Sally Kohn, a CNN pundit and lesbian mother of a six year old daughter that she is raising with her partner, gained greater notoriety lately when she declared that she wants her daughter to be gay, and is ‘disappointed’ that she’s already boy-crazy. She claims that she’s not unhappy being gay, has never had a desire to ‘change it’ even if she could, that she thinks it’s perfectly normal for a parent to want their child to follow in their footsteps. Her quoted statement is as follows:
“More often than not, we define happiness as some variation on our own lives, or at least the lives of our expectations. If we went to college, we want our kids to go to college. If we like sports, we want our kids to like sports. If we vote Democrat, of course we want our kids to vote Democrat,”
This declaration has given me much to reflect upon as a gay parent to two boys. I have long outgrown any desire to change who I am in terms of being a gay man and wishing I were heterosexual. I, in younger days, certainly wished I were not gay when I was being harassed for it as a teen. I remember my first real ‘encounter’ with another male and how, no matter what the physical act felt like, it ended with me standing in a shower stall sobbing as quietly as I could because no matter how hard I had tried to deny it to myself and to others, I was, in truth, exactly what other people were calling me and telling me was so wrong and so bad and so terrible. I used to think that I wouldn’t wish being gay upon anyone. At some point in my life I realized that it wasn’t being gay that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone…it was being the target of hatred and intolerance that I, and many others, experienced surrounding it. No one should have to endure it, no matter what they are being targeted for. In this respect I can agree with Sally Kohn, the lesbian mother quoted above, that I wouldn’t change it even if I had the opportunity.
Where I find myself beginning to disagree with her is in her desire to have her child follow in her footsteps. I don’t wish to impose my opinion and my beliefs on others and say that it’s wrong for them to want this, but I disagree with this idea completely. I want my children to have as easy a life as possible, and as many opportunities as they can. I want my children to be happy. I can, in fact, tell them over and over again that I want this for them. I cannot, however, tell them what it is that will make them happy – that is something they will have to learn and decide for themselves. One of the boys likes sports – the other is indifferent to them. One loves to read (as I do), the other says he hates it. I have no liking of video games; both boys love them. I’m happy spending time by myself, they both seem to be more comfortable in the company of another person. What makes them happy is not always what makes me happy. What they choose to do with their lives and how they vote and what kind of music they listen to isn’t something I can decide for them. That isn’t my job as a parent. My job is to love them, no matter what they decide for themselves, and hope they are happy with those decisions.
As for their orientation, that is also something I can’t wish for them or decide for them. Several months ago my youngest boy asked me what makes a person gay. The conversation went like this:
‘Daddy, what makes a person gay?’
‘Well, they are either born that way or they’re not born that way. Just like you were born with brown hair and brown eyes and some people have blonde hair and blue eyes because they are born that way….some people are born gay.’
‘Do you think I’ll be gay?’
‘I don’t know….that’s something only you will know.’
‘Which do you want me to be…gay or not gay?’
‘I want you to be happy…..’
‘But do you want me to be gay or not gay?’
‘What I want, honey….is for you to be you….whoever that is….and no matter who that is….I will love you.’
For me, this is the beginning, middle, and end of the story – I want the boys to be whoever they are, and I will love them no matter what. I cannot imagine ‘wanting them to be’ anything other than exactly what and who they are. Gay, straight, athletic, reflective, ambitious, content,…..I want them to be them and be happy with it. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Sally Kohn article that I read concludes with her saying ultimately she will support her daughter’s ‘choices’. I find this to be a very disappointing word choice that has, via the accompanying comments of others who read the article, simply fueled the age-old argument that being gay is a choice one makes.
I know it’s not a choice. I didn’t choose it for myself, and have no desire to want to ‘choose’ it for another human being. I am grateful that I am loved irrespective of it. Whether my kids are gay or straight is up to them. I only hope that no matter what they ‘are’ – they find the love and support that I’ve found in my life.
They already have my love, and always will.