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.
Response by Xanna Don’t, 08/14/2011:
Wow, I never saw this until now (I’m updating my press kit and it came up on Google). Funny that I saw and had a pleasant chat with Ryan at a concert just last night.
I have to say that this editorial is very misleading. Of course I believe straight allies are a part of our community–a very valued part of it. I’m not voting anybody off the island. And I don’t have a problem with straight people working for gay entities–that was a big, erroneous leap.
But I think gay leaders should be gay. I support other communities, and while I feel a part of their causes, I would never presume to lead them. When we don’t put forth gay people as our leaders (especially in a state like Georgia), it looks like we’re not qualified to do it.
My specific criticism of GA Voice’s employee writing articles was that there must be qualified gay journalists out there, many of them hungry to work and likely discriminated against at some point in their career journeys, who could be doing it. Tossing writing assignments to your webmaster because he’s a warm body in the office seemed to be a matter of convenience, not a conscious effort. To GA Voice’s credit, they have a promising gay intern this summer who I recommended. We need to mentor our gay youth–they’re about to face the worst job market in half a century and it’s still legal to discriminate against them.
Finally, to call me a “local personality” is deliberately dismissive and, unlike my criticism, is an intended exclusionary tactic. As I prune my press kit, entities like The Boston Globe, The Austin American Statesman, and even American Airlines’ in-flight magazine had much more substantial things to say about me than that. “Locally,” I was Labrys’s Entertainment Editor for its last year in print and wrote/edited for other glbt publications that some folks would prefer I not mention, including my own.