What Can We All Learn From Gay Couples?

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The success of a household depends on open negotiation of roles which have nothing to do with gender. 

Chris and Robin Jones have been together since 1992 and own a beautiful, two story home in a family-friendly neighborhood across from a grade school. Two Honda Civics, one silver and one green, are parked in the driveway before their detached two car garage. Both spouses are in their early forties and have bachelors degrees from different state colleges. Robin works in finance and has a much higher income than Chris who freelances in the professional Arts. Their household income last year was over $200,000 and the credit score for the couple averages out to 811.

Vacations in China, Africa, London, Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York City kept the couple entertained throughout their relationship. But after fifteen years of fun and frolicking, Chris and Robin felt it was time to start a family.

The couple chose to take the required classes to become licensed by their state to become foster parents. A few months later, they were picked out of a pool of twenty-seven couples to take home a set of mixed-race twins.

Only eight weeks earlier, Babies John and Jane Doe were born addicted to crystal meth, among other drugs. Their dad was in jail for beating up their mother, who left them behind at the hospital right after she gave birth. The biological parents had their rights terminated and never saw the babies again. Once sober, the twins deserved a home with enthusiastic parents like Chris and Robin. The adoption papers were signed and finalized right before their first birthday.

American Families

Chris and Robin Jones, and their two children John and Jane Doe-Jones are an American family.

Their neighbors, Rita and Ben Smith, are also an American family. They are good friends with the Joneses, and live a virtually identical lifestyle right down to their house, their income, and their two kids, Sam and Terry. The two families often have barbecues and play dates together at the nearby park. The four preschoolers all get along great.

Rita and Ben have been man and wife for eighteen years.

Can you tell from this story if Robin and Chris are both men?

Or are they both women?

Maybe Robin’s a man and Chris is a woman?

Does it matter?

Gay Marriage Critics, Please Take Note

Families consisting of same-sex parents have been in the shadows for a long time, despite not being legally recognized. Sociologist are now scrambling to gather the data of long term gay relationships to compare with straight couples. A thirty year study by Ellen C. Perrin, MD, MA and Benjamin S. Siegel, MD for the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that homosexual couples make equal or better parents, despite discrimination, compared to heterosexual couples. Now that intolerance towards sexual minorities is lessening, gay parents can thrive. Of course, it will take years to show whether or not making same-sex marriage legal changes the statistics at all, but the gays might have a thing or two to teach everyone about family life.

Take the Joneses…

Having lived together many years before they became parents, Robin and Chris are great at negotiating with each other in their relationship. It is a skill that helps them be great parents, too. Robin is the breadwinner and Chris has a more flexible schedule. Perhaps Chris doesn’t have the luxury of being a stay at home parent all the time, but it was an easy decision for the freelance artist to be the house-spouse and primary caregiver to their adopted twins. Studies show that family balance doesn’t hinge on gender; it’s more about negotiating roles.

There was some negotiation across the street at the Smith house when they became parents, too. For at least the last two decades, it has not out of the question for the husband to be a stay at home dad. That worked out well for Ben, while Rita went back to work after her pregnancy and continues to earns a six figure salary in marketing. They got a lot of support for their decision from other  families like them in the neighborhood. Besides, what’s sexier than a nurturing father figure or a confident wife and mother who can command attention in a board room?

The concept of role reversals in a heterosexual marriage was present long before people even talked about gay marriage. If it’s works for Rita and Ben, then why can’t Chris and Robin have defined their roles in the family?

Wheres The Science Against Gay Parents? There Isnt Any.

The fact that Chris and Robin have been in a healthy, long-term relationship for so long gives credibility to same-sex marriage. They had a lovely wedding in 2012 as soon as it was legal in their state. Yet, there are those that still argue that homosexuals do not make good parents; that it’s best for children to be raised in a household with a mother and a father. If that’s the case, then all divorce should be outlawed. Straight divorced parents should have their children re-homed with a both-gendered household. Single mothers should have their babies taken away and adopted to properly balanced couples at birth.

If parenting roles are gender specific, that Ben Smith needs to go back to work and his wife Rita Smith will have to quit her high paying job and stay home with the kids. Rita loves her career, and she’s not going to be happy about that.

Were Here, Were Queer, Get Used To It

None of the resistance to gay marriage and family is really about anything other than prejudice. It’s in our nature to judge people, even to wish to boss others around. But long gone are the days of Ward and June Cleaver. A fresh look on the American family has come out of the closet, thanks in part to gays.

Opponents of equal rights can argue all they want about religion and morals. But critics of gay marriage live in glass houses next to the Joneses, and the Smiths, and the Kardashians and the Real Housewives. Everyone in the neighborhood needs to get along.

 

Photo by nanpalmero 

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About Dennis Milam Bensie

Dennis Milam Bensie grew up in Robinson, Illinois where his interest in the arts began in high school participating in various community theatre productions. Bensie’s first book, Shorn: Toys to Men was nominated for the Stonewall Book Award, sponsored by the American Library Association. It was also a pick in the International gay magazine The Advocate as “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011″. The author’s short stories have been published by Bay Laurel, Everyday Fiction, and This Zine Will Change Your Life and his essays have been seen in The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. One Gay American is his second book with Coffeetown Press, which was chosen as a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. He was a presenter at the 2013 Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at the Montana Gay Pride Festival. Dennis lives in Seattle with his three dogs.

Comments

  1. You make your points impeccably.

    Role negotiation. Yes. What so many of us don’t do well, regardless of gender.

    Terrific column.

  2. MeniYal says:

    awe-some!

  3. Felicity says:

    I have only 2 ‘objections’ to gay families which are; the child should have a right to know their biological parents- just as aunt/ uncle not detracting from the 2 parents, unless there is a risk of harm coming to the child from this, so anonymous egg/ sperm donation should be reconsidered.
    And gender socialisation is important so there should be strong gender role models close to the family.
    However these objections are irrelevant to this family so I have nothing to say but good luck for the future and enjoy your family.

    • I agree that the the points you bring up would be ideal. In the best of all worlds, as much information should be presented to a child. I don’t feel that they should prevent a child from being raised in a gay home.

      What is the objection to an adopted child who doesn’t know his/her biological relatives being raised by a heterosexual couple? I happen to be adopted and do not know for sure who my biological father is —and I was raised by straight parents. I don’t think I would feel any different about my roots if I had been brought up by homosexuals. Granted, I would love to know more about who my bio dad is, but that is just not possible because nobody claims to be my biological dad. If a child needs good adoptive parents, you can’t get too weighed down by the biological parents.

      In anonymous fertility situations, a child wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a donor. Sperm banks and the concept of egg donors were not invented for homosexuals. They were created for heterosexual couples who want to have a baby but can’t. It’s not fair to make a blanket statement and tack it onto gay people.

      • Felicity says:

        I had written a long answer before my page refreshed and I lost it. So to summarize;
        children of donor parents are rarely likely to be able to trace their roots. Families of the donor are unable to trace their niece/ nephew/ grandchild.
        Being able to have a child that is biologically your partner’s and a strangers makes no sense to me. (Step children excluded) Your partners and a stranger who becomes a friend to you, maybe. But not a stranger you pick from a catalogue.

        • It doesn’t sound like it is a gay thing for you. It’s the idea of stranger sperm (or egg). I assume if a married heterosexual couple want a baby, but the dad is infertile, then you feel they should just not have a family? Or find a friend to donate their sperm?

          • Felicity says:

            It is not a gay thing. However it is gay couples who don’t have the option of conceiving with each other. They only have the option of adopting/ fostering or using a stranger’s donation or using a friends. Having a stranger become a friend, or acquaintance, is probably the best solution, in my opinion.
            In a het couple I would have thought adoption would have been the first choice.
            But this is my personal opinion.
            You haven’t commented on my 2nd ‘objection’ gender role models. What is your opinion on that? It is so rare that I get to debate with someone who is reasonable.

            • I think having a strong gender role model is fine, but isn’t definitive. A child will gravitate to whatever they are wired to like and hopefully the parents will endorse their interests —which don’t have to be locked into a gender-specific role. It goes back to the tomboy and the boy who plays with dolls—do you try and rewire them? No, in my opinion. I think the goal is good parenting that isn’t tied to gender roles. A plugged-in parent is going to figure out what kind of leadership their kid needs and provide that.

            • “However it is gay couples who don’t have the option of conceiving with each other. ”

              All infertile couples don’t have that option. Yes, ALL gay couples fall in that group, but straight couples in which one or both individuals are unable to conceive far outnumber gay couples who want to have kids.

            • As a mum-to-be of a donor conceived child and egg donor myself, I thought I’d share a little bit from the counselling we have to receive as part of treatment.

              Research suggests that donor conceived children should be raised with the knowledge that they are donor conceived but that at no point should their donor be referred to as ‘dad’ or ‘mum’, nor should the donor’s family be referred to as the child’s, as this creates a sense of loss where there is none. Donor conceived children are different from adopted children as there was never any intention for the donor to be that child’s family – in fact forms are signed to that effect. Donor conceived children in the uk (where you’re from, I think) can find out their donor’s identity at 16 and 18 (different bits of info) and non-ID disclosure is not allowed. Non-ID disclosure donations in the US still come with a great deal of information, from a letter to the child to their full biological history. When, if, the child(ren) born from my egg donation come looking for me, they won’t think I’m their mum and I won’t think they’re my kids. I’m a genetic parent, but not a biological or real one. Known donors come with a wealth of risks, as intentions can change in the face of a newborn, and the child can be confused about their family set up if it’s not managed correctly.

              As for strong gender roles, well, I’d better cancel my tickets to the same-sex commune we were planning to move to. I mean, seriously, who do you know that doesn’t know people of the opposite sex? I’d also like to point out that not gender-conditioning has actually been shown in the most recent research by an Australian university to lead to better emotional health in the children of same sex couples than straight couples. All the (credible) research done on same-sex couples shows their children are as well-adjusted as straight couple’s children, if not more so.

              If you struggle to find people who won’t have a reasonable debate with you, it’s because you’re debating our families. Our actual families. You’re accusing us of being bad parents by suggesting we’ve not thought about the consequences for our children and are instead selfishly going through years of treatment to have children because we just want to. And you’re doing so from the solipsist view point that you have all the answers by virtue of being straight, despite evidently not doing the research and being, I’m guessing from your other answers here, too young to be thinking about having a family yourself. I pray that when the time comes you have no fertility issues, and don’t have to make the difficult decisions about what might be best for a child you may not even be lucky enough to have and that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life defending your choices to everybody around the world that thinks they know better.

              If you’re interested in doing the research, I suggest you check out the Donor Conception Network’s reading list or any credible research about same sex parenting.

    • I notice, when people stress the importance of gender role-modeling, they never, ever mention sexual orientation modeling. They never make the point that it would help child development if all kids could experience models of healthy, happy gay people in their lives, either relatives, or neighbors, or teachers, or….

      Odd that.

      • Felicity says:

        BobN. I suppose that for me I already have those role models so I don’t think much about them. The deputy head teacher at school is in a civil partnership with a 6th Form teacher and the only comment now 2 years later is which Mrs …… You are talking about. We have an openly gay, and theatrical, guy in our year. And I have 1 great uncle who has been with his partner for longer than I’ve been alive.

  4. Nicholas says:

    High5 to Family and thankfully you brought peace and love to the children, its not everyday someone, couple or entity takes a chance. Its these individuals who should be awarded a huge tax break, a special carte blanche credit card and more then there kindhearted mentality with our countries thanks-you are the what we all should aspire to be!

  5. welllokaythen says:

    We can learn from many gay couples that a couple does not need to have children or adopt children in order to have rich, fulfilling lives. Not all same-sex couples are looking to get married, and not all same-sex couples want to raise children. I think that is an important fact that all hetero couples ought to take a look at.

  6. Robert Gunn says:

    There’s a difference between envy and jealousy:

    The envious covet what they see another person has.

    The jealous consider that they own something and are afraid they will lose it to someone else. Often it is associated with a low self-image and a fear that there are others who are more worthy of what they have.

    Homosexuals are envious that heterosexuals have access to what we all were raised to expect in our adult lives: The ability to find a person we love and then marry them to build their two lives into one. These ideals were instilled in us early in our childhoods, before we had any idea of what our sexual preferences were going to turn out to be.

    Bigoted heterosexuals are jealous of their sole ownership of “sacred” relationships. They act as if they will lose their access to these relationships if anyone else also has access to them.

    The problem is that anyone having a good, healthy relationship does not reduce the chance of someone else also having one. In fact, an argument could be made that the more healthy relationships there are in the world, the more likely it is for others to see them, learn from them and so have healthy relationships of their own.

  7. Trish McDermott says:

    There are so many kids born into horrible lives. Be it their parents were into drugs, drunks, child abusers…no one at all even attempts to stop them from having kids. It’s not like you have to pass a test to have a baby. Of course, once the child is born and taken away for whatever reason, NOW everyone is concerned on who the parents will be? Here’s the deal, any low life can have a baby. It happens all of the time. But for some reason or another, people seem to think it is just that easy to foster or adopt a kid. For those of you against gay people having children, I ask if you would rather see that child being beaten or neglected…or would you like to see that child in a home where they are safe and cherished and loved?
    There are processes to go through to foster or adopt. They generally don’t let convicted murderers adopt a kid. Numerous DUI’s and drunk and disorderlies? No kid for you! Are those track marks on your arms? Yeah, no kid for you today. Adoption agencies aren’t like your local city pound. Not just anyone can wander in and point a kid and take them home that day. Most places run potential parents through the wringer to ensure that the child in question will be safe and loved.
    To those that worry about “gender role models” I say that they are a moot point. Maybe at one point when Susie Homemaker stayed home while the breadwinner went to work, MAYBE those things could be considered. Let’s face it though, most households have both adults working. Most households share the chores. Women and men do so many things differently than what was done 50 years ago. There are women in what are typically “man jobs” these days. Women build aircraft, fly planes, become CEO’s, firefighters, police, military….the lines are blurred. There are now male nurses, day care providers, florists, stewards. There really aren’t and gender roles anymore. What you have to offer is teaching your child to excel at what they do well. If your boy wants to be a nurse, you encourage him. Daddy’s little girl is good with engines? Encourage her. We should be stepping away from gender roles, it’s archaic.
    I feel a bit strongly about this. Many years ago, I was in a very abusive relationship. It didn’t become abusive until I got pregnant. I endured many terrifying months being threatened that he was going to “cut the baby out” if I didn’t act a certain way. I spent a lot of time sheltering my stomach as I was smacked around. I had a life to protect, and running at that point was not an option. I had nowhere to go. I finally intimated that a baby would be a drag and managed to convince him to sign adoption papers. You know what? I didn’t care if the parents were a man and a woman, or two dudes or two women…I just wanted that baby safe. I knew she would be safe and loved…and THAT is what we should be worried about as a society. Making sure our kids are safe and loved. Not if their parents are gay.

    • Thank you for you beautiful response. I was adopted out of a horrible situation when I was about a year old so I have a special place in my heart for adopted kids and the parents who adopt them (especially gay parents).

  8. David May says:

    As a gay dad, and new grandpa, with a grown daughter and new grand daughter, as I can say is: This is news? For anyone? Reallly?

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