Back to School:
My son Zane will start at a new school this fall, the James Lick Middle School, and the principal agreed to conduct a personal orientation. Zane was excited to see the soccer field and basketball courts as well as the world-renowned skateboard slide. He was less excited to see the math classroom and the science lab.
The principal took Zane to the outdoor playground and talked about music and theater and dance class. When he mentioned the dance class, he looked, if you will pardon the expression, straight at me, and then reminded Zane that this was a healthy environment, so students did not bring candy or soda onto the campus.
I sent Zane off with Papa to get the last of his unhealthy snacks (Sour Straws, Takis and a Blizzard) so that I could talk over Zane’s individualized education plan. The principal asked me back to his office, and I got a little nervous. How much had the last school told him? Was it true that one of my sons got his head stuck in a staircase? Was it true that one of my sons had cursed out a bishop? But as we sat down he said, “I think that your family will like it here at James Lick. We even have our own gay parents, and they really are the most helpful parents in the whole school. One of them is on the PTA, and another one coaches soccer ...”
I wondered whether or not to be offended but then concluded that, what the heck, this is the 21st century. Every school has their own gay parents, whether they admit it or not. And this guy certainly had a stereotype that worked in our favor. His experience of gay parents was that they overcompensated for not being straight parents. And maybe this was true for me as well. Last year, I coached soccer and cross country and basketball and baseball, and racked up three hundred volunteer hours at the Crab Feed and the Silent Auction and the Candy Sale. Maybe this was part of the deal of gay parenting: I didn’t want either Zane or Aidan to miss out on the nurturing mother or the structuring father, so I played both roles. After I plastered the hole in the wall that Aidan had dug out with a spoon, I baked cupcakes for the playdate. A lack of gender diversity in our home led to a lack of gender roles. Somebody had to get the sewing done, and somebody had to take out the garbage.
It’s a far cry from eight years ago, when I was looking for a kindergarten for Zane and the principal of another school asked, “Why isn’t the mommy here with you today?” That was the year before Proposition 8, and no one knew about the gayby boom. But nowadays two white dads raising a black child is a cliché.
And here I was in the principal’s office with this guy’s preconceptions being that gay dads were the go-getters in the middle school academic arena. Maybe, just maybe, this reverse prejudice was a good sign in the coming post-gay world. Maybe the acceptance of gay marriage has led to the embrace of gay parenting. Marriage is after all, a commitment not only to a partner, but to a community, and maybe those thrice-divorced Republicans who were still fighting the Supreme Court had not figured out that the core of marriage is family. And the fact that we gay dads and lesbian moms value our families so much means that we are the ones with the true family values.
Before I knew it, I was signing up to coach soccer.