Friday Night Lights
On a balmy August evening, my husband and I took our sons to the “Meet the Football Team” night at Northwestern University, my alma mater. Go Cats! At one point, I looked over at my handsome husband carrying our 7-month-old son in a BabyBjörn as I walked my 8-year-old to the line for the “Pass to a Cat” game, where a young fan throws a football through an opening in a target a few yards away. We didn’t say anything, but I could read my husband’s thoughts. How does a gay male couple end up at an event like this on a Friday night?
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve both been lifelong fans of college and pro football, but it’s still a mystery to us. When we first met fifteen years ago at a bar in the gayborhood known as Boystown on Chicago’s north side, neither of us could have imagined our life now. Yes, we talked about having children. We also talked about moving to New Zealand and opening a bed & breakfast. Only the former has come to pass…for now. Our path together has taken us from the comfort of a gay enclave to the suburbs, complete with tree-lined streets and a picket fence.
We affectionately refer to it as Being Gay 2.0, not an improvement on BG 1.0, but a game expansion with more options. BG 2.0 comes replete with diapers, PTA meetings, soccer practice and emergency trips to the nearest Costco. Perhaps not as dramatic as the riot at Stonewall but LGBTQ parenting is a form of cultural revolution unto itself.
After all, the dear desire of revolutionaries isn’t the perpetual revolution, but the warm comforts of a quiet home and peace on one’s own terms. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the most revolutionary document in American history, names “domestic tranquility” as a reason for the establishment of the republic. But it’s hard feeling like a revolutionary when there are no barricades to build or prisons to storm, just diapers to change and birthday parties to plan.
History loves revolutionaries. The children of revolutionaries have a more measured response. The children of revolutionaries inherit their parents’ fight without the background or the conversion experience that drew them to the fight. They are simply born into it. I sometime fear that my sons will grow weary of the being “that gay family," especially since 50% of our family is probably heterosexual. Some parents might tell their kids not to play with them. Some teachers and coaches might step lightly on asking questions about home in order to avoid their own discomfort.
Don’t get me wrong, we avoid obvious confrontations. Despite wanting to get away from Chicago’s cold weather in the winter, our spring breaks are to deep blue states only. When parents talk about the virtues of the Boy Scouts, we nod politely and say nothing. When our son sets up play dates with new friends for the first time, we both try to introduce ourselves as Noah’s dads to avoid confusion and embarrassment at drop-off or pick-up.
Despite all this, our sons will have to navigate through their own journeys amid the casual nature of playground homophobic name-calling, Mother’s Day celebrations that leave them feeling short-changed and learning how to be self-assured in their own masculinity. Perhaps my parents, the immigrants, felt the same disquietude when they moved half way across the planet to find a better life for their sons. Perhaps they had doubts about the foreign culture into which we were thrown.
Of all the arguments against LGBTQ parenting, the “won’t someone please think of the children” mantra hurts the most because there is a ring of genuine concern to it. Although I wish the detractors would be sincere in their concern for all children. I wish they’d consider the thousands of children like ours and the millions of LGBTQ kids who listen daily to the denigration of their families and themselves. What disastrous results will this no-holds-barred culture war have on our kids?
While all of this passed through my head my 8-year-old stepped into the passers’ box. As he lined up his fingers to the laces on the football, he pulled back his throwing arm behind his head. He threw effortlessly as the ball left his body’s plane in a perfect spiral, tight and wobbleless. His fingers followed through in a way that can only be described as “Bradyesque." The ball sailed through the center of the target with a yard or two to spare. As the collegiate athlete in charge of the game bent down to grab the ball, he gave my son a high five. The young man looked up and gave me the “bro nod” to let me know that I was doing a good job. My son returned to me and butted his head into my ribcage in a boyish gesture of affection. I put my arm on his shoulder for only a quick squeeze and let go so that he could return to his buddies and their boyish antics. As he always does, he calmed my frantic worrying with a quiet and masculine grace of his own design. I’m confident he will set the example for my little one too.
My husband I may have fought our own little culture war to get here, but as I contemplate my family under the bright stadium lights on a warm Friday night, I believe my boys will be just fine. Go Cats!