As thousands protested the recent legalization of gay marriage in France -- and the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to weigh in on the issue in June -- HuffPost's "International Spotlight" presents the views of three gay couples, all raising children, in France, the U.S. and also Canada, where gay marriage has been legal for eight years. You can read the U.S. entry here, and France's entry here.
Drew's and my journey to parenthood began several years before we got married, or even co-habitated. We realized early on that we wanted exactly the same thing -- marriage and a family. We're actually fairly traditional guys, except for the part where we marry a same-sex spouse and therefore brazenly defy God's plan and bring on one million nights of darkness and hellfire. Or hopefully not.
When Jack was born at 2 a.m. on a freezing cold January morning in Edmonton, we were right there in the delivery room, watching him enter the world, a luxury that few adoptive families are blessed enough to experience. Drew cut the umbilical cord (in an obviously symbolic gesture), and once he was cleaned up, the bouncing baby boy was passed to his new daddies.
Immediately, of course, our lives changed. It was like some massive baby bomb consisting of poop, drool, formula, lack of sleep and cuteness had descended upon us, and things would never be the same again. We loved this baby more than we ever could have imagined. We went from being a couple to being a family. And that identity change was evident everywhere we went. Occasionally, we would see people trying to determine what our scenario was exactly, but with us transporting a newborn and the endless amount of equipment they come with, it was fairly obvious we were a team.
About a month after Jack was born, we decided that the baby would not have an impact upon our usual tradition of spending Valentine's night in Whistler Village. (We were dead wrong, incidentally -- a solidly bad choice.) So, we went. But what we really noticed on that trip was that people did recognize us as a family, but really didn't care. Our dog Charlie, a wonderful big mutt with a bum front paw, had to wear a leather boot to protect it from the pavement, and was much more interesting to strangers that the two tired, pasty-faced guys with a baby strapped to one of them.
Many times over the first few months, people would ask, "Where's Mom?" and we would shrug and say, "We have no idea!" which was technically true. This replaced my previous favourite question: "You're gay?" My best response: "I hope so! Otherwise, marrying a guy was a huge mistake!"
Truthfully, family, friends, neighbours and strangers could not have been kinder or more supportive. We love our home, our neighbourhood and Vancouver, and we know that it's a pretty liberal place to live. And yet, we're also not deluded -- we know that there are people in our vicinity who find being gay "wrong" and are offended by our choice to be married and to start a family. But if they've shown their faces, these people haven't offered their unwanted opinions yet. And I hope that when and if they do, Jack is out of earshot or at least older and better able to process it.
When Jack was one, we made the decision to move from the suburbs to a house in a more urban environment. While we were keen to drive less and to walk more, the primary reason for the shift was that a neighbourhood in a city centre was more likely to contain same-sex parents than a suburban one. And we found that families exactly like ours are here and the fact that Jack is able to see them has more than justified the move.
Our names are vaguely similar and we are of similar heights and statures as well. Therefore, when neighbours and acquaintances mix up our names, we understand and explain that for all intents and purposes, we are one middle-aged, pasty, tired man. Just call us Randrew.
As parents ("Daddy" and "Poppy" to Jack), we've kept our goals realistic. At one month, we had successfully kept him alive. By six months, we had not dropped him on his head. By year one, he was walking and had functioning muscle. Next benchmark: 19 years with no prison time.
As it turns out, our family is not really that different from any of the other families in our neighbourhood -- a child and two married parents who occupy the usual "good cop/bad cop" roles (Drew and Randy, respectively) and who shuttle that child to school, baseball, soccer and play dates, and can constantly discuss the dynamics of marriage, mortgages, lawn care and parenting until we're blue in the face.
Recently, our family's little difference has become more significant to Jack, who has let us know that he's not interested in being different. We understand and empathize, and have discussed this with him at length. We've also made sure that he is aware that in that one way, he's different from most kids at his school, but in hundreds of ways, he's exactly the same: he likes refined white sugar, dirt, video games, bikes, his pets, superheroes and Lego, and will relentlessly campaign for his right to not eat "that" food, to not go to bed, to please go to Disneyland this weekend and to request of his parents that they please don't ever dance or sing in public.
We are patently aware that this particular period in our time with Jack is finite (he's seven now), so unless we are bleeding or trapped under heavy furniture, the answer to the question, "Will you play with me?" is always "Yes," because we know that his focus will be diverted elsewhere more and more as time compresses.
Sometimes, we've felt bad that we've really done nothing to earn the rights and freedoms that we have, other than to be born at the right time. It would have been inconceivable to previous generations of gays and lesbians that they might get married, easily adopt a child and be welcomed into a nice neighbourhood in Vancouver full of other kids and families, without causing a ripple of controversy. But that's exactly what we've done. My handsome husband and I found each other and then got pretty much everything else we could have wanted. We're ridiculously lucky.
In some of our more challenging parenting moments, Drew and I have wondered if the universe making us gay was its way of subtly suggesting that we would make lousy parents. In any case, we've clearly ignored that warning and pushed on; s as my mother might say, we've made our bed and now we have to lie in it. And we will be joined in that bed by our son, his security blanket, food remnants and a house pet or two, just to keep the reality of that choice readily apparent.
And we love it. And we wouldn't want it any other way.