Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Right, Again

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Right, Again
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev
The religious right has always been clear that if homosexuality were allowed to flourish that it would become rampant, impacting the American way of life, the nuclear family and the sexual development of our children. Of course, they are absolutely right about this, although some of us have tried to deny it, insisting that we were just like all the other families on the block, just with parental units of the same sex.

My family is not bell-curve normal, and even more to the point — we are not striving to be. We are, first of all, two white adult females, one who wears exclusively men’s clothing. We are rearing two handsome brown-skinned sons, whose language is infused with Yiddish-isms, and who play with a Frisbee that is stamped with the slogan "Play Safe: Use a Condom." Their worldview is profoundly different from their friends who are growing up in heterosexist homes, without the benefit of queer politics. Their lives are imbued with regular trips to San Francisco, dinners at ethnic restaurants, and discussions about non-violence.

For instance, when visiting some dear friends, my son asks his four-year old playmate if her daddy will be driving the car. She explains to him matter-of-factly, "He is not my daddy. He is my beda, my butch dad. He was born a woman and didn’t like it so now he is a man." "Oh," my son says, "but is he driving the car?" When looking at a picture in a book of two young boys about the same age, he says, "Maybe they are twins." The fact that one of them is Asian and the other is white is an irrelevancy to him, since he knows families do not come in color-coded units. When a very pregnant friend was visiting, he calmly asked her, "Who is adopting your baby?" and she, equally calmly, explained that she was going to keep her baby. My son reassured her that as long as she loved the baby and could take care of her, it would be a fine way to make a family.

I can understand how some fundamentalists may worry about the above stories that honor such travesties as gender transposition, trans-racial families, and families formed by adoption, but the religious right also worries that our children will not be raised with spiritual principals or understand the value of love and commitment; I’m am hoping that these next two stories will put their mind at ease. Recently we were studying Torah, our weekly Shabbat ritual. My son loves reading the old testament stories with the same fascination I once had as a child, although he is much less confused than I was when he notices that some men have more than one wife. When we came upon the expression "the children of God," I asked him if he knew what that meant. He was unclear, but thought maybe it referred to the children of Moses. I explained that it meant all the people of the earth, that we are all God’s children. Thoughtfully he asked, "How did She ever give birth to so many children!" expressing his compassion for the Universal Mother.

Finally, while watching the movie El Dorado, the story of two Spanish petty thieves, who unwittingly become part of the Conquistadors invasion of Aztec culture (a rather bland way to describe how the imperialism and colonialism of history gets transposed into sound-bite, cartoon-like racist and sexist humor in American cinema, but I’ll leave that for another column). At one point one of the thieves falls in love with an Aztec woman. My son says, "Is he falling in love with her? Won’t his partner be upset? It must be very sad for him." It never occurred to him that the two male lead buddies were anything but lovers, spouses, and partners. So, I rest my case, my children are learning exactly what they need to know about God, a maternal caring protector who births the world’s children, and also about love — that love comes in all forms, has very little to do with gender, that it represents a precious commitment and is very sad to lose.