Wednesday, March 18, 2009

For Real

When we read children’s stories to Danny that have a mommy and a daddy in them, we always change the words to say mommy and mama instead. We read this idea in a book on gay parenting (sorry I can’t remember which) and think it makes great sense.

It is possible to find stories that talk about families having two moms or two dads, but they are pretty rare. Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” is a great example, but it’s the exception not the rule.

You see, we want Danny to know that that even though our family is not the same as a lot of other kids’ families, it’s valid. It’s is true.

Truth. You may ask, “If you value truth, why would you lie to Danny by making it seem like there are two moms when there are not? Isn’t he going to realize that you’ve been lying to him when he can read on his own?”

Well, let’s take a look at this concept of truth in our world. Remember the Brady Bunch? What a fun show! And imagine how all those kids out there who had step moms and step dads loved that the Brady’s were all step siblings. Yeah! But let’s peel our onion back a little further shall we. Robert Reed played Mike Brady. The quintessential wonderful father. So handsome, so wise. Admit it. You loved him. He was a great dad.

But Robert Reed in real life was gay. And closeted. He was not free to live a truthful life, much less portray a character that was true to himself on that show. Can you imagine if they’d done a show about two dads coming together to “form a family—that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch”? Forget about Mike and Carol! Go Mike and Herold! No, that was not an option then. Sadly, not even now I don’t think.

And what about Maurice Sendak? He wrote a children’s story that is generally regarded as a classic of American illustrated children's literature, “Where the Wild Things Are”. Mr. Sendak came out of the closet when his partner of many years died in 2007. He didn’t think he would have been a successful author, particularly of children’s stories, if people knew he were gay. So you know that our star of “Where the Wild Things Are” little Max, did not have two same sex parents. Because even if Mr. Sendak would have loved to have written a story where he and his beloved partner were the parents in that tale he could not have.

So where was I going with this?

Oh. Truth and reality. Being the son of two moms will make Danny in the minority for the most part—part of a subordinate group in our culture. Dominant groups in our society often get described with positive adjectives and subordinate groups often get described with negative adjectives. Using men and women as an example, men are often described as strong, fearless and decisive while women are often described as being weak, scattered, catty etc…

When you are a part of a subordinate group, and you internalize that crap too long it injures you. And that is wrong.

I remember once many years ago getting on an airplane and hearing voice over the PA saying something like “my name is Sarah Parker and I’ll be your pilot today”. I was momentarily stunned. In my world view pilots were tall, confident men and she was definitely not that. Was I afraid she wouldn’t be able to really fly that plane? I’m ashamed to admit on some level yes. I was afraid. But what did that say about me? Was I not able to “fly my own plane” in life? This was shocking to me.

From that day forward I decided that I was going to take charge of my world view. Be more aware of the power of words and the messages they send. So when Danny’s old enough I’ll explain to him why we changed “daddy” to “mommy”. Because we will not be party to our son’s oppression. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the world to change the way things are. And in our little sphere of influence, this is one small way we are working to do just that.



Jenni said...

love is what makes a family a family, and you all have plenty of that.

Casey said...

I'm with Jenni, love is what matters, not gender. I've noticed the trend in children's books to default to the traditional "mom and dad" families. I wish there were more open-minded publishers so you weren't forced to have to change the wording to fit your family. Danny is lucky to have you two as parents!