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.