Despite the fact that scientific research has not shown that having lesbian parents is detrimental in any way to children, many continue to assert as fact that kids with gay parents somehow suffer from overwhelming hardship due to the horror of having gay parents. The Family Equality Council (FEC) has kicked off an initiative aimed at dispelling some of these unfounded assertions with an initiative called the “Outspoken Generation” that seeks to empower children to speak about their experiences of growing up with gay and lesbian parents.
The two chairs of the program are Ella Robinson and Zach Wahls. Ella Robinson’s father is Bishop Gene Robinson who became well known around the world when he became the first openly gay person to be an ordained Episcopal bishop. Zach Wahls earned his lesbian parent street cred when the video of his speech to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in which he discussed his mothers and their right to get married went viral.
While the FEC says that this program has been in the works for about a year, the need for it became more apparent and more urgent when documents emerged from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) stating that it was considering using children of LGBT parents to criticize their own parents as part of its effort to “document the victims” of same-sex marriage. Nothing says “family values” like trying to turn kids against their parents on camera.
As a parent, I feel torn about having our children speak for us in this manner. My discomfort is not that they should not speak out if they feel compelled but that we live in a world where our children must advocate for us and for themselves because a certain group thinks that they are “damaged goods” based solely on their parents. I am disheartened to think that our kids feel they must show the world how well they turned out, how smart they are, how accomplished, or that they are just like all the other kids. That pressure to be normal or better than everyone else is familiar to any of us who thought we could make up for being gay by being the perfect student or the best behaved child. I feel the pressure to be perfect as a parent in a two mom family. I worry that if my kids don’t live up to some imaginary standard there will be people who go home and think that our family, and by extension all same-sex parents are not good parents, not capable of raising children, and even worse that we should not be allowed to be married or to have/adopt children. Knowing that this pressure is transmitted to our children is a sad reality.
Parents, in a perfect world, should love, protect, and fight for their children. In this imperfect world, sometimes our children turn that around and are the ones who have to stand up and fight for us. At the same time I feel proud that these children and many others feel so strongly that they had good parents that they are happy to stand in front of a legislative body, a policy maker, or their grade school class and to express their pride and love for their parents. I hope that for children who want to speak out about their families will find a welcoming, nurturing, and educational home among the Outspoken Generation.
If you have gay or lesbian parents would you join this initiative? Would you want or support your children if they wanted to join? Are you as torn about it as I am?