In Gay Families and Straight Families Alike, Being a Grandparent Is Wonderful

Architectural Digest cover

I smiled at the magazine cover: two modishly clad men holding an infant in a pink dress. I could hardly believe that Architectural Digest, the upscale decorating bible of the moneyed elite, would celebrate gay parenthood!

I am very pleased with my life, but if I could have changed one thing, it might have been advancing Stonewall and gay liberation by about twenty years. Readers of this blog know how much I resented being seen as a second-class citizen and “bad” mother just because David was gay. I do feel fortunate that the then-hostility of the world towards gays never impinged on our mother/son relationship. I also did not deprive David of the approval and support that is such an important part of parenting.

Increased tolerance is one of the few positive aspects of American society. The other day an acquaintance told me that he was “looking forward to [his] daughter’s wedding this September.”

“And you know what?” he continued. “The best thing is that she is already pregnant. We’ll be grandparents in November.” I recalled the care my friends and I took to hide from our parents the carnal relations we may have had with our boyfriends or future mates. I can only shudder at the thought of what an unplanned pregnancy might have meant to them. Our social network!

David would have loved to be a parent and I miss the children he could have had. He and a close lesbian friend had even planned to become parents. AIDS intervened.

Today an increasing number of same-sex couples manage to have children, and they get there by various routes: Lesbian couples can opt for insemination of each wife with the sperm of one donor, so that their children are genetically related. Specialized, and usually costly, agencies offer a whole range of services, including a detailed description of the physical and intellectual particulars of the potential donors. Some couples go the do-it-yourself route. One couple I know searched for a donor by email and got a “yes-donor”—a man who agrees at minimum to have his identity released to the child when they turn 18. In this case, the donor was a gay man willing to become a somewhat involved dad. He visits about once a month, and attends major holidays. Male couples often opt for plain-old adoption or hire a surrogate mother. It is already quite difficult to explain “the birds and the bees” to small children, and I imagine that it must be more difficult to do so when the situation is not straightforward. For a while, one little boy I know kept wondering which one of a number of random men he encountered could be his father.

Grandparents don’t have to worry about such complex questions. They are there to enjoy and to add a note of stability and comfort—regardless of how “traditional” or “non-traditional” the family may be.

Let me add a disclaimer. Having grandchildren, no matter what their family constellation, is simply wonderful. I have enjoyed them since the day they were born. Now they are in their twenties. They are my best friends, my future, and keep me young. Our relationship is simple and without much baggage. I know that my love has added sunshine to their life.


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