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Old 07-04-2013, 01:21 PM   #1
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Same-Sex Parenting

since parenting is linked but separate issue from marriage, i've decided to start a new thread about the issues surrounding same-sex parenting, something which is legal in nearly all 50 states in some form of another, and which has been a part of gay life since at least the 1970s.

to start it off, here's this article from the NYT -- it touches on issues of gender essentialism, as well as race (gays and lesbians are more likely to adopt across racial lines), and presented as food for thought:

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June 22, 2013
The Misnomer of ‘Motherless’ Parenting
By FRANK LIGTVOET

SOMETIMES when my daughter, who is 7, is nicely cuddled up in her bed and I snuggle her, she calls me Mommy. I am a stay-at-home dad. My male partner and I adopted both of our children at birth in open domestic adoptions. We could fill our home with nannies, sisters, grandmothers, female friends, but no mothers.

My daughter says “Mommy” in a funny way, in a high-pitched voice. Although I refer the honors immediately to her birth mom, I am flattered. But saddened as well, because she expresses herself in a voice that is not her own. It is her stuffed-animal voice. She expresses not only love; she also expresses alienation. She can role-play the mother-daughter relationship, but she cannot use her real voice, nor have the real thing.

I have seen two types of arguments in the discussion on gay adoption. The first is the civil-rights argument. You find this in David Strah’s book “Gay Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood,” which contains interviews with gay fathers. “The men in this book stuck it out, kept struggling, claimed their rights, and triumphed in the end,” it says. “They are heroic, and their heroism is a gift for their children.”

The books adds: “If coming out was the first step and forming a movement the second, then perhaps asserting our fundamental right to be parents is the third step in our evolution as a community.” The argument is not so much about the voices or feelings of the children but about those of their dads.

More child-focused, but still reflecting the values of the grown-ups, is the second argument: the good-enough-parent idea, as developed in the series of research papers on gay and lesbian adoption of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. The executive summary of the 2006 report states: “Social science research concludes that children reared by gay and lesbian parents fare comparably to those of children raised by heterosexuals on a range of measures of social and psychological adjustment.” Kids of gay dads (and lesbians) do just as well as kids of moms and dads, the research shows. Being a good-enough parent counts for gay people, just as it does for straight people.

What is not expressed in both arguments, which I consider valid, is the voice of the adoptee — my daughter’s voice, that is. Her awareness of being a motherless child is not addressed. I don’t want to appropriate our child’s voice, but I want to speak up for her, and her older brother, and I want to acknowledge their feelings.

Being a “motherless” child in an open adoption is not as simple as it looks, because there is a birth mother, who walks in and walks out of the lives of our children. And when she is not physically there, she is — as we know from many accounts of adult adoptees — still present in dreams, fantasies, longings and worries.

In a closed or an international adoption there is also a mother — sometimes in photos, but always in the narrative of the child’s birth, which also starts for them with “in your mommy’s tummy.” When the mother walks into the lives of our kids it is mostly a wonderful experience. It is harder for them when she walks out, not only because of the sad goodbye of a beloved adult, but also because it triggers the difficult and painful question of why she walked out in the first place.

The answer initially depends very much on us, and we have to help our kids find a narrative that is honest about the circumstances and the unjust world we live in, yet loving and respectful toward the mother. To do that properly, gay families have to create an emotional space where the mother lives as a reality, a space where she can be addressed and discussed without any shame or secrecy.

So, motherless parenting is a misnomer. Also, the wider world around our kids sees mothers when they are not there. Every step we as a family take outside in public comes with a question from a stranger about the mother of the children: a motherless child seems unthinkable. When I picked up my sick son from school one day after a call from the nurse’s office, we bumped into his class in the hall. One of the boys saw us and called, “Hey, where’s your mom?”

THAT was awkward, because our son had introduced himself to his classmates at the beginning of the school year with pictures of our family and of his birth family. That had made a deep impression. The boy who called out was without doubt aware of our son’s situation, and he was certainly not meanspirited. But he was just not able to see the scene of a father and a sick son objectively and injected a mother, who would have been there in most cases. The forces of normalcy, as I would like to call them, are strong, and can be difficult and confusing for children who live outside that normalcy.

Gay parents, trained to deal with those forces, should be aware of the effect on their children. What these questions do touches on a vulnerability in the children’s identity, the identity of the motherless child. The outside world says time and again — not in a negative way, but matter-of-factly — you are not like us. We have to give our kids the chance to give voice to that vulnerability, and to acknowledge the sad and complicated feelings of being different. (And show the pride in that as well.)


How to parent around these issues of motherlessness and vulnerability is a personal choice. There are practical matters, like where your family lives, where your kids go to school, what clubs and churches you are members of, what friends and family you have over for dinner, where you go on vacation. Still, the overarching idea behind parenting by gay men should be that it is great for a child to have one or two dads, and that not having a mom in your daily life can be hard. And that it is O.K. to long for a soft cheek instead of a stubbly one.

Frank Ligtvoet is the founder of Adoptive Families With Children of African Heritage and Their Friends, a New York City support group, and a member of the board of the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/op...gewanted=print
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Old 07-04-2013, 01:41 PM   #2
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I'll also post this here.

Poor kid. Must have been hard.

Zach Wahls Speaks About Family - YouTube
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:14 PM   #3
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This 2004 NY Times Magazine feature changed my view on same-sex parenting. Its 7 pages long, so I'm not going to post the whole thing:

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Ry Russo-Young, a 22-year-old filmmaker and performer, has a lot to explain, starting with her name. It's Ry, just Ry, not short for Ryan, or a misspelling of Ray, or a nickname someone gave her as a child or a pretension she took on in her teens. Ry is simply a name that her mothers liked the sound of when they named her, an act of creativity as novel and yet, to their minds, as natural as the conception of Ry herself, a feat that involved the sperm of a gay man, the egg of a lesbian in love and one very clean glass syringe.
Earlier this year, over dinner at a small restaurant in the West Village, a few blocks from where she was raised, Ry was offering me a short lecture that she has been called on to deliver dozens of times, politely solving the puzzle that is her family for other people. She was explaining her name, explaining her mothers' relationship, explaining her older sister, whose name, Cade, also demands clarification. She was explaining how it is that she has no father, and when pressed further -- after all, everyone has a father -- she raised her eyebrows, dark and thick and finely shaped, just a little. ''You mean who's my sperm donor?'' she asked. I apologized -- ''father'' can be a loaded word for children of lesbian mothers -- but she shrugged it off with a small wave of her hand, her dark red nails flashing by. ''It's O.K.,'' she said. ''I'm not fussy about stuff like that.''
Ry has long dark hair, a slightly breathy voice and a hint of a tough-girl, New York accent. Tall enough that she has presence by default, she's a natural performer, inclined to stacked heels and deep red lipstick. On the subject of her parents, she is particularly confident in the quality of her material, and she unpacked the details at a leisurely pace. As for her own sexuality, she's straight, which she said she knows with increasing certainty with each passing year. ''Yeah, you know, I made out with a girl in high school,'' she said. ''I get an A for effort.''
Growing Up With Mom and Mom - NYTimes.com

The one thing I wonder about, however, is how do gay parents deal with their child going through puberty? I'm guessing it will be awkward for two fathers to a daughter who might have questions about her changing body, as it would be for two mothers and their son. I know the kid could easily go to a relative or family friend for questions, so I wonder what it is like for same-sex parents to deal with not being the parent to turn to during a major turning point in their childrens' lives. It sounds like there would be a void between the parents and the kids.
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:18 PM   #4
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fundamental right to be parents
I found this to be a very interesting statement. I haven't thought of parenting as a right as much as I've seen it as calling or a responsibility to the society in which we live. Perhaps it's just semantics - perhaps there is something more to it. I'll need to think on that more.

Quote:
Being a good-enough parent counts for gay people, just as it does for straight people.
This does exactly "play from strength." It seems to almost argue that since kids of gay parents haven't met catastrophe, then it is okay.

It could also be said that often times children grow up functional/successful despite less than optimal circumstance, but that doesn't mean we need to expand/create/endorse more of these less than optimal circumstance.
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:50 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AEON View Post

It could also be said that often times children grow up functional/successful despite less than optimal circumstance, but that doesn't mean we need to expand/create/endorse more of these less than optimal circumstance.
Are you suggesting that same sex parenting is less than optimal? Given that gay couples almost certainly don't conceive unintentionally, and that the effort needed to become parents makes it very likely that their children are deeply wanted, and that the differences the OP's article mentions makes it likely that gay parents will think long and hard about things that many parents take for granted..... that just doesn't seem to be the case to me. Just the fact that one parent is XX and one is XY seems to contribute very little to the situation being optimal.
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:55 PM   #6
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Irvine, the Atlantic article you posted a while ago talks a bit about how gay families parent more equitably and are better able to share tasks that are usually divided along gender lines. How do you feel about how these tasks get identified with either mothering or fathering? Does it feel good as a man to think about stepping into "mothering" roles, or does it feel bad, as in "why can't we just say that I'm fathering?" Do tasks like sharing about puberty with an opposite sex child feel natural, or does it feel like a big stretch?
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Old 07-04-2013, 07:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by AEON View Post
I found this to be a very interesting statement. I haven't thought of parenting as a right as much as I've seen it as calling or a responsibility to the society in which we live. Perhaps it's just semantics - perhaps there is something more to it. I'll need to think on that more.

You'll note that the author was disagreeing with that premise.

Do straight people become parents because its I. The best I ferrets of a theoretical child, or do they become parents because they want to become parents? Don't (wanted, intentional) children ultimately come into existence precisely because adults want them?

How do you feel about single straight women, often of considerable means, who have children on their own?


Quote:
This does exactly "play from strength." It seems to almost argue that since kids of gay parents haven't met catastrophe, then it is okay.

It could also be said that often times children grow up functional/successful despite less than optimal circumstance, but that doesn't mean we need to expand/create/endorse more of these less than optimal circumstance.

You haven't shown at all that it is less than optimal. And this is where it becomes very statist of social conservatives to argue about promoting certain "ideals" -- who's ideals? Do we not trust people to do what's best for them?

It also seems insane to me for anti-choice folk to argue against SSA.
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Old 07-04-2013, 09:22 PM   #8
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I grew up without a father. I was raised by my mother and grandmother, who also lives with my mom. Obviously not the same thing, but also not very different. I was raised by two women, and no men. While there is stigma around a single mom raising a kid, I think theres a lot less for her than there is surrounding a lesbian or gay couple raising a kid. At least when I was growing up. To me that seems like the only big difference between gay parents vs. single parents (or in my case mom+grandma). I don't think that if my grandma was 40 years younger and not actually my grandmother it would have made a big difference.

And looking back I can say that it WAS less than ideal. I really wish I had a father, or any adult male role model in my life. I literally didn't have a single one. Like Pearl mentioned, the teenage years were very difficult and I had to figure things out on my own, as my mom didn't know how to go about talking to me about things like puberty, etc. But even so during that time I didn't really think about how not having a father made things more difficult. It wasn't me just trying to be positive about it; I just didn't realize it at the time. Its only recently I've been able to look back and see how that would have made a difference.

That being said, my mother and grandmother did a wonderful job raising me, the absolute best they could, and I love them very much for that. And I like to think I turned out okay. I still wish I had a father, but I can't change that. So yeah, the fact that a same sex couple loses the male/female role model dynamic is less than "ideal," especially when the kid is of the opposite gender. But so what? There's many other conditions that make parenting less than ideal; we were also pretty poor, just like many other families. That sure as hell makes raising a kid(s) harder. A couple (or single mother/father) doesn't need the perfectly ideal conditions to be good parents. The fact that two people (or one) care and love you enough to raise you is all that's needed to raise a well rounded person. There are so many children in the world without parents, that I find it repulsive to suggest that a same sex couple shouldn't be allowed to adopt a child. If you're gonna say that then you damn well better adopt the little Chinese girl that her parents abandoned because you think the same sex couple shouldnt.
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Old 07-04-2013, 09:37 PM   #9
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That was a great post. Thank you
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Old 07-04-2013, 10:17 PM   #10
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Old 07-04-2013, 10:31 PM   #11
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Thanks Pac for your honest post!

I also wonder about dating. You know the story of a guy being nervous of meeting his new girlfriend's dad? Because the old story of the father scaring the guy away, sometimes with a shot gun? Now imagine dealing with two fathers. I would guess that is more nerve wracking. Same with two mothers and their son. Heck, it will be the same with two fathers and their son, two mothers and their daughter. It's just as a straight girl, I've had to deal with the old introducing boyfriends to my dad who defines the saying, "There's no good man for a father's daughter". So I wonder what happens when the daughter of two gay men brings home her boyfriend, especially as a teenager?
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Old 07-04-2013, 11:41 PM   #12
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Not to push stereotypes, but that makes me think of the gay couple in Modern Family, and personally I wouldn't be very intimated
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Old 07-04-2013, 11:44 PM   #13
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Not to push stereotypes, but that makes me think of the gay couple in Modern Family, and personally I wouldn't be very intimated

Like the line from The Birdcage: "I'm very maternal, and Albert is practically a breast!"
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Old 07-04-2013, 11:46 PM   #14
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Well, not all gay men are the effeminate type. Some are very masculine. Gay and straight, no guy wants to deal with a father like that!
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Old 07-05-2013, 12:04 AM   #15
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#9 is my favorite
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