Dear LGBT Community,
Like Heather Barwick, I too am your daughter. I too am the child of two dads and I was raised in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Like Heather, I understand the complications of being the child of two same-sex parents during those decades, and as a result, I too, am hurting.
But here is where Heather’s and my stories diverge.
I’m hurting because in my formative years, my dads never had the option of being married since the law didn’t allow it. My family experienced a great deal of discrimination, marginalization, and direct hatred because society took a prescriptive approach using heteronormative families as the baseline for “acceptance.” Therefore, any family falling outside of that norm was categorized as aberrant. I longed for my family to be seen as good, and whole, and holy, but none of the laws, nor society, nor communities of faith supported that option.
When you are told for years that your family is not valid, it hurts.
Children Need a Family
My family (both my dads, and my mom and step-dad) fought to provide me with an upbringing that involved all four voices. And though my mom and my dad divorced when I was six years old, they managed to co-parent with a consistent voice that has helped me become the woman I am today. A professional woman. A woman of deep faith convictions. A woman who had a successful educational experience. A woman who has a robust and diverse community of friends. I am who I am because of my family.
To LGBT parents please know that your sexual orientation/gender expression has no bearing on your ability to develop a healthy attachment with your child, so don’t let anyone tell you that it does. You are a good parent because you care for and love your child. Period. I am 44 years old and I have a very healthy and life-long attachment to my father. That attachment is valid, and wholesome, and good.
To straight parents who were formerly married to an LGBT individual, know that when you make the incredibly difficult choice to co-parent with your LGBT ex, it makes a positive long-term difference for your child. When you choose to create opportunities for your child to develop a healthy relationship with the LGBT parent as mine did, you are giving your child the gift of a fully-developed identity. When you choose not to disparage your former spouse, but instead build them up as the co-parent of your child, you are positively forming your child’s self-esteem and ensuring that your child knows they are loved by their entire family. YOU as well as the LGBT parent are key to the healthy development of your child. Never abdicate that because, as you can see in Heather’s post, the disappearance of her father was a devastating, and life-altering loss. YOU matter.
Why can’t Gay People’s Kids be Honest?
Heather and I happen to agree on this one point…children of LGBT families have not been able to be fully honest about our experiences because often people have not inquired about our narrative. When I grew up, people were either fighting for or against the validity of gay families, so children’s voices often became lost in the fight. Thankfully organizations like One Million Kids, Family Equality Council and COLAGE are fighting to change that.
My heart breaks for the narrative Heather brings to the table. It breaks because I’m a daddy’s girl and I can’t imagine life without him. She has a right to have a personal narrative and it is important for her to find her authentic voice.
However, I would request that Heather not make her case at the expense of the rest of our narratives because ALL of our stories are valid.
What is not conducive to the health of all families is when Heather takes a prescriptive approach based on her solitary experience. It is healthy and good to look at our family narratives descriptively, but universalizing policy based on one specific experience, or worse, creating an overarching prescriptive narrative from one experience weakens everyone’s rights.
At the end of the day, children need a family to grow up healthy and when those family systems are globally protected under the law, it shows a greater, not a lesser, concern for all children (many of whom are already a part of LGBT families).