Lucy and Carter both have parents who work for an LGBT media outlet. But are they both members of our community? Are their parents?
Carter’s mommy is gay. Lucy’s daddy is straight. Is one of us less valid as we work together to advance equality and visibility for the LGBT community?
Some seem to think so.
Carter is my daughter. Lucy is the daughter of Georgia Voice Web Manager Ryan Watkins. Recently, outspoken local personality Xanna Don’t attempted to “out” Ryan as straight on our Facebook page.
Commenting on a status update that had nothing to do with him or sexual orientation, she referenced “your heterosexual webmaster who posts these posts and writes many, many articles for your publication.” In the ensuing discussion, she suggested that we should employ “affirmative action” for gay people and not have straight employees.
The implication that Ryan’s work is somehow suspect because he is heterosexual is both deeply offensive and antithetical to the way we will win our full equality.
For all of our growing political strength, LGBT people remain a tiny minority of the American population. We will never achieve civil rights by ourselves.
Our best strategies and most poignant protests succeed because they convince those in the straight majority that our cause is just and right.
We need heterosexual allies, and should embrace rather than belittle them. But that’s not what I thought about as I watched Ryan, Lucy and Carter at last weekend’s gay bowling fundraiser.
You see, Ryan isn’t just a random straight guy who happens to be an excellent web manager and strong supporter of LGBT rights — although I would have hired him even then.
Much has been made of the so-called “gayby boom,” the documented increase in LGBT people raising kids. Ryan was on the front edge of that, the son of a mom who came out as a lesbian after having children in a heterosexual relationship. My daughters — Carter and her big sister — represent the next wave, born to lesbian moms who chose to have children together.
Our community has embraced these children as our own, with organizations created to provide support for their families, rainbow infant clothes, children’s areas at events like Gay Pride, and children’s Sunday School at gay churches.
But what happens when these kids grow up? If they turn out to be heterosexual, as most people do, will we still include them in our community? At what point does someone like Ryan, or one day my daughters, stop being seen as one of us?
Children of gay parents have the potential to change both LGBT institutions and the world at large. They also challenge us not to repeat the very dynamics of exclusion that were perpetrated on us.
Rev. Paul Graetz of Atlanta’s First Metropolitan Community Church touched on this in an interview in our last print issue. The MCC denomination was founded by gay people, but its membership is expanding — and will expand even more if the children of gay parents stay in the church as adults.
“Our children’s department is flourishing,” Graetz said of First MCC. “We’re looking at the next generation of MCCers, and it’s going to be a very, very mixed group of people.”
MCC is right to evolve with these young people, because the alternative would be to make these kids feel that when they discover their own sexual orientation, they are no longer welcome at the church where they grew up.
How sadly ironic it will be if we who were often kicked out of our communities of birth because of our sexual orientation then turn around and do that to another generation of kids.
It would be just as profoundly wrong for those of us who have been vulnerable to job discrimination based on sexual orientation to then commit it against others.
Top photo: Carter (right) and Lucy, the two youngest members of the GA Voice staff, at last weekend’s Bowling for Equality (by Laura Douglas-Brown)