LB, New York: “My son and his partner, Jim, have two beautiful children, now ages 3 and 5. We want to include Jim’s growing family more in our lives, but I’m afraid of our friends’ reactions to two gay men raising children. And I don’t know how to deal with questions that may come up about the “parentage” of the children. We are proud to be their grandparents, but can’t really say how or whether we are biologically their grandparents. My son and his partner prefer not to explain the specifics of the children’s conception.”
Thank you for your message desiring to include your son’s family into your lives. Being involved grandparents can bring so much joy and richness. I wish you well in this chapter of your lives. I would say:
1. Supporting one’s children in raising their own children is so important. As gay or lesbian parents discover, they find they are “coming out” increasingly with each new day, accompanied by their children, as they meet new people, become involved with school personnel, health care providers, other parents, and others who interact with them. Even in 2014 they can be confronted with criticism, rude comments, personal questions, that can become very uncomfortable and alienating. (And any couple raising children have differences or issues that they must deal with as the children grow—creating both challenge and opportunity to grow together. Every family needs a support system. In my opinion, “nuclear family” can be isolating and thus bad for children growing up. )
2. As parents of a gay son, you may have experienced some “coming out” yourselves and know how negative some people can be. While “coming out” may not always be comfortable, these experiences are opportunities to affirm how much we care for our children and declare one’s independence of what others think. Do we really need friends who are rejecting or critical of ourselves or our children? I personally, as a lesbian, a parent, and a grandparent, cherish all our family members, whether “biological” or “non-biological.” We, as gay people, discovered long ago that we need to create our own families and support systems, and biology becomes secondary to the meaning of family.
3. I would respect your son’s desire not to discuss the specifics of his children’s conception. I applaud you for your willingness to get beyond your comfort zone with friends in order to continue to be more a part of your son’s family and wish you the best.
Resource: www.pflag.org (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, with chapters throughout the U.S.): “Our Mission. PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. – See more at: http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=237#sthash.FWiKjVnv.dpuf “