UK House of Commons Vote on Gay Marriage Later Today

by cofty 29 Replies latest social current

  • Thing

    Gay marriage also needs to take into account the issue of the raising of children within the structure of homosexual relationships.

    When viewed in terms of the raising of children the picture becomes very interesting.

    A personal account of being raised by two lesbian mothers is given by an assistant Professor of English at California State University. He raises some serious issues for consideration and discussion.

    I'll post his whole article below, however the link for it is

    Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View

    by Robert Oscar Lopez

    August 6th, 2012

    The children of same-sex couples have a tough road ahead of them—I know, because I have been there. The last thing we should do is make them feel guilty if the strain gets to them and they feel strange.

    Between 1973 and 1990, when my beloved mother passed away, she and her female romantic partner raised me. They had separate houses but spent nearly all their weekends together, with me, in a trailer tucked discreetly in an RV park 50 minutes away from the town where we lived. As the youngest of my mother’s biological children, I was the only child who experienced childhood without my father being around.

    After my mother’s partner’s children had left for college, she moved into our house in town. I lived with both of them for the brief time before my mother died at the age of 53. I was 19. In other words, I was the only child who experienced life under “gay parenting” as that term is understood today.

    Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A's.

    Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

    My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes; they understood what was appropriate to say in certain settings and what wasn’t; they learned both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine social mechanisms.

    Even if my peers’ parents were divorced, and many of them were, they still grew up seeing male and female social models. They learned, typically, how to be bold and unflinching from male figures and how to write thank-you cards and be sensitive from female figures. These are stereotypes, of course, but stereotypes come in handy when you inevitably leave the safety of your lesbian mom’s trailer and have to work and survive in a world where everybody thinks in stereotypical terms, even gays.

    I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mother and her partner were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers. As a result, I had very few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily. Gay people who grew up in straight parents’ households may have struggled with their sexual orientation; but when it came to the vast social universe of adaptations not dealing with sexuality—how to act, how to speak, how to behave—they had the advantage of learning at home. Many gays don’t realize what a blessing it was to be reared in a traditional home.

    My home life was not traditional nor conventional. I suffered because of it, in ways that are difficult for sociologists to index. Both nervous and yet blunt, I would later seem strange even in the eyes of gay and bisexual adults who had little patience for someone like me. I was just as odd to them as I was to straight people.

    Life is hard when you are strange. Even now, I have very few friends and often feel as though I do not understand people because of the unspoken gender cues that everyone around me, even gays raised in traditional homes, takes for granted. Though I am hard-working and a quick learner, I have trouble in professional settings because co-workers find me bizarre.

    In terms of sexuality, gays who grew up in traditional households benefited from at least seeing some kind of functional courtship rituals around them. I had no clue how to make myself attractive to girls. When I stepped outside of my mothers’ trailer, I was immediately tagged as an outcast because of my girlish mannerisms, funny clothes, lisp, and outlandishness. Not surprisingly, I left high school as a virgin, never having had a girlfriend, instead having gone to four proms as a wisecracking sidekick to girls who just wanted someone to chip in for a limousine.

    When I got to college, I set off everyone’s “gaydar” and the campus LGBT group quickly descended upon me to tell me it was 100-percent certain I must be a homosexual. When I came out as bisexual, they told everyone I was lying and just wasn’t ready to come out of the closet as gay yet. Frightened and traumatized by my mother’s death, I dropped out of college in 1990 and fell in with what can only be called the gay underworld. Terrible things happened to me there.

    It was not until I was twenty-eight that I suddenly found myself in a relationship with a woman, through coincidences that shocked everyone who knew me and surprised even myself. I call myself bisexual because it would take several novels to explain how I ended up “straight” after almost thirty years as a gay man. I don’t feel like dealing with gay activists skewering me the way they go on search-and-destroy missions against ex-gays, “closet cases,” or "homocons."

    Though I have a biography particularly relevant to gay issues, the first person who contacted me to thank me for sharing my perspective on LGBT issues was Mark Regnerus, in an email dated July 17, 2012. I was not part of his massive survey, but he noticed a comment I’d left on a website about it and took the initiative to begin an email correspondence.

    Forty-one years I’d lived, and nobody—least of all gay activists—had wanted me to speak honestly about the complicated gay threads of my life. If for no other reason than this, Mark Regnerus deserves tremendous credit—and the gay community ought to be crediting him rather than trying to silence him.

    Regnerus’s study identified 248 adult children of parents who had same-sex romantic relationships. Offered a chance to provide frank responses with the hindsight of adulthood, they gave reports unfavorable to the gay marriage equality agenda. Yet the results are backed up by an important thing in life called common sense: Growing up different from other people is difficult and the difficulties raise the risk that children will develop maladjustments or self-medicate with alcohol and other dangerous behaviors. Each of those 248 is a human story, no doubt with many complexities.

    Like my story, these 248 people’s stories deserve to be told. The gay movement is doing everything it can to make sure that nobody hears them. But I care more about the stories than the numbers (especially as an English professor), and Regnerus stumbled unwittingly on a narrative treasure chest.

    So why the code of silence from LGBT leaders? I can only speculate from where I’m sitting. I cherish my mother’s memory, but I don’t mince words when talking about how hard it was to grow up in a gay household. Earlier studies examined children still living with their gay parents, so the kids were not at liberty to speak, governed as all children are by filial piety, guilt, and fear of losing their allowances. For trying to speak honestly, I’ve been squelched, literally, for decades.

    The latest attempt at trying to silence stories (and data) such as mine comes from Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, who gave an interview to Tom Bartlett of the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he said—and I quote—that Mark Regnerus’s study was “bullshit.” Bartlett’s article continues:

    Among the problems Sherkat identified is the paper’s definition of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers”—an aspect that has been the focus of much of the public criticism. A woman could be identified as a “lesbian mother” in the study if she had had a relationship with another woman at any point after having a child, regardless of the brevity of that relationship and whether or not the two women raised the child as a couple.

    Sherkat said that fact alone in the paper should have “disqualified it immediately” from being considered for publication.

    The problem with Sherkat’s disqualification of Regnerus’s work is a manifold chicken-and-egg conundrum. Though Sherkat uses the term “LGBT” in the same interview with Bartlett, he privileges that L and G and discriminates severely against the B, bisexuals.

    Where do children of LGBT parents come from? If the parents are 100-percent gay or lesbian, then the chances are that the children were conceived through surrogacy or insemination, or else adopted. Those cases are such a tiny percentage of LGBT parents, however, that it would be virtually impossible to find more than a half-dozen in a random sampling of tens of thousands of adults.

    Most LGBT parents are, like me, and technically like my mother, “bisexual”—the forgotten B. We conceived our children because we engaged in heterosexual intercourse. Social complications naturally arise if you conceive a child with the opposite sex but still have attractions to the same sex. Sherkat calls these complications disqualifiable, as they are corrupting the purity of a homosexual model of parenting.

    I would posit that children raised by same-sex couples are naturally going to be more curious about and experimental with homosexuality without necessarily being pure of any attraction to the opposite sex. Hence they will more likely fall into the bisexual category, as did I—meaning that the children of LGBT parents, once they are young adults, are likely to be the first ones disqualified by the social scientists who now claim to advocate for their parents.

    Those who are 100-percent gay may view bisexuals with a mix of disgust and envy. Bisexual parents threaten the core of the LGBT parenting narrative—we do have a choice to live as gay or straight, and we do have to decide the gender configuration of the household in which our children will grow up. While some gays see bisexuality as an easier position, the fact is that bisexual parents bear a more painful weight on their shoulders. Unlike homosexuals, we cannot write off our decisions as things forced on us by nature. We have no choice but to take responsibility for what we do as parents, and live with the guilt, regret, and self-criticism forever.

    Our children do not arrive with clean legal immunity. As a man, though I am bisexual, I do not get to throw away the mother of my child as if she is a used incubator. I had to help my wife through the difficulties of pregnancy and postpartum depression. When she is struggling with discrimination against mothers or women at a sexist workplace, I have to be patient and listen. I must attend to her sexual needs. Once I was a father, I put aside my own homosexual past and vowed never to divorce my wife or take up with another person, male or female, before I died. I chose that commitment in order to protect my children from dealing with harmful drama, even as they grow up to be adults. When you are a parent, ethical questions revolve around your children and you put away your self-interest . . . forever.

    Sherkat’s assessment of Regnerus’s work shows a total disregard for the emotional and sexual labor that bisexual parents contribute to their children. Bisexual parents must wrestle with their duties as parents while still contending with the temptations to enter into same-sex relationships. The turbulence documented in Mark Regnerus’s study is a testament to how hard that is. Rather than threatening, it is a reminder of the burden I carry and a goad to concern myself first and foremost with my children’s needs, not my sexual desires.

    The other chicken-and-egg problem of Sherkat’s dismissal deals with conservative ideology. Many have dismissed my story with four simple words: “But you are conservative.” Yes, I am. How did I get that way? I moved to the right wing because I lived in precisely the kind of anti-normative, marginalized, and oppressed identity environment that the left celebrates: I am a bisexual Latino intellectual, raised by a lesbian, who experienced poverty in the Bronx as a young adult. I’m perceptive enough to notice that liberal social policies don’t actually help people in those conditions. Especially damning is the liberal attitude that we shouldn’t be judgmental about sex. In the Bronx gay world, I cleaned out enough apartments of men who’d died of AIDS to understand that resistance to sexual temptation is central to any kind of humane society. Sex can be hurtful not only because of infectious diseases but also because it leaves us vulnerable and more likely to cling to people who don’t love us, mourn those who leave us, and not know how to escape those who need us but whom we don’t love. The left understands none of that. That’s why I am conservative.

    So yes, I am conservative and support Regnerus’s findings. Or is it that Regnerus’s findings revisit the things that made me conservative in the first place? Sherkat must figure that one out.

    Having lived for forty-one years as a strange man, I see it as tragically fitting that the first instinct of experts and gay activists is to exclude my life profile as unfit for any “data sample,” or as Dr. Sherkat calls it, “bullshit.” So the game has gone for at least twenty-five years. For all the talk about LGBT alliances, bisexuality falls by the wayside, thanks to scholars such as Sherkat. For all the chatter about a “queer” movement, queer activists are just as likely to restrict their social circles to professionalized, normal people who know how to throw charming parties, make small talk, and blend in with the Art Deco furniture.

    I thank Mark Regnerus. Far from being “bullshit,” his work is affirming to me, because it acknowledges what the gay activist movement has sought laboriously to erase, or at least ignore. Whether homosexuality is chosen or inbred, whether gay marriage gets legalized or not, being strange is hard; it takes a mental toll, makes it harder to find friends, interferes with professional growth, and sometimes leads one down a sodden path to self-medication in the form of alcoholism, drugs, gambling, antisocial behavior, and irresponsible sex. The children of same-sex couples have a tough road ahead of them—I know, because I have been there. The last thing we should do is make them feel guilty if the strain gets to them and they feel strange. We owe them, at the least, a dose of honesty. Thank you, Mark Regnerus, for taking the time to listen.

    Robert Lopez is assistant professor of English at California State University-Northridge.

  • cofty

    The lack of male role models in the life of a boy growing up in a lesbian household is an interesting point.

    I do believe that a strong male influence is important to a boy's development but that doesn't have to be a father.

    It seems to me it could be resolved quite easily if the parents were more sensitive to his needs. How is this any different from a boy being raised by a single mum?

    Legalising gay marriage does nothing to exacerbate this issue.

  • Amelia Ashton
    Amelia Ashton

    How many children of single Mums also grow up with either no male role models at all or only bad ones?

    Surely growing up in an environment where the child is loved and cared for counts for more than anything else. Whether it is one parent or two same sex parents wouldn't that be better than being raised by 2 unhappy heterosexual parents that have made the family home into war zone.

  • Thing

    Single parenting is very hard and taxing. I admire those who do it and understand the tremendous task that they are trying to fulfill.

    Cofty, you may have seen the following article in your English paper last month entitled "Children in single parent families 'worse behaved'"

    The link is here

    There are many issues surrounding the children raised by single parents. The issue is complex as the families can be single parent families, single but co-habitating parent (non-biological) families, single main parent but with shared parenting with the separated partner.

    A lot more research needs to be done to properly understand the issues and impact of single parent families.

    Interestingly very few governments seem interested in trying to strengthen marriages and sort out the tensions and negative aspects that are occurring.

  • Thing


    You wrote "Surely growing up in an environment where the child is loved and cared for counts for more than anything else."

    Where in the article did you find that the author wasn't loved or cared for by his two mothers?

    He early on refers to "my beloved mother", later he says "I cherish my mother’s memory". Sounds to me that he did grow up in a loving environment. He doesn't seem to refer to his mothers partner with any negativity or ill-feeling. (there seems to be no bitterness that he is trying to get off his chest).

    He states "To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A's."

    Sounds to me like he was cared for. Reading between the lines, it sounds like his environment was ok for getting homework done, and for studying. He himself says observers would conclude he was well-raised - sounds like "cared for" to me.

  • fulltimestudent

    So if he's (lOPES) cared for, Thing, how did the problem arise?

    Actually, I relate to his story - not because I grew up in a Lesbian household, quite the contrary, but because I grew up socially awkward too. I'm always kind of out of sync with others. Not quite sure why! Partly perhaps, because I seem to think differently, seeing aspects of matters that other do not seem to recognise or appreciate.

    My parents were just ordinary people, battling the same difficulties as most other people. The only difference for us, is that since my father had a government job we moved a lot, so perhaps I did not form the same relationships with other kids as I may have done if, I'd grown up continuously in the same town or neighbourhood.

    But for whatever reason I became intensely shy and found it difficult to form friendships.

    I became a JW for intellectual reasons, but found the social aspects difficult. Going H2H was torture. Always! Never changed. But I did learn within the congregation to approach people, particularly those who were not part of the inner cliques. And, I recall one other brother who in particular was also socially awkward and much like Robert Lopez. I took the time to try to form a friendship, but it was difficult - he once said to me, "You're just trying to be friends with me because the Bible tells you to." Well, yes! - but there was more than that. In time, he told me of his life. His parents were killed in a car crash when he was quite young, and he was given in care to an elderly aunt who showed her resentment at having to care for him. He spent most nights of his life sleeping under the house (and, Melbourne winter nights are below freezing) . In that social environment he never learned to relate to anyone. Most of the people in his congregation could not stand him (prickliness). No surprise then that he killed himself a few years later.

    So some people have social problems because they never learn to relate to others, some may have them because because its part of their personality - which may also have been part of the cause in my difficulties.

    However, as I read Lopez's story, I think he ignores another factor that may be pertinent to his difficulty, and that is the need for social approval. Humans are social animals, we like being part of the herd. Few of us want to be 'loners.' Even the famous Christian 'hermits' of early Christianity, seemed to like the adulation of admirers who came to watch them.

    Lopez seems acutely conscious that his "parents" were different - living in a socially unacceptable (though hidden) relationship. Think again about his words, " People in our community didn't really know what was going on in the house." Perhaps he feared exposure, in a school system where "poofter" was an insult. He recognises the love his "parents" showed him, and perhaps their feelings for each other, but within his own heart he may have feared the ridicule of his peers if the truth was known.

    If I am correct, then the more social acceptance there is for GLBT people, then the less will be the chances that people like Lopez will feel marginilised.

  • jgnat

    Congratulations, Britain! Now the LGBT community can face all the trials and joys of relationship like the rest of us, including raising children. Lopez's story reminds me of another bright young man raised in a mixed marriage; in this case, he was raised by a black man and a white mother. He straddled two cultures and struggled to find his own identity.

    Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada By Lawrence Hill

  • steve2

    Congratulations to the British people. New Zealand votes on the same topic later this year. Given that more than two-thirds of the public approve of gay marriage, the bill will most likely pass in to law. To think of the shift in public opinion reminds me how very recently this has occurred:

    In New Zealand, prior to 1987, men having sex with other men could potentially have been charged with a criminal offence, sentenced and imprisoned. The Bill decriminalizing homosexuality created a huge backlash from the "Christian" community who warned it would lead to a breakdown of society. The bill passed - no breakdown occurred.

    Years later - 2005 - the Civil Union bill was introduced into parliament. There was some opposition to this bill which allowed gays to enter into formalized and legal relationships but it passed by a healthy margin.

    Now, our country faces the introduction of marriage rights for gays. Yes, there is opposition - from the usual suspects. But the interesting thing is, these "suspects"are now saying positive things about decriminalization and the civil union bill (e.g., you gays are now treated so much better than you were in the passed). But the vital point is, the improved record of treatment is no thanks to "Christians" who have opposed allowing gays to have any basic rights in the first place.

    Equal rights for gay men and women and transgendered people is long overdue! Congratulations again to the British people!

  • steve2

    BTW jgnat, many gay and lesbian couples are already raising their own children. In my first relationship, my male partner (who is now deceased) had three children from his marriage. I am still like a second father to his children who are now adults.

    Also, a good lesbian friend of mine has three children from her first marriage; she is now in a civil union with another woman. They are looking forward to the right to marry because it will accord them greater protection from the law should my friend's ex ever contest shared custody.

  • fulltimestudent

    I started looking at the social problems encompassing people who are attracted (sexually and romantically) to the same sex a few years after leaving Yahweh's spiritual paradise. It is one of the most interesting social issues of our time.

    Why is it, that the sexual interests of a small minority attracts so much attention?

    And, why is it that the issue attracts so much abuse and the use of horrible words. From a sociological viewpoint something very deep and fundamental must be occurring at psychological level in those who wish to marginalise same sex attracted people.

    I've had on my wish-list of study units that I'd like to undertake, some on gender issues, another on sex and the body and similar - but always feel drawn by my over-riding interest, the rise of China and its role in Asia, and by extension anything to do with Asia (including west Asia). My goal is to graduate with an extensive understanding of Asia, east to west, north to south, and past to present.

    So gender issues remain on the sidelines, but the questions remain and why it is difficult for people to be objective.

    However, last year I commenced a Research project that will lead to a 5000 word essay. I've had my proposal approved and I started my research and thinking. The subject was to classify information about the lives of Japanese Kabuki stars in the 16th and 17th C, during the Tokugawa era. This was a time when Japan underwent immense sociological changes with the rise of a new social class - the townsmen. Now here's the key point (as far as this thread is concerned). homosexuality was an accepted part of Japanese Society. Professor Gary Leupp (in his "Male Colors-the Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan") says that sex between men was normative in the era. And there is much evidence that it always was 'respectable' and continued to be right up to modern times.

    The material I was, in particular, intending to mine for data, was written by Ihara Saikaku-sometimes called the "Japanese Shakespeare." The particular book was Ihara's "Nanshoku okagami," published in 1687. The title has been translated into English as "The Great Mirror of Male Love." Ihara Saikaku was the first Japanese writer to be able to make a living from writing books, a very modern development. As a popular writer, his first goal must have been to entertain and please his readers. That alone testifies to the popularity of "nanshoku," (sex with young men, or between young men).

    But I hit a roadblock, how should I communicate with 'my' readership. I felt reasonably confident of communicating with men, that is, where to be careful in expressing myself so as not to create mental log-jams, but what about women. I tried the information out with a few female academics I was friendly with, and immediately found that I created the mental log-jams that I wanted to to avoid. I'm still not sure of how to read that situation - but I am proceeding and will in semester 2 undertake a study unit at Sydney University, particularly dealing with this genre of Japanese literature, which has a woman teacher, and then I will finish my essay in S1/2014 at Macquarie U.

    Ihara Saikaku organised Nanshoku okagami in eight sections, but broadly encompassing same sex loves in three categories. First, in Buddhist temples, second among the Samurai and third dealing with Kabuki theatre actors. The very first story functions as an argument that compares loving women (girls) and men (boys). But the second could be said to set the scene for 'gay marriage' as it tells of two young boys who fall in love with each other and intend to live with each other from that time, a goal that is interrupted by the death of one at age 14. (A common experience in those times)

    I'm avoiding the controversy that this story can easily arouse by only dissecting the last 20 stories, which deals with Kabuki actors, I want to analyse their clothing, their careers (Lots of genuine actors are named, who can be traced through extant theatre advertising), their interests, their relationships with the theatre owners, and much more.

    So what's my point - simply, that here is a society so different to our own in its attitude towards male2male sex. And different also in that there does not seem to be virulent opposition to men having sex with other men and no horrible words. There were in that society men who only loved women, and men who only loved men, and some who loved both, all co-existing with no harsh words (that I've detected to date).

    The question must be asked, could it be that romantic/sexual attraction toward other men is more common in men than is accepted in our (western) societies? That all the arguments and hard words on this uissue are a result of the dissonance that some feel in themselves, when they are uncomfortable with their attraction, and out of sync with the society in which they live ? Maybe the above Robert Lopez is experiencing that dissonance?

    It is not unusual today for some preachers and politicians that oppose 'gay rights,' to be exposed as doing precisely the things that they speak against. Perhaps the more vociferous the condemnation of M2M sex the greater the internal dissonance in these people. Put another way, those men who truly unattracted to other men, have no need to shout their opposition to it.

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