MTV's True Life is a one-hour documentary series that profiles issues important to young people. From True Life: I'm Coming Home From Iraq to True Life: I'm On Steroids, this weekly show typically covers a diverse, lively selection of topics. But with much anticipation about the conflict they might portray in their latest episode, True Life: I Have Gay Parents, some audiences may consider it something of a disappointment.
Originally produced by MTV Networks for Logo, a GLBT entertainment channel, the episode follows three young people with gay parents: Aidan, a liberal-minded marching band member with two moms; Hope, an adopted African American girl with two white fathers; and Cooper, a 19-year old waiting to meet his biological father (with the support of his two moms).
For a show that typically deals with such volatile, controversial topics, the gay families profiled are boringly normal. From parents doting on stain removal methods to an after-school dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger, True Life personifies its title.
The most intriguing teen in the show is Aidan, a member of her school's Gay-Straight Alliance and a self-professed pansexual. Although she calls herself the "token lesbian" of the school and wears rainbow garb during Diversity Week, she also has a boyfriend, and has decided to wear a dress—rather than a tuxedo—to her junior prom.
This recent decision to wear more traditional attire bothers Jane, Aidan's feminist, butch mom. With her short hair, men's dress shirt, and sweater vest blazing, Jane is noticeably uncomfortable when they go shopping for the big event because she believes prom dresses are patriarchal, with classically uncomfortable ties and restraints. "We bonded when we would go and try on tuxes. These dresses are creepy," she quips at one point during their shopping adventure. But the whole scene is good-natured, and both parents are suitably proud when Aidan comes downstairs on prom night wearing a beautiful dress that blends perfectly with her male date's traditional tux. It is a proud family moment straight out of suburbia.
The teens in the documentary are all thoughtful, insightful, and—dare we say—well adjusted, and these portrayals support the positive statistics about kids with gay families. For example, a recent Tufts University study found that children who are raised in same-sex families have no difference in gender identity, sexual orientation, or emotional issues than their peers from heterosexual households.
Interestingly, the Tufts study also found that children from gay families might be better off developmentally, exhibiting higher self-esteem, better behavior, and fewer incidences of mental illness and emotional disturbances. Experts suggest that this trend is due to the open-mindedness and stoic attitudes that many gay people must adopt in order to survive in a discriminatory world. "I think that my parents being gay has given me a lot of freedom to be who I am and to explore further who I'm going to become," says Hope. "They know what it's like for people to reject them for who they are."