It's the eve of the beginning of oral arguments for the Supreme Court on the issues of Prop 8 and DOMA and here I am on a Saturday already holding my breath. It's been a whirlwind week in which the pending cases have been front and center for us all week long. As most of you know...since our Facebook wall is practically wallpapered with links....my son Daniel's letter to Chief Justice John Roberts has gone viral and gotten a lot of attention. Thankfully, the lions share of that attention has been positive and we have been very happy to pass that along to him. I was/am very proud of him and I feel he earned every bit of the praise he has received from this.
However, when it comes to kids and the public eye, there are many who ask if showing our children in such a public way is good for them. This question was brought to me just this last week in a brief spot that Daniel and I were in for CNN's Starting Point. The one and only question I received from the anchors was nothing to with DOMA or Prop 8 but everything to do with why we as parents would chose to put our kids in the spotlight:
...Tell me a little bit about putting your family out there for the world to see. There can be down sides to that too. People can say, "Look, you're showing what it's like to be your family"....There are others who say, "Maybe kids shouldn't be in the spotlight."It's a fair question...and one that I had a specific answer for but as a parent first and marriage equality advocate second I think the topic is one that bears further discussion. So grab your favorite beverage and follow me after the jump....
The answer I gave to CNN needed to be short and too the point and so....distilled it is this: that laws like Prop 8 and DOMA harm us directly. There does exist a potential for our marriage to be completely invalidated by the Scotus and that's a really big deal for all of us as a family...not just the adults. Similarly, Prop 8 and DOMA's effects don't just harm us as adults, but trickles down to effect our kids as well. This is what's at stake for us. It is not simply an issue or moral abstract...it is the where the rubber meets the road of our lives.
But many would argue that, while that is true, it does not mean that children need to be front and center to the debate. Many feel that they are too young to really understand the issues they are addressing and many look at a child's point of view as being too influenced by pressure from parents. And still more look at media attention on children as being inherently damaging all by itself. All understandable...especially because, as parents we want to shield children from harm when ever we can. After all, our news is filled with stories of child stars who have crashed and burned later in life that we have developed this view that media exposure is always bad......but is it?
The reason we began YouTube was to give the world a window into the daily lives of a same-sex family. Many people may not know a gay person...they may not have good notions about two men raising children..and still more just may not get how it all works. We understand that, hell....when Jay and I were young men coming out society was only just beginning to talk about same-sex couples raising kids and the discourse was not always a good one. Society still to this day sends the message that kids raised in same-sex households will be a several disadvantages....being teased and bullied, missing the input of a opposite sex parent...and the result of this would be a damaged individual with emotional problems. In short....a list of Complete and utter bullsh*t fed by a lack of real experience with same-sex parents raising kids.
Both Jay and I have had the benefit of knowing kids around our age who had two moms or two dads. When I was a teen, and not out even to myself, there was a young man across the street from me who was being raised by two moms. The good friend of my first boyfriend was a girl with two moms. These examples were out there even if you didn't see examples of them in the news or on television. These people being raised by gay parents were neither gay themselves...nor prone to anymore problems than any one else. And both of them loved their parents very much. Being able to have those examples in my life helped me to understand that family wasn't out of the question for a gay person....even if It seemed hard to make happen. If I wanted to be a dad, my kids would turn out OK.
But the rest of the nation doesn't have the benefit of having someone to look to in order to realize that they fearful stories we are told about gays parenting children are just shadows that vanish in the light of actual experience. And so....as Prop 8 commercials aired in 2008 and not a gay family was shown everywhere we began to be a little vexed. After all, Prop 8 effected us directly. And as NOM kept on with their shrill, "marriage is about the children campaign.".....no one was saying, "Hey, we have kids too. What about them?" And so we decided it was time that the world learned a thing or two about gay families. And so we started small, never expecting it to take on the life that it has. But over the years we have hoped that it has done good work in the world and helped all people regardless of what walk of life they come from to see what a family with same-sex parents looks like and functions. Our hope is that some day, when the kids are adults, they will look back and be proud of what they were a part of.....and not resentful. I know that is somewhat of a leap of faith on our parts.
But one additional piece of this puzzle still has yet to be discussed...and that's giving kids credit for finding their own voices. There is growing collection of voices from the children of same-sex families and what they have to say speaks volumes:
(I could not find clips of Madison Galluccio's or Zach Wahl's original speach's that had intact audio....thank's a lot YouTube.)
I am proud that my son stands among faces like these. These are kids who are just standing up to tell the world in their own words to show the world just how awesome they are and thereby shatter all the misconceptions people hold about how the children of gay families grow up. Their words carry more weight than any of mine ever could. So it matters...
It matters to the 16 year old kid coming out to himself who now knows he doesn't have to give up his hopes for his life. It matters to the people who may vote on same-sex marriage in voting booths or legislative halls. It matters to the kids themselves that people see them for who they really are. but it's their words this time and their choice to stand up for their families. I, for one, am proud of all of them for it.
So in closing...yes, there is always a risk when you put your family in the public eye but what is at stake for us as same-sex families who have to fight for the same rights and protections that other families are automatically afforded makes it important that we do. But for every video that gets made and every comment that gets logged...or any attention that is garnered by the news...we are parents stand by them, shield them from the worst of internet discourse, and help them navigate through the attention they are receiving just for standing up to defend their families.
Someday I hope there comes a day when having two dads or two moms...or a transgendered parent...wont make a difference. When what matters is that you have parents that love and provide the very best care for their children. I hope that coming out, doesn't mean giving up on having a family....A day when we don't have to fight through legislatures and ballot initiatives just to have the relationships of loving and committed couples recognized as such....and not regarded as strangers in the eyes of the law with all the damage that does. But we don't live in that day yet.
Until we do, we have to keep telling our stories with dignity and respect. We need to protect our children and families....but the world also needs to know that our kids grow into the same happy, healthy adults that kids from straight families do. It seems like that fact should be such a no brainer....but sadly, to many people it is not.
I can't say what my son and daughter will say to me about all of this when they grow up. I know there are days when its fun and days when they would rather be coloring or playing video games....but that's all normal kid stuff. One day it will be there story to tell....just as Daniel has begun to do with this video. As time goes on their individual voices will become more distinct and their viewpoints wholly their own. Hopefully they will have learned from our YouTube experience the power of using your own voice to make change....but what ever hey decide I hope more than anything that they knew they had two dads that love them. But someday, I look forward to the story they have to tell....
until next time dear readers....