Perspectives: Internalized Homophobia

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach.

- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Photo: Alisdare Hickson

Tiny humans have started calling me Uncle Ivan. My friend is about to have his second kid. Another just had her first. Yet, another friend is about to be a father for the first time. My younger brother has two kids under 3. This just seems to be what happens at a certain point in life; people trade designer bags for diaper bags, motorcycles for Subarus, gyms for gymborees.

And, man, am I excited for all these new little people. I really do love children. I once spent a whole wedding reception playing with a baby and rocking her to sleep while her parents danced away. My friends call me the Baby Whisperer, I can stop any baby from crying. Really, try me! You see, kid problems are easy to solve. They’re hungry, they want to play, or they’re tired. That’s it. That’s all it really comes down to. Before any parents jump down my throat, I get it, it’s all so easy for me to say — at the end of the night, you get your kid back and I go home to a full night of sleep!

But I’m ready to be a dad. I’m ready for night time feedings and singing lullabies. I’m ready to teach colors and letters and shapes and catch. I’m ready to teach character and judgement and respect and love. Isn’t a conversation with a child the only form of time travel we have discovered?

So what’s the problem? Well, aside from the fact that I’m not currently in a relationship with anyone, I am also looking to be in a relationship with a man. I’m gay.

“But Neil Patrick Harris!”

Yes, sure, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. Yes, sure, Ricky Martin. Yes. Sure. Gay men have families now. Gay men are getting married, and raising children together, and saving for college together, and piling in the family station wagon together. But in my experience, these New Nuclear Families are in the minority, even inside their own minority of the gay community.

There are so many gay men living a perpetual party. So many gay men that refuse to grow up. And I can’t say that I blame them. Why saddle oneself with commitment and house payments and diapers and PTA meetings, when you can take an expensive trip, buy a sports car or focus on your rewarding career. I get it. But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never seen any of my friends happier than when they’re holding their children in their arms. I’ve never seen my male friends look more like honorable men than when they’re laughing with their giggling daughters. I don’t think they feel like they’re missing out.

I was never really an athletic kid, and my friends and family reminded me of it, so I never really pursued sports. I don’t regret it, I loved reading and science too much. I was a bookworm and proud of it. I still am. But is it possible that an encouraging word could have changed that? Is there an alternate reality where I was a sports star and a science geek because I could be both?

Here’s what I’m saying — perhaps gay men choose to exist in the alternate reality where they can’t be good dads. After so many years of systemic and cultural scare-tactics: we are a danger to children, children are harmed by the lack of a mother and father, or worst of all, children will be sexually abused in a home with two dads — perhaps we’ve listened to the lie.

Way back in 2011, Iowa legislators held a hearing on a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would outlaw same-sex marriage. In a video now made famous, Zach Walhs spoke about being raised by two women, and declared, “If I was your son Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud.”

Zach is only 10 years younger than I am, but in that moment, I caught a glimpse of who my son might be; someone who stands up for minorities, someone who speaks boldly and unafraid, someone who knows what is right and what is just. He’s right. Any one of us would be proud to have raised a man like him, and it would have been such a loss to the world if Zach’s parents had foregone motherhood out of fear or internalized homophobia.

So, to the gay men out there (and to myself), who long for family, long for connection, long for what you think you cannot have, I say: Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark — the world you desire can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible.