Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gay Parents/ Single Parents: Getting Past the Gay Poster Family

Too bad blogger won't let me draw a venn diagram that would save me a few hundred words.

As I've said before, I'm very excited about the upcoming SCOTUS cases focused on gay marriage, and I hope this is the gay marriage moment.  However, the conservative argument for gay marriage is already setting my teeth on edge.  Shortly after I heard about this public service campaign targeting young moms, I read this article in the NYTimes about the American Academy of Pediatrics coming out in support of gay marriage.  I found this sentence from the article very interesting: “'Many studies compare wealthy, well-educated lesbian mothers to single heterosexual mothers instead of married couples,' Dr. Marks said." Maybe I'm reaching, but this sentence seemed to signal all sorts of unspoken ideas about who lesbian mothers are (partnered, wealthy, educated, white, older) and who single mothers are (straight, poor, minority, uneducated).  These assumptions seem neither accurate nor useful.  Lesbian mothers are partnered and they are signal, they come in all colors, are older and younger, and richer and poorer.  Shockingly, a lesbian mother can also be a single mother!

There is a certain political expediency in presenting gay families with kids as a model minority, but I think it's a poor strategy for the long haul. Gay families are as good as straight families, but that also means that we're as messed up, complicated, and imperfect as all other families.  Trying to present ourselves as some non-existent ideal family (an ideal that easily slides into racism and classism), just sets us up for the backlash when our enemies get hip to the fact that gay families can face divorce and poverty and a wealth of other issues just like our straight counterparts.

"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." If I was to be so cheesy as to having a parenting motto, that would be it.  As for individual moms and dads and imas and memes and babas, the goal of perfection hurts gay families as a group.  The only perfection is our love for our kids, which outlives exhaustion, frustration, and even anger.  That love doesn't differentiate between one parent, two, or more.  It doesn't care about color or money or age.  Love and imperfection, that is family.

An interesting commentary from a single mom can be found here, and here is a link to Melissa Harris-Perry's take on the the NYC public health campaign.

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