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By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Me. I Need Kids Response Response: Kate Walters on LesbiaNation.com

Posted By on June 30, 2009

Me! I Need Kids!

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

It generally takes a lot to get my dander up, but Kate Walter has succeeded. In her article on LesbiaNation last week, she asks the pointed question, “Who need kids?” As a lesbian who spent ten years struggling with fertility and is now the exhausted but satisfied parent of two spunky boys, I can very easily raise my hand and say, “Me! I need kids.”

In all fairness, I think Walter raises some important questions about how parenting is impacting our community, how being a parent and a political activist are often mutually exclusive, and why we aren’t talking more about the impact of parenting on our intimate partnerships. However, the tone of her article succeeds in shutting down this vital dialogue, not opening it up for discussion. She clearly says that if you are a new gay or lesbian parent, “Good for you… Now shut up already.” I do not intend to shut up; I have hardly even begun to find my voice.

It is hard to find my voice, in part, because of the negativity toward parenting often expressed by my queer community. Walter writes, “When it comes to breeding, and thinking the world should be excited about the blessed event, gays and lesbians may have become even more self-absorbed than heterosexuals.” Parenting is very self-absorbing, especially new parenting. Kind of like coming out. My best friend for over 25 years, a straight woman, says I was incredibly tedious during my early coming out process. She remembers feeling, “is EVERYTHING related to being gay and your damn oppression?” Indeed, it sure felt like it was, just like my son’s reading problems or my baby’s skin rash is very time consuming.

I do think that people in my life should be excited and welcoming towards my children. I think that my community should welcome my babies; I think that my friends should buy presents, send food, and offer to baby-sit. I think those drawn towards spiritual expression should pray for and honor this “blessed event.” Babies and children – for many of us DO adopt older children — are simply blessings, and that many of us are willing to open our hearts, our homes, and our bank accounts to house, cuddle, and guide these miniature miracles is a wonderful thing. That some physicians, adoption agencies, and social workers are able to see through their homophobia and support us, is also a wonderful thing.

Walter also writes, “…this topic is getting tired.” Interesting perspective… I thought it was just me who was tired. Bone tired. Parenting is simply the most exhausting thing I have ever done. Ever try to be a functioning therapist and a college-level teacher on three hours a sleep in a 48-hour period? Oh, yeah and be a doting and sexy lover to my handsome butch, the one who is late for her sexual assault task force meeting because she is desperately trying to fix the diaper genie, an appliance up there in importance with the magic wand. One of the reasons it is hard to find my voice, hard to do political work, hard to respond to the anti-parenting attitude in the queer community, is simple because I would prefer to sleep. I am not sure that makes me conservative, just tired.

This queer revolution is not about everyone deciding to have babies; it is about all of us having the choice to do so, as well as hets learning that they don’t have to. I appreciate that Walter admitted to having considered having children herself. That’s the point, we queer folks have a right to raise children and can consider doing it if it fits our dreams and our lifestyles. She suggests that many of us become parents at a lull in our careers, but I have had my children at the busiest time of my career. I write this article surrounded by the squeals of children; my desk is covered with drawings of our family — butch and femmes moms, and kids of all colors.

Personally, I do not subscribe to Family Circle Magazine or bake cookies, and there is nothing remotely 50s-ish about this queer household. I am likely to wear my ACT-UP T-shirt to the PTA meeting, and when childcare is available, I am just as likely to attend political meetings. I do not live in San Francisco but in a small city upstate New York, with a rainbow flag on my front porch. My kids attend day care and schools that embrace and honor our families. It is not perfect, but I know lots of parents and kids who have dealt with homophobia in gay ghettos. I need to say that if my Jewish ancestors only had kids when we were sure the kids would be treated well, my people would’ve died out a long time ago.

Walter is correct that a child would “ruin” her life. My children have completely ruined mine; the life that I knew is over. I have missed important political events because I was home tending the Chicken Pox. Parenting is not the path for anyone who is not willing to do that. Kids change our lives, and they will also change our movement; this is, I think, a good thing.

Children have ruined forever our neat queer movement. If you don’t want to read articles in queer magazine on childcare, skip over them – like I have been skipping over articles on gay Christians, and the fashion spreads for years. Our community is very diverse, and it is not so easy to divide us up into progressive queers (i.e., non-parents) and mainstream gays (i.e., parents). Although there are plenty of very mainstream “gays” who are raising children (and have every right to), there are also many of us iconoclastic outrageous queers, who are making quite a statement in Middle America. I encourage those of you who choose to not have children to make sure there is childcare available at queer events, and to baby-sit occasionally so we can have romantic dinners with our lovers, and to help us secure domestic partnership and second-parent adoption rights, you will find that we are right beside you in the political struggle. As my son said, watching the last March on Washington on TV, “Are we gay rights, Momma?” “Yes, my son,” I answered. “WE are.”