Across the pond they are busy debating marriage equality and everyone is having his or her say on the topic. Not one to miss out on the chance to be a complete asshat, Tory MP David Davies told the BBC, “I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it’s going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else.”
Oh dear. Really? Oh Mr. Davies how ridiculous you are. Let me count the ways. You think people can tolerate gay people in general just as long as that gay isn’t their own kid? Well I can tolerate stupid people so long as they aren’t the ones making policy that affects my life.
And really, you think people don’t want a gay kid because it will put a dent in the number of grandkids they’ll have? Welcome to the twenty-first century where the gays procreate too. Insert obligatory turkey baster joke here. This is absurd, especially considering that in our families we, the lesbians, are the leaders in the grandchild clubhouse What about the straight kids who never want to have babies? Does that make their parents wish to reject them?
The Huffington Post added its two cents. It makes a nice point about society being horrible for gay kids in particular and that maybe if society was less terrible parents would be more excited to have a gay kid. It’s a fair point, and one that needs to be made but I don’t think it really captures the ways parents can get carried away with their hopes for their children.
When you are a parent you can easily drift into the world of who your kid is before he or she is even born. You imagine her gracefully leaping and twirling, being athletic or brainy or a brilliant singer, or probably all of them because parents are the greediest bastards around. We want our kids to be awesome at everything.
It’s really hard to turn off. Parents are, in many ways, narcissists. The very act of bringing a child into the world requires a certain amount of self-assurance that due to the particularly amazing nature of your genes the world would be better off with a few more of you running around. It’s fairly obnoxious.
We want our kids to be just like us (until, like my daughter, they are too like us and we realize how horrible we were as children). We want to be able to relate to them so we teach them how we do things in our families. We have our own rules, traditions, quirks, and ceremonies that are uniquely ours and set our families apart from everyone else. We indoctrinate the little creatures from birth to create our own tiny tribes within society. It’s easier to accomplish this when everyone in the house is alike.
So maybe parents, particularly straight parents, would prefer not to have a gay kid and maybe that’s evil and born out of hatred for the homosexuals and our big, bad agenda but maybe it’s born out of the same place that makes me hope to the gods that my kids will not grow up to be conservative, republican, or Yankee fans because then what would we talk about? It’s foolish, but that’s a big part of being a parent, you hope for common ground to bridge the gap and smooth over those bumps.
Setting this wish, the wish for no gay babies, apart from all the other hopes and wishes parents have for their kids but never say out loud is really dangerous, particularly in a climate where kids are killing themselves because they are gay and they think somehow that makes them unworthy of living. Let’s put it in perspective, shall we? Having a gay kid should be no different than having a kid with blond hair (maybe you were wishing for brown) or with blue eyes (you wanted green) or left handed (because then you have to have a pair of those special scissors around the house). Would you tell your child that “jeez I really love you honey but I so much rather you had been blonde?” No. No parent this side of Number 4 Privet Drive would ever say that to her child.
Parents may fear having a gay kid in much the same way they fear having a kid who likes the ballet or curling. You know nothing about the ballet and only know curling as the sport with the rock and the brooms. Some of that fear comes from the same place in which you worry you’ll have nothing to talk about at the dinner table. Another part is certainly the fear of the almighty cock up. Parenting is one mistake after another. Most of them are tiny and don’t matter but some are huge. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is rejecting your child for who he or she is. That’s the kind of mistake you may never be able to fix. So I get it if you hope your kid isn’t gay because that’s one less possible screw up in the laundry list of possible disasters.
I am not saying that wishing for a kid who is the next Lebron James is the same as wishing that your daughter would just date some dudes. We don’t live in that kind of vacuum. But neither do we live in a society in which parents don’t wish fifty gadrillion things for their kids that may never happen. It might feel different and be more emotionally fraught (not to mention harmful) for parents to wish that their kids were all straight (which is just stupid, the gay ones are just as awesome) but it’s also just another thing parents might wish for when they are dreaming of their perfect six foot tall, skinny, blonde, athletic, model-type daughter. Sorry folks, she’ll probably be more like 5’4” and totally, imperfectly, incredible.
But that’s the thing, you think you want a million things before that baby is born but I swear to you that when they hand you the little sucker all thoughts leave your mind and all you can do is sob big, fat, grateful tears all over her because the only thing you can see is how perfect she is and how you never could have imagined a better one.
Suddenly, when you realize that the person you imagined in your head is an actual person the rest of your wishes go away. You realize that she is a person with her own life to live regardless of what you dreamed her life would be. The rest of it, her love of NASCAR, or Katy Perry’s music, or even the dreaded Yankees, is just stuff. It’s all stuff that, if you are a good parent, you can learn about. You can channel your inner Burt Hummel and you can make the effort your kid deserves. It’s her life after all, a real life which has nothing to do with the one you imagined for her, and if you care to be a part of it you better start making an effort.