Monday, March 5, 2012

Yes, Mom, gay people can and do have kids and families

This past Friday night, I had the great joy in partaking in a sholom zochor party dedicated to my newborn, twin nephews. The event was filled with good food, drink and great friends and family. At the end of the evening, my mother and I landed in a deep conversation about me and my plans for having kids in the future; my mother said simply "but you're not gonna have any kids. How would you have kids?" She said it as though she was so sure about this and seemed to have thought this way since I came out. I wasn’t completely surprised by this because I try not to overwhelm her with too many details about a “lifestyle” she never expected me to have. But, she struck a chord inside of me that at my nephews’ sholom zochor, and I shared the following with her.

When I started coming out, many people were not aware of the fact that gay parents raise kids and have families just as beautiful as heterosexuals. (In fact, the Huffington Post recently reported that research suggests that gay parents have an advantage over straight.)  The first question I was asked by religious friends was generally "but, don't you want to have a family? Don't you want kids?" Although this question put me on the spot when I was still insecure about my future as a gay person, I hoped that I could answer someday; I just knew that there had to be gay people raising children. And, over time I’ve gotten to know many gay people and gay Jewish people, including some gay Orthodox people, who are raising children. The children are sometimes biological (through surrogacy or a donor) or adopted but no less the children of gay parents. Just as heterosexuals who are infertile can have children, so can gay people. Today, the notion that gay people can't have kids seems ridiculous to me, but I try to be lenient with those who are sincerely curious and have never really considered the possibility because they don't know any gay people. 



So, yes, Mom, family and friends, gay people can have kids. If someday I do want kids, I will. I'm not sure whether I want children of my own, but being gay would never be a reason not to have kids. Most people grow up dreaming of their very own fairytale with the person they love in their arm and their children on their lap. Growing up, I had more pressing concerns, like losing those I already loved because of who I am. What I now want for my future is still unclear, but I am open to the great possibilities of life. My ability to have and raise children is no different because I am gay.

The idea that gay people cannot, will not or even should not have kids or families is one of the many things that push people so deeply in the closet. Sometimes, it’s why gay people marrying someone of the opposite sex without telling the truth to the person they're marrying; they want a "normal" family, and there is a lot of pressure for people to have families. I cannot blame people who have done so, but I do believe that people should be honest to themselves and to their potential spouses. I once was so desperate to have a "normal" life, I almost ended up getting married. Having a family and raising kids is a big part of life for most people something that’s celebrated by those in the Orthodox community I come from, as well as many others. But, heterosexual marriage is not the only way to have a family.

Mom, I love you with everything inside of me, and I want you to know that people like me can have just as rich and full lives as everyone else. Perhaps, if I ever have kids, some might wonder how I "got them"; but I’m sure, as Zack Wahls said, they will succumb to their "infantile cuteness" and stop being concerned with details that are none of their business. And, I would hope that my children would be celebrated and bring as much joy as my siblings’ children, and would not be treated any differently.




Zach Wahls is a hero of mine. He stood up in front of the Iowa legislature to defend marriage equality. Proudly and brilliantly, he disproved in two minutes all the misconceptions that people have about the families of gay people. If you haven’t seen it already, take the time to watch it now. I promise it will inspire you.

18 comments:

  1. You would be an awesome dad, Chaim :) Hope you find your bashert and start that family soon!!

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  2. for my sister and her wife, having a baby forced my mother to make peace with them- truth be told, not "peace" but at least a "truce". they still get notified on at least a yearly basis that my mom is praying for her "change". But since my niece came into the picture my mom's priorities changed from being "more frum" to wanting to have her granddaughter in her life, and indeed, she is as loved and accepted as my own and my brother's kids (if not more, since she is a gifted, spirited, awesome little gal).
    raising children is THE most difficult thing to do, but also the most wonderous, joyous, and fulfilling. im yitzeh hashem by you, Chaim, and others reading :) -Jacquelyn

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  5. Great post Chaim! This is such an important message. I'm moved by Zach Wahls' speech every time I see it. He is so well spoken and composed. And he's right! I hope one day your mother will come to accept what you know to be true . . .Being a good parent has nothing to do with whether your spouse's gender (or faith group, or race for that matter!)is different from your own.

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  6. Marriage equality? Here's where you leave anything that even pretends to be Orthodox. On what basis does "marriage equality" stand? Certainly not a Halachic basis. There's a Rashi in Sanhedrin that speaks of the evil of a society that would write a Ketubah between two men. We're not speaking about simply doing an aveirah. With a Ketubah between two men, we're talking about the disintegration of society.

    Thanks for trying to pretend that you're Orthodox, but supporting gay marriage and chas v'shalom a gay family, you have placed yourself firmly beyond the scope of Orthodox Judaism.

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    1. Heyyyyyy, thanks for telling me that I can't have a family on my own, but you should really rethink what believe will be cause the "disintegration of society", it's not the union of two loving people, it's the hate that you so easily spew in the name of something holy

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    2. Hey, why the anonymity: are you ashamed of your idiocy and bigotry? come out of the closet!

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    3. Hey, why the anonymity: are you ashamed of your idiocy and bigotry? come out of the closet!

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    4. Shame you don't know any gay families. Loving parents raising wonderful, well-adjused children. Children who will grow up getting not just a great education in school, but an education about the meaning of love, respect, tolerance, compassion. Too bad you were never offered such an education. Later today, when my dear friend's twins are crawling on me and smiling, giving me wonderful wet kisses, I will think of you, Mr. Anonymous. And I'll try to wipe the thought from my mind, because it just saddens me to know how limited your intellectual and emotional scopes might be, to lead you to post that comment. And yes, I am an observant Jew. I'd say an observant Jew like you, but I am not like you, and I am grateful for that. Also grateful for my parents raising me with true Jewish values.

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    5. One more thing -- I'm new to commenting on blogs, and it used my Google ID (Clarissa) on the comment above. I don't wish to be an anonymous coward like you, "Anonymous." My name is Janice Isaac.

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    6. Anonymous, it appears that only your opprobrium distances yourself from anything that pretends to be Orthodox: http://statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com/. The Orthodox position has always been that all Jews are encouraged to fulfill the mitzvot to the best of their ability. In any case, Mr Levin has consistently indicated that he does not claim to represent any movement or sect of Judaism. As one would hope that you aware despite your misconceptions, having children was G-d's first commandment to all human beings.

      But, you have misrepresented Mr Levin even further. You suggest that his post about the possibly of gay people having children is advocating for marriage equality. In fact, his post does no such thing. While the referenced Zach Wahls' speech does address civil marriage equality, no one is advocating for religious marriage equality. Indeed, Mr Levin has consistently indicated that he does not seek to challenge halakhah.

      Finally, just as the families of single parents are just as legitimate as the families with two parents, there is no such thing as a "gay family". A family is a family. You really should watch the Zach Wahls video.

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    7. I have misrepresented Mr. Levin? Then what do you make of these words?

      "But, heterosexual marriage is not the only way to have a family."

      What else to make of them? This is, indeed, a strong challenge to Halacha, and was my main point.

      And also, since when is disagreement considered "hate"?

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    8. Clarissa,

      I don't doubt that there can be homosexual couples who have loving households. I just know that having such couples under the rubric of a civil marriage (as Rashi in Sandedrin talks about societies which write a Ketubah for two men) is a violation of Halacha. And it applies for both Jews and non-Jews.

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    9. Anonymous, I understand the words "But, heterosexual marriage is not the only way to have a family" to mean that heterosexual marriage is not the only way to have a family. That is a fact. I know many people raised by a single parents; their families are no less families because of it. Mr Levin discusses gay people he's met who are raising children; their families are no less families because of it. And, I seem to recall reading about many children raised by concubines who lacked ketubot. That heterosexual marriage is not the only way to have a family is a FACT. I cannot fathom why you think this FACT is a challenge to halacha. If, however, you seek challenge, perhaps you should consult with Rashi (Talmud Brahot 20a), who wrote "For many things it is permitted to uproot matter of Torah because of the protection [around the law, layers of interpretation, and custom], or in cases of honoring people." What Chullin 92a actually says the nations of the world have never written a ketubah between males. While it is presumably true that non-Jewish nations have never written any ketubot, many cultures have traditionally recognized same-sex marriages (for example various Native American Tribes and Polynesian peoples among many others) and, more and more, nations are recognizing civil marriage equality today. That nations do not recognize same-sex marriage was not true then, and it is not true now. "The wise have the power to uproot a matter from the Torah" (Tosafot, Baba Batra 48b, cf K'tzot Ha-Hoshen 34 and Bavli T'murah). But, Mr Levin's post was not about that. I am baffled by your misconstrual of Mr Levin's discussion of the FACT that gay people can and do have children as advocacy of civil marriage equality, let alone religious rite.

      Clarissa, (Orthodox interpretation of) halacha applies to both Jews and non-Jews? Someone should probably notify Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, secular and Karaite Jews, and most certainly non-Jews who tend not to know anything about halacha. If the concern is really about people following halacha, that would probably be better place to direct ones attention if nothing else than the shear number.

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  7. Corey, are you really comparing a widow, for example, to two gay people who go about establishing a family?

    The Gemarah at the very bottom of Chullin 92A (and continuing on 92B)talks about the Mitzvot that apply to gentiles. There the Gemarah says, and Rashi verifies, that no matter how depraved the Gentiles are, they nonetheless keep three commandments, one being "not writing a marriage contract[ketubah] for males". Note that this applies to Jews and Gentiles alike.

    Now, I don't know what kind of context you are referring to in order for a gay couple (Jew or Gentile) to have a family, but unless this gay family sets itself up as a marriage, what else could you possibly be referring to? As long as there are "two Daddies", then it's basically a marriage.

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    1. Anonymous, the context I am referring to is Mr Levin's post. It simply does not advocate for civil marriage equality, and certainly not religious rite.

      Yes, I really do believe that the families of widows, infertile individuals, unmarried mothers and gay people who have children are no less families, and no less deserving of respect and honor.

      Indeed, that is what Chullin 92a-b says (see above). However, if the Gemarah and Rashi were actually talking about same-sex marriage as opposed to ketubah for males (ketubah, recall, was instituted as replacement for the mohar paid to women), Rashi must have inexplicably been unaware of the fact that same-sex marriages among nations, specifically, Egyptians and Canaanites, are indeed mentioned in Leviticus 18:3, according to Sifra Acharei Mot 9:8. Either those passages from the Gemarah are explicitly contradicted, or they do not refer to same-sex marriage, but something else. While the marriages actually referred to are mentioned as an example of practices for Jews being brought to the land of Canaan not follow, the passage refers to ancient, foreign practices, whatever they might have been: what is recorded of Mediterranean cultures at that time is that people fairly universally took opposite-sex spouses, but some also had same-sex spouses or lovers; this is consistent with the passage generally as it goes on to detail various kinds of polygamy and polyandry. I find it an anachronistic stretch to believe that it took into consideration gay people -- a modern concept that has existed for only about 150 years -- or their circumstances.

      Still, Mr Levin, was not challenging the Orthodox position on marriage, just observing the fact that gay people can and do have children.

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  8. Chaim, on a related note to your post, I think you would enjoy this article:
    http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=260541

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