Earlier this week, Donna and I were helping Hunter with a homework project for Spanish class. His assignment was to create a family album by using pictures of celebrities to show familial relationships. As we flipped through a magazine, we saw a picture of Anderson Cooper.
"Anderson Cooper is hot!" Donna told Hunter.
I added, "And he's smart too, which makes him even hotter!"
Hunter's response was "Huh. You don't hear that a lot in the Graffam family. So, he MUST be hot!"
After we stopped laughing, I realized how my son's quick wit is one part genetic (he's Donna's clone in that regard) and one part coping mechanism. He has used humor, like many of us do, to test the underlying values and beliefs that make up our society. In this case, many people would think it's absurd that two lesbians would be swooning over Anderson Cooper. Hunter's comment was rooted in that perceived absurdity.
Some people probably think that Donna and I were absurd to think we could be good parents. People like that are usually hung up on the traditional definition of family. Meaning, it takes a mother a father. How could two women possibly think they could raise a child? As we were helping him do his assignment, it was clear that two same-sex parents were not part of the thinking. The angel on one shoulder tells me that it's because the intent was to learn the Spanish words for mother, father, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, cousin. The devil on my other shoulder whispers that perhaps it's also intended to subconsciously reinforce the definition of family doesn't reflect what our family looks like.
My skepticism is further fueled as I fill out paperwork for Skye's kindergarten registration. I had to cross out "father" on several forms to show that Skye's family includes two parents, but those parents are both moms. So, I've made a mental note to raise that observation during the next Partners in Education meeting at the school and suggest making the forms more inclusive. I'm blessed to sit on the committees that allow me to have a voice, so I know I'll be heard. What I don't know is what the reaction will be. I'm hoping it will continue to be open and collaborative, as it has been to date.
Last summer, Time magazine reported that children raised by lesbian parents may do better than their peers. The data that Gartrell and Bos analyzed came from the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), begun in 1986. The authors included 154 women in 84 families who underwent artificial insemination to start a family; the parents agreed to answer questions about their children's social skills, academic performance and behavior at five follow-up times over the 17-year study period. Children in the families were interviewed by researchers at age 10 and were then asked at age 17 to complete an online questionnaire, which included queries about the teens' activities, social lives, feelings of anxiety or depression, and behavior.
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that 41% of children reported having endured some teasing, ostracism or discrimination related to their being raised by same-sex parents. But Gartrell and Bos could find no differences on psychological adjustment tests between the children and those in a group of matched controls. At age 10, children reporting discrimination did exhibit more signs of psychological stress than their peers, but by age 17, the feelings had dissipated. "Obviously there are some factors that may include family support and changes in education about appreciation for diversity that may be helping young people to come to a better place despite these experiences," says Gartrell.
I suspect some of the differences that happen in families with same sex parents is a more proactive approach in explaining complicated topics such as sexuality and diversity and tolerance,which leads to a stronger foundation on which those children are better able to manage issues like teasing and prejudice as they grow up. So, maybe Donna and I were on to something, without even realizing it. Rather than call it absurdity, I like to borrow President Obama's phrase and say that it's more an "audacity of hope" that drove us to create our family.
That audacity has certainly served us well and we continue to enjoy our blessings every day.
- Stacy Graffam
- I'm a lesbian mom in an inter-racial relationship, living in Bergen County, NJ. My wife and I are raising two beautiful children, an eleven year-old son and a six year-old daughter. I'll be sharing our adventures in faith and parenting on a regular basis. My entries are also published in Gay Parent Magazine (www.gayparentmag.com).