3 min

Gay rights are children’s rights

Uncovering the family first rhetoric

The cat’s out of the bag. Lesbian mothers are just as good, if not better for children, than heterosexual parents, according to a study commissioned by the federal justice department in 2003. The report only surfaced last week, after its author, Paul Hastings from Concordia University, obtained it under the Access to Information Act.

You see, it’s no surprise that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government wanted to suppress the report, which references about 100 studies on parenting and demonstrates that children living with two mothers are no worse off than kids living with a mom and a dad. In fact, they may even have marginally better social skills.

But this kind of information really pisses of the fundamentalists and so-called ethicists like Margaret Somerville who choose to ignore any empirical data that contradicts their bunk argument that gay and trans rights ignore “children’s rights.”

In fact, documents obtained by CanWest indicate that Hastings’ report had the Conservatives scrambling to find alternative data to back up their opposition to equal marriage. According to the Ottawa Citizen, speaking notes prepared for the party encouraged MPs to refer to a French Parliamentary report that used concerns about children’s inability to trace their origins as a justification to vote against same sex marriage.

The fact that the so-called research used to discriminate against queer families is so unreliable hasn’t stopped evangelical groups like Focus on the Family from propagating the same tired old homophobic crap about how dangerous us queers are to our children and our communities.

Just this month, the group held one of its long-running “Love Won Out” seminars in Surrey, BC. Some of the discussion topics included, “Prevention of Male Homosexuality,” and “The Condition of Female Homosexuality.” The conference’s stated goal was to “defend Biblical beliefs and prevent your child from embracing this destructive way of life.”

This was in the same week that Darrel Reid, former director of Focus on the Family Canada was appointed deputy director of policy and research in the Prime Minister’s Office. Reid was most recently chief of staff to Rona Ambrose when she was Environment Minister. Reid is a vocal anti-gay marriage and anti-choice spokesperson. He was instrumental in setting up the FOTF-funded Institute for Marriage and Family Canada, which disguises itself as a neutral research organization, but its studies so far have attacked the usual Conservative annoyances — universal daycare, public education and non-hetero families.

Hearing all of this is enough to make us want to cocoon in our homes, hold our loved ones tight and stick our fingers in our ears to block out all of this hateful anti-gay noise, which is what really damages queer families. But as tempting as it sounds, that would be a big mistake.

I was reminded of this fact last weekend, when I attended a yard sale on what is surely the queerest street in my neighbourhood, if not the whole City of Ottawa. The street is home not to one, but two queer polyamorous households. It’s also where one of two gay brothers who run a local Chinese restaurant lives with his boyfriend. The other gay brother drove over to check out the wares that day, momentarily wearing street clothes rather than his usual drag attire — although in this case, that meant shiny silver gym shorts.

As I leaned over to pick up a vintage ’60s breadbox, one of the neighbours’ children came running down the street, squealing with delight as he bounced from person to person, saving his most unbridled enthusiasm for the brother in the silver shorts, calling him by his drag name and begging him to get out of the car and play with him.

Later that day, the same child got his first introduction to lesbianism, when a dyke couple smooched on the street in front of him. The women involved happily answered his questions while the boy’s father looked on, clearly delighted that the child was secure under the watchful gaze of his neighbours.

That yard sale said more to me than any argument I could muster about the need for queer people to eschew notions of suburban privacy and get out onto the streets and into our communities. Empirical data aside, queer people are good for communities. We take excellent care of our own children, and we make our streets safer for the neighbours’ kids.

When we resist the urge to bunker down and isolate ourselves, we create space for all kinds of families to thrive. Gay rights and children’s rights go hand in hand.