I had to pause when I came across an article this morning about the children of gay and lesbian parents starting school. Our son is a long way (well, maybe 4 years isn’t that long) from starting school. Still, I’m glad I came across it.
The nation’s schools, a historic battleground for social controversy, are wrestling with a variety of gay and lesbian issues. The latest: a wave of children with same-sex parents is reaching school age.
Nationwide, about 250,000 children have same-sex parents – a trend not limited to cities with large gay populations, according to census data culled by Gary Gates at the nonpartisan Urban Institute.
“The highest portions of same-sex couples with children are in the South,” said Gates. The reason: He surmises that gays who grew up in the conservative Sunbelt value family and want to start their own.
What struck me as interesting was the statement that the highest number of gay families is in the South. It surprised me because, being from the South, my experience has been that much of the region is rather homophobic. They don’t call it “the Bible Belt” for nothing. But maybe, just maybe, there are pockets of tolerance around the urban centers down South. (And, for the record, I’ve never considered the District of Columbia to be in any way southern, except perhaps for its weather.)
“It is amazing how inquisitive 5- and 6-year-olds can be when they are exposed to someone with two moms who are lesbians,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group. “This is a very good example of how homosexual marriage impacts other families.”
The thing is, i can’t tell how much of an impact we have as a family, when it comes to chlidren from other families. From relatives to families in our babysitting coop, we’ve been around lots of kids, and most don’t register much of an impact. Sometimes they ask why our son has two fathers, and usually I can tell that they’ve already asked they’re parents and want to compare our explanations to the answers they got from their moms and dads.
I remember one conversation with a little girl I was babysitting went like this:
“He’s at home with his Papa?”
“His other daddy??
“How come Parker has two Daddies?”
“Well, there are lots of different kinds of families. Some have a mommy and a daddy. But some have two mommies or two daddies, or even just one mommy or just one daddy. It’s kind of like ice cream. There’s lots of flavors, like vanilla or chocolate, but it’s all still ice cream.”
“You forgot strawberry ice cream.”
“Well, then, there’s strawberry ice cream too.”
“My birthday is coming up, and I’m going to have strawberry ice cream and vanilla cake.”
Among the trailblazers are Robin and Karen Abels, a Carrollton, Texas, couple of 26 years. When their first child, Ethan, was ready for school, they got ahead of any potential problems by meeting with school officials and teachers, sessions they repeat each year. Now, with Emmie, 5, starting kindergarten, they are repeating the process.
“We tell them, `We do not have a political agenda, but we want to introduce ourselves, because we are a nontraditional family,’ ” said Robin, 49, an occupational therapist.
Maybe it’s because I live in a fairly progressive area, here in D.C., and we’re looking at equally progressive or liberal areas for our next home, but I have this feeling that when our son is finally school-aged we probably won’t come up against that many problems. We haven’t thus far.