What it’s like to have gay parents
“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.” Pope Francis
I was born into a family with two mothers, Laurie and Kerrie. I wasn’t adopted; I was conceived through artificial insemination using donor sperm. My parents fell in love and went through the process in the late 80’s, which was pretty controversial at the time. I’ve met many other children who were conceived the same way, but they were always younger, conceived after it had become more socially acceptable. The only thing I was told about my father is the color of his hair.
Mum and Kerrie are both female feminist family therapists so I have never exactly had a father figure in my life. Despite this, our family was incredibly close–I grew up in an environment where I became used to telling my parents everything and receiving unconditional love in return. When I was young, I used to pretend to be sick during school so I could spend the day with Mum or Kerrie at work. I’ve never met another family as close as ours.
People often asked me, "Do you think not having a father changed you?”
After I had graduated from high school, my parents asked me to come into the kitchen to listen to a talk show on the radio with them. There was a South Australian politician who was avidly preaching that “Gay parents are discriminating against their children by taking away their right to a father”, which would “handicap them in later life”.
The radio opened up to viewer discussion and I called in, furious. While I waited on hold, I began to shakily scribble what I would say on a discarded piece of paper. I’ve kept it to this day:
“I’ve heard you talk very passionately and at great length about discrimination against children, but you haven’t talked about how you’ve come to this conclusion. Are you close to families where you have experienced, first hand, the negative effects of gay parenting? Are you referencing research? And, what do you even mean by discrimination: mental wellbeing, family relationships, success in life?
From where I stand it seems as though you are simply stating an opinion, one which is not based in research or anecdote. And from that single, subjective, uninformed opinion, you are trying to enforce policy that will affect the entire country’s perspective on my family.”
I was never taken off hold. When the show ended, Laurie, Kerrie and I sat in silence. It was only then that I realized my voice would never be heard–people were so busy listening to politicians and priests that they forgot to ask the children what having gay parents was actually like.
I have no doubt society that will one day accept gay marriage, but before it does we have to collectively change how we think. Right now, opinions are used interchangeably with facts. We often fail to look at things holistically, to look at the evidence and reason, to differentiate between fact and opinion. We lose sight of the fact that we are individuals and that other people with other experiences may feel differently. We get so caught up in our own rationalization that we forget to ask how others feel. Subjectivity is the root of all discrimination.
When I was four years old, I remember complaining to my Mum. I whined “Mum, I wish I had a Dad”. She was shocked, and in retrospect, I can understand why. She must have felt worried that despite all her love, there was some fundmental truth to the discrimination in society. Maybe she had made a mistake. Maybe children did need fathers. She looked down and cautiously asked me “Why?”
I grinned at her – “That way he could go to work and I could spend all day with you and Kerrie!”