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V 35 Issue 26

 
 
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From the mouths of penguins
From the mouths of penguins
A cartoon strip reminds us how many still view Lesbian moms as an indictment of fatherhood

by Chris Crain - SGN Contributing Writer

My favorite comic strip in college was "Bloom County" by Berkeley Breathed, so it's great to see him back stirring up trouble. In the strip's second (actually, third) coming, lovably naïve penguin Opus gets title billing.

In a recent "Opus" strip, two boys talked about a third grader named David Dinkle who has two moms and no dad.

"A dearth of dads for David Dinkle," quips one. "Multiple mommies," replies the other.

"No dad?" asks Opus. "Makes you wonder," said one of the boys. "Makes you wonder how he'll do without a male role model in the house."

On cue, legendary misogynist Steve Dallas, a longtime "Bloom County" character, hurls his TV through the window and emerges, festooned in a ballcap fashioned with female bazoombas, a beer in hand, three days' growth beard and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

"Now THAT was a pitch you @$%* moron!" he yells to the ballplayers on the telly.

The response to the strip from aggrieved heterosexual males (and their erstwhile admirers) was predictable, swift and predictably swift. Blogger Glenn Sacks was typical, complaining that Breathed's "message is clear: dads are useless as role models (when they're not outright destructive), and kids have little need or use for them."

In a disclaimer (in parenthesis) at the end of his post, Sacks insisted his preference for opposite-sex parents "should NOT be construed as a criticism of Lesbians, Lesbian moms or Gays." (One can imagine him arguing a preference for same-raced parents not being racist.)

Within days, Sacks was whining that he had been victimized: deliberately misunderstood by political correct Queers. He took particular umbrage that some Gay bloggers had "mischaracterized" him as anti-Gay. Where in the world did they get that idea?

Since Sacks seemed so forlorn that no one took his objections seriously, I'm more than happy to take the bait. Is Sacks right that, as far as Berkeley Breathed goes, "dads are useless as role models" and "kids only need mothers"?

That take on "Opus" only works, of course, if we can imagine that Breathed's apparent support for Gay parents is limited to Lesbian moms. If "dads are useless" and "kids only need mothers," then Gay fathers would be total anathema, right? Can anyone imagine this is what Breathed was saying, much less what he actually thinks?

If "Opus" had a real agenda, then the more likely message is that any loving couple can raise a child, regardless of the parents' gender or sexual orientation. So much for daddy victimization; that message would diminish the mommy role every bit as much - and every bit as little.

My own take on "Opus" isn't so serious (imagine that - comedy from a comic strip!). Berkeley Breathed has never used the character of Steve Dallas to represent all men, much less all potential fathers. (Actually, lost on everyone is the fact that Steve actually came out as Gay at the end of Breathed's "Outland" strip, only to revert to chauvinism after "ex-Gay therapy.")

I believe Breathed was really just reminding us through humor that there are plenty of redneck sexist couch potatoes out there who aren't particularly good role models of any sort. So don't assume the best way to protect children is to make sure we can check both gender boxes next to the parents' names. The best way to ensure a child's well-being is to check the box next to "loving, supportive and attentive."

Sacks' more serious claim, one shared by plenty of anti-Gay conservatives, is that "when two Gay men parent a child, children lose something substantial from not having a mother, and when two women parent, the child loses something substantial from not having a father."

I understand the point, although it runs counter to every social science study out there comparing the children of Gay parents with those raised by opposite-sex couples. What I don't understand is, assuming Sacks is right, what we're supposed to do about it.

Limit parental rights to opposite-sex couples? How cruel! If a child is disadvantaged by having Gay parents, then they need extra support and assistance from the government, not less.

Discourage Gay couples from parenting? It won't work, for two good reasons. First, Gays will have kids for the same reasons heteros do, and those who devalue our relationships are the last source we'd turn to for advice on whether to take the parental plunge.

Second, let's look where the whole idea of ranking parental scenarios by "likelihood of success" leads. We should be happier with Gay couples than single hetero parents, for one. After all, two moms should be better than one, even if they're not as good as a mom and a dad.

And while we're at it, wealthy parents are better able to care for kids than poor parents; and why not start comparing children from parents of one race to those from another? Can we stop the madness already?

The real disappointment is how many people still view Lesbian moms as an indictment of fathers. We saw the same phenomenon when Mary Cheney announced she and her partner were expecting. As with Gay marriage, it's as if these folks find it easier to attack the Gays than deal with the messy, intractable, actual problems of couples and parenting.

And I'm just cynical enough to believe that for many anti-Gay conservatives, there's a Karl Rovian private understanding that Gay marriage and Gay parents aren't in the top 10 actual threats to the traditional family. But wedge issues play (and fund-raise) so much better in Peoria.

Well, not in Bloom County, at least.

Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade, Southern Voice, and Gay publications in three other cities. He can be reached via his blog at www.citizencrain.com.

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