Monday, January 24, 2011

Life Under The Microscope

Is being a gay parents different from being heterosexual parents? Well, for the most part...while we all face most of the same challenges, their are some additional challenges to being a gay parent. One of those challenges seems to be that the world is watching your family to see what happens. It doesn't matter how many same-sex parents have come before you, the rest of the world still looks at same-sex couple raising children as some strange and never before seen thing. In my opinion there is more pressure on same-sex families to measure up to societies guidelines. Our fear is that any mistakes or inadequacies in our parenting will become reflective of our our being gay persons instead of instead of human beings with all too human limitations.

For instance...our families very first YouTube video will always stand out in my mind. It was just a simple video of us sitting around the dinner table, eating dinner and talking about gay families and why Prop 8 hurts families like ours. Instead of the death threats I expected we got criticised for what we were eating for dinner that night....chicken nuggets. The actual text of the comment is lost to memory but the meaning of it was clear..."See! two men can't raise kids because you can't cook a decent meal!". Now...I'm not a great cook, but I get the job done and neither of my parents were any better so there wasn't much to learn from. Jay however is a great cook and between the two of us we eat pretty good.

 Gay families get discussed day in and day out. Every time we have a discussion about marriage equality, we also have a discussion about the health and well being of children...whether its from the "oh won't somebody save the children!" point of view...or from a more reasoned stand point that acknowledges gay parents. We are accused of buying our children, manufacturing them, stealing them, and warping them with our "alternative lifestyle". We are accused of making our kids gay because we are gay or that our kids will grow up confused about gender rolls...and the people who make all these accusations do so in the face of a generation of kids of same sex parents that have grown up to be just fine. But those acknowledging those kids would mean admitting that we did something right. Not that that is any surprise...Those who oppose equal rights for the LGBT community have no intention of cutting us any slack and any perceived weakness is fair game and serves as proof of our inferiority to them.

Maybe it's only my paranoia...but I can't face the mom's at my kids school without thinking that they judging the way I take care of my kids. School is one of those places where its still mostly moms. They drop off their kids, volunteer in the classroom, and network play dates. Their gaze can be very blatantly appraising and because of this I admit to overcompensating a bit. I want to make sure that my kids are not suffering because of me in some way. So I make sure that my daughter outfit is the cutest it can be and her hair done as well as my skill can accomplish...because not only are those moms tough but so are their daughters. Similarly I try make sure that my son is not only dressed...but with a bit of style...he's becoming a preteen and what you where starts to matter so much more. For both of them, we are conscious of how they are doing educationally and make sure they are doing the best that they are capable of...which is alot. We are also conscious of their social connections...who their best friend  are, who they hang out with at recess, and who may be picking on them that week. And all of these things go through my mental filters when I consider whether my being a gay parent is having an impact on my child.....and I don't think our experience is especially unique. I would put dollars to donuts that other gay families experience something similar.

I have known families with heterosexual parents that live off of TV dinners...that always eat in front of a television..that don't require their kids to finish their homework before they do anything else...that don't make their kids keep their rooms clean..that don't monitor how their kids are doing in school until they get a call from the principal...that cursed in front of their children....and engaged in loud abusive arguments in front of their kids. None of these parents right to BE a parent was ever called into question even if their ability to be a parent might have been. Not that I want to do any of these things mind's just that if I did it would be taken as a reason why gay people shouldn't have kids....never mind the fact that more then half of America's children are being raised on a steady diet of McDonald's and macaroni and cheese....right now.-

Being on YouTube puts us bang in the limelight and ripe for criticism, but the truth of the matter is that we were already under that scrutiny from the moment we adopted. I have sensed it in my the parents of my kids the frank stares of others when our family goes out to dinner. The world may watch but that scrutiny isn't always laced with malice...sometimes it's just simple curiosity. They have never seen two men or two women raising kids before. Even though I know there are so many of us we must be a rarer breed than I imagined.

I hope someday that changes. Perhaps when another generation of kids raised by gay families enters society to tell it their was nothing to be afraid of. Perhaps if more same-sex families came out publicly to tell their stories....which is what we hoped to engender with our YouTube channel. Maybe one day their will be no more NOM's or Family Research Councils to turn us into bogeymen....a day when it will be permissible to be gay, a parent, and an imperfect human being all at the same time. I wish that day would hurry up and get here but until them we continue to live under societies microscope.

Until next time dear readers...


  1. Honestly, I think I'm pretty darn lucky that I personally know how you guys are as a family. I just wish that those who criticize and doubt your abilities as parents know you guys much as I do. That's when NOMs and FRCs will cease to exist.

    Keep up the good work guys.

  2. Whenever the weight of those stares gets you down, take comfort in the fact that you are an inspiration to so many of us. Being the decent guys that you are is all that anyone can ask of you. After all, you can't please everyone.

  3. I wondered how you guys coped or dealt with those kind of issues. I imagined you dealt with a lot of stares whether out of curiosity or judgment. I think us gays tend to be in a position where we must represent not only ourselves but an entire social group (homosexuals) at all times, because whether it's fair or not (answer: it's not), a lot of people tend to stereotype and generalize about entire groups of people based off a few examples. So there is more pressure to be perfect or to overcompensate and so on. "Under the microscope" is such a perfect title for this entry

    And in your case, on top of being a "gay representative" you are a YouTube celebrity now, so you have become more of a "public" figure now. I imagine it's like being a politician. There may be more pressure to watch your words carefully, you have to explain every little thing when you're criticized or questioned for the smallest of details, you have certain things that you do taken widely out of context and misinterpreted, etc.

    I personally think you guys do a great job "representing" gays and gay families (let alone stripping away the gay stuff and admiring the fact that you guys are great parents, great people, great role models period). You're not overly scripting things out and trying to play for the cameras, and that's what's charming to me. You guys have shown just how amazing you guys are just by being genuine and real. It's made me re-evaluate my own ideals and limits of thinking on how great an unconventional family can be.

    I do have to say, "being under the microscope" is the thing I'm least looking forward to if and when I come out. It's 1 of the reasons why I haven't yet. The more I see people like you guys handle it all with such grace though, it gives me more courage and strength to do it. Yet another great entry!

  4. First off, this is an excellent post. Secondly, I want to encourage you guys. We are close friends with Sandy Schuster and Maddie Isaacson. In the 70's the went all the way to the US supreme court to fight for the right to keep and raise their 6 children. Their ex-husbands argument was that two women, not to mention two lesbians could not successfully raise a healthy, socially adjusted family.

    They were under that microscope you talk about for years. They actually became a test case for children raised in families of same sex parents. The results of that test are the basis for why gay men and women can adopt today. Their fight was worth it, not only for themselves, but for all of us.

    The grace with which you handle being in that spotlight is amazing, and not only does it encourage even more people than you know; it is opening doors for the families of the future. So, Thank you.

    Thank you for putting your lives out there. Thank you for showing that "our" families are not so much different than that of "traditional" families. I have 3 brothers and a sister. All of them raised kids. All of them fed their kids chicken nuggets at one time or another. They all made sure their children were as well dressed as they could manage. It's just being a parent.

    But what you guys do, in allowing your lives to be under that microscope is amazing. We do not yet know what kinds of doors will be opened in the future because of you.

    Sandy and Maddie have children my age (early 40's). A generation has basically passed. No one knows who they are any more. The spotlight is off of them. The things they accomplished for our community, however, still shine bright. The path they pioneered has blessed all of us, whether we know it or not.

    One day, the microscope will be on someone else, but the results of the wonderful family you are raising in the lime light will have a much longer lasting effect. Not only will you be able to look back and see how successful your own family has become, but doors for all families will be opened, and acceptance granted in places we never dreamed possible.

    The blessings that last forever are great; and I applaud you for everything you do every day. Thank you . Thank you. Thank you.

  5. I am really grateful that you have a Youtube channel and keep making new videos. I found your channel last month. Since then I have been checking your videos :)

    I am a Japanese. I live in Japan. I have never seen a gay family before. There is no gay family in Japan. Zero. Most of Japanese people don't know that there are many gay families in the US and I didn't either.

    So it is very amazing and reassuring for me to realize that gay families truly exist in the US. I always feel a kind of hope when I watch your videos. I think I can say it is a hope for being able to connect with somebody on an emotionally deep level as a family even though I am being a homosexual man.

    I'm not sure if what I am writing here is expressing what I really want to tell because I am not a native English speaker. But I really appreciate that you keep blogging and updating your videos on Youtube.

    Thank you very much.

  6. @ everyone...thank you for the very kind comments. Lately I have had a great deal of trouble finding words to put on the page that is positive and not just another pointless and angry exchange in the ludicrous "culture war". So much that happens seems to be same crud different day and it weighs down my spirit some days. Responses like these help me understand that this blog reaches farther than I think it does. That's an uplifting and sobering realization all at once. Thank you all.

    @ the anonymous Japanese reader...your english is awsome...and so was your comment. Thank you.

    @Kidder....Thank you for you comments as well and If you get the opportunity, please say thank you to Sandy and Maddie from us. We have always been very aware that many of the rights that we enjoy as a gay couple are built on the hard work and sacrifices of others...and I know what I call "hard work and sacrifice" may have just been "living life" for much of what we can do comes from battles that those who came before us fought and the trails they blazed. In effect, we stand on their shoulders much as later generations will stand on ours.

    I can not imagine my life without my family and the sheer ability to be able to be able to have that experience is in part due to the trails Sandie and Maddie blazed just living their own day to day if you get the chance...give them a hearty thanks from us.


  7. Bryan,
    This particular post got to me even more than most, and I remembered that I know someone who raised a son with his partner. I don't remember if it was in the 50's or 60's. I brought your post to his attention, and he responded:

    "Thanks for sending it on. The world changes in unpredictable ways. When Richard and I were raising Jonathan, the notion of anyone raising the issue was almost not possible. So we went blithely on, not worried about it. It has become openly political, and though more acceptable in general, there are more activists out there willing to give their "tut-tuts", "ahems" or much worse."
    I really appreciate your putting yourself out there. Keep up the good work!

  8. Hi Bryan!

    Thank you for a very interesting and important blog. When I read this I laughed a little about what you wrote about your first video on YT. That people reacted when you ate chicken nuggets?? What! Who doesn´t eat chicken nuggets now and then? I remember when I saw that video I first saw those cute children of yours and then I thought what a brave family. Inviting us in to you dining room, just to show the world that this is a family with gay parents. They are no different. They are just having dinner as any other family.

    So I hope that this as you call it " life under microscope" does not get to much on you. ( is that right to write so? Sometimes my fingers get stuck in the keyboard writing in english:), but I hope you understand what I mean. ) So that you can relax and enjoy the life with your beautiful family.

  9. Anytime I think about this topic I get irritated. I always feel like our lives are being short-changed for something we have no control over.


    but I guess that's what life is about, playing the cards you're dealt with grace.

    I don't know, I'm conflicted.