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eople sure can be a pain in the neck. It would be so much easier if people were like things, they stay where you put them, you know them, you can generally trust and rely on them, they often give comfort and help. But, people are not things, and further, people are not perfect, they're human. People have as many shortcomings as you do; they have strengths and weaknesses. They sometimes do things on purpose, and other times don't know what they are doing or even aware they are doing it. They can love you and hate you, be your friend, be your enemy, or be nothing at all. They are never predictable, but yet are so important and valuable to you. But, they, like you are created in God's Image, and through your relationship with God, learning and growing in Jesus, you can equip yourself to relate positively with them, and be confident in yourself in your relationships with them. So, let's look at some different relationships or situations we may find ourselves in with people.
Children (In General)
am a gay parent; people often ask me if my child knows I am gay. Sharing information on sexuality should be appropriate to the child's age and in direct relationship to the question asked. If your three year old child asks where babies come from, "mommy's tummy" may be enough information, but showing the child medical books may be too much. Whatever the age of the child, I believe it important for all discussions of sexuality to include the emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of sexuality, not just the physical. Sex should be more than a physical act, and it should be discussed in the context of God's design for it.
Therefore, aspects of being gay or lesbian encompass more than sexual acts. Sharing with the child the relationship between partners, or if you are single sharing your self-identity, shows the child the Love that lays at the foundation of who you are or the meaning and purpose at the heart of your relationship.
I, personally, believe in living life as open as possible, which includes sexual orientation. But, your sexual orientation, though it touches many aspects of your being, is but a part of you. You are first and foremost Christian, all aspects of your being surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, including your sexuality, and when people see you they should see Christ. Therefore, I see no need to hide sexual orientation from your child(ren), actually, I believe you would be a better parent, open and honest and at peace with yourself and the world, if your sexual orientation were visible.
You cannot control the reactions and actions of people around you, only your own, but you can effect your child(ren)'s, in how you present yourself. If you are a good and responsible parent, Love your child(ren), put Christ first, then your child(ren) shall see your Love and the Lord living in your heart. Doing this shall greatly help your child understand your sexual orientation, help combat the fears or misunderstandings that may arise in that visibility. It shall also help your child filter out and reject the stereotypes negative people spread about gays and lesbians; when confronted with such negativity, your child will compare them with you and reply, "this is not right nor true, for my parent is not that way."
Studies show children of gay or lesbian parents usually do not have any difficulties emotionally or intellectually with the gay parent. Through the natural parenting process, being a loving, caring, and responsible parent and adult, the child sees beyond the sexuality, knows the maturity of the parent, knows the parent is more than just merely gay or lesbian, and is capable of placing the sexuality in its proper perspective. Instead, their difficulties lie outside the home.
A child’s relationship with peers is very important, necessary, and healthy. Everyone has memories of feeling left out, being picked on, made fun of, ridiculed, or rejected by peers. If your child’s friends or peers find out you are gay, they may assume or think your child is gay or will become gay. They may make fun of or pick on your child because of you. You cannot protect your child(ren) from experiencing this, but you can make it less likely. No one is suggesting a "return to the closet," but rather "tempering yourself without compromise," recognizing there is a time and place for being out, and often in your child’s school and social settings, that is not the place. You might want to have second thoughts about having a rainbow sticker on the bumper of your automobile. If you have personality or cultural characteristics, stereotypical traits that your society or culture identify as "gay" or "lesbian," whereby it would be easy for people to identify you as such, you might want to "tone it down" when you are attending or participating in your child’s activities. If you child is going to have friends over to your residence, or members of your family are going to visit, you may need to "de-gay" it, which is a joking reference to hiding things which might be around that would identify you as being gay or lesbian; for example, copies of gay or lesbian magazines, books, videos, DVDs, or tapes lying around, pictures of you and your lover together (especially hugging), gay pride refrigerator magnets, or your copy Michelangelo’s statue of David, or the statue of Venus de Milo (yes, seriously; some people may not be as open and accepting of some art as you, and if it involves nudity, see it as something "gay").
In the United States, the Boy Scouts is known for having an anti-gay bias. My son wanted to participate in Boy Scouts, be with his friends. I actively participated in his local Troop, traveled with the Troop on camping trips, and shared tents with other parents and Adult Leaders. They knew I was a divorced single father, not that I was gay. I personally have never cared much for camping, fishing, and the whole general outdoor male bonding environment. I knew nothing about pitching a tent, tying knots, or the Boy Scouts in general. My son would cover for me by pitching my tent, and telling me when I needed to "tone down" my personality. Luckily, the Troop Leaders discovered I knew how to cook and barbeque, and I was quickly established in that role within the Troop, it was something I could actually do, and it would cover up my other suspiciously lacking traditional stereotypical male or masculine characteristics. Such a gay sensitive organization would be more likely to look with suspicion upon my life partner attending any meetings or activities. When my son received Merit Badges, awards, or advanced in placement rank, my life partner did not attend the ceremonies with me. I do not consider any of these things as hiding my sexuality, but being a responsible parent to my son, helping him have a positive and rewarding childhood. Nor did I have any problem being involved with a group that has a problem with homosexuals. There were several opportunities, during meetings and camp outs, when for whatever reasons the topic of gays and lesbians came up, and the boys asked me my opinions. However, in other activities, such as my son’s soccer games, school music concerts, school open houses, my life partner often attended, and everyone there generally thought or assumed he was just a friend of mine, and not my "homosexual lover."
My son was very young when I divorced and came out, too young for any discussion yet about most of sexuality, whether gay or straight. Unfortunately, my son got the first hints about his father’s sexuality not from me, but from his mother’s church; he heard "whispers" about me. He did not understand what they meant, but he could sense it was something negative about me, and he was hurt by it, very defensive. Unfortunately, you sometimes cannot control what other people say or do, especially other family members, or what might be said or done by anti-gay organizations, groups, and even churches. I have little respect for a family member that "outs" another family member. But, if it happens, you are left with the damage control, and have to do your best to handle it in ways that are positive. Thankfully, like in the case of my son, you will probably have the support of your child, if not their full understanding of the situation or cause of the negative things or rumors they have heard (which will depend on the age and development level of your child). You have to learn to pick your battles, look at the situation and see whether or not anything positive and healthy would be gained by confronting the person or group for what they have said or done.
It is true, in some respects a gay or lesbian parent is held to a higher than normal set of standards and expectations; you are consciously and subconsciously trying to prove to yourself and others you are a responsible parent. This is due to those who are not accepting, looking for and trying to find fault with your sexuality, and/or who have an anti-homosexual religious, cultural, or political agenda. The more positive, healthy, and responsible you are as an individual, and a parent, the more difficult it is for such persons to find legitimate fault with you. However, that may not stop them, nor stop them from taking some type of legal action against you, supposedly under the guise of "what is best for the child(ren)." This is a reality every gay or lesbian parent needs to recognize and accept, a "heads up," be prepared, and take necessary and responsible action to do your best to ensure you have access to your children, connection with them, or be able to actually raise them yourself.
A good parent is a centered parent, whether gay or straight. The more you take charge of your own life, get your own life together, the better parent you shall be. A parent sets an example, so you need to be an example. You do not need to be perfect, you cannot and never shall be, but you do need to be someone who tries to follow those things you know are Love, be Christ-like towards yourself and others. You should refrain from behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, lifestyles, beliefs, activities, associations, connections, relationships, friendships, and choices that do not edify you, build you up, bring you growth or profit, which are not Love. You should strive to be Christ, towards yourself, and towards others, especially your children. So, if you have personal emotional problems or issues, deal with them; if you have addictions, deal with them. Your children need YOU; they need not only the things you do for them, but you yourself. You cannot do this if you are distracted or sidestepped by other things, issues, problems, choices, or persons.
If you are a parent, you will find yourself in a pool of about thirty per cent of all gay men and lesbians. More and more gays and lesbians are becoming parents, and that is a wonderful thing, but you should recognize the majority of gays and lesbians with whom you meet and associate do not have children. Being a gay or lesbian parent is sometimes similar to being a single straight mother or father, you "come with baggage." Your life is "hijacked" by your children, and most likely your life will not match the superficial stereotypical "lifestyle" of many gays and lesbians. If you are newly "out," you more than likely will want to begin connecting with other gays or lesbians, perhaps even date or socialize. However, you cannot and should not sacrifice your time and relationship with your children in the process of growing and learning about yourself.
When I attend parties or functions where a lot of gays and lesbians gather, I am often asked, "So, have you been on any vacation/holiday trips this year, or have plans for some?" I think to myself, "Vacations? You have to be kidding; I am a parent, when do I have the time and free money for such things." But, most gays and lesbians who do not have children, even if they are in a relationship, generally have less financial obligations, and thus this is considered by them to be part of the normal gay "lifestyle." Most of the cultural gay and lesbian activities, events, groups and organizations are not set up for parents, but rather for persons single or couples without children. There is the well-known story of the popular American amusement park that hosted a "Gay and Lesbian Day," and closed the children section of the park, gave those employees the day off. They were stunned by all of the gay men and lesbian couples who showed up with children, children in strollers, with no place to take their children. The park had to quickly call in all the employees, open the children section of the park, and the next day place a full-page ad in the newspaper apologizing for the assumption. Less common now than years ago, but there still exists a "third wheel" mentality by many organizers and participants, many "Gay Pride" events and activities forget about those members of the "club" who have children. Most of their venues are within gay or lesbian bars or nightclubs, or convention centers, locations, dancing, and activities that are more suitable and an atmosphere for adults and not for children. In the United States, Gay and Lesbian Pride Month is set each year for the month of June. Every year, I am often asked to speak at or help organize Gay Pride celebrations in different cities in the United States. But, I have to often decline because they schedule it the same weekend as Father’s Day. The organizers give me either a puzzled look or stare, or there is a long silent pause on the telephone when I tell them I cannot be there because, unless they can set up additional transportation and accommodations for my son, I will be spending the weekend at home with my son. Thankfully, and naturally, many gay men and lesbian parents have started their own grass roots clubs, groups, and organizations. I highly recommend you check your local area, or closest larger metropolitan area to see if they have a group or organization for gay parents. They not only have meetings, dinners, and parties for gay and lesbian parents, but also host events where you can bring your children, such as picnics, attending a sporting event, visiting a local zoo, etc. It provides you with a wonderful opportunity to connect and share with other gay or lesbian parents, but also helps your children connect with other children who also have gay or lesbian parents. If you do not have access to such things, perhaps think about organizing and starting such yourself. To find established and nation-wide groups and organizations and their chapters in your area, do an Internet Search Engine Website search under "gay parents," "gay dads," "lesbian parents," "lesbian moms," and maybe your location, etc.
If you are a gay man or lesbian woman, and single with child(ren), you need to face the reality you may be rejected because of being a parent. I recall several incidents of someone showing interest in me at a party, but during the course of conversation, when they discovered I had a son, they suddenly had an excuse to go somewhere else. It will be common, natural, and only right for you, when it comes to considering dating and especially relationship with someone whether or not that person is good with children, likes children, and would be a good step-parent to your child(ren). I personally cannot imagine anyone entering into a relationship with someone, no matter how wonderful that person may seem, if that person does not like children.
Know the laws of your country, state and/or province regarding childcare, child custody, child residency, and child support in relationship to their support or non-support of homosexuality. If any of them threaten your relationship with your child(ren), take action that will promote a healthy and positive relationship with your child(ren). Remember, your difficulty is not with your child(ren), so make sure your child(ren) do not feel like they are the problem, they are in the middle of a debate or struggle. Keep whatever conflicts professional, and not personal; respect the opposing side and views, try to understand their perspective, no matter how silly, false, or stupid.
Children By Marriage
I am fortunate, and I recognize this. Although my wife had difficulties accepting my sexuality when we first separated and divorced, I continued to have her respect, and her friendship. I understand such is not always the case for other people, maybe even you. I hear stories, and have received letters from gay and lesbian parents who went through terrible divorces, their ex-spouses or the courts placing restrictions on access to the child(ren). It is very sad the judgment of some people are clouded by their personal vendettas, agendas, or false beliefs, they would allow them to deny a child access to his/her parent. My ex-wife was mature enough to look past my sexuality, and knowing I was still a wonderful person, mature, responsible, and a good parent. We ended up with joint custody, and equal visitation rights. Later, as our son grew, he preferred to live totally with my life partner and I. For many years, we attended many school, family, and social functions together, my ex-wife, my life partner, and I sitting together on the edge of the soccer field, in the school auditorium, or at parent-teacher conferences. But, then she remarried, to someone who was religiously ultra-conservative, and very anti-gay; since then, we have not been able to continue our friendship, and joint parenting.
I believe part of my success with my ex-wife is my continual concern and care for her welfare. She might not be still my ex-spouse, but she remains my sister in Christ. One of the best ways to ensure a good and proper relationship with your child(ren) is to devote time and attention to your relationship with their other parent. Be Christ-like in all you are to your child's other parent, and to your ex-spouse, if you have one. During and after our divorce, I did not just walk away from her, and leave her stranded. I continued to help her with her own life, help her sell the home and move into a new residence, taught her how to set up banking, and other financial services, and even taught her some cooking skills she lacked. Basically, I continued to place before her the fact I was and remained a "nice guy," I was not divorcing her because I hated her, but because it was the best thing. I continued to desire her friendship, showed concern and care for her and her life. Although we are not as close friends as we once were, I continue to show interest in her life, her health, activities, and her new marriage.
You have responsibilities still regarding your ex-partner, and/or the parent of your child(ren). If you have financial obligations, pay them and go beyond this and try to the best of your ability to assist in the financial welfare of your child(ren). If your child(ren) do not live with you, be responsible and pay on time any financial welfare or obligations, and go beyond them, to make sure your child has more than just the minimum of services and provisions. If the parent of your child(ren) pay you financial support, be thankful, tell that person thanks now and then, and keep this financial blessing in mind whenever you find yourself thinking less than rightly about that person.
If your child(ren) live with you, you have responsibility to make sure they have access to your ex-spouse, their other parent. You should also make sure they have access to other family members, your ex-in-laws, the grandparents of your child(ren), their aunts and uncles. I enjoy the complete acceptance of my ex-in-laws, and my ex-wife’s brother and sister. They tell me I have their support because of the pro-active role I have always taken in their nephew’s/grandson’s life, whether when he was still living with his mother, or while living with me. I did not have this at first, at the time of the divorce, they were very angry, and anti-gay. Only by living as best as I could before them, did they chose to change their beliefs towards me. Your children need their other parent, and other family members, so do your best to give your child(ren) healthy access to them, and you also maintain a responsible and mature relationship with them, too.
If your child(ren) come from a former relationship, you can only live your life responsibly to combat whatever negativity may spill over on to your child(ren) or influence their thinking. You cannot control what is said or done in the home of your ex-spouse, the parent of your child(ren), or other family members. You can only let your own life, and lifestyle, which should be as humanly possible to being responsible as possible, be a counter argument or point to your child to balance or overcome any negativity spoken about you. However, you do have a right to your privacy, a right to respect (if you have shown a reason or lifestyle deserving respect), and the responsibility to never compromise yourself. Therefore, if you do need to speak up for yourself, or take some form of action regarding something that is said or done against you because of your sexuality, try to do so in such a way that would bring about edification, and growth to all involved, or at least mutual respect and understanding. You also have a responsibility to respect the relationship of your child(ren) with their other parent, speak about that other parent in responsible, positive, and healthy ways, no matter what that person may say or do towards you. However, that does not mean not being dishonest and non-communicative with your child(ren) when it comes to pointing out things said or done by the other parent which are false, hurtful, or wrong.
Whether your child(ren) live with you or someone else, you have the responsibility to make yourself available as much as possible to your child(ren). It is common for a person who is newly divorced, and/or has just left a relationship to be focused on him/herself. Some of that attention is healthy, but some of it is not. Your child(ren) should always come first, before anything else. Your child(ren) come before any future dating, social exploration, and relationship. If you start a new relationship, your child(ren) should always remain more important, equally important as your new lover. Do not neglect your child(ren) just to enjoy personal freedom, or exploring your sexuality. If you do, you will regret it years later, when you wonder why your child(ren) do not telephone you, or include you very often, if at all, in their lives. All of your focus, attention, goals, hobbies and interests, values, ethics, social standing, occupation, location, and finances should be aimed first towards the welfare, upbringing, and future of your child(ren), and then towards you, and then towards other people.
For several years after my divorce, I lived with a gay male roommate, just a friend, nothing more. I made sure that friend respected my son. In my case, I chose another gay father, and older man who had a grown daughter. He was very respectful of my son, interested in his life. My roommate did not quite have the same personal ethics as myself, but he made sure he respected it around my son and I. He never had a boyfriend stay overnight when my son was there, for example. You need to think about such things. You need to think about what kind of new friends you make, and whether or not they are the right type of persons to be around your child(ren). You also need to think about this concerning your ex-spouse, the other parent of your child(ren), or the court system. In other words, would any of them find fault or reason to justify denying you access to your child(ren), because of your living arrangements, personal lifestyle, or the type of persons with whom you associate?
If you do end up in a relationship with someone, as I have said before, make sure that person likes children, and is healthy, responsible, and mature enough to be around them, and a part of their lives. Other than being a Christian, I cannot think of anything else more important than having the personal qualities to relate positively with children in be your primary first requirements in what you look for in a potential mate; having the same hobbies and interests should be completely secondary to these two characteristics. This potential person will have influence on your child(ren), will be interacting directly or indirectly with your child(ren), may have your permission of authority over them regarding childcare issues. Try to choose someone who respects and recognizes you are the first parent of your own child(ren), have the ultimate responsibility, and he/she desires to support you in your parenting. Try not to choose someone who will not take any responsibility around your child(ren), just let them do whatever they want, countermand your decisions and authority, etc.
Children By Foster Care or Adoption
As a Christian, God adopts you into his family, he is your literal Father, and Jesus is your literal Brother. In any country, any state or province in the world, if you adopt someone, you can never disown that child; you can disown your own child, but not an adopted child. This is the depth of Love we have from our Heavenly Father, and our Savior and Brother Jesus Christ. This is the depth and special Love you can share in being an adoptive parent to a needy child. There are more children available than there are adoptive parents. If you want to be a parent, you can be one. You may need to take some pro-active steps in your life, your career, location, lifestyle, or finances to be able to accomplish such a wonderful goal, but it can happen. More and more gay men and lesbian women are adopting children, many not just adopting one child, but several children. Many others are taking active roles in the Foster Care system, giving temporary shelter, a positive home life, and parental role model to needy children.
There is a battle in many governments regarding gay parents, whether by former marriages and relationships, or by adoption, or foster care. Some politicians, lobbyists, and/or religious persons believe being gay or lesbian and a parent are not compatible, and not healthy for a child. They generally base their beliefs on supposed "Family Values," the superiority of the nuclear family, and one father and one mother. They may falsely claim child(ren) raised in a gay or lesbian home suffer from a lack of nurture and connection with a parent of the other gender, or that gays and lesbians just want children so they can "recruit others to turn or become gay," or they think since the parent(s) are homosexual the child will grow up homosexual, too. These are a sample of the false, stereotypical, and downright silly beliefs they try to use to deny parental rights. Sadly, some people take such teachings seriously, despite many professional studies that have proved them false or unfounded. There is usually little to can say to try to change their thinking, but there are things you can do to make it difficult for them to find any proofs to further support their beliefs. How you choose to live your life, your public and private image, thrusts the arguments back on them, making them defensive, not you.
Part of the legal confusion going on in the world, in different countries, as they try to slowly sort through gay and lesbian civil rights, is contradictions within their laws, codes, practices, procedures, and policies. For example, in some places, gays and lesbians may be legally married, or acquire legal domestic partnership benefits (with all the same rights and privileges as someone who is married just not the term "marriage"), but not allowed to adopt children. It may be lawful to be a gay or lesbian parent or guardian of a child through natural means, allowed to raise that child. It may be lawful to be a foster parent of a child, raise that child for years and years, but when the gay man or lesbian woman desires to fully adopt that child, be denied that right for being homosexual.
See Also: My Dad is Gay, Should I Come Out?>, Coming Out, Beyond Coming Out, Books - Coming Out as Gay and Lesbian, Books - Gay and Lesbian Parenting, Coming Out Links, Parenting and Family Links, Families Joined By Love: Books, Resources, and Community for LGBT Families.
hen I am asked to speak or debate on matters of Faith, including sexuality, unlike others who arrive with books, note cards, facts and statistics, I arrive with a bucket. While the opposition is presenting their arguments, often with great scholarly research and planning, I heat up water. When it is my turn to present my side of the debate question, I invite everyone from the opposition to come forward, and there I wash their feet. I do not sprinkle water on their feet and wipe them with a towel. No, I wash their feet thoroughly with soap and water. Further, I dry their feet with the very shirt from off my back. When I finish, I put back on that wet shirt, and I ask "Who shall now wash my feet?" This is the Gospel to which we are called and preach. As a Christian, I have only one way to respond, "If you treat me good I shall treat you good, if you treat me bad I shall treat you good." John 13:4-17
You cannot control the actions and reactions of people, but you can control your own actions and reactions. In everything you are and do, you should reflect Christ. When people see you, a gay Christian, they should see Christ first, not your sexuality. People often get their identity in their employment, their family, their relationships, and sadly, sometimes their sexuality. This should not be your case. You are called to be a light in a dark place, to let Christ shine in your life.
Christ said people would reject us, including family, for being Christian. Christ does not promise you a life free from rejection, negativity, hatred and misunderstanding. Rather, Christ promises to be with you in your life, to bring you acceptance, understanding and Love in your heart in the midst of a hostile and often unloving world. If people are going to reject you for being Christian, how much more likely shall they reject you for being other things. You have a special purpose in God, unique talents and gifts. You shall find your purpose and place, your gifts and talents in Christ, when you seek God in everything, and everything you are is surrendered to God. Matt. 10:34-39; John 16:33
It would be nice to be Loved and accepted by people, especially those whom you Love, like your family, your co-workers, your peers, friends, community, but that may not happen. People may or may not understand your purpose in life, your gifts and talents given you by God, they may or may not understand your sexuality; all that does matter is in all things you reflect Christ. No matter how someone may react to you, no matter how much you are hurt and rejected by people, no matter how much you are accepted and Loved by people, reflect Christ. Be love in all you think do and say, repay kindness with kindness, evil with kindness, hatred with Love. Lay down your life, be a living witness by the manner of life you live, not just by the words you speak.
In so living a Christ-like life, you may win some to Christ, some to acceptance of your unique purpose and position in the Body of Christ. But, winning is never your goal; your goal is to live and please God. Christ has called you to Love in everything you are, and to God alone shall you be held responsible.
Do not use the liberties Christ has given you for occasions of the flesh, flaunt or give offense. As much as possible, live quietly with all people, respect those in authority, who are weaker in the faith, who do not understand you. Be patient, kind, temper yourself; be Love. Galatians 5:1-6:2
Be not ashamed of your life or your Christianity, reflect both openly. Your Christianity affects all you are, you cannot be a Christian in a closet, hidden from the world; no, you are called to be light to the world. Your sexuality is a part of what makes you who you are, you are not called to be ashamed of it, but to walk Christ-like in it. If you walk Christ-like in all you are, including your sexuality, then you have no shame, no need to hide, but rather are able to live your life freely and openly as a witness. Your life, lived in Christ, shall be a witness to the salvation and acceptance of some people, and to the confounding and rejection of others. Either way, God shall be with you. Matt. 5:13-16
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