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A Response To Same-Sex Marriage Opponent Heather Barwick

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A Response To Same-Sex Marriage Opponent Heather Barwick

Talia Wischmann

Ellie and I often discuss how all families look a little different. She has friends with gay parents, single parents, step-brothers and half-sisters. Her own parents are divorced, soon she’ll have a step-sister through her father’s upcoming marriage, and – omg embarrassing – her mom has a boyfriend. I’m fairly certain she’ll hold a grudge against me for not having more children, for divorcing her father, and probably for not being super wealthy with a private jet.

My parents are married. I had an extremely normal, middle-class, rural upbringing. I always wanted a sister, wished I was closer with my grandparents, wanted to go to school with black kids, and move to a high-rise in the city.

The grass is always greener on the other side. We don’t understand the decisions our parents made, and until we’re adults and can fully comprehend that they didn’t have a fucking clue what they were doing, we blame them for everything.

Yesterday someone shared a story with me; a story about a woman who feels jilted by her deadbeat father for leaving [full story pasted below]. Heather, the author, published her open letter in The Federalist and titled it, “Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting.” Her story is about being raised by lesbian mothers and how she has since come around to realize that the “traditional family” complete with a dad, a mom and several children, is the right way to live.

Conservative media outlets are selling the story hard. It shows why being gay and having kids is wrong. How the non-traditional family is ruining everything. But when I read the letter all I could see was how much this woman still hurts from her father’s absence.

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.

Heather lost her father. He walked away from her, and her mother found someone new. I’d venture to guess that even if her mother was straight and re-married a man, he wouldn’t have been able to replace her biological father. She felt abandoned, but that is certainly not proof that children of same-sex parents all feel a sense of loss or abandonment.

It’s lovely that Heather found a person to spend her life with, and that he cares deeply for their children, but she is comparing her caring, loving partner to her deadbeat father. She’s blaming her mother, and the fact that her mother is gay, for the sense of abandonment she feels.

She watched TV and saw snippets of her friends’ lives, and thought, “Hey, that looks normal. That looks perfect.” But the TV shows of Heather’s childhood, showing all those perfect, normal, happy families weren’t real.

One day her four kids will be grown, and they’ll have their own stories to tell. They’ll feel the same way we all feel: like something could have been better or different, like our parents could have tried harder or given more, that they aren’t normal. None of us are normal.

If a child is loved and treated well it just doesn’t matter if that child’s parents are women or men or one of each. That child is doing a hell of a lot better with even one loving parent than so many kids in the world.

 

Here is Heather's open letter, originally posted on thefederalist.com on March 17:

Gay community, I am your daughter. My mom raised me with her same-sex partner back in the ’80s and ’90s. She and my dad were married for a little while. She knew she was gay before they got married, but things were different back then. That’s how I got here. It was complicated as you can imagine. She left him when I was two or three because she wanted a chance to be happy with someone she really loved: a woman.

My dad wasn’t a great guy, and after she left him he didn’t bother coming around anymore.

Do you remember that book, “Heather Has Two Mommies”? That was my life. My mom, her partner, and I lived in a cozy little house in the ‘burbs of a very liberal and open-minded area. Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter. Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends. Or maybe they inherited me?

Either way, I still feel like gay people are my people. I’ve learned so much from you. You taught me how to be brave, especially when it is hard. You taught me empathy. You taught me how to listen. And how to dance. You taught me not be afraid of things that are different. And you taught me how to stand up for myself, even if that means I stand alone.

I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think.

Children Need a Mother and Father

It’s not because you’re gay. I love you, so much. It’s because of the nature of the same-sex relationship itself.

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.

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.

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.

I’m not saying that you can’t be good parents. You can. I had one of the best. I’m also not saying that being raised by straight parents means everything will turn out okay. We know there are so many different ways that the family unit can break down and cause kids to suffer: divorce, abandonment, infidelity, abuse, death, etc. But by and large, the best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father.

Why Can’t Gay People’s Kids Be Honest?

Gay marriage doesn’t just redefine marriage, but also parenting. It 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. That we will be okay. But we’re not. We’re hurting.

If anyone can talk about hard things, it’s us.

Kids of divorced parents are allowed to say, “Hey, mom and dad, I love you, but the divorce crushed me and has been so hard. It shattered my trust and made me feel like it was my fault. It is so hard living in two different houses.” Kids of adoption are allowed to say, “Hey, adoptive parents, I love you. But this is really hard for me. I suffer because my relationship with my first parents was broken. I’m confused and I miss them even though I’ve never met 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.

This isn’t about hate at all. I know you understand the pain of a label that doesn’t fit and the pain of a label that is used to malign or silence you. And I know that you really have been hated and that you really have been hurt. I was there, at the marches, when they held up signs that said, “God hates fags” and “AIDS cures homosexuality.” I cried and turned hot with anger right there in the street with you. But that’s not me. That’s not us.

I know this is a hard conversation. But we need to talk about it. If anyone can talk about hard things, it’s us. You taught me that.

header photo from Minnesota State Capitol found on cbsnews.com