When conservatives rant against "gay rights," almost always included is some kind of "think of the children!" message. Just a couple of weeks ago Rick Santorum (snicker) made some truly heinous comments about how children would be better off with a father in prison than two gay fathers at home.
I have always thought these arguments were a load of crap. After all, I know several families with two moms or two dads, and they have never seemed all that different to me. But the families I know are generally within my community and live in my neighborhood. What about those other families out there, ones I wouldn't identify with so easily? Could a family who was very different from my own also be the same? I thought about it awhile and ended up sending a message to Sean Maher. Sean, an actor, publicly announced he was gay on Sept. 26 last year in Entertainment Weekly, stating that his family (with his partner and two young children) were the driving factor in his decision to come out.
Our family has a mom and a dad, we live in a red state, and we are definitely middle-class. We don't know anyone famous (or even close) and have nothing to do with the entertainment industry. Sean's family has two dads, they live in California (one of our bluest states), and they are affluent. Sean has appeared in several movies and television shows, including the recently cancelled Playboy Club and the beloved sci-fi cult hit Firefly.
(I have to make a confession here. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am huge nerd. At a party not long ago, a friend and I started singing the lyrics to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, "Once More with Feeling," back and forth to one another, just to annoy everyone. So I was definitely aware of who Sean Maher was before he came out of the closet. Imagine my surprise -- and glee! -- when he emailed me back and was interested in talking to me.)
Within the first few words of our conversation, it was obvious: Sean is head-over-heels in love with his partner and kids. We started by talking about parenting small children: how much love and devotion can be inspired by those tiny humans, how they make us laugh, and, of course, sleep deprivation.
It wasn't long before we realized that we had a deeper, heartfelt similarity: we both had a deep understanding of what a privilege and honor it is to be a parent.
Sean and his partner Paul went the open-adoption route to create their family. Adoption is something that has to be thought out, discussed, and researched in length before anyone can even begin. It is a long, paperwork-filled process that sometimes comes with moments of pain and heartache. But at the end comes this amazing little baby (and his or her amazing birth mother), making it more than worth every moment that came before it.
My husband Dave and I, on the other hand, went through infertility. Infertility is filled with doctor visits, evasive tests, and what feels like endless heartache. It requires soul searching and research, and long conversations about what a couple is (and, more importantly, isn't) willing to do to have biological children. We were lucky and now have three amazing boys.
And after our children arrived, both Sean and I felt a huge appreciation for the process it took to get there. It taught us both, in no uncertain terms, what an amazing privilege and miracle it is to be a parent. The journey was beautiful to us, because the lessons it taught were such important ones.
Another similarity that really struck me was how Sean and I, as well as our partners, cherished the experience of falling in love all over again once we became parents. Sean recalled a day when his daughter was a newborn, and he walked into the living room to find Paul asleep on the couch with their also-sleeping young daughter curled into his chest. Sean just melted at the sight of the two of them, his heart so filled with love and gratitude.
I couldn't help but think of how Dave often tells people his favorite moments of our children's infancy: when he would find me on our living-room couch, passed out with the exhaustion only a newborn can bring, with one of our sons still curled into my breast, and his heart would burst with pride and love.
There were other similarities. Sean spent two years as a stay-at-home parent and primary caregiver, a role Dave has filled since our first son was born and still does to this day. They both experienced challenges with taking on this traditionally female role, even in this day and age. We both live without our parents in babysitting distance. We both have a community of close friends we adore and lean on. And there were so many others.
After a while, the differences of gender, location, and financial status just weren't that big a deal. We are families founded in love and built with work and determination. We're both so damned grateful and proud, and we can't wait to see where life brings us next.
Sean and I both know how lucky we are. (And we know all those people shrieking "think of the children!" are full of shit.)