Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Letter to the Editor (not accepted)

In my newly overturned leaf of optimism, I am going to assume that the following letter to the editor of the New York Times regarding the article referred to in previous posts was simply too long (as opposed to poorly worded or not accepted due to its tone). I will reiterate my argument (in hopefully better ways) in later posts.

In the article Growing Up With Mom and Mom, author Susan Dominus wasted a great opportunity to deeply and analytically probe the issue of how adult children of gay parents (ACGP hereafter) turn out. While Dominus mentions the literature and brushes over several interesting themes, she squanders the forum and wastes our time by never really making a point or really highlighting what's interesting about this newly emerging phenomenon.

As a lesbian parent of a 4 year old (she would correct me: four and one-half), I think the article touches on, but misses the main point on at least three issues. First, the article (not unlike most research that has been performed on the subject) focuses on the effects of the gay parents on the children rather than the effect of a homophobic society on the children. In other words, it is a social disease. From the article, it seems that one factor that makes ACGP different is not so much that they have gay or lesbian parents, but that they face homophobia more intimately and at a younger age than their heterosexually-parented counterparts. As such, they seem to feel compelled to protect their parents by not telling them about homophobic comments that they received or other things that they experience. This seems to be a factor that could put undue stress on kids, but has more to do with society than the parent's influence.

Second, the author focuses on the scanty research (25 lesbian couples! Any statistician worth his salt would say that you need a sample of at least 40 to make any meaningful generalizations) that claims that ACGPs are more likely to explore their own sexuality and therefore may be more likely to be homosexual than other kids. Of course, this research does not attempt to tease out other biological and social factors that might make kids more likely to explore their sexuality (like being the first generation to see Ellen come out on national tv!). Also, it begs why we even ask this question when most gay people were spawned from heterosexual parents in the first place. If we think that gay parents are likely to rear gay kids then where did gay people come from to begin with? This seems like a ridiculous line of thought.

Lastly, the article discusses the difficulty that ACGPs face living in two worlds: the heterosexual world and the homosexual world. "You know, I feel like I'm somewhere in between queer and straight culture, wedged in this strange place, this lonely place, Ry told me. I can relate to both cultures, but sometimes I feel like I'm not belonging to either".

This is obviously not a generalizable observation and depends on how involved the parents are in the gay community and how much the gay parents emphasize their sexuality and its relationship to their community and family. Our family has both gay and straight friends alike in near the proportion that they exist in the world. And while we do not shy away from the issue (we are both completely out in every aspect of our lives), we do not focus on it either. We hope that our daughter will grow up happy, tolerant and strong in herself. And that her parent's sexuality will be but one small aspect of her amazing self.

No comments: