A Difficult Marriage

I came across an article written by a woman raised by lesbian mothers. Heather Barwick argued in her piece that while she supports the gay community, she no longer supports gay marriage. She stated:

Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.

According to Barwick, her mother married her father essentially to fit in. However, Barwick’s mother eventually came out, divorced her father, and found a woman to share her life with. Barwick’s father “wasn’t a great guy” and after her mother “left him he didn’t bother coming around anymore.”

That is a poor reason for failing to support gay marriage.

It could be that Barwick’s father was a bad person who no child should be around. It could be that he was so hurt by his ex-wife’s actions that he wanted nothing to do with her and by proxy had nothing to do with his daughter. It could also be that Barwick’s mother did not want him around, made that clear to him, and he decided to stay away.

We do not know, and without that information we cannot fairly judge Barwick’s situation. However, this sort of problem is not specific to gay couples. This happens with straight couples as well. Once people separate, beginning a new relationship can strain or even destroy the established bond between parent and child. Yet this too has nothing to do with gay marriage. This happens in with straight marriage all the time.

So if this is the reason Barwick now opposes gay marriage, I think she needs to give a better argument. Incidentally, she does:

I grew up surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man. Yet, as a little girl, I so desperately wanted a daddy. It is a strange and confusing thing to walk around with this deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man, in a community that says that men are unnecessary. There were times I felt so angry with my dad for not being there for me, and then times I felt angry with myself for even wanting a father to begin with. There are parts of me that still grieve over that loss today.

That seems to be Barwick’s real problem and it is a legitimate one. She was raised around women who kept men out of their lives. That meant that not only did Barwick not have her biological father, but she also had no male role models to take his place. She grew up around lesbian, likely feminist, misandry, and instead of accepting it she dismissed it and yearned for what she was denied.

Again, that is a legitimate problem because many gay couples may do the same thing Barwick’s mother did. Peggy Drexler, for example, literally wrote the book on why boys do not need fathers and why single mothers and lesbians make the best parents for them. That attitude, the notion that deliberately keeping men out of children’s lives, will have a detrimental impact on both boys and girls.

Limited interactions are not enough. It is not good enough to see an uncle during spring break or talk to grandpa on the phone every other weekend. Children need to have a constant, consistent interaction with members of both sexes or there will be a sense of loss.

I am focusing on lesbians partly because that was the point of Barwick’s article and partly because in my experience lesbians are more inclined to isolate their children from males than gay men will isolate their children from females. It appears that gay men often have a circle of women in their lives that their children frequently interact with. Lesbians, however, appear to have less interest, for a variety of reasons, in including males in their inner circle. That leads to a greater chance of children raised by lesbians having few, if any, meaningful relationships with men.

That is a bad thing, particularly when done intentionally. Denying a child the chance to bond with a father or a father figure does not reinforce the validity of one’s relationship. It only reveals that one can be rather petty.

Yet even this argument does not justify opposing gay marriage. Every married couple will not have children. Of those who do have children, most will not engage in this level of isolation. It is bizarre to oppose equality based on the bad acts of a few, particularly when the acts themselves have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

As noted above, this sort of thing happens with straight couples all the time. Marriage is not the issue here; it is people’s propensity for callous indifference.

Barwick went on to state that children of divorce and adoption are allowed to speak about the hurt and pain the separation caused them, but:

[…] children of same-sex parents haven’t been given the same voice. It’s not just me. There are so many of us. Many of us are too scared to speak up and tell you about our hurt and pain, because for whatever reason it feels like you’re not listening. That you don’t want to hear. If we say we are hurting because we were raised by same-sex parents, we are either ignored or labeled a hater.

What I fail to see is the specific hurt that resulted from being raised by a same-sex couple. Barwick stated that gay marriage “[…] promotes and normalizes a family structure that necessarily denies us something precious and foundational. It denies us something we need and long for, while at the same time tells us that we don’t need what we naturally crave.” Yet there is nothing about gay marriage that caused the hurt.

I agree that gay couples may worsen the normal separation issues that happen when couples split and form new families. However, I think this really comes down to the attitude of the parents and how they decide to raise their children. If they decide to do what Barwick’s mother apparently did, namely bar their children from being around men while attacking men, then yes, they will certainly create the hurt and pain Barwick mentioned. But again, being gay has nothing to do with that. Scores of straight women, and some men, do this to their children.

I think Barwick should reconsider her position because it seems that she really opposes the “I don’t need a man” attitude, not gay marriage.

12 thoughts on “A Difficult Marriage

  1. We all need decent male and female role models while growing up. If we haven’t a father or mother figure to do that, I think homosexual parents should find someone to provide that.

    Anyway, for fear of sounding like a straw-misogynist, unless a woman is attracted to women or asexual, it’s pretty unlikely she’s telling the truth by saying ‘I don’t need a man’ to herself. Heterosexual men and women need each other broadly speaking, we all need someone to love and love us back, men AND women.

    Anyone – man or woman – who denies this to themselves and concentrates on a career is most likely left pretty empty inside. It’s just part of our makeup as human beings.

    I’m single at the moment so I should know :/

  2. So, absent the “I don’t need a man” attitude, then, can men as simply “friends of the family” with meaningful relationships to a child of lesbian parents easily completely replace the relationship of a child to his or her father?

  3. I’d love to drop in on a gay orgy in Ancient Greece and ask what they thought of gay marriage. They’d either not understand the question or think me insane, because the meaning of the word “marriage” changed before gays got anywhere near it:


    “Instead of seeing marriage as the moral context to pursue romantic love and sex, romantic love is now seen as the moral place to experience sex and marriage.This inversion is subtle enough that no one seems to have noticed, but if you look for it you will see it everywhere.”

  4. Maybe homosexuals shouldn’t be parents….. silly social experiment….

    It is difficult to imagine a social experiment lasting for the whole of human history. I think a better explanation would be that it is a natural result of a changing social view on homosexuality.

  5. Dave, marriage was not historically about love. In many, if not most, instances the act was done for financial, political, and social reasons. That is partly why stories about people marrying their true love were so common. It was uncommon for people to marry solely for love.

  6. The most disturbingly unbalanced kid I’ve ever seen was a boy in his mid teens being raised by his mother and her lesbian partner. That partner hated men to the point of refusing to travel a short distance in the same car as myself – the driver – and three other women including the mother.

  7. I think the problem arises not necessarily out of two women raising a child, but out of the (relatively common among lesbian couples) constellation of one of the two women being bisexual or having had a male partner for a long time, and the other partner being aware of this and being jealous and suspicious of men for this. She will try to keep men out of their inner social circle, thus also inadvertently preventing the child from having any close male role models.

    A male role model that is not close to the child (like a kindergartner or a teacher) cannot do the same things as a male role model that is within the inner social circle. For example, look at how men play with little children when they roughhouse. Like holding the child on their feet and turning them upside down, having spectacular fights etc. The children love it, but you cannot do this as a kindergartner or teacher.

    So in my opinion, we should not criticize lesbian couples who raise children for their homosexuality, but we should definitely criticize those lesbian couples who try to keep men out of their lives or even hate on men. Sorry for my english btw.

  8. Your thoughts are not wrong but I think it’s a general problem of same sex couples that the “other sex” isn’t necessary and isn’t wanted. Perhaps it’s a genuine problem of same sex relations. An intrinsic problem.

    I deny such parenthoods because it’s not natural that same sex couples get children within their emotional and sexual relationship. They must act a bit heterosexual to get children. This is the lie of this ideology in my opinion.

    It is obvious that the contemporary zeitgeist wants to do something good to homosexuals. It is a similar thing like the relation of the Germans to the Jews in Germany. The neurotic reference to the holocaust has made our parliament allow the circumcision of their small boys to the Jews (against our constitution!). Is this the natural right of the Jews? I say no.

    I think we have a certain dynamic concerning the rights of homosexuals.

    I often have the impression that lesbians have a bad relation to men. Feminists are the best example. All I want to say is that we must examine ourselves whether we are do gooders or whether we act with caution and neutrality.

    PS: I subscribe the words of Michi64 and Greg Allan above. Quite true.

  9. The fact that a child raised by lesbian or gay parents will always be denied the right to have either their father or their mother is enough of a reason to say gay marriage and gay parenting are detrimental to children. The fact that single motherhood and divorce are also bad doesn’t mean that gay parenting isn’t. The impact of growing up without a parent of each sex is so well-documented that only an idealogue could try to sweep it under the rug. I am personally more interested in promoting the best interest of children than making adults feel good about themselves, consenting or not.

  10. Charlotte, there is nothing about gay marriage that would deny a child a right to their father or mother. The married couple could always include the other biological parent in the child’s life. It is the failure to do that, something which many straight people also fail to do, that causes the problem.

  11. @Toysoldier

    Nevertheless, the opportunity to get to know both parents is much more higher for children of straight couples. This is intrinsic in my opinion. Okay, it’s not black and white as the cited author suggested, but there is an obvious difference. A gay or lesbian couple works without the natural mother or father from the beginning. You are right that there is an important cultural dimension but I still think that we shouldn’t deny the specific characteristics and dynamics of same-sex couples.

    Perhaps you cry out if I tell you that homosexuality in my opinion is in many cases the result of sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences in childhood. I think we shouldn’t play do gooders and shoot over the top. I have the clear impression that giving homosexuals the same rights is an overrated do-gooder-topic. I mean I don’t like that dynamic that we celebrate ourselves as good people and go to far because of blindness.

    There are many problems homosexuals suffer from which are in my opinion much more elementary and existential. Even in the western hemisphere.

    It’s a bit like the thing with women’s rights. We all feel good and celebrate ourselves if we fight against women’s discrimination. But what is discrimination? Here you can clearly see that we have a psycholgical dynamic of creating and phantasizing disadvantages which are not necessarily ones.

    An example is that dumb feminists and their believers claim a certain percentage of leadership post in companies. That is obviously silly and has nothing to do with women’s rights. Most people here in Germany deny such a law. But our government doesn’t care. In France many people deny homosexual parenthood.

    Perhaps your thoughts are driven by your fate as an estranged father. So we could say homosexual couples who have children should integrate the natural mothers and fathers.

    PS: My English is a bit improvised and powered by google translater. 🙂

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