I want to be happy about today’s news that the American Academy of Pediatrics has reaffirmed its support of gay marriage, I really do. I’m a gay dad of twin 5-year old boys, so it’s fair to say that this news resonates with me. But something about this has me bothered.
Look, don’t get me wrong; I’m always happy when another voice speaks out in support of gay people and especially gay families, especially one as respected and influential as the AAP. They’re a little late to the game when it comes to national medical organizations supporting gay marriage (psychologists voiced their support in 2004, psychiatrists followed in 2005, and physicians in 2011), but their support comes close on the heels of last year’s endorsement of gay marriage by national nursing and family physician groups. Plus, today’s announcement is a clear, full-throated reaffirmation of the benefits of gay marriage to both parents and children. It goes so far as to urge its member pediatricians to advocate on behalf of marriage equality.
So why am I so grumpy?
Because the AAP has based its policy statement on a review of 30 years of family research looking at gay and lesbian families and much of that research leaves a bad taste in my mouth. For decades, researchers have picked apart the psyches of children and parents of gay families in an effort to determine if our family structure is harmful to our children. Reading the results of these studies, with their dispassionate determinations that an “emerging consensus” among researchers that children from gay families are not “disadvantaged in any significant respect”, leaves me with two reactions.
My first reaction to these results: Duh. If kids are raised in a home with adults that love them -- be it a straight couple, or two moms, or a single dad, or their grandparents, or a foster family -- it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they’ll do ok.
My second reaction is more complex. On the one hand, being someone with a degree in zoology, I understand the need for quantifiable results. They’re especially important when opponents of gay marriage regularly trot out pseudo-science studies and flawed research in support of their cause. But the idea that families like mine are being studied and judgments on the fitness of dads like me are being made just rubs me the wrong way, even when the results support my family.
I don’t need anyone to weigh in on my ability to parent my kids or whether my kids are well-adjusted and emotionally healthy. To even attempt to make that kind of determination implies that the fact that I’m gay has the potential to harm my kids. What other group of parents is subjected to such scrutiny? The closest analogy I can think of is children raised in multiracial families and the research in this area practically gushes over the enriching and rewarding experience for multiracial children. In contrast, the AAP statement limits its endorsement of gay marriage to saying only that our kids don’t appear to be damaged by our same-gender family structure.
If you want to know the things that truly imperil my children and leave them disadvantaged, I’d ask you look outside my family to the culture of our country. For example, how about talking about the airport officer that forces my husband and me to pass through immigration separately because we’re “not a family”? Since it’s tax season, why not consider that I’m about to file my twenty-fifth federal tax return as a “single man”, even though I’ve been married for 11 years (two of them legally)? Or how about the people in the car that yell “faggot” at us as we push our stroller down the street? Each of these daily realities has vastly more potential to harm my kids than the fact that they have two dads.
When it comes to being a parent, I can tell you that I’m not much different than anyone else. This morning I made some pancakes with mango for the boys. I was called in to inspect (and clean up) an aiming problem involving the toilet. I defused some conflicts involving the iPad. I haven’t yet had time to shower or eat my own breakfast.
I’m happy that the AAP has joined the chorus of voices validating my family. I just wish sometimes that I lived in a world that didn’t need 30 years of research to figure out that I’m a good dad.