(GP Editor’s note: This is the second of a three part series on Gay Adoption & Parenting by frequent GP commenters “V The K” and “Michigan Matt.” The first part, Gay Adoption, can be viewed here.)
Adoption is a minefield, costly and fraught with emotional, psychological and legal peril. Parenting is a different kind of minefield. In addition to the obvious economic costs of parenthood, Glenn Reynolds writes that the litigiousness of contemporary society exposes every parent to the risk of a lawsuit, of harassment by authorities for the merest insinuation of abuse, or of kids falling astray of the legal idiocy known as “Zero Tolerance.” And, hell yes, there are also the mundane challenges of school conferences, homework, orthodontists, the terrible twos and apocalyptic teen years… the full Erma Bombeck experience.
Parents have faced these challenges throughout history, but for gay parents, there are additional pressures. For a gay couple or a single, parenthood can be an express ride to the outskirts of gay society, or even complete exile. The stereotype is that other gays will be supportive of gay parenting, while traditional parents and especially Christians will be hostile. It doesn’t quite work that way in real life.
Gay culture may be politically supportive of the idea of gay parenting, but in practice, it is often hostile to the lifestyle good parenting requires. Gay culture celebrates self-gratification and personal fulfillment, and parenting is about self-denial and personal responsibility. Parenting means choosing nurturing over partying, it means you go to school functions, not Pride Parades (unless, of course, you want to put up your kids as stage props to shock the normals).
Furthermore, when you adopt kids from foster care, as V the K did, you also have to cope with the stigma society attaches to kids in the foster care system. The greatest hostility VtK encountered as a parent didn’t come from a church or a politician, but from a lesbian couple who lived in the house next door, and were intensely hostile to his sons and harassed his family constantly; making threats, spreading malicious gossip, revving their Harleys outside his bedroom every weekend morning at 6:00 am, even standing on their back deck and glaring when VtK’s kids were in his backyard.
On the other hand, many Christians who disapprove of the concept of gay adoption, can actually be supportive in the actual parenting. VtK’s original foster parenting license, for example, happened to be secured with the help of a church, and he was able to turn the church for support during the mot difficult period of his adoption. Another church helped a friend of VtK secure a foster license and is assisting with the adoption of one of his foster placements. The lesbian couple who cause VtK much grief moved out eventually, and their house was purchased by a minister and his wife, with whom VtK and his boys get along famously.
Michigan-Matt and his partner sought religious counsel before beginning the adoption process. “Our parish priest and some good friends all advised us that our plans to adopt would be an emotionally vulnerable, financially taxing, legally arduous and probably a personally painful experience,” offered Michigan-Matt.
“In the end, they were 100% correct. But we watched other family members learn how unpredictable birth defects, childhood accidents and hundreds of other uncontrollable intervening events and people can adversely impact your dreams of becoming a parent. So we continued our efforts to become parents –gay parents.”
And once you have kids, other parents, by and large, don’t see you as “gay parents,” they just see you as other parents. Once you have kids, you enter a new community of other families with children; and you will often find that you have more in common with them than you do with people who just happen to share your orientation. But at the same time, gay couples and single parents also have challenges unique to their situations. To cite just one, gay parents have to deal with the fact that there is a 96% or better probability that their children will grow up to be heterosexual, and it follows that these children will, or should, aspire to committed, monogamous heterosexual relationships.
Kids growing up in traditional families have these relationships modeled for them by their parent’s example. A single parent simply can’t demonstrate the give and take of a committed relationship, and a gay couple can not demonstrate the dynamics within a heterosexual relationship. The best we can do is teach our kids to value commitment, understand sacrifice and compromise, and understand that real male-female relationships are nothing like TV or the movies make then out to be.
It’s not impossible to instill these values, but it is a much greater challenge when the parents can’t model that relationship. So, for gay parents, the costs are higher, and the challengers are greater. Which will bring us to the third part of this essay: Why do we do it?
– V the K and Michigan-Matt