Saturday, November 04, 2006

Motherhood as a traditional belief?

There's an article in this month's Melbourne Child in support of the "two gay fathers" model of family life. I was going to ignore the whole thing until I read the following lines:

One of the most deeply held traditional beliefs concerning families is that they must contain a mother. This belief is the source of much prejudice toward gay fathers.

Might I suggest to the author of the piece, Kylie Ladd, that it is not just a traditional belief that families must contain a mother, but a universal tradition that families do so and that this might have something to do with the most basic biological reality that it is a mother who brings a child into the world.

It is therefore difficult for families not to have a mother and the only way the gay couples featured in the article were able to do so was via IVF, a donor's eggs and a surrogate.

Much of the rest of the article is an argument along the lines of "it doesn't matter who raises a child as long as the child has a loving home".

Perhaps many people will want to believe this, but I hope that they are aware of the logical consequences of accepting such an idea.

First, it contributes to the instability of the heterosexual family. If we deny that children are generally better off being raised by their own biological mother and father, then there is less reason for biological parents to persevere with their marriages.

In other words, if the cultural message is that kids don't really need their biological father then mum is more likely to kick him out of the house (and he is less likely to hang around when the going gets tough).

Second, if all kids need is a loving household, then there's no need to think of families in terms of two stable carers; you could have all kinds of different arrangements, including three or even four parents, or combinations of adults who "swap" at different intervals, or institutional care.

So even if gay parenting becomes increasingly common I think it's unwise for heterosexuals to accept the kind of justifications likely to be advanced for it.


  1. Mark, I did a lengthy post recently about a long series the LA Times ran on 2 gay men who used surrogacy and purchased eggs to make 2 babies, both of which died after premature birth. The article was cloying in the extreme when describing the relationship between the men, to the extent of saying how, at the hospital, the staff noticed they were more dedicated than most couples there.

    I am not even comfortable about surrogacy for heterosexual couples. But that 2 gay men would go through such a process (instead of just adopting, for example) strikes me as an obscene use of science that would have been clearly recognised as such only 40 years ago.

    But the love is what it is all about, the writer implies. No matter that such love meant using an inherently difficult and dangerous procedure with 2 dead babies at the end.

  2. Bobby,

    As a gay man I have to take issue with your statement that people choose the gay lifestyle. Some people may choose to be gay, but the overwhelming majority do not. Seriously, I get the impression that you think that we all choose to be gay because we want the endless dancing and circuit parties and what have you, but then some of us decide we want kids too and are just too lazy to turn back. I think the truth is that our homosexuality, like our desire to have children, are largely beyond our conscious control. And, unfortunately, they clash.

    Having said that, I do agree that being a parent means you put your children first. And I'm very uncomfortable with gay people choosing to raise children in single-sex parenting homes. Maybe it will all turn out ok for the child, but maybe not. And if not, it's an incredibly selfish thing to do.