How not to flaunt your childfree cluelessness

So, a friend linked to this Straight Person’s Guide to Gay Ettiquette, and to be honest, it pissed me off a lot.

A lot of it doesn’t apply in the same format to British queers, anyway – we can, for example, have our same-sex relationships legally recognised, though the author is right about how insulting it is when well-meaning people call it “marriage” when that is very specifically not what we were given.

But then it comes on to the question of children.

Another bone of contention will most likely be procreation. You have probably already noticed, if you have small children, that with most people who do not have them, a certain glazedness will begin to cloud their previously limpid eyes after about 5 minutes of looking at your baby pictures. This is because nobody but you is as excited as you are about your baby, and single persons who have yet to taste the joys of diaper changing are remarkably uninterested in the play-by-play daily drool and burp report. You have learned to adjust, if you still have friends. If you have noticed a marked dropoff in your extrafamilial social life, you may just have found the source of this problem.

Ah, here we go: a standard child/parent hater statement. Talking about children is dull; parents only ever talk about their children; if you want to retain non-parent friends you must never talk about your children; your non-parent friends are quite right to drop you if you don’t comply. Hey, I got a line on my bingo card!

A related, but different process of adjustment awaits with your gay  friends. Sure, they will happily dandle your little one and play airplane with him when they visit, but they will not take it well if they find your conversation revolves around the little tyke 24/7. This is because many gay couples would like to have children, but can’t, because we live in a country where judges think it’s more important that a child’s sexually abusive stepfather have visiting rights because the kid “needs a male role model” (actual words from an actual judge, no lie) than that s/he be raised in a loving home by two parents of the same gender. By prattling on obliviously about Janey’s first succesful trip to the potty, you are reminding them that if they ever do have the chance to toilet train a spawnling of their own, it will only be after some serious medical intervention and perhaps one or two long-drawn and vicious court battles.

See what they did there? Yes, that’s right. Us gays who actually already do have children either don’t exist, or can no longer be spoken about with the generic word “gay”.

Leaving aside “we live in a country” which, in fact, we don’t all live in, there’s then the assumption that getting kids as a queer necessarily involves medical intervention. News: turkey basters are in the cookery section, not in medical supplies!

And then there’s a bit that makes me want to cry:

“So do you and Rebecca plan to have children?” There are several possible honest responses to this question:

  • No, because I’d rather not inflict a life of shame and ostracism on some poor little entity that never did me any harm.

Oh, that would be an honest response, would it? Those of us who’ve chosen to inflict a life of shame and ostracism on our children thank you for that little spurtle of self-hatred.

Basically, all you need to remember is that if you pretend that your friends can lead exactly the same kind of life you lead as a heterosexual, you are not making them feel more accepted and at home.

Well, quite. Quite. That’s quite the take-home, transferrable lesson, isn’t it? This piece is meant to have queers reading it with a wry self-identification, I think, the sort of thing that makes us feel at home and supported among other queers, so we can face the world with renewed strength. Well, I guess that’s something we breeders can’t hope for.

Never mind, though, because I need to tell you that Secondborn used the potty this morning!


8 Responses to How not to flaunt your childfree cluelessness

  1. Mary says:

    I completely agree with you about the way the later parts of the article seem to assume that gay = not having kids, but I don’t really know what to say if you think that someone feeling deeply ambivalent about whether or not they will have children is tantamount to attacking your family, or failing to support you.

    The “we don’t all live in this country” thing goes both ways, too: I know you take the types of hostility that your children might experience seriously, so why is it not OK for someone to take that into account when deciding whether or not to have kids? Especially if you live in a country where there is likely to be more hostility than there is in England or Scotland?

    • Kate says:

      I don’t think that’s an expression of ambivalence, though. “No, because I’d rather not inflict a life of shame and ostracism” logically implies that having kids means inevitably doing that, for that person, and in this context, the only information you have about that (hypothetical) person is that they’re in a same-sex relationship. It’s a throwaway smart line, positioned in a selection of throwaway smart lines, and it’s intended as a silencing injection of truth.

      So, yes, I felt saddened by that. In a piece asking people to think how their casual statements might affect people in a different relationship situation, it was poorly phrased and thoughtless.

      • mary says:

        I read them all as hyperbole, but hyperbolic versions of genuine fears, most of which certainly rang true to me. The flippancy is a pretty accurate reflection of the way that people fend off intrusive questions about incredibly difficult topics.

        And characterising as “childfree and clueless” people who may desperately want or have wanted to have children but feel unable to is pretty damn harsh. It really sounds like you’re not able to empathise with someone who would have wanted to have children but feels that they’re not in a situation where that’s safe option.

    • Kate says:

      Can’t work out why I can’t reply to your second reply but: the “childfree” thing I only meant to apply to the author of the piece, not any of the hypothetical people in it. The author really is clueless about the possibilities for queer people with children: I stand by that. And I tend to use “childfree” all the time for people without children, because I can’t work out what would be more appropriate – I probably should have said “people without children” when I didn’t specifically mean the self-declared childfree.

  2. Ruth Moss says:

    Well said!!! Amongst my favourite soap box topics is “childfree cluelessness” (clueless is quite tame for what it actually is)

  3. seenonflickr says:

    Wait, what? Same-sex couples shouldn’t have children because they’ll have lives of shame and ostracism?


  4. I wish more people would get a clue that whether to have children, how, how many, in what time frame – these are personal questions. “So, are you going to have children?” should be asked as freely as “So, how was your last pap smear?” Nobody’s frigging business, imo.

  5. […] How not to flaunt your childfree cluelessness – “Ah, here we go: a standard child/parent hater statement. Talking about children is dull; parents only ever talk about their children; if you want to retain non-parent friends you must never talk about your children; your non-parent friends are quite right to drop you if you don’t comply. Hey, I got a line on my bingo card! […]

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