Friday, March 20, 2015

Two moms can't replace absent dads?

Okay, before I start with today's post, let me make one thing clear.  I think kids can be raised in a variety of different family systems and turn out perfectly okay. I think it's very possible that gay parents can raise normal, healthy, happy kids.  Today's post is about an article I saw on Yahoo! yesterday, written about a woman who grew up with two lesbian moms.

My initial reaction when I read the article by Beth Greenfield, a senior writer for Yahoo!, was interest.  Greenfield's report was about 31 year old mother of four, Heather Barwick, who wrote an essay that is generating a lot of controversy because Barwick writes that she doesn't support gay marriage or gay parenting.

Barwick has some personal experience which helped bring her to her conclusion.  When Barwick was 2 or 3 years old, her lesbian mother divorced Barwick's father.  Barwick explains that her mom knew she was gay when she married and left her husband to have a relationship with a woman.  Barwick writes that her dad "wasn't a great guy" and never bothered to come around while she was growing up.  So Barwick doesn't know him and, instead of having the dad she longed for, she grew up with another mother.

I posted this article on Facebook with the comment that I thought it was an interesting read.  Even though I don't necessarily agree with Barwick that gay parents are destructive, I do think that she has a right to express her views.  As someone who actually grew up with lesbian parents, I think she probably has more right to express her views about gay marriage and parenting than almost anyone else does.  However, I don't think Barwick's issues were necessarily caused because she was raised by two lesbians.  I think she has "abandonment issues", which is something that affects anyone who feels left behind by someone important to them.

Several of my female friends commented on this article and an interesting discussion ensued.  I am fortunate enough to have friends of every political and religious stripe.  It was mainly my liberal friends who were opining, though I did get some thoughtful comments from a more conservative Christian friend who wisely concluded:

This woman is wishing for a life she didn't have, and would never have had regardless of whether her mom was gay, straight, bi, or asexual. She's longing for a non-existent reality, and blaming what was for what wasn't. It's illogical. No amount of wishing will ever change the past.

Personally, I think Barwick has a deep seated sense of abandonment.  She joins anyone who has lost a parent to divorce or death or adoption.  That's not to say that all children who grow up without access to a parent have abandonment issues, just that it's a fairly common problem for people in those situations.  

One of my friends took issue with the fact that I referred to Barwick's mother's partner in a way that didn't suggest that she was also Barwick's mom.  She said that language is critical.  Trust me; I understand that.  However, Heather Barwick grew up in the 80s and 90s, which was a time during which gay marriages were not legally recognized.  Even if they had been recognized, unless the other mom legally adopted her (which she would not have been able to do in the 80s and 90s), legally the most she would have been is a stepmom.  Of all the people who should know about that, this friend probably should have.  We met on a message board for second wives and stepmothers.

I'm sure that Heather Barwick thought of her mom's partner as another mother.  That doesn't change the fact that in the eyes of the law, she wasn't related to her in any way.  If Barwick's mom had broken up with her partner, it's possible the partner would never see her so-called daughter again.  After all, stepparents generally don't have legal rights or responsibilities to their stepkids.  

One thing that neither Greenfield nor Barwick explained is what actually happened to Barwick's dad. Was he really just jerk who abandoned his daughter?  Or was he in a situation in which he was pushed out of her life.  I am suspicious of a woman who "knows" she's gay marrying a man, getting pregnant, having a baby with him and staying in the marriage until the baby is a toddler.  Then she decides to leave him and have a relationship with a woman.  Did Barwick's dad really just decide to stay away?  Or did Barwick's mom keep him away?  We don't know.  I wonder if Barwick really knows.  Chances are, she may not.

I read some of the comments on Barwick's essay and noticed people were casually referring to Barwick's father as a "sperm donor".  I actually have a big problem with people referring to deadbeat dads as "sperm donors".  I have ranted about that before on this blog.  To make a long rant short, the reason I object to the term "sperm donor" for so-called deadbeat fathers is because it denigrates real sperm donors who are providing a valuable service.  Some guy who is irresponsible and abandons his kids may have provided a service in the sense that the mother may have a child that she loves.  But what he's done is not the same as what a sperm donor has done (and has been paid for doing).  We shouldn't be equating real sperm donors with absentee fathers.  

Someone in the comment section of Barwick's essay also pointed out the possibility that Barwick's dad may have been alienated from her.  While it's entirely possible that he just split, I know from watching Bill's situation that sometimes dads who seem like they abandoned their kids didn't actually do that.  Sometimes they are pushed out into the cold and kids are simply led to believe that they were abandoned.  Personally, I think that's a shitty thing to do to a kid, making them believe that their other biological parent is a creep.  That has to affect kids deep down on a personal level.  But sometimes parents don't think about how that kind of talk may affect their child because they are too caught up in their own selfish issues.  I have no way of knowing what any of Heather Barwick's parents are like.  I just think it's very easy to jump on a bandwagon and make assumptions.    

In any case, while I think that gay couples absolutely can make great parents and raise well-adjusted, high functioning children, I am glad Heather Barwick had the courage to express her thoughts and stand up for her own opinions.  I, for one, am not a fan of sending people to "tolerance camp".  There's room in the world for all kinds of viewpoints, even the ones that people think are ugly.  Above all, I wish Barwick peace.  It sounds like she had a rather tough and traumatic childhood.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments on older posts will be moderated until further notice.