I know, I know, it’s been forever and a day since my last piece. In my defense, I’m now studying law in evening classes AND working AND being a father to my son, Felix. So please play your violins and give me LOTS of sympathy!
One of the things that has kept me busy was preparing to speak on a panel discussion in front of an audience at a law firm here in London the other day. It was an event organized by The P3 Network, a support group for gay parents that had heard about Felix and me. I was super nervous because I hate public speaking! But I downed a glass of wine and spluttered my way through it.
One of the questions put to the panel was whether we thought it important to expose our children to men and women, given that whether or not we had significant others, our children each had parents of just one gender. I thought this might be an interesting point to chat about here.
Serious hat on…
OK I know the general point of view is that it’s good to get a mixture of different influences and this is generally the direction the discussion took, but the topic has stuck in my head.
What exactly does one gender have to offer my son that the other doesn’t?
I mean, really, can someone seriously tell me? In this day and age I’m not sure how relevant these roles are. Other than the obvious biological aspects, I really can’t see a difference in the genders other than out-dated stereotypes such as cooking and raising children vs football and working, and surely the world is moving past these, right?
For example take Target, the US retailer. It now has gender neutral signs in its stores, as well as gender neutral baby clothes and bathrooms, and the trans movement is growing in momentum, redefining our traditional views on gender. I think this is amazing! I want the world my son grows up in to move away from the defining line between boys and girls and not towards it! I want him to learn that women can be seen in the boardroom as well as the kitchen, and men can dance ballet as well as build sheds.
Then again, maybe bringing more women into the home is precisely the type of thing that will reinforce this idea…
I should clarify, like many gay men I have an abundance of female friends, so please don’t take this as any kind of resistance to a female influence. I guess I just don’t know what ‘female influence’ looks like in the twenty-first century. But whatever it is, I don’t want it to be so different to male influence because it goes against the principles of equality. So it kind of doesn’t feel like the right question to be asking.
The whole male/female role model thing is just a drop in the ocean. Of course he’ll be exposed to women! That will take care of itself because of the world we live in. I’m more concerned with him experiencing different types of music, food and dance. I want him to travel the world and learn different languages whilst visiting mosques, churches and temples. I want him to appreciate art, ethnicities and cleaning toilets on his knees as well as running a company.
In short, I want him to experience all the wonder life has to offer, and to me that goes sooooo far beyond a sprinkling of estrogen and a shot of testosterone.
Follow Salim’s journey to fatherhood as documented in his own blog here.