Being a gay parent, even in New York City, is still unusual enough to engender curiosity about our family. This blog is, in part, a response to that. But in reality, there is very little about the act of parenting so far that has had anything to do with sexual orientation. That fact hit home when, a couple of months ago, Stewart, Max, and I attended the 21st annual LGBT Center Kids, Center Families Pride Picnic during Gay Pride Week at Church of St. Luke in the Fields here in NYC. We made a special effort to attend because even though Max was all of a month old at the time, we thought that if any event would highlight for us what life would be like as a gay parent in the city, this picnic would.
At the end of the day, though, the picnic was refreshingly boring. What do I mean by that? Well, the only thing that differentiated this event from the likely thousands of neighborhood block parties that take place across American suburbia each summer is that the parents were same-sex couples. Otherwise, the activities consisted mostly of parents running around after their kids making sure they didn’t hurt themselves, refereeing playground disputes, feeding them hot dogs and hamburgers and cleaning them up afterwards, and trading tips with other parents about schools, or family-friendly summer events, etc. etc. In other words, they were simply parents being parents. If any of the homophobic interest groups out there had snuck in to videotape for an exposé, they would have been sadly disappointed.
This isn’t to say that we didn’t have a great time, or that we don’t feel the need to attend events for gay families in the future -- to the contrary. What we enjoyed most about the picnic was the diversity of the families that attended. There was a good mix of lesbian parents, gay male parents, inter-racial couples among both, and children of all sorts of different ethnicities (sometimes even within the same family). We love what that says about the color-blind nature of love and we hope Max’s friends will reflect the melting pot that makes this city so great. I’ve mentioned in a previous post how interested many strangers have been in how Max was conceived, so it was also refreshing at the picnic that when we met and chatted with the different families there, no one asked us about that, and we didn’t think to ask anyone else how they went about creating their families. We love Max’s creation story, but sometimes it’s just nice to be a family. Everyone else there seemed to feel the same way.
The picnic was also important to Stewart and me because we both agree that we want Max to grow up knowing, and hopefully having close friends from, other same-sex led families like ours, so that having gay parents winds up being as ho-hum to Max as the picnic ultimately seemed to us. We want to start working on that before Max even knows what being part of an “alternative” family means. And believe it or not, that will take some work. Stewart and I do not live our lives in a very gay-centric way. While we have a small circle of amazing, and amazingly supportive, gay friends, we don’t live in a gay ghetto or have a large extended gay network. We don’t know many gay couples with kids (or for that matter many straight ones!) So, starting next month, we plan to attend the LGBT Center Kids, Center Families Play Days which are held once a month during the school year.
I can only imagine that the first summer picnic twenty years ago must have been much different than the one we attended, and maybe in twenty years families with gay parents will be so common-place and accepted that there will not even be a need for such an event. But until then, Stewart, Max and I will have our picnic baskets fully stocked and ready to go!