When work on Cybill Union began in December, 2014, I shared word of its progress with use of hashtags “gaymarriage,” “gayparenting,” and “cybillunion,” naively believing that an interested audience would develop gradually. Stories of coming out to one’s children, losing a loved one and having no peer group with whom to share grief, and aging in a neighborhood where a new generation “looked through you” because you were no longer beautiful seemed provocative subjects that merited awareness. Unfortunately, what was unfathomable was how these hashtags were a trail of breadcrumbs that led to a currently deleted Twitter account where, as modern transparency had it, a more interesting word skirmish happened.
On January 29, 2015, there was a privately sent letter in my Twitter Inbox. The letter was vehemently against gay marriage and gay parenting and even offered a link to an article supporting the point of view. I clicked and read tales of three adult children of gay parents. One watched his parents having sex with new partners. Another adult – coincidentally straight – admitted to growing with problems of sexual identity. The third was unhappy to not have the balance of an opposite-sexed parent. In their defense – and because I have not had their experiences – I understand these points of view to an extent. I was quick to point out, however, that these examples were of bad parents and not bad gay parents. For heterosexuals also occasionally prefer open relationships over intimate ones. Some are not sexually frank with their children. Many others raise children in single-parent households. These are signs of the times left over from the ’60s.
The next day I awoke to a new article from the same organization. Although it seemed certain they did not consider my point, I reacted by sharing the result of a thirty-year case study undertaken at Boston University and co-authored by School of Medicine Professor of Pediatrics Benjamin Siegel. It concluded that gay parents were as good as straight ones (http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/gay-parents-as-good-as-straight-ones/). Again, it went unnoticed, and I received more opposition to the hashtags I support.
Still undefeated, I offered a last idea.
“Reach out to your community,” I encouraged my adversary. “Find a child of gay parents and speak to him/her after getting the permission of a parent. Engage!”
The response was unabashedly cowardly, reading,” Oh, no, we couldn’t do that.”
Opposing parties, we had sat at either end of the table for two days and shared points of view. I suggested the word “poor” to describe a bad parent rather than the coverall term “gay” and offered general examples of poor parenting. I requested that they engage with the population they judged and listen to gain new understanding. I entertained their points of out of fairness while they seemed ignore mine. With nothing else to do, then, I politely refused to engage further, wishing them luck on their way.
The response surprised me again.
, it read.
Surprisingly, it seemed a handshake from the other side of the table.