When people ask me what has changed in the four months since I became a father, the short answer is "everything." It's surely one of life's biggest shifts, the task of suddenly caring for a helpless individual whose every need is your responsibility, which is why much has been said and written on the subject. I'm not breaking new ground when I tell you that parenting has altered my perspective in just about every way imaginable.
But what I didn't expect, and what hasn't been adequately covered, is just how much nastier the anti-LGBT movement's words and actions would start to sound once I had another little set of eyes and ears in the house to see and hear them. Everything has become much more personal and pointed, with anti-LGBT attack lines that used to seem more like political speak now striking my heart like the targeted rhetorical missiles that they were always meant to be. For me, a commentator who extensively covers and pushes back against those who fight against LGBT rights, protections, and general welfare, this new level of awareness and family protection has lit a new fire under my booty—one that has turned me into a warrior not only on behalf of myself and my husband, but also for the growing kid whose sweet nature and peace of mind I so desperately want to protect.
Take a group like the National Organization For Marriage (please). I have probably covered this organization more than any political writer in the world, challenging every piece of NOM minutiae since the organization discriminated its way into existence back in 2007. I know the NOM attack lines like the back of my ring-adorned hand. And sure, when NOM has gone after my marriage, I've felt it on a deeply personal level. After all, the NOM game plan, if extended to its logical end, would see people like me forcibly divorced from our spouses. That's serious stuff that deserves to be marginalized for the outrageously nasty pursuit that it is.
But NOM's marriage pursuit targets adults, first and foremost. And as an adult who is privileged enough to live in an accepting city within a marriage equality state, I have been able to reach a place where I can file NOM's shams about "protecting marriage" into the "absurd" file of my brain, where I can push back against it without it having any major impact on my mental state. This is especially true now that we all know that marriage equality is an inevitable. With every year, it's become easier to call out this losing organization and flick away its ever-more-outlandish claims about the gays destroying this institution.
But NOM, in its desperation, has made a tactical turn over the past two years. Whereas NOM has always claimed that their fight against equal rights is really a fight to "protect children," around 2012 they started really going after those same-sex couples who do, in fact, have kids of their own. And I mean really going after them. Using horribly flawed "data" like the widely repudiated Regnerus study, NOM now tells its supporters, point blank, that same-sex couples are creating a world that will cause their kids harm. Former senior staffer Jennifer Roback Morse (who left NOM's auspices just a few months ago) even claims that children of same-sex couples will grow up to resent them. Others, likeNOM's key ally Robert Oscar López (who will next week speak alongside NOM's president at a Utah marriage rally), directly compares same-sex parents to slaveowners. The whole NOM game these days makes a direct and cruel swipe at the mental health of same-sex couple's children.
And NOM, which pretty much steers the entire "traditional marriage" movement, is far from alone in this. Groups like the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and all of the others that exploit words like "traditional" and "values" when they really mean "anti-LGBT Discrimination" are on a really nasty quest to fill the world's information banks with flawed "research" and vicious verbiage that makes same-sex parents and their precious little ones seem inherently broken. Wounded. Incapable of ever achieving their dreams, or at least not as easily as the kids of opposite-sex parents.
When my daughter was born in September of last year, the way I process this stuff changed overnight. I mean that quite literally, since immediately after her birth, an anti-LGBT activist attacked me (and, by extension, her) on Twitter. This same activist has publicly denigrated my family on several prior occasions, and every time, I pushed back with my patented blend of passion and wit. This time, however, things felt different, and viscerally so. Even though I, as a well-adjusted adult lying in a hospital bed that felt like cloud nine, lucky enough to be holding this swaddled gift in my arms, could snarkily dismiss this nastiness for what it was, it didn't take me long to realize that everything that these folks say about me and my family is now bigger than just me. It's all recorded on the Internet for folks to find for themselves. Before, I'd always loved the fact that the Internet has this kind of long memory, as I am more than confident that these cruel attacks on my family are a trillion times more beneficial to the equality cause than they are to the pro-discrimination movement, since a growing majority of thinking adults see them and understand just how disgusting anti-LGBT bias really is. But I felt that way because I was really only considering Internet users who had reached an age where they can accurately process this stuff. Now, however, I had to think in a new way. I had to think about my kid, once she became a six-, seven-, eight-year-old, Googling my name and finding this kind of nastiness. How would she react if she found this stuff at an age where she couldn't possibly understand? What would it do to her precious innocence? How could I possibly protect her from it?
These thoughts broke my heart. I am young enough and have a strong enough memory to remember what it was like to be a young person coming across adult information. I can remember the confusion. I couldn't help but think of my kid at ten-years-old, coming to the dinner table in silence, clearly distraught over something that she insisted on keeping close to her chest. Would it be that she had stumbled on some piece of attack rhetoric that her family is fit to be shunned? Worse yet, considering my own public profile within this fight, might it be directed right at her own home?
It's all changed for me. When I learn of a reality show star who paints my home as unsavory for child consumption, I wonder what public figure will unfurl similar comments when my daughter is of an age to process them and how she will receive them. When the TV during the holiday season is dominated by a public figure who viciously slights her parents and is then met with other public figures who claim that this comments were perfectly okay (including a onetime vice presidential candidate), my first thoughts go to my little peanut and her own ability to determine right from wrong. When she sits down to watch the Olympics and hears that the host nation's president said his country needs to clean up its gayness in order to protect kids, I worry that she will conflate the worldwide celebration with acceptability. And of course when another state considers whether or not to ban marriages like the ones she knows that her daddies entered into before she was born, with her cousins and grandparents and cherished family all around them, I worry about her having nightmares about government agents coming in to her home and taking her daddies away from her.
Right now she is much too young to get it. That said, I'm already shocked by how quickly she has developed in such a short time. I know that in what feels like the blink of an eye, I will be staring at a fully cognizant being who is intrigued by the world around her. We want to encourage her exploration without limit, but, like all parents, Andrew and I want to protect our child from all of Earth's harms. Sadly, for same-sex parents like us, some of the most threatening harms come from fellow human beings who know exactly the game they are playing, but who simply don't care. They should know better, they just don't. Or at least they won't, so long as the fundraising dollars keep rolling in.
And since they won't stop, I can't either. My work is now much bigger than myself.
*Oh, and if you're reading this in the year 2025, my darling, know that
- These folks started going after you because their efforts to go after me and daddy failed—and hard.
- Fighting to protect you is a mission I gladly accept, and I will never stop being a warrior on your behalf
- No, you can't stay up past your bedtime. You have a test tomorrow.
- We love you more than we could ever put into words