Gay Parenting: A Not so Typical Look

Living the gay lifestyle and raising kids, it sounds complicated and it is! Some people will never accept that fact that gay people have kids too and that’s okay, those are the same people who will never accept that one day âÂ?¦ they too will be judged. Life goes on and for the gay family, well, obstacles seem to sometimes plague every corner.

First off, I’m not gay. I’m a heterosexual housewife with three boys and we live a normal country life. Twenty years ago the typical farm wife would never have associated with a gay man or woman, times have surely changed.

My first experience with anyone who was gay just happened to be my neighbors. Gary and James lived four houses down on the opposite side of the road, Gary had three children from a previous marriage with a woman and that was the result of trying to “fit in” with normal society (if there is such a thing) because back in the day, gay just wasn’t in to say the least.

Gary and James rented the house from an elderly woman that my Mother cared for and from that relationship of accepting the rent every month, my Mother and James became inseparable. James accompanied us on shopping trips, swimming at the pool club and he even helped pick out my first junior high prom dress because his sense of fashion was far better than that of my Mother. Gary’s children, all three girls and I played every weekend at their house; all of us were very close.

All the fun soon ended when Amber, the oldest of Gary’s daughters learned that her dad was gay. It was devastating for Amber to say the least. Every child believes that they are born out of love and the fact that Amber believed her dad never loved her mom, that she was just a mistake or an attempt to look “normal” just tore her apart.

As I grew older, another friend of mine I met in high school, Jenna was in several of my classes and her dad owned a car lot. Jenna and I, like so many girls do had sleepovers almost every weekend. Jenna’s parents had a horrible relationship that ended in divorce. Jenna too was devastated to find out that the marriage had ended because Jenna’s mom chose to be with a woman who had been a family friend for years.

Just recently, a friend of mine that I had worked with previously left her husband of eleven years to be with her lover who also happens to be a woman. I was a little upset with my friend because she took me out to lunch to “drop the bomb” and she actually worried about the way that I would react. I was a little hurt because she didn’t confide in me sooner but I understand why. Being gay isn’t a disease, it’s a preference and who am I to judge someone when it comes to love?

Anyway, my friend was worried about how she would relay this new information to her three children. The youngest is eight years old and my response, which had a lot to do with the past, was to simply be honest and answer any questions the children had honestly. When my friend broke the news to her children, she expected some opposition, possibly some tears and she didn’t know how she would handle it. My friend and her new love broke the news over a quiet family dinner and the kid’s response was quite the opposite. The kids said, “cool mom, that’s great”.

Times have definitely changed.

Children know more about sex than adults think they do and there’s more information available everywhere children go about sex, the words “gay and lesbian” aren’t looked at the same anymore.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any obstacles though.

Some parents do in fact encounter opposition and sometimes the opposition doesn’t come from learning the news that a parent is gay either. Feelings are stirred from a number of different places just like Amber’s feelings. She felt that her dad didn’t love her mom and that she was the result of a game. After Amber’s dad sat down with her and explained his feelings, she was okay. She wasn’t upset that her dad was gay or that he was in love with a man, she just felt that there was no place for her in the new picture.

Gary and James have remained dear friends of our family. Amber is married and has her own children now. Amber’s children have two grandfathers and they love them both equally. Being gay and having a family is not only possible but its being done all over the world.

Amber did encounter some ill moments with the family of her husband though. In the beginning, Amber’s husband John told his parents about Amber’s family and they seemed okay with it, until Amber was pregnant. John’s parents told John that their grandchildren would never be left in the care of two fags. Gary and James weren’t upset though; James simply decided to go for a visit one day.

James called me up and he asked, ” Do you think I should wear a pink dress or a red dress?”

I thought I would crack up laughing and I said, “What are you talking about?”

He informed me that he was going to see John’s parents and I thought, boy oh boy is he making a big mistake so I insisted that I go. I called my Mother and she insisted that neither of us go. James was hell bent on going and off we went, he did wear a red dress too.

James was not a drag queen nor had I ever saw him wear a dress and the dress he wore was borrowed, so he didn’t even own a dress. James usually wore jeans and t-shirts with regular tennis shoes so this was definitely out of his character. I laughed all the way to the house and I thought about what I would do if John’s father jumped on James. I expected an all out fight and I knew that Amber would be ready to kill us both if something like that happened; I was worried to say the least.

We pulled up the driveway and parked, we both got out of the car and walked towards the door. My stomach was already in knots until James said, “oops, I forgot my purse” and he ran back to grab a small clutch purse from the back floorboard of the car, by that time I thought I would faint!

James knocked on the door and sure enough, John’s dad answered. James, sporting the straightest face I’d ever saw him sport, announced that he was Amber’s mother and he was there to talk about his unborn grandchild. John’s dad gave him a swift look up and down before he busted into laughter. I was shocked when we were invited in and John’s parents explained how they had never known a gay couple, they voiced their concerns and James educated them about his family. He also explained that he wore a borrowed red dress to break the ice!

Everything turned out fine and they are all one big happy family. Maybe that’s not always the case, but it’s not everyone who can put on a red dress and visit the in-laws either. James wanted to show them a picture that they probably had in their minds about who he was, so his plan was to shock them into talking to him because it was likely they didn’t want their neighbors to see a grown man in a red dress beating their door down.

Even though Amber was born from a previous marriage, some gay couples choose to adopt and some families still have concern just because of the opposition a child may face. Adoption isn’t unheard of either, who says you have to be a heterosexual married couple in the suburbs? Society is accepting the gay community, it’s not because of books or magazines but from the experiences we all share everyday with gay couples. I feel that my life is better having encountered all of the mixtures my parents allowed me to be exposed to. I wasn’t plagued with the ideals that my life as a woman would have to be with a man and I always knew that my parents would accept me, no matter what.

Jenna shares her life with her beautiful partner Elaina whom she met in college. Jenna’s mom cried because Jenna chose to live the lesbian lifestyle and her mom felt that she had a lot to do with Jenna’s preference. Jenna wasn’t traumatized by the fact that her mom was gay, she was embarrassed at first but she was more upset because she was taught that marriage was a lifelong vow that no one breaks under any circumstances. Jenna and Elaina, joined in a civil union five years ago and their lives are going just as planned. The two are exploring the world of adoption as they plan to share their lovely home with a child.

Jenna’s mom couldn’t be happier but she still worries of what the future may hold for Jenna’s adoptive child if they succeed and I’m sure that they will. Jenna and Elaina are both adamant about adopting a child, both are very well educated, both have encountered opposition about their lifestyle in business and personal relationships, their child will be very well spoken to say the least with lots to offer.

How do children accept criticism in regards to a gay parent though? With that thought in mind, how does anyone accept criticism about a mother who’s fat, a dad who’s short or a parent with a bad temper? Anything said about a parent cuts deep, no matter what it is and it rings true with a parent who is gay too. The fact is, a parent is a parent and parents should deal with situations accordingly.

If you’re child is experiencing stress from school, if children are calling them names and harassing them, it’s a sad thing but it’s a part of life that everyone goes through at one time or another. Dealing with criticism is hard but a parent simply plays the hand they are dealt with and keeping a close relationship with your child is a must!

Talk to your children, they are yours and they need to understand that everyone is criticized in life but the way we choose to handle it can make us stronger or weaker. Encourage them to develop their own ideas, their own views about how the world works and to be decisive. Be age appropriate with your children, explain situations on a level that they can understand and be understanding. A child’s hurt is painful and a child needs to be reassured of their place in the big scheme of things. If you have experiences, share them to show your child that criticism can be overcome and let them know it’s okay to be sad sometimes.

Don’t try to give your children more “space” just because of your gay lifestyle or excuse any improper behavior either. Children need rules and boundaries, all of them. The more that you do for your children today, the more productive they will be tomorrow and by opening up your values, your child will have all the tools he or she needs to be a happy adult. Trust me, I’m living proof!

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