Alternative Family Week – 3/30/2000

For my Diamond Jubilee Lesbian Years, I had envisioned Mother Earth Watch trips with my fellow crones, counting hawks in migration over Lesbos; circling up the silver Airstreams and swapping coming out stories around the camp fire after a day of convoying in voter registration drives throughout the South; or popping out my uppers and gumming the pretty young things who attended to my every need at Amazon Manor. No wait, that last one was a movie I rented.

But at the rate my friends are having kids, my late lesbo a go golden years are going to be more about attending bat mitzvahs, chaperoning proms, attending college graduations, and cheering at Olympic Gymnastic Events.

Go figure.

After twenty-five years of the right’s steady drum beat thumping family values, the left’s challenge to gender roles and the medical middle’s advances in reproductive science, lesbians and now gay men are having and getting kids. Lots of them. Many of them are now having second kids. Apparently rollicking barebackers are not the only ones forgoing protection.

Provincetown’s Third Annual Alternative Family Week last July was like a promenade at the Breeder’s Cup, with serious stroller gridlock throughout town, many of them double-wides. The A&P ran out of Huggies. There were networking groups for gay parents, play groups for kids and more face painting than the Saturday night drag shows. For the first time since the heyday of the mid-eighties full service lesbian music scene, we offered childcare during my show. After years of maturing as a movement, self-hate seems to have decreased as evidenced in the paraphrase, “I’m having my baby, what a wonderful way of saying how much I love me.”

In the beginning of the Gay Baby Boom, I thought of forming a group called ACWC, “Adult Children Without Children”. It seemed like we shouldn’t be having baby showers with Michelin tire party favors, but going away parties. Friends trying to get pregnant were semi-present in wild two week mood swings. Dinner conversations involved debates about fresh sperm versus frozen sperm. That was just appetizers. Those friends adopting kids, were stunned by alternating bouts of anticipation then disappointment, and some literally left the country for months at a time to get their children. Some put their new children on credit cards. No judgement here; I just don’t think one should name the child Optima.

With the arrival of the babies, friends were absent due to horrific sleep deprivation, worry and the sheer goo goo gaga magic of single or couple parenting. Full sentences, late nights out [later than eight p.m.] and conspiratorial eye-rolling during interminable volunteer meetings were things of the past. I had my abandonment issues.

If I weren’t such a sucker for babies and kids, I would have organized ACWC chapters statewide. I like kids so much, I don’t have them. After about two hours with kids, I have a tendency to glaze over and after a babysitting scare involving Lincoln logs and a butane lighter, I thought it wouldn’t be right. So I don’t have kids. That I know of. There was that softball summer. But the point is no one has gotten in touch with me.

Like a priest doing marriage counseling, I do have some advice. I was a child once, I helped raise two younger sibs, I have nine fabulous nieces and nephews, and at last count fourteen small ones with friends. The New York twins are due in September. I am not uncredentialed.

When I ask my friends if they are going to raise their kids to be gay, they have a moment of semi-horror and say, “Oh, no, I am going to let her make her own choice.” Listen, we live in a heterosexual mall, I say if we really are going to try this experiment, let’s give the kids some help, and get some gold lame on those little boys and a nice little tool belt on those girls.

Most of my friends feel the pressure to prove that gay people can be great parents and raise spectacular kids or they have read that study that said every single moment is a teachable moment for their kids. Everybody could use a nap. That’s where people like me come in. Kids love to see me coming, because compared to most of the three year olds they know, I am a major slacker. My idea of an educational field trip is to pop them in the car and drive through the car wash screaming.

Too many of my friends are choosing private schools over public schools when their kids are school age. This saddens me because as a former high school English teacher, I would have loved to have seen some gay parents stroll into my room on parent-teacher night. I look forward to gay parents changing the heterosexist culture of public schools, soccer leagues, Scouts as they roll on through their kids development.

One way or the other, we are changing the structure of family. It’s about time. The recent events in Littleton, show again that the vaunted nuclear family at its whitest, upper class best is not working. It’s time for the Village people to raise some children.