Weddings, Kids, and Tradition


Weddings, Kids, and Tradition

by Alyse Knorr

My daughter is gay and planning a wedding, and she talks a lot about having kids. I don’t care that my daughter is gay, but if she’s chosen a non-traditional lifestyle, I don’t think she should seek out traditional things like a wedding or kids. How can I explain this to her?
— Anonymous

Alyse Says:

Hello, Anonymous! Thank you for writing in with your question. You’re doing just the right thing by pursuing further information that can help you support and love your daughter in the best way possible. I understand that after a child comes out, things can feel very confusing and even scary for parents. After all, you didn’t grow up in a world where same-sex marriage was legal, and you may not know many married LGBTQ couples or LGBTQ families with children. We humans have a great talent for being afraid of the unknown, and that could be a large part of what you’re feeling now. So let me help you work through this bit by bit.

First, let’s look at the wording of your question. You mentioned that your daughter has “chosen” a “non-traditional” “lifestyle.” Regarding the word “chosen,” you may want to read up some more on whether or not being gay is a choice. A person’s sexuality, in general, is so complex and such an integral part of who they are that it’s impossible to attribute it to something as simple as a “choice.” For example, I choose what flavor of ice cream I want when I go to the ice cream shop, but I never chose to have brown hair, and I never chose to be gay. If you believe that your daughter’s sexuality is a choice, and that marriage and family aren’t something gay couples should or do have, then it may make you conclude that she chose not to have marriage or family. So it’s important to point out the first issue with your thinking. She didn’t choose to be gay just as you never chose to be straight.

The same is true of the word “lifestyle,” which is often used in a disparaging way to imply that LGBTQ people have chosen to live differently than others. But being gay is not a lifestyle for your daughter—it’s her life. It’s herself, her identity, her love, her family, and the way she exists in the world. It’s a crucial part of her, so try not to use the word “lifestyle,” which can sound dismissive.

Finally, let’s examine the word “non-traditional.” Reflect on how you define the words “traditional” and “non-traditional.” Probably, you simply mean that “traditional” families are made up of a man and a woman, meaning that “non-traditional” families consist of anything that’s not one man and one woman. But “tradition” implies something that’s been true for a long time. While a man-woman marriage may have been the environment you were raised in, it certainly has not been the norm throughout human history. Read through the Old Testament of the Bible, for instance, and you’ll see that most marriages consisted of one man and many wives. The other tricky thing about the word “non-traditional” is that it implies something that’s outside of the norm, but same-sex marriage is the norm now. It’s not as common as opposite-sex marriage, but it’s legal across the country, and it’s likely that over half a million same-sex couples are married in the U.S. today. In our country today, marriage is marriage—there’s no distinction between a same-sex or an opposite sex marriage, which makes it hard to envision a distinction between a traditional or non-traditional marriage.

What’s more, many same-sex couples choose to marry because they want to participate in the tradition of marriage itself—in a legal, sacred, ceremonial commitment before family, friends, and a higher power, with a super fun party afterwards.

Some straight people have kids. Others don’t. Some straight people get married, and others don’t. Some gay people have kids and get married, and others don’t. Some straight and gay people have kids without getting married. Some straight and gay people get married and don’t have kids. There’s no default or “traditional” way to have a family. A person’s sexuality has nothing to do with their desire to legally and spiritually commit themselves to their partner, or with their desire to have children.

Anonymous, I’m wondering if there’s something deeper buried here in your question. I’m wondering if part of the issue here is that you don’t think your daughter should be public about her life. That she should be separate, unmarried, and childless while her opposite-sex friends and family participate in the legal and spiritual tradition of marriage and the joys of having children. And I’m wondering if that this might seem like a valid punishment—or consequence—of “choosing” to be gay. If any of this seems to be ringing true, then please consider talking about these issues with someone you can trust who is not your daughter, like a spouse, close friend, or therapist. Keep reading and learning about LGBTQ experiences here on My Kid Is Gay or at a local PFLAG meeting. The more you learn, the better off you and your family will be, and the more comfortable you will feel.

In the end, remember that to you, because of the times you were raised in, marriage and parents have always been a man and woman, no questions asked. Anything outside of this doesn’t fit into the picture of the world you’re most familiar with—but that does not mean that it isn’t acceptable. Many other aspects of the time you were raised in, from civil rights to world politics, are different today. Times change and society evolves and progresses forward. That’s what’s happening here. Now is your moment to open your mind to the other family structures and marriages that are commonplace today in our country.

And ultimately, there is so much joy to find here. Your daughter is choosing to make one of the biggest decisions she’s ever made—the decision to join her life with someone else’s. Later down the road, if she has children, you will become a grandparent! Your family will grow bigger, with even more love bursting from the seams. Open your heart and choose love and joy right now, Anonymous, over fear and resentment. You can do it! I know you can.

Alyse Knorr is the author of two books of poems, Copper Mother (Switchback Books, forthcoming 2015) and Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books, 2013), as well as the chapbook Alternates (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Caketrain, ZYZZYVA, Drunken Boat, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among others. She received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. She is a co-founder and co-editor of Gazing Grain Press, an inclusive feminist press, and teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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