bit of a stretch.

You want to know what “the gay agenda” really is, what kind of world us radical homosexuals are hoping for?  Well, here’s a glimpse of a world where gay marriage is legal, as I see it…

- Every kid probably has one or two classmates who have gay parents.  Maybe those parents are cool, or maybe they’re weenies who smell of scented candles and you’ll try not to get stuck sitting next to them at PTA meetings.  “Yikes, here come Mindy and Jill!  They never shut up about their Labradors!”

- By kindergarten, most kids know some people have two mommies or two daddies or that Uncle Dave and Uncle Joe are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy.  They still don’t know where babies come from or that the Tooth Fairy is a crock.

- The gay people you know are more comfortable with themselves, more open about who they are and your relationship with them is closer than ever.  Guessing who among your friends is closeted is less fun than it used to be because almost everyone is out.

- The topic of homosexuality is raised in high school health classes, by a teacher who’s just as uncomfortable discussing it as he or she is talking about heterosexuality with a bunch of horny teenagers.  But all the kids, regardless of orientation, learn how to protect themselves from STDs, which makes the world safer and healthier for all of us.

- If your own kid turns out to be gay, you can be comfortable knowing that they’ll grow up with all the rights and opportunities you had, and they probably won’t kill themselves before they’re old enough to vote.

That’s it.  That’s our endgame.  If you vote to support gay marriage, that’s the world you’re voting for.  Notice nothing happened to your marriage or your rights in that scenario.  That’s because gay marriage does nothing to infringe on the rights of straight people, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a shameless, unprincipled liar.

I’m lucky enough to live in New York, one of the states where gay marriage is legal, and the world I just described is pretty much what it’s like in my town.  It’s nice here.  People are happy.  I’m happy.

If you live in one of the four states that’s voting on gay marriage tomorrow, do the right thing.  You really can’t have it both ways on this one.  You can’t say you support me and my equality and then vote directly against it.

So vote like this chart says.  Do it for me, do it for your gay friends and family or your favorite gay celebrities.  (You don’t want to hurt Neil Patrick Harris, do you?)  Just do it.  And spread this message to everyone you know in Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.  Tell them you care about this issue, and that they should, too.

Regardless of whether you’re red or blue, tomorrow, let’s paint a couple of states pink.  Let’s show people that a world where gay marriage is legal is nothing to be afraid of.