Gay parenting is like any other kind of parenting… until laws written by straight politicians or closeted, self-hating homosexuals decide it’s not. And in that case, being a gay parent has its hurdles. As a gay parent, I sometimes feel isolated, like an island at sea, sticking out from the rest of my surroundings like, well, an island at sea. Unless they’re jerks, it’s pretty easy for gay parents to support other gay parents. We get it. And we preach the same sermon to the same gay choir.
But my two-mama, three-kid family needs a bigger village. Save the gay jokes and Village People references. I have a special place in my heart for the heteros, the village of straight men, women, parents, friends and strangers who help me raise my children. And I want to thank them.
I want to thank my opposite-sex loving friends who love me for me. They see my sexuality as a detail and not the whole picture. They are not blind to my gayness, but seem to not notice it. They were the biggest advocates and supporters during mine and my partner’s journey to parenthood.
I want to thank the straight, open-minded, supportive men and women I have never met who have stood up for equal rights and against hate. I don’t know their motivation for decency. It might be human kindness. It might be respect. Or it might be because they become as angry or sad as their gay or lesbian friends who feel isolated.
And I want to thank the straight parents everywhere who see me as a parent, first and foremost. Period. This parenting thing is hard. From my closest friends to moms and dads I have never met or only passed in a store or restaurant, I feel supported and respected. Having kids has a way of doing this. Sexuality be damned: toddlers are a fucking nightmare. I need my straight village to vent to, to lean against, and to carry the rainbow flag when I am too tired to preach my sermon.
Traveling with children is also a wonderful equalizer between us gays and straights, especially when sitting with a screaming toddler several thousand feet in the air on an airplane as hot as the sun—seriously what is up with the temperatures on airplanes?
My partner and I recently flew from our home in Vermont to Florida with our three kids, an almost four year old daughter and twin 18 month old sons. For weeks, the anticipation of the trip sent us into complete denial of the trip. We knew we would each be holding very active boys who hate constraint. We knew their nap would be thrown right out the window, along with our sanity. We worried less about our daughter. She had her own seat and a backpack full of snacks and Disney paraphernalia she rarely gets. She would be happy for days or in a sugar coma. Either way, she would be quiet.
One of the flights was miserable. My partner and one of the boys were 10 rows from where I was sitting with my daughter and my other son, the screaming one. I was sweating, frustrated, and wanted a drink. I knew the guy next to me, trying to read his book, was annoyed. Trust me: I wanted the screaming to stop too. And I would give anything to be able to read a book that didn’t have pictures in it. I felt your pain, Sir.
But suddenly, another mother who was sitting nearby and dealing with her own unhappy toddler stopped to ask if I needed help. She wondered if I was alone. When I explained my family’s seating arrangement, she was empathetic. She told me her husband could manage their two kids for a few minutes if I needed anything. She understood. She was the few minutes of support I needed to reset.
That stranger allowed me to take a breath, remind myself that I was not alone, and that the plane would land and my vacation would start soon. She helped me be a better, more patient parent in that moment. She, like so many others, is a part of my village and who I needed in that moment to help raise my children.
I love my gay village members too, but the straight ones, the straight parents who have nothing to gain in my fight for equality are the ones who keep me fighting and moving forward on my parenting journey. Those known and unknown village members give me confidence that the world is changing. My straight village gives me hope that someday our villages won’t be divided and we will all just be people trying to raise our children.