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04/01/2014

Video: The reliable myopia of an unmarried, childless marriage and parenting 'expert'

by Jeremy Hooper

I've always considered the far-right's myopic attacks on LGBT-headed families to be among the nastiness, but things took an obvious turn for me in the latter part of last year. When I became a parent, every word that the usual anti-LGBT suspects unleash upon LGBT families in order to support their discrimination started landing in new and unexpected ways. What was once politically outrageous became so fully personal. And even though I always knew that their simplistic takes sounded like utter crap, my real world experience moved the rhetoric to this new realm of absurdity. They were so clearly describing something other than the life I know to be true that the words became both more and less enraging.

When it comes to attacking that which he simply doesn't know, Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson is one of the worst offenders. Ryan, unmarried and childless, goes around the country and takes to the media with regular denunciations of marriage and family structures of which he disapproves. Credit where it's due, Ryan is good in his presentations. With his professorial tone, the Robert George protege is quite capable at taking the far-right talking points and selling them, as if his carefully workshopped scenarios, wholly overstated definitives, and obviously Catholic-driven views (Ryan has admitted, among other things, that he supports the Catholic view that gay people should be "chaste") are something other than what they are: his personal opinions meshed with his movement's political strategy.

Here he is doing it again. Watch as much or as little as you like (for the rest of this post, the first eight minutes or so should suffice), and then I'll meet you on the other side:

First let's talk about his ridiculously oversimplified take on gender roles. If delivering this speech within the confines of a TV script from 1952, then perhaps his "men like to roughhouse/women like to give hugs" conceit would have some currency. If you actually spend time with parents, circa 2014, you know that Ryan's roles are his Catholic-motivated wishes, not accurate descriptors. Moms play. Dads nurse wounds. Both cook, clean, shop, etc. Single parents do it all. It is an outright joke to pretend that a Sunday AM "wrestling" match is always going to be dad-on-kid or that Saturday afternoon at Bloomingdales is made for moms. It's not that way in Manhattan, at least.

My kid has two dads. I am the one who is quicker to tell Andrew that he's playing a little too rough. But I'm also the one who has to hold her while she gets her shots, since I'm the one who can stomach it with a stiff upper lip. We both possess traditionally "hard" and "soft" qualities, as all parents do. Ryan T. Anderson doesn't get to live in a fictional "sugar, spice and everything nice" + "snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails" world of neatly delineated parenting. That is not our world. And by "our," I don't mean my family—I mean Earth, proper (and America, most specifically).

Then let's talk about intent and purpose. Ryan, like so many social conservatives, talks about the child's need. About what is supposedly "best." About their—all of them. all the billions. every one— supposedly longing for another kind of structure, should that structure be something other than mom and dad for life. This one drives me nuts.

While I will never go fully into the details of Savannah's birth, I will tell you some pertinent facts.
(1) Andrew and I have been with Savannah since her first breath of life. I actually cut the cord.
(2) We fought harder to be the parents of this kid than for anything we've ever before fought. This was not an unconsidered or unwanted development, as many births are. Every second of our path toward parenting was a conscious act of love; every second of our parenting is born of this same impetus.
(3) In the days leading up to her birth, the word "fate" was thrown around a lot, by all involved parties.
(4) This was a thoroughly "pro-life" decision. There were other choices.
(5) Andrew and I were screened in ways that few parents have to be. We didn't squeak by. Our fitness, capabilities, and characteristics highlighted us as proper potential parents.

In her six months of life, the time that I have been more than fifteen feet from my daughter is still measured in hours, not days. There is not a second that goes by that Andrew and I are not thinking about her and what is best for her life. I have not engaged in one act, big or small, since September of last year without considering how it might impact her.

Like gender roles, there are all different kinds of parents with a myriad of commitment levels, resources, motivations, and views on what their role is to be. Andrew and I have chosen to be very hands-on, and we are fortunate enough to have lives that allow us to be. It's also just kind of who we are, as a couple and now as a trio. Other families are different, based on both need and want.

And that is the point: there are many different types of families, realities that brought them together, and views on the "proper" way to move through this world. There are also many different kinds of kids with various longings that go far beyond whether or not they were raised by a mom and a dad (many of us gay kids of straight parents know this all too well). It is simply ignorance to pretend that ours is a June and Ward Cleaver world, with little Beavers who get some sort of golden ticket by virtue of their parents differing genitalia.. It isn't that kind of world. It never really was that kind of world, really. And it shouldn't be that kind of world. "Diversity" isn't just the liberal code word that people like Ryan have so shamefully besmirched it as being. Our world is, in fact, diverse. That's a good thing.

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