by Michael Raitt -
SGN Contributing Writer
I don't get back to Capitol Hill [often]. & It was special to & find a column of relevance to a straight guy. I have two boys, one Gay, one straight, and to my eternal satisfaction, they are very close to each other, and I, modestly, am close to both of them. They are both gone from home, independent, and living happy lives. [One son] came out eight or nine years ago. & However, while I read your warm and encouraging column with great interest, I found [one] of my issues was not mentioned. [The issue] for me & was, 'Oh, how sad. & [My Gay son] won't be able to enjoy having children as I have done and as I had hoped for him.'& In many parts of the U.S. there is still a sanction against [Gay/Lesbian parents] and even still, I believe, there is a sanction against it in the Gay community itself. To me, this is a great pity. To me, being a parent was the most fulfilling and focusing part of my life. I believe that the most emotionally stable and secure adults in our community should be the parents of our future. I claim no special mandate for straight couples in this regard as possessing the key to success. But I meet many Gay men in my travels who I think would make terrific fathers, but somehow it does not seem to be on their radar screens. But I do wish that parenting was seen as a fundamental issue for Gay men and that there was a large support community for this choice. Perhaps, I am simply out of date. What do you think?
Best wishes, D.
D, thank you for your thoughtful letter. It is clear you have raised two great sons and you love them and are proud of them. The fact that you all are close and they are happy and successful speaks to what you brought (and continue to bring) to their lives as their dad.
I do not think you are out of date. In fact, I think you are far ahead of a particular group of your peers. You are right; for a specific group of parents, having and raising children is the most fulfilling part of their lives. It provides parents with purpose and accomplishment which sets their children on a trajectory that brings them happiness and success. The emotional and intellectual temperament of children - which is greatly impacted by the intellectual and emotional temperament of their parents - will contribute greatly to our future cultural climate. In my opinion, this supersedes everything! I call this legacy.
As well, you bring up a couple of very real hurdles: First, the social mores that influence how individuals map out their lives. Social mores are the stories and expectations that we put on our children about how they should be in our society. Children pick up these mores and plan out their lives in large part based on how they perceive these expectations. Even now, young Lesbians and Gays don't get very many messages or stories that provide them with a framework that supports them as normal people, let alone healthy parents raising their own healthy children.
In addition, there are culturally imposed restrictions that are placed on Gay men and Lesbian women that legally prevent them from being parents because they are denied the right to adopt. Like many straight couples, certain Lesbian/Gay couples biologically (for legitimate medical reasons, not for the obvious "they don't have the right parts" reason) cannot conceive, so their only option is to adopt.
Through all my years working as a therapist and as a teacher, I've come to form some opinions about what being a good parent looks like. Good parents create dynamics with their children that support a healthy, positive self-image within each child without shaming them about who they are. They teach their children that there are consequences and cause-and-effect outcomes, and they don't shield them from life completely. Rather, they give their children skills and education to effectively cope and manage the challenges that are inevitable in life. Good parents instill a sense that each of their children is loveable and help them develop an image of their lives as adults that include love and success in their peer group. Equally as important, good parents recognize that diversity abounds in the world and that one will be more successful when one learns tolerance and respect of others and oneself.
There is absolutely nothing that proves that Gay men or Lesbian women are any less capable of these parenting tasks than any of their straight peers. Nothing! Great parents are great parents. This is solely about their "characterology" and has nothing to do with who they choose to love and be in a relationship with. Being Gay or Lesbian in no way reflects poor characterology.
As more and more young Lesbian women and Gay men see that it is possible for them to be good parents, and do what it takes to be good parents, more and more same-gender couples will have children. These children will benefit from the love and values that these parents provide. The more this happens, the more the cultural mores will slowly evolve. These changes will be reflected in the laws of the land. These healthy, well-balanced children will become healthy, well-balanced leaders, and our world therefore has the chance to become a better place.
Parenting can be a very rich and rewarding experience. It is about legacy. Legacy is both a responsibility and one of the greatest honors in a person's life. D, you have legacy with both your sons, by the way in which you show up in the world as a parent of a Gay son, and now by sparking more thought and consideration about this topic. Parents - Lesbian, Gay, or straight - have an equal opportunity to contribute to a positive legacy and, personally, I, like you, look forward to seeing more and more Gay/Lesbian couples being parents and the benefits our culture will reap from that.
Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer for the SGN. He writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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