Ariel Chesler grew up the child of a same-sex relationship. He’s happy and thinks the idea that it may have done him harm is preposterous.
Publishers Note: This post first ran on The Huffington Post on April 7, 2013
I am a straight man, aged 35, happily married, with two wonderful daughters.
Last week, as others wore red or changed their Facebook icon to support marriage equality, I realized that the Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage hit me harder than I thought was possible.
I am one of those children, who, according to Justice Scalia, may or may not have been harmed by virtue of having been raised by a same-sex couple.
As my emotions swirled last week, I told friends that I don’t need to wear red or change my Facebook icon to show my support for marriage equality because I was raised by lesbians and thus I lived the issue. To be fair, my mother, if she had to describe herself in terms of her sexuality, would describe herself as bisexual.
While I am the product of an opposite sex marriage, my parents divorced when I was two-years-old, and my mother has been in relationships with women since that time. Her first long-term girlfriend I referred to as my “other mother” and she lived with and helped raise me during my formative years.
More importantly, I was raised in a radical feminist household, surrounded by books on sexuality (and every other topic) and goddess figures, listened to “Free to Be You and Me,” played with both action figures (G.I. Joe) and dolls (Barbie), and was always taught to be comfortable and proud of who I was. And yet… I knew not to say this one thing. Not even to my closest friends all the way through the end of high school. Not even in Park Slope, Brooklyn (!), which is laughable today.
The one exception was when at the age of six or seven a kid on the playground confronted me with “your mom is a lesbian” and I responded defiantly “so what?” But somewhere along the way I learned shame, as every child does.
In the 1980s and 1990s being a child of divorce (which I was) was okay because that was a well-known status. But to explain that your parent was now in a same-sex relationship was not something I was able to say out loud. And heterosexism led most to assume that my mom was straight. So I stayed silent.
But, the idea that my mother’s sexuality was an issue at all is silly because 1) who likes to think their parents even have a sexuality and 2) sexuality is only one aspect of a person and does not solely define them. My mother’s demanding career as an author, psychologist and feminist — a career that often made her unavailable to me — was much more of a challenge for me to accept as a child.
I can testify that all that matters to a child is love and support, respect, stability, and maybe a little independence, all of which I received and am grateful.
Which brings me to Justice Scalia and the rest of the Justices to whom I say: I was raised by two women and I am fine, perhaps even better for it, as I had the unique advantage of learning how to be a man from women, and how to be a man who loves women in a world of so much woman hatred.
The notion that two people of the same-sex raising a child might cause the child harm is preposterous. Certainly they could cause no more harm than that caused in the many abusive, neglectful or violent straight homes that children suffer. Would you abolish straight marriage based on the clear evidence of harm caused to children in those homes?
I wonder how many more years of evidence are required? How much longer are we to endure baseless discrimination?
Children are harmed because they sit waiting to be adopted but cannot be adopted by same-sex couples. Or, they are harmed because, like me, they are taught that their parents and families are somehow lesser because they are gay.
The notion that same-sex marriage is too new, that more evidence is needed before we know if it is “a good thing,” is also offensive. Again, there is much evidence to support that there are “bad things” about some straight marriages (e.g. domestic violence, child neglect and abuse) but its overall value is not being questioned.
Finally, as a lawyer, the constitutional law question for me is very simple. If a state provides a legal status and benefits emanating from that status but excludes certain people from attaining that status, equal protection requires at least a rational basis to do so. Here, there is only irrational fear, homophobia and outdated notions of marriage that do not suffice to support marriage discrimination.
Of course, the attorney arguing in defense of Prop 8 could think of no other circumstances in which a state could discriminate against gay people, and rightly so. It is obviously unconstitutional.
In closing, I hope the Supreme Court does justice, that all families are recognized as equal throughout this great country, that my mother’s marriage is recognized by the federal government, and know that I have been wearing red in my heart for a long, long time.
photo by penelope waits / flickr