Hi, everyone, and thanks so much for visiting The Novel Approach during this year’s Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Today marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and Bruce and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be participating in this event. It is our belief that this community-wide effort—and I’m not speaking solely about the LGBT community, but also about those of us who are proud to be allied and in partnership with the men and women of the community—is an integral part of illuminating the ways in which we share so many more commonalities than we do differences.
The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network reported in its 2011 National School Climate Survey that eight out of ten LGBT students experienced verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation. But, among the key findings, “for the first time (in over a decade) the 2011 survey shows a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation.” That’s heartening news and definitely a step in the right direction, but there’s still so far to go, so much misperception to be overcome, and so much more educating we can do, especially with our children.
When we decided to participate in the Hop, I’d just read This Article about Lucy Meadows, a transgendered teacher in England who’d committed suicide after the media took hold of and then ran with the story that she was transitioning, mid school year, from male to female; something, by the way, her school administrators fully supported her in. As you can see in the article, Lucy’s story ended tragically, but her death, though heartbreaking, has gone on to become a spotlight on transphobia and the ways in which she was so woefully misunderstood.
Lucy’s story is but one example of the many ways transgendered men and women, boys and girls, are marginalized every day, as is the case with Isaak Wolfe, a Pennsylvania high school student who made news, first for being denied the right to be added to his school’s Prom King ballot, then by being denied the right to have his natural identity printed on his diploma.
Being parents ourselves, Bruce and I began discussing our own families and the ways in which we and our spouses are attempting to raise our children to see beyond labels, and how so many adults tend to complicate the things that children see so innocently and so simply. As you could see in the poem written by one of Miss Meadows’ students, after her death, the emotional scarring of her children—the argument that some of the parents hid behind in an effort to reinforce their own prejudices and assuage their own fears—would most likely never have materialized. At least not for 7-year-old Daisy Moreton, who saw a loving and caring adult making a difference–no more, no less. It seems this was all a case of panic and misinformation, and rather than treating the subject with the clear and common sense attention it demanded, rather than choosing respect and communication with their children, parents allowed a child’s misunderstanding of the situation to prevail over an open dialogue of all the ways Miss Meadows would be the exact same loving and caring teacher, and how being transgendered or gay or lesbian or bisexual or pansexual… is not a choice but is simply the way a person is made, though for some reason, there are many who choose to make it into something far more convoluted than it needs to be—primarily because there are those who can’t seem to take the sex component out of a person’s sexuality, which, to put a very fine point on it, diminishes all the other things these relationships are outside of the bedroom.
So, I asked Bruce if he would share his personal story, the story that both he and his husband Jacob lived, attempting to first conform to what society expected of them, then finally finding each other and building their family upon a foundation of faith, and of love and respect, both for each other and for their children. My question to Bruce was simply this: How did you and Jacob break the news to your children and help them understand your relationship when you began dating seriously?
This is the answer he so graciously shared:
Wow, that is a very tough question! Thinking back to having to tell our kids about us and our homosexuality brings back some very strong memories. Jacob and I had both come out of the closet and gone through painful divorces. Jacob’s daughter was very young, so not really aware of what was happening. My children were in 1st and 4th grades. I remember having to sit down and tell my children that I had always been gay but that I thought I could make it go away. I had lied about who I was to myself and everyone around me. I had to explain to them that I loved them and their mother very much, but I needed to be honest with myself so that I could stop living the lie and be happy.
With that conversation, also came the conversation about what being gay meant. My children were distraught about the dissolution of their family and of their parents’ marriage, but oddly enough took the whole gay thing in stride. We noticed very early on that the younger two really had no issue with the gay question with us, and often discussed it freely with their friends and teachers at school. I was fortunate that my son was at a school where it was not an issue. Unfortunately, at the time, Jacob’s daughter was at a school that, because she was so open about her daddies (it was just normal for her), she experienced not prejudice from her friends but from her teachers. We quickly moved her over to the same open-minded school that my two children were attending once we found this information out.
My daughter, who is the oldest, at first was a little reserved about who she informed about the daddy situation, but oddly enough, as she got older she has become a very staunch and vocal supporter. We have had to counsel the children that in our conservative neck of the woods, it is best that they not hide their daddy’s situation but not openly volunteer information either. As my daughter progressed to a conservative Catholic high school, we have had to be careful to not be too public since we have felt that she could be removed from school for having two gay dads.
My son, who is in public high school, has also had to learn to censor himself to a degree from what he had experienced at his accepting Episcopal school. Though we have stressed to the children that there is nothing to be ashamed of, nor should we hide our family, Jacob and I have had to be protective of the kids. We have to let them judge and decide who they feel safe letting know about their two gay dads.
My son, unfortunately, has suffered the brunt of homophobia in the form of he has to be careful who he can invite, or not invite, to the house. His best friend was and is forbidden to visit our house. Jacob and I are very proud of our family, and even though we often feel like the only gay family in the village, we are proud to be seen with our normal, happy family. I think that is the best way that we have combated homophobia in our small conservative Texas town. We go about living our lives, and as a physician and college professor with three very active, involved children, we are anything but unseen. We go about our lives and show people that we eat out, we attend church, we attend recitals and soccer games. I think once others in town have seen that it’s really not a big deal, and that they have seen we really are no different than any other family, it has become no big deal in our community.
I guess when I think about homophobia, I go back to a quote I heard early on in my own coming out process. “The problem that people have about homosexuality is that they can’t stop imagining what happens behind closed doors.” That is the crux of homophobia, I believe. The homosexual act frightens them. When our children learned about homosexuality, they didn’t know about the sex. It was not an issue for them. They just knew they were now a part of a family with two men that loved and cared for them. I think that once others see that a homosexual family is no different than any other family, they then get beyond what’s going on behind closed doors and become accepting as well. It’s all about education and experience. Once their irrational fear is thrust in their faces, that Jacob and I aren’t parading around in rainbow Speedos and having sex in front of the children, they realize we are no different than any other family raising three children.
Thankfully our children are well-adjusted and happy children. Being part of a gay family has not destroyed their lives; instead, they are better off for it. We have three wonderful children who go to school, play sports, dance, go to summer camp, have friends over and live normal, successful lives. We are truly an American family and there has been no better weapon against homophobia than that, and that alone!
This opened up a broad range of discussion topics for us, a lot of them geared toward questions I had to think very long and very hard about, primarily because they were questions about how my husband and I are raising our kids in a socially liberal household, to be accepting of other people’s differences and to understand that we haven’t been put on this earth to judge but to show the compassion toward others that we want to have aimed at ourselves. We didn’t set out to consciously raise our kids to be tolerant free-thinkers—we didn’t bring our first-born home from the hospital and say, “Okay, these are the ground rules. Now, get out there and parent!” It’s just the way my husband and I are; instinctively, it’s the direction in which we’ve guided our kids because it’s the way we live, the way we believe; it’s the faith we have that love and kindness and empathy will always overcome hatred and intolerance, and that marriage equality in no way would diminish our own marriage or family, but would only serve to broaden and strengthen the definition of marriage as a whole, as well as family, love, and commitment.
The more Bruce and I talked, the more it became evident that his and Jacob’s three children are very much like my husband’s and my three kids, especially our oldest, both daughters, who are nothing less than champions of those who need support and friendship the most. We are, all of us, raising six children who we pray will be the difference-makers going forward. These six kids, and so many more like them, will be the generation that sets about affecting a broad-spectrum change in society’s views on homosexuality and transgenderism. History proves that prejudice will always be a factor in the way some people see others, but it’s also true that there is strength in numbers, and we are adding to that strength every day. We’re trying, along with so many other parents out there just like us, to foster a future of acceptance, with the hope that someday, we will be the norm rather than the exception.
Thank you again for visiting with us today! We hope you’ll leave a comment not only because you’ll be entered to win some great gear but because you’d like to share your stories with us about your own experiences. :)
**And now for the contest! For the duration of the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17-27, 2013, we’re offering the chance for TWO lucky commenters to win their choice of gear (Up to $25 value per winner) at any one of the following sites:
The Trevor Project
It Gets Better
All you have to do is leave a comment right here, along with your email address, before 11:59pm Pacific Time (2:59am Eastern), on May 27, 2013, and you’ll automatically be entered to win.
Prize drawing will be held on May 28, 2013 and the winner selected via Random.org. Please remember, an email address is necessary for us to be able to contact you!
Thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck!**