Recently, during a publicity interview for my latest book, a journalist asked me the following question:
“You live in a pretty open-minded part of the world. Do you still encounter people who do not believe gay people should be allowed to be parents and how do you handle such responses?”
In the interview, I gave a fairly short answer, straight to the point and suitable for the purpose of the interview:
“Luckily, I haven't personally. No. But that doesn't mean it's a smooth ride. People ask about the mother, they will make assumptions with regards to our ability as men to raise a child (with the assumption that only women can do that job) etc. I was afraid it would be worse, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Besides, we're only 18 months into the process and it's going to change once Sascha starts to talk and brings home stories of what others say to him…”
Yet while I’m sometimes amazed that the worst things we hear are the ones I described in a previous article, I sometimes do worry about the future. What if Sascha is teased in school about who we are? What if the other parents at our daycare who don’t greet us don’t do so because they’re tired or in a rush but because they’re homophobes and just waiting for a chance to tell us that? After all, he’ll be there for another three to four years.
Impossible to know. Recently, in an interview in Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel said that while gays might be great parents, that alone was no reason to grant them parenting rights because the kids would suffer from bullying in school and elsewhere. So instead of fighting bullying and negative behavior in society, that is taken as a given and human rights are trampled upon, instead.
This isn’t new, nor exclusive to Germany. Similar discussions have been had in Sweden where I live and in just about every country I follow, and there are many more battles to be fought. But what about he battles we have to fight after we’ve won the war?
What about the battles we have to fight in the real world, every day, against people’s preconceptions, prejudice and homophobia? I sometimes worry about that. I worry about the day when Sascha comes home and asks questions about where his mommy is, or why we’re two dads or why we’re “disgusting," “unnatural”or whatever else he may hear in school. As long as children ask questions to satisfy their own curiosity, it’s fine, but if someone suffers from it and is bullied, it’s wrong. I had a long conversation with other bullying victims at a literary conference near Chicago, where we look at publishing children’s books specifically targeting the LGBT community, and we all agreed that the scarring and the emotional impact of bullying stays with us for the rest of our lives, impacting our quality of life. That alone should be reason enough to stop bullying as quickly as humanly possible.
Will we have to fight such battles? Probably. I think we’re ready for it, but you really never know. It’s like practicing that perfect “shut-your-mouth” one-liner. After the fact we always know what to have said and how to counter idiotic comments, and we can imagine what it might be like. Sadly, once you’re in that situation, I for one am normally just too stunned to come up with an adequate response and stand in silence. Life isn’t a sitcom, sadly, and a lot more dull. But on the other hand, the good things in life, the love I feel for our son, the amazing experience of raising a child, to rediscover the child within as I watch my son ride his first amusement park ride or the amazement of his discovering something new is priceless, and no matter what hardships and heartache are coming our way, they're entirely worth it.
And I keep practicing one-liners, preparing to deliver zingers at a moment's notice.