As some of you know, Kris and I jokingly refer to the twins as our BOGO babies. We actually weren’t the first to bestow this title. Many years ago, one of my very straight grad school friends asked us if we planned to have children. We were at a baby shower, so this question was being bandied about among most of the room’s occupants. When I said that yes, in fact, we were planning to start a family quite soon, our friends asked who would carry the baby, how many kids we wanted, and how we were planning to proceed—adoption, fostering, artificial insemination, IVF?
Artificial with an anonymous donor, we told them; and if that didn’t work, then IVF or adoption, in that order. Kris wanted to be pregnant, and I supported her wish to have that experience.
“IVF?” one of my friends repeated. “Look out—you may end up with a BOGO baby.”
“BOGO?” another friend questioned.
“You know—buy one get one free.”
Everyone laughed, and Kris joked, “I can just hear one of them saying, ‘You were the free one. At least Moms paid for me.’”
At eleven and a half months, the twins are unable to form actual words, let alone sentences, so we haven’t heard that one yet. They do squabble in their own mysterious language, but they also hold hands occasionally at meal times, pat each other on the back, and smile widely and often at each other. Among other things:
We’ve been told that one of the wonderful things about twins is their bond, and at almost a year, we’re definitely starting to see signs of an “us-against-the-world” approach. It’s lovely, and I’m glad they have each other and their big sister, who they both watch raptly whenever she slows down long enough to inhabit their space. Kris and I planned on two children and ended up with three, and though the numbers can be overwhelming at times (they outnumber us, literally), we adore each of them. They are such different people, each her own and simultaneously not her own. Our daughters are ours and their selves and each other’s, a multitude of steadily expanding identities I am forced to acknowledge almost daily.
Our children’s identities aren’t the only things changing rapidly, of course. This morning over my second cup of tea, I came across a Slate.com article about the recent federal court ruling in Michigan, my home state and, coincidentally, the place where Kris’s brother and sister-in-law (the famous G) and our nephews currently reside. In the most recent blow against American anti-gay marriage policies, a federal judge declared last week that Michigan’s voter-enacted ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. But the judge didn’t just strike a blow in favor of LGBT rights. He also took the opportunity to expose and discredit an insidious tactic that anti-gay activists have used in their attempts to block forward movement on same-sex marriage in the U.S.—namely, the invention of biased research that purports to prove that children are disadvantaged by being raised by gay or lesbian parents.
In my last blog post, I ranted about the attorneys who argue that same-sex marriage should be illegal because of the “damage” done to children of gay parents. Yet even worse are the pseudo-intellectuals like Dr. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who purposely interpret data to make their research results align with religious-based bias against gay marriage.
In a 2012 study funded by religious conservatives and published by the journal Social Science Research, Regnerus claimed falsely that children of same-sex parents fared worse than those of straight parents. The main problem with this claim? The children he references in the study were actually raised in traditional heterosexual marriages that broke up over one parent’s extra-marital affair(s) with a member of the same sex. Regnerus’s “children of gay parents” are, in fact, children of failed heterosexual marriages.
Yet despite having his study condemned by oh, say, a couple of hundred scholarly peers, disavowed by his own department, and found in an internal audit by SSR to have “serious flaws and distortions,” Regnerus continues to insist that his findings should be used to prevent the legalization of gay marriage.
Bill Schuette, the Attorney General of Michigan, agrees, and recently put Regnerus, along with a handful of similar “scholars,” on the stand to defend Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. Once again, the anti-gay side argued that gays shouldn’t be allowed to legally marry because we shouldn’t be allowed to legally parent.
Even though we already are married; even though we already are parenting; even though the consensus from scholars across a variety of disciplines is that the “the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.” (Source: http://bit.ly/1rCmjtg)
According to Dr. Nathaniel Frank, an Ivy League-educated scholar, Regnerus’s research is part of an intentional strategy to prevent change in the currently anti-gay marriage status quo in the majority of American states:
As the New York Times recently reported, in 2010 the conservative Heritage Foundation gathered social conservatives consisting of Catholic intellectuals, researchers, activists and funders at a Washington meeting to plot their approach. The idea was for conservative scholars to generate research claiming that gay marriage harms children by placing them in unstable gay homes and by upending marital norms for straights. A solid consensus of actual scholarship—not the fixed kind being ginned up at Heritage—has consistently found that gay parenting does not disadvantage kids, and no research has shown gay marriage having any impact on straight marriage rates. But trafficking in truth was not the plan. The plan was to tap into a sordid history of linking gay people with threatening kids, and to produce skewed research that could be used as talking points to demagogue the public. (Source: http://slate.me/1mvA78a)
The beauty of the Michigan ruling last week is that the LGBT community got a BOGO decision—not only did U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman determine that Michigan’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, he also struck a blow against the false prophet/profiteering of researchers like Regnerus and the other “academics” who recently testified on behalf of the State of Michigan that gay parents damage children. As Dr. Frank writes:
Judge Friedman didn’t fall for any of it. “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration,” he wrote in what must be one of the most stinging and decisive repudiations of an expert witness in memory. He cited evidence that the conservative research was “hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder” which clearly expressed its wish for skewed results. Dismissing the defense’s other witnesses just as strongly, the judge wrote that “The Court was unable to accord the testimony of Marks, Price, and Allen any significant weight.” He concluded that “The most that can be said of these witnesses’ testimony is that the ‘no differences’ consensus has not been proven with scientific certainty, not that there is any credible evidence showing that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by heterosexual couples.” (Source: http://slate.me/1mvA78)
I won’t pretend that same-sex parents have some sort of corner on excellent parenting. I don’t claim that we make better parents than our straight peers, even though recent studies may or may not have said something along those lines. So much goes into parenting, and so many of us are clueless when we start out, that I honestly believe it’s difficult to come up with quantitative data on something that is impacted by a multitude of factors—age, race, socioeconomic class, family of origin, education level, personality type, sexual orientation, cultural/ethnic background. But at the same time, I absolutely reject the notion that same-sex parents disadvantage our children. And so does the research, Mark Regnerus and his discredited ilk notwithstanding.
Different children respond to the same parenting style in widely divergent ways, not to mention to social situations, classrooms, teachers, peer groups, standardized tests, and so on and so forth. To someone like me, largely untrained in statistics and the social sciences, comparing straight parents to gay parents seems like comparing apples to oranges. Or like comparing Alex to Ellie or Ellie to Sydney.
All three of our children share the same DNA, the same parents, the same household, potentially the same inherited traits. And yet where Alex and Sydney are cautious and observant, Ellie launches herself into the world with seemingly no fear (or easily discernible judgment). While Alex and Ellie wrestle and giggle together, Sydney is content to play on her own or snuggle with one of her moms. While Ellie and Alex run through the house, Ellie clinging to a wall for support on her still wobbly legs, Sydney paces slowly and deliberately down the center of the long hall, bowed legs wide for maximum stability. While Alex and Sydney seem happiest reading a book or dancing to a tune, Ellie appears to crave motion and discovery.
Our three girls—they are all themselves, and ours, and each other’s. And we are lucky to have them. Whether they’re lucky to have us, only they can decide in due time, and despite all their similarities—Ellie and Sydney have shared almost everything so far, and will continue to do so because that is the way of twindom, for better or worse—our daughters might not even agree on that. Which is okay, because no matter what, Kris and I love them, and we always will.
And speaking of love, I hope you’ll join Kris and me in offering your prayers and condolences to the people of nearby Oso, Washington, who have seen their community so devastated by last Saturday’s catastrophic mudslide. If you can, I hope you’ll join us in giving to the Red Cross. Call 800-733-2767 to donate or text “RedCross” to 90999 to have $10 charged to your phone bill. Or visit the Washington state Combined Fund Drive’s special campaign to help victims: http://www.cfd.wa.gov/cfd/Mudslide-Relief-Campaign.aspx. Thank you in advance for your support.