A Queer(ty) Response

It all started with my brief aside about Queerty’s finger-wagging in the general direction of gay parents whose kids were photographed at the White House egg roll, which was then picked up by AOL’s Worth Repeating blog. The editors at Queerty got some email about it and have posted a response clarifying their objections to the specific picture in their initial post. While their response left me a bit confused (as it did Toby), I’l quote some of it here lest I get accused of leaving out the important bits (of a post that anyone can read for themselves if the click on the link).

If the news took pictures of gay families while they were standing outside, well, these things happen, it’s what you have to do sometimes. Being a gay family at a public event is sure to attract attention. What are they going to do, keep their kids at home? Of course not.

However, that couple in the picture was holding their daughter in front of the camera on purpose. That’s not right. It’s terrible, actually, and embarrassing. You don’t put kids in the line of fire on purpose. If you’re concerned for your childrens’ welfare, you should leave them out of your press conferences.

I don’t want to sound too condescending, but once again this sounds like it’s coming from someone who doesn’t have kids and is making some assumptions (unless Queerty was in the tent with the rest of us) the foundations of which I can only guess at.

First, there the assumption that the couple in the picture picked their daughter up solely for the purpose of having her photographed. As the parent of a three year old, I can tell you that it’s just as likely that the kid wanted to be picked up at the precise moment that her parents were being interviewed, and might have even demanded it. I met the parents in the picture, and while I don’ t know the exact circumstances of how the kid came to be in one of the dad’s arms at that moment, experience leads me to give them the benefit of the doubt and not assume the worst motives on their part, based on one picture.

It happens on a daily basis, even when there’s not a camera and a mike thrust into a parent’s face. You could simply be chatting with a neighbor on the street, or even on the phone at home. As near as I can guess, the dialogue inside the kid’s head goes something like this. "Hey, wait a minute. You’re talking to someone besides me?! I want a piece of the action." Next thing you know, they want to be picked up, or they want to sit in your lap, etc., and you generally oblige without missing a beat in your conversation. There are probably more than a few other parents who can attest to the phenomenon.

That brings me to the other point; that it’s possible for kids to express their will and for parents to respect their kids’ wishes. Granted, that’s not necessarily how it was when most of us were growing up, but many of us are decidedly not parenting the way that we were parented.

For our part, we were very sensitive about putting Parker in the middle of something he didn’t want to do. At one point when we were being interviewed this weekend, our son wanted to be held by whichever one of us was talking to the reporter (the clue was when he reached up and said "Daddy/Papa, pick me up"), and we each picked him up. Monday, when he announced that he’d had enough pictures taken of him, we told the photographers that was enough, and then I talked to reporters while the hubby walked him around the waiting area. Later at the luncheon, he ran and played without minding that photographers took some candid shots.

I don’t blame the photographers for wanting pictures. After all, they came to take pictures of gay families, and that kinda includes our kids. And I agree with the idea that parents shouldn’t shove their kids in front of the cameras if the kid doesn’t want to be in that position. But I resent the assumption that we would do that, whether it comes from right wingers who don’t know what their talking about, or gay bloggers who don’t seem to know much more and seem to assume (along with the right wingers) that we were there to exploit our kids when it just wasn’t the case.

I expect the wingnuts to take one look at our families and assume the worst, but I’d hoped that we might get the benefit of the doubt from gay people.

One last quote from Queerty.

Please understand, we are the biggest media whores out there. We can sniff out cameras from a hundred yards. We will go to the opening of an envelope if there is someone there with a camera phone and a web page to post party pics. But when we have kids, we won’t drag them in front of the camera lens with us.

To paraphrase my previous post, talk to me when you do have kids and have to deal with unfounded assumptions about your parenting.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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