Tag Archives: gay parenting

Is sexual orientation nature or nurture? Am I wrong not to care?

Nature, nurture, lifestyle choice, whatever. The world seems obsessed with finding out what makes the gays gay.

Every time it crops up, as it has today in the Guardian, I find myself puzzling over the fascination with unravelling this big secret. It’s just something that happens; why can’t we be satisfied with that? But, no, curious minds continue to peer through the dirty net curtains and into gay society for some kind of solution. And when the code is deciphered, then what? When all the research has been done, genes examined and endless, dull, wittering studies analysed and crosschecked, what happens next? Will it lead to society truly understanding and accepting homosexuality and its ‘practitioners’? Or will we be firmly on the path to extinguishing it altogether? Continue reading Is sexual orientation nature or nurture? Am I wrong not to care?

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Gay marriage, fatherhood and my very own ridiculous, personal dilemma

I have always had something of a knack for talking my way out of answering difficult questions. My first instinct when asked something mildly taxing is to cause a diversion or commit the most egregious of sins and answer the question with another question. But now my luck is running out.

Thanks to all these rights coming the gay community’s way, I’m running out of excuses for why I don’t want to get married or have children. You think you bigots are inconvenienced? You don’t even know the half of it – wind your neck in.

Before, in the bad old days, when gay people were oppressed and bullied and abused and generally treated by the rest of the world as if they were something that had been stepped in and trodden all over mother’s brand new beige carpet, it was very easy to dismiss marriage or fatherhood.

Those sacred landmarks, the rites of passage available to heterosexuals, were out of reach for me. Not for me an emotional proposal (perhaps in a McDonald’s or on a weekend away in Filey), followed by an excruciating engagement party in a working men’s club. Oh no.

Never would I feel the joy of saving every last penny to be able to afford to watch someone I will probably end up detesting in a decade walk up the aisle in a church belonging to a God I don’t believe in, before a gaudy reception in a country house that wouldn’t have let me and my significant other over the threshold were we not brandishing endless wads of wedding dollar. It could only ever be a hypothesis, a vague dream.

And I could, quite easily, pretend to be sad this route was closed to me, that the best milestone I could hope to achieve with any potential partner would be buying an antiques shop or perhaps sponsoring an orphan via postal order.

“Well, of course, you straight people are so lucky,” I would say misty-eyed, giving my Earl Grey another wistful stir, “but I will never be able to experience all that – because I’m gay!”

Pretending I really wanted to get married, but couldn’t because of beastly society, was the only way I could hide my utter lack of interest in the whole institution.

I don’t know why I don’t want to get married; I just don’t. Whether it’s because a failed marriage sounds much more scarring than a broken relationship, or I’d die of embarrassment at having to bring lots of people together to homage to me, I’m not sure, but the concept has never appealed. And so I was kind of grateful – in the most twisted and selfish of ways of course – that I had the perfect excuse.

And then, in 2004, civil partnerships arrived. My first thought? “This is amazing; I am so pleased for all those people out there who have waited so long to have their union recognised in law. What a red-letter day. We are well on our way to equality!” My second thought? “Shit.”

As I watched friends excitedly propose to each other and plan beautiful, tasteful ceremonies, I began to realise that soon the all-seeing lens of conformity would soon fall upon me. I would become that trembling, ageing spinster at a dinner party full of couples.

Cornering my then-boyfriend and me at parties, people would ask “So when are you two going to get hitched, then?” When all my heterosexual friends ‘put a ring on it’ and began to think about reproducing, I could just about handle it – it’s what they were supposed to do, of course. But now all my gay friends were going for it too.

So why wasn’t I? Isn’t this what I’d been waiting for all along? As I watched the penultimate lifeboat leave the Titanic, I suddenly found my rescue. “But it isn’t really marriage, not to me,” I would say, like some idiot teenager on Question Time. “Until we’re totally equal, I don’t see the point.”

And so, while my tormentors were bemused and disappointed, they had to be satisfied with that. And so was I, my marriage-avoiding core hidden away with a dismissive and dishonest excuse. For another few years, at least.

I have always said I never wanted children and, again, I had a pretty good get-out clause with gay adoption being scarce and society wagging its finger at other options like surrogacy or other arrangements or partnerships involving gay parents and the opposite sex. Now, however, everybody is doing it.

Our playgrounds are filling up with all these amazing children with varied, exciting (to me) backgrounds which to them are just ‘normal’ and ‘whatever’.

We are creating a new society and teaching tolerance through nature and nurture. I couldn’t be happier. But of course, I do have to bring everything back to me and, well, this puts me in a very difficult position. I like children, especially my friends’ children, but, oh, I really don’t want one. I don’t. Honestly.

This huge opportunity is now available to me, ending years of oppression, but it is utterly wasted on me. I can’t answer the question “So, do you think you’ll have children?” without sounding hugely selfish and hedonistic. “Oh, well, I quite like my life the way it is, really.” Parents back away from me so fast, the wheels on their Bugaboo whirr with enough power for take-off.

And now, here we go again. Gay marriage is an actual thing. And I’m glad, truly I am. I can’t wait to hear about all these weddings and I am so happy that finally gay relationships get the recognition they deserve. You GO, guys and gals.

But spare a thought for those of us who want to stay this side of the wedding vows. I am 100% FOR gay marriage, but, I am absolutely sure, it is 100% NOT for me.

It feels wrong, somehow, to have all these rights – like I’ve been given an extra vote or a spare lung – and have no desire to exercise them. Am I wasteful? And explaining why I don’t want to is difficult.

But I suppose the real right that has been afforded me is the right to decide whether I want to or not. I have been presented with the option, which feels marvellous and empowering. It feels even more exhilarating to have the freedom to say “Thanks for the progress – but I’ll have to pass”.

So please don’t feel sorry for me or tell me it might one day happen for me if I’m very, very lucky. I’m perfectly happy up here on this shelf of my own construction. Sorry, Prince Charming; it’s going to have to be a no.

Is David Davies right? Would parents really prefer not to have a gay child?

The gay marriage debate rumbles on. And it really is rumbling, like a tummy which refuses to be sated no mater how much junk you feed it. It’s becoming tiresome to watch, whichever side you’re on. Everyone seems to be making the same points over and over again, like a long line of toy monkeys banging their miniature crash cymbals while an air raid siren whirrs its death rattle in the background. The ‘church’ thinks Thing A, pro-gay marriage campaigners think Thing Z, and there’s a whole load of other soapboxes to stand upon in the letters in between. The stupid thing is that it is all drearily inevitable that the legislation will go through, and still be argued about once it has. A fox hunting de nos jours, but with wedding cake, and an actual advantage for humans.

Occasionally, however, someone says something that rises above the constant din of discontent — a sharper, shriller tone cuts through the migraine-inducing murmur and demands attention. Sometimes it’s a bishop banging on about the sanctity of the union between a man and a woman and sometimes it’s a spoiled Hollywood actor offering half-baked opinions on gay parenting. But this week it’s an MP who’s tapping his virtual microphone and squeaking “Is this thing on?” Step forward David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth.

David ‘Double Dave’ Davies has a lot of strong opinions and he’s not afraid to share them — one of his lifelong ambitions seems to have been to make sure his face ended up wrapped around a battered haddock and chips — and in between his ranting-by-numbers about gay marriage and sex education in schools and all that other stuff we’ve read time and time again, comes a statement which is actually worthy of attention. Take it away, Big D, talking to the BBC: “I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it’s going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else.”

Ignoring for the moment David’s protestations that he would really rather not cause any controversy thank you very much and how naughty of us it is to pick up on that wholly innocent thing he just said, let’s take a closer look at what he’s actually saying. David thinks that most parents would prefer not to have a gay child. And you know what? I think he’s right. But not for the boring reason he trundles out — the mythical lure of having loads of toddlers who are vaguely connected to you coming over and wrecking your house every Saturday afternoon.

While there have been protests that Davies’s comments are completely without foundation, isn’t it entirely possible that there are many parents out there who are completely unprejudiced, but would rather not have a gay child because, let’s face it, growing up gay is still a nightmare for most.

When you have a child, I’m told that you love it unconditionally, and all you want for it is the best life free from fear or worry or pain. Understandable, then, not to wish your child the hell of being spat at on the school bus every day, or mocked in the classroom, with teachers either oblivious or sympathetic but ultimately powerless to stop it. Stories of homophobia-motivated physical attacks are still in the news; gay hate crimes are a fact of life even in the most liberated of countries. What kind of parent would want that hanging over a child’s head? Add to that the perception that gay relationships aren’t the same as heterosexual ones, that they aren’t as serious or committed and thus don’t deserve the same status as straight couples. No parent would want their child to be a second-class citizen, right?

For straight people who don’t know or understand gay people, it can be perplexing and frightening. AIDS and HIV, despite a decent PR job over the last decade or two to change perceptions, are still seen as a gay problem. As valiant an effort as the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign has made, gay teenagers still kill themselves because of bullying. The uncomfortable obsession gay society has with stereotypes and being misrepresented means that it’s harder than ever to ‘fit in’ without being put down for not conforming to the increasingly strict, puzzling and ever-changing, invisible ‘rules’ about how not to be gay. Sensationalist stories and the people who love them helpfully blur the lines between homosexuality and paedophilia as yet another once-loved TV star is posthumously thrown to the wolves. And two girls kissing on a soap opera is just as titillating now as it was the first time Anna Friel applied her Lipsyl in anticipation.

In short, being gay in 2012 can be just as confusing, upsetting and horrifying as it was in the 1950s. It’s entirely understandable that no parent would wish such a life on their offspring.

It’s imperative, then, that we look at how we can change perceptions of gay people and reduce this innate fear of the homosexual ‘way of life’. How do we show parents that it’s OK, that their children have every opportunity available to them whether they’re gay or not?

How about we start with not letting politicians, religious figures and social commentators badmouth gay people and, now stay with me here, maybe we should get that gay marriage thing over with and introduce it as soon as possible? Then every parent will get what they really, really want — the opportunity to cry at, not to mention grumble about the cost of, their child’s wedding.

We’ve talked enough, David. Onward.