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Parenting: My Two Dads

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J.G.: Do you try to hide the fact that you're lovers?

D.S.: Laughs No, we're not going to try to fool him into believing we're just roommates with a king-size bed. But we try to create this zone of comfort for him.

J.G.: It's a question of context. There are things you do as adults only among adults. Kids don't have to be made aware of everything at once.

M.R.: Do either of you worry that your children will reject you when they're older?

J.G.: I think there will come a time when they will be looking for something, as every kid does, to rebel against. This would be as handy as anything else. And while I am hopeful that my children will grow up to be broad-minded, tolerant men, I know that it is very possible that I am lavishing attention and love and money on people who are probably going to be nasty to me for a few years.

D.S.: It's the obvious thing to latch on to. You worry about your boys' growing up to become the boys who tortured you when you were a kid.

M.R.: Do you ever feel that your kids lose out on anything by not having a female figure in the house?

D.S.: In my case, D.J. is constantly around my mother and Terry's mother -- they're engaged in this relay race -- so it's not like he's lacking females in our house. There are lots of women in his life. People assume that two gay men raising a baby are raising it in a bathhouse somewhere, or on an RSVP cruise, in some all-male environment. And you know, the truth is, he's going to have female teachers. He has a female pediatrician. He has an aunt. He has two grandmas. He has so many women in his life that he's not going to want for them. But he's lucky that he has two parents, you know?

J.G.: Like you, we have a lot of women in our lives. But we're still an all-male family, and for the kids, there remains a bit of mystery about females. One day my son, Erez, walked into the bedroom of a friend who was staying with us as she was taking her shirt off -- he wasn't supposed to go in, but he did -- and he saw her breasts, and he said, "Oh, I know what those big floppy things are; those are your eggs!" And she later told us that maybe we should get a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves to help him out laughs. And indeed, the next day I was drawing cows and udders and women's breasts.

D.S.: Parenting is about being competent and responsible. It's not about gender, necessarily. Every day, Terry and I walk into D.J.'s room just after he wakes up, and he jumps up and down; he's very happy to see us. I really don't think he's thinking, "It's too bad there isn't a vagina here, too." You know what I mean?

M.R.: Some scientific studies suggest that women are more naturally inclined to be nurturers than men are.

D.S.: Yes. But when you're talking about 3 billion people, there are going to be exceptions -- hundreds of millions of exceptions. Frankly, I don't think a couple of hyper-masculine, buzz-cutted Chelsea gym boys should adopt. But I don't think they want to adopt. And unlike, say, straight people who shouldn't be parents, gay people who shouldn't be parents are unlikely to become parents by accident. You can't get drunk one night and adopt.

J.G.: I question the science you mentioned. In any case, there's a tendency to measure gay families against a fantasy template of non-gay families. Once, when I was doing a radio show, a guy called up and said, "You know, I despise gay parenting. A child needs love and nurturing, and how the hell is he going to get that with two men?"

D.S.: Now, think about what that implies, the idea that men are somehow incapable of love and nurturing.

M.R.: What kind of reception do you get at PTA meetings?

D.S.: My son is only 2, so no PTA meetings yet. But we've been well received at pediatricians' offices and fast-food outlets. The only places we sometimes feel uncomfortable, frankly, is on the gay strip in the city where we live.

M.R.: Has being a gay parent alienated you from the gay community?

D.S.: I find that most gay people, like most straight people, are idiots, and I find idiots pretty alienating. Gay ghettos are a nice place to spend your twenties, but who can live there forever? Ultimately, there's no such thing as "gay community." There are your friends, and your family, and that's your community. My community has always been mixed, gay and straight.

J.G.: I agree with that. It's true that we have felt a bit like pariahs in some gay settings. Not just because of the obvious, absurd attacks we get on political grounds -- that we are betraying gayness by collaborating with some sort of heterosexual Vichy -- but subtler things, too. Some gay men seem to feel we are passing an unfavorable judgment on their childlessness just because we do have children. When Erez was a baby, we took him to a fund-raiser in the Hamptons, and many men turned away from us. A baby disrupts a room's sexual energy -- just ask its parents. And I think, for some older men, a baby may be a painful symbol of what they gave up.

On the other hand, straight people have been more accepting than we expected. Erez used to go -- and Lucas still goes -- to a preschool run by Lubavitchers in our neighborhood. Initially, I had grave doubts about allowing this: I was afraid there would be more Menachem Schneerson than Barney. But we've been repeatedly surprised by the reaction to us. They've been warm and open and blissfully unconcerned.

Even so, as good a job as you do, the outside world has a way of impinging on you. Early in the morning is the best time of day with our kids, when we're all in bed together and cuddling; it's just wonderful and emotionally satisfying. But some mornings, in the middle of all this happiness, I have this self-conscious awareness, like there's a camera in the room. I think, "God, we are Jesse Helms's worst nightmare. Here are two men . . ."

D.S.: . . . in bed.

J.G.: In bed, either naked or mostly naked, and two boys wearing very little, crawling all over . . .

D.S.: I feel that, too. Those moments where you think, "If this scene was observed, what would people make of it?"

M.R.: How does it make you feel?

D.S.: It's the same feeling you get when you're a gay man in a locker room with a bunch of straight guys who know you're gay. Suddenly you feel like you have to avert your eyes, like you did in high school, for fear of being discovered, even though you've done nothing wrong. Gay men are so afraid of these bullshit stereotypes about child molesting that they go the other way; they're afraid of even the most innocent contact with children.


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