Even down under, a topic related to gay folks can cause quite a stir.
The Daily Telegraph in Australia reported on May 4th that
…a book which teaches children about lesbian mums getting pregnant using sperm donors is being pitched at kids as young as two. The controversial publication, ‘Where Did I Really Come From?‘, also features a drawing of two gay men holding a baby in a chapter about surrogacy.
The publisher’s marketing spruiks the book, which includes in-depth descriptions of sexual intercourse, as suitable to be read to two-year-olds. It was being advertised at some Sydney book stores and inside the cover as being part of the New South Wales Attorney General Office’s Learn to Include program, the Daily Telegraph reported today.
I tried to find the book at my local library and they didn’t have it. I also wasn’t interested in paying $20 for it online. From the information that I could find, the book talks about different methods for conception, beyond the “original”. In vitro fertilization, surrogacy – including how gays and lesbians can become parents.
Besides learning a new word, spruiks (Google it, I had to), I also thought it would be interesting to read some reader comments. Are they different in Australia? Turns out, no they are not.
It should be considered child abuse for gays and lesbians to adopt or receive fertility treatment .Think of how messed up the children will be growing up in a strange environment like that, not to mention the torture they will suffer through school, or the fact that they may be taken out of schools for home schooling to shield them from what the other kids will do making them even more unbalanced. And for them to try and impose thier views on the minds of infants and the very young is just disgusting to say the least… I spose my comments will go unpublished or apear ‘edited’ at best (I no [sic] I am not PC but i dont care this is wrong) If you cant make a baby the natrual way then dont do it at all – *consider all errors marked [sic]* Master Chief of Omocron Persi 8 Posted at 1:58pm May 05, 2009
(I can’t resist the urge to comment on two things. First, this guy needs major help with spelling and punctuation. Second, most people who home school are religious fundamentalists “to shield them from what the other kids will do.”)
And a comment from a different perspective.
Come on guys, this is reality, life whether you are in denial of hidden under a rock. Some kids have 2 mums, some 2 dads, some 1 parent, some kids are conceived with donors, some via the “old fashioned” way. They are all “children” regardless of conception method. They fact is, this book goes through all the methods, yes parents will exercise wisdom when deciding when to allow their kids to read the book. But then they always have haven’t they? Just because the book has been published doesn’t mean it becomes a parent’s only option in providing the details. Don’t like it? Don’t use it. I will be buying the book for my 11yo twin sons to read- unlike many other people commenting, they seem to understand that diversity in our community is not wrong.
If the book did not talk about gays and lesbians, would anyone really criticize? Don’t we all know a heterosexual couple that could not conceive “naturally” and went another route? Don’t we applaud that science is able to help a couple that wants to love a child so much that they will endure the emotional ups and downs of in vitro fertilization, the financial burden of surrogacy, the years of waiting for adoption? Explaining the means of conception for in vitro fertilization is probably less uncomfortable than explaining intercourse. If you can explain why people wear eyeglasses, you can explain a test tube baby.
The comments left by readers condemning any means of creating a child other than through man/woman sexual intercourse are only hiding their homophobia. Whether or not a two year old can understand these concepts is a different question. One I’m not going to tackle here.
It became very clear that the outrage about this book has nothing to do with discussing other means of conception and childbearing, nor at what age children can grasp these concepts. It’s about people who don’t think that gay people should have children.
Do LGBT people make good parents?
First a story, then the actual research.
Thirty years ago (yes, I was an adult thirty years ago), we were visiting a good friend in San Francisco, who happened to be gay. While we were there, it was Kurt’s birthday and several of his friends called him for a spontaneous birthday party. He explained that he had company from out of town, straight company. Their answer? “Bring them with? So what?”
I was excited but nervous. First, I had never been in a social setting with a group of gay people. I was more afraid of saying or doing something stupid. Kurt gave us some quick “etiquette” lessons. Still, in all honesty, I didn’t know if I could find something to talk about other than “hmm, so you’re gay. What’s that been like for you?”
Well thank goodness gay people throw great parties. There were about six men at the party with professions ranging from doctor to lawyer to waiter to financial broker, all very gracious, fun and relaxed, and so welcoming. Within minutes we were talking about the same things that our straight friends talk about.
One of the men had a six year old son, from a marriage. At this point in my life, I was still uncomfortable with the idea of gay people being parents. Not because I was worried about their parenting skills. I was more worried about their kids being teased. I had seen what my friend Kurt went through in high school. Being the child of a gay parent had to be a close second.
When it got to be around 9 a.m., Tom left the group to tuck his son into bed. The bedroom was on the first floor off the kitchen. He left the door open and I quietly eavesdropped. They were reading a book together, laughing and cuddling. If Tom would read a page the wrong way, his son would quickly correct him. If you have children, you know that they expect to hear a story the same exact way every time. Sometimes Tom would change this on purpose and ask his son “So how does that go again?” His son would then become the reader, providing his dad with exactly the right intonation and pace. Tom kissed and hugged his son goodnight, who quickly fell asleep.
I knew at that moment that any child raised by such a good parent could overcome any discrimination. At least the children of LGBT parents have support, something they themselves may not have had from their own parents.
Since then, we have come to know many gay parents. Some had children in marriages, before they were able to come to grips with their sexual orientation. Some adopted or used other means. All are great parents. All wanted to become parents. The desire to want and love a child is not at all linked to our desire for sex, whether the sex is heterosexual or gay.
But what about the world beyond my personal, limited experience. Here is what the American Psychological Association has to say:
In summary, there is no evidence to suggest that lesbian women or gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of lesbian women or gay men is compromised relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth. [emphasis added] – See: http://www.apa.org/pi/parent.html
Does it matter how a child is conceived? Parents, gay or straight, that need to use technology to assist with having a child, or adoption, are people who really want a child. Isn’t that the most important thing for a child, to be wanted, to be loved and cared for by a couple, or individual, ready to make that kind of commitment to another human being?