When it comes to parenting vs. not parenting, the heteros could learn from the LGBTs

Emily-McGaughyWhen it comes to parenting vs. not parenting, the heteros could learn from the LGBTs

As an inhabitant of our heteronormative society, one can’t help but notice the passive-aggressive, ever-present battle between heterosexual couples with children and childless (by choice or otherwise) straight couples.

Parenting straight couples often hold to the belief that their childless counterparts simply cannot understand the stress and pressure that raising children inevitably brings.
Last-minute cocktailing and dinners out are no longer an option — unless you are members of the elite 1-percenters with access to an indefinitely on-call nanny.

Resentment frequently builds as parents watch on the sidelines — diaper in hand — as their childless former friends travel, take in shows and sleep in.

While straight couples with children watch their freedom fade, childless couples oftentimes perceive judgment from their parenting cohorts. Whether said judgment is real or existing only in the heads of married couples without children, it still holds the power to divide.

Couples living without kids sometimes feel as though their lives are invalidated by others with children. There remains to be a belief — whether spoken or silently understood — that until one becomes a parent, one can never fully understand love and, therefore, must be missing a key part of the human experience.

Forgive me if I’ve bored you with my droning on about life in the straight world. If nothing else, it hopefully serves as a reminder of why we, as LGBTs, really have it better.
As I watch the dissension building amid parenting and non-parenting heterosexual couples, I have yet to see evidence of queer people participating in this divide.

I am a 32-year-old married gay woman. My wife and I absolutely adore children and take full advantage of loving on our nine nieces and nephews — some of whom come for regular overnight visits — at every opportunity. Our best friends have a 4-year-old that we have fallen in love with and that has enriched our friendship with his moms. We also have two dogs that are obnoxiously spoiled and treated as children.

And with all of the beautiful little ones we have in our lives (fur and otherwise), we remain unsure as to whether parenting is the right choice for us. If you ask us if we plan to have kids today, and then ask the same tomorrow, I can almost guarantee you will hear opposing responses.

We just don’t know.

But right now, we are living in this world as a committed, married couple without children. And I have not experienced the same feelings of invalidation as my straight, married, childless acquaintances seem to go through.

My wife and I have people in our lives that are single, dating, married with children, and married without children. We all manage to coexist just fine — regardless of differences in lifestyle. If there are feelings of resentment looming among these varying ways of life, I am unaware of it.

I write this from the perspective of a 30-something, committed lesbian who has witnessed more and more same-sex couples become parents, especially in 2015. And it fills my heart in a way that I cannot explain: It is not jealousy, it is not resentment. It is a true feeling of utter joy for my community.

Ten years ago, when I first began considering addressing my sexual and emotional attraction to women, I never dreamed it would look like this. In my wildest fantasies, I could never imagine not only myself being legally married but witnessing my LGBT sisters and brothers building the families they always desired. And I believe other queer people in relationships like mine (without children) echo my sentiments.

Hell, we have baby showers in our bars; it is so “Sweet Home Alabama” in the most endearing way.

In the same vein, I don’t feel that my childless family is considered less of a family by my queer-parenting friends. Of course, they beg us to have children because nothing sounds more appealing than raising kids alongside your best friends. But ultimately our love and commitment is respected within our diverse circle, with no holding back due to the fact that we have chosen not to have children at this point in our lives.

While a long history of oppression and inequality has plagued our community, I believe in many ways, the outcasts did it better.

When the heterosexual norm refused to allow us entrance into their world, we created our own. We built families, many times consisting of mostly people with no biological relation. Our holidays were spent with friends that did not share DNA, but that were bound by love and loyalty in a way we couldn’t articulate.

And as we transition into a new era — one which has afforded us new freedoms — it seems we are successfully holding true to some of our foundational values. Ideals that promote inclusivity and the right to make your own rules — in relationships, in lifestyles, in families — are a fundamental part of who are as queer people. And I’m exceedingly proud to be a part of that.

Emily McGaughy is a Dallas-based writer and co-owner, with her wife Char McGaughy, of Gold Dust Tattoos. She describes herself as a liberal, feminist “vegetarian you roll your eyes at.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 15, 2016.