Foreword to We Are Family: Testimonies of Lesbian and Gay Parents
Edited by Turan Ali (Nov 1996)
When I first told my father I was queer he asked if anyone had "interfered" with me as a choirboy in the local Parish church. To this day, the corruption theory of homosexuality remains surprisingly pervasive. Gay sex, acccording to the logic of this view, is sensational: try it once and you're hooked for life.
Actually I can recall sexual fantasies about other boys - and older men - from the age of four or five, while at eleven I'd have liked nothing better than a little "interference" from fellow members of the all-male church choir. They were (alas) mostly straight - and those who weren't never gave me a second glance. So much for corruption.
Mention lesbian or gay parents to the average het Brit, however, and the C-word will hover, spoken or unspoken, over the remainder of your conversation. With homosexual role models, what chance will the poor little tykes have of growing up "normal" ?
The answer of course is exactly the same chance as anyone else. Years of pressure from parents, siblings, schoolfriends, soaps, comics, magazines, movies, advertising and pop lyrics consistently fail to make gay teenagers grow up straight. Experience suggests that hets will be het, queers will be queer and there's not a damn thing parents - or anyone else - can do about it.
Actually lesbians and gays often make rather good mothers and fathers - not to mention teachers, youth leaders and counsellors - because we know at first hand how far the needs of a child may differ from the expectations of its parents. "Be yourself" should be the first tenet not only of gay liberation, but of growing up itself.
There are already too many disturbed and wretched children in our schools. Making babies is the work of moments, undertaken all too lightly by the reckless, the immature and the downright irresponsible. Lesbians and gays who become parents don't - on the whole - do so by accident: every mother is willing, every child is wanted.
My son is just five, which makes me no kind of expert on parenthood. For years, other people's children had seemed daunting and tiresome - while "breeder" was my favourite term of abuse to make fun of heterosexuals behind their backs. Naturally enough, having a kid of my own changed all that - I now find myself flirting with babies in prams and stopping their parents in the street to coo and flatter. It's nauseating.
Certainly, parenthood is stressful at times - and no doubt worse is in store. Yet when a small person spontaneously flings his arms around your neck and calls you "darling Daddy" the feeling is incomparable. Most of us are replaceable at work or at play, but no-one will ever replace you as that child's parent. This relationship is for life.
Forget sexuality. Happy, secure kids need happy, secure parents willing to embrace the decades of commitment, love and support that are every infant's birthright. The traditional nuclear family has no monopoly on these qualities. Everyone who can bring them to bear in raising the next generation will deserve its undying thanks.
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