I was at a World Cup final party on Sunday night, and somehow our fist-shaking and Messi-praising turned to the topic of marriage equality. I, the ever outspoken child of two lesbians and one straight guy, was talking about how the government could have pushed through legislation like they’ve done with adoption and other related issues. I see it as cowardly that they chose to let people vote on it when they all know marriage equality is the right decision. And then it happened. A friend of my boyfriend asked why it’s unreasonable for people to want to know what kind of effect homosexual parents have on children. “I mean, don’t people have a right to ask that question? We should do research on it and then decide. After all, isn’t it about what’s best for the child?”
One of my friends was ready with the only sensible answer to these questions: “Is there research on what effect tall parents have on their children? How can we be sure that tall people are fit to parent?”
The research all says that we’re fine. Some even says we could be better off than children from traditional families. But that’s not the issue here. How would anyone react if I asked where the research on inter-racial marriages is? What about families where both parents work?
The answer is that every family is different and you have no right to judge someone’s parenting skills based on social or structural factors. But because we’re in the midst of this debate, you can ask kids like me. And they have to answer you. Why? Because we’re having this referendum and if I don’t convince these people to vote yes, my parents’ marriage goes unrecognised. I love my parents; I want them to be happy. Having their marriage recognised will make them happy.
The problem is how it feels. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it is to justify your existence to someone you’ve never met? Because that’s what this conversation is to a child raised by a “non-traditional” family.
When someone asks you if there is a negative effect of homosexual parenting, what they’re really asking is “are you screwed up or did you turn out okay? I need to know so I can vote accurately.” When someone wants to see the statistics, what they’re saying is that your personal experience is not valid enough to convince them. “Oh, you might be okay, but maybe you’re just one of the lucky ones.”
Imagine someone asking you whether you wish you had different parents. Imagine how your parents would feel about that. You don’t want to leave the conversation even if you feel uncomfortable, because this is a chance to convince someone. And you don’t want to have any issues or dodgy quirks, either, in case it’s seen as a reflection. “This girl is rude; must be all those militant vibes at home.” “Oh, so you have anxiety issues? Do you think that has to do with your non-traditional upbringing?”
Once, an acquaintance told me that his girlfriend had said I was a good example of why gay people shouldn’t raise children. I’ve never been so hurt, but I wasn’t completely surprised. Bigotry is rampant in this country and it extends to children too..
I argued with the guy at the barbecue because I wanted to convince him that my family is legitimate. I shouldn’t have to convince anyone that, but I do. And of course, he told me something I’m far too used to hearing: that I needed to separate my emotions from the argument. How can I separate my emotions from my parents? Why are emotions invalid in this argument?
The truth that LGBTQIA people should be equal to straight people under the law is not a scientific truth; it is an emotional truth. And this is the damning thing about being a poster child. You are simultaneously told that everyone has a right to know personal details about and that you are too close to this issue and therefore can’t talk rationally about it. You are expected to present your grades, career aspirations and mental health status and sit silently while people who don’t know you decide what they think.
Everyone in the country has the right to vote on my family’s status, and so I have to tell them that I’m okay, that I’m not damaged or a threat to societal values.
The next time you ask a kid like me about their family, consider what you’re asking. Think about whether you would ask a nuclear child that. Any problems that come from having gay parents come from bigotry, not parenting. And I have to tolerate that bigotry because everyone has a say in my family’s future and the future of other families like mine. My family is wonderful, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that. You should trust my parents to do their job, just like yours do.