The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
What is the hardest part about being a gay parent that straight parents don’t have to deal with?
I was born on Wednesday 22 July, 1987. Because they were friends of my bio-parents, my dads, Tim and Bill, took me home that same day. Later that year, they would become one of the first gay male couples in California to adopt a child. I put this question to my dads. Bill is out of town caring for an ailing family member. This is my summary of Tim’s response. At times the story gets gloomy, but it ends well. Promise.
The hard part about being a gay parent was the hatred. Hospital regulations required newborns be carried out of the hospital by a staff member. The nurse who carried me out spent the trip to my parents’ car chewing them out, condemning them for “ruining an innocent life,” saying she couldn’t think of a “worse fate for a helpless child,” asking how they could be “so selfish.”
The hard part about being a gay parent was the rejection. The State wouldn’t let Tim and Bill jointly adopt like a straight couple could. Even when Bill and Tim each filed separately, and each received glowing reports from the social worker assigned to their case, both applications were denied. My parents had to retain a lawyer and go into battle with the State of California just to become parents.
My parents have told me countless times that despite the challenges they faced, they have never regretted their decision to adopt and raise me.
The hard part about being a gay parent was the distrust. When I was pint-sized (see above), my dads toted me around in one of those chest carriers. People in the streets flocked to coo at me. With straight faces many of them would ask, “Where’s the mother?” as if to say, “Who’s really raising this child?”
The hard part about being a gay parent was the ignorance, and from people who should have known better. Gay men routinely told my parents how courageous and admirable it was of them to be raising a child, then in the same breath would ask, “But aren’t you afraid you’ll turn your son gay?” Tim always wanted to say, “Did your parents turn you straight?”
But the hardest part? Tim said it was the loneliness. Tim put his career on hold to raise me in a time when men didn’t do that. Whereas a stay at home mom could easily join a network of other supportive moms, Tim was largely on his own. In the first few years, he encountered few stay at home dads, and even fewer gay dads. Without that network, he often felt isolated. Alone.
But it did get better. Eventually Tim found his people. Not long after my parents adopted me, one (and then a few) of their gay friends followed suit and adopted kids of their own. A lesbian-mom support group eventually welcomed Tim into their ranks. And we started regularly attending a summer camp for LGBT families. And society started to change. Will and Grace aired, Ellen DeGeneres came out, Gay marriage became a thing, now Modern Family, and a million other little social shifts have made the United States a much safer and more supportive place for families like mine.
Finally, I don’t want to give the impression that the hardships described above were an arduous, daily burden. They were not. More like brief, painful passages punctuating an otherwise wholesome and uplifting 28-year story. My parents have told me countless times that despite the challenges they faced, they have never regretted their decision to adopt and raise me. That becoming parents, helping guide a tiny, helpless human into adulthood, continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.
Zachary Matheson is in the National Guard and enjoys writing about family and humor. Read more from Quora below:
- Are there any lies that your parents told you as a kid that you believed for longer than you’d like to admit?