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Gay ... with children.

For the past several weeks, I have been trying to imagine the world of lesbian and gay parenting in the year 2027. It is a particularly daunting task for me as a parent. Parenting is necessarily tied to the present even as one gears many actions toward the future.

There is my 3-year-old daughter tugging at my dress, asking me to pretend I'm her fairy godmother. She dances around the room, oblivious to the future. I want nothing more than to freeze that instant, to keep her with me just like that, in all her wide-eyed joyful wonder.

As I am tucking her into bed, we talk about how we'll go to the beach the next day and how I will bury her in the sand. She laughs, then rubs her face and says, "But don't bury my eyes or nose or mouth." She makes me think about death, and my heart breaks at her innocence. I want to protect her from sadness, but am powerless to do so. I imagine her in 2027, nearing the age I was when I gave birth. It seems an impossible task, yet that's what parenting is all about: treasuring the present and, at the same time, reflecting about the impact it may have on your child's life as it unfolds beyond your reach.

With respect to lesbian and gay family issues, I can confidently chart the past two to three decades. Though I know the story doesn't end there, I am loath to predict its next turn. Recognizing that I am "futuristically challenged," I picked up the phone and dialed 411 for the number of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The fiasco that ensued may have been mere coincidence, but I wondered if it were a reminder that even as I optimistically consider the future of lesbian- and gay-headed families, I should remember the specter of homophobia in its myriad forms.

The operator I connected with asked me several times to repeat the acronym "NCLR" and go over exactly what it stood for. After several minutes she said, "I don't have any such listing, but I can give you the Gay and Lesbian Chorus." Frustrated but amused, I pondered why she would think someone seeking a national rights organization for help about gay parenting would be just as pleased to have the number of a chorus--it seemed a peculiar twist on the "all you queer folk look alike" mentality.

When I finally reached Kathryn Kendell, executive director of NCLR, and Beatrice Dohrn, legal director at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, they confidently made several predictions. First, the homophobic challenges to gay and lesbian custody and visitation rights in cases of heterosexual divorce will be a thing of the past. This is quite striking when you think about the fact that just over two decades ago, these cases were first emerging on the scene and lesbian parents were fighting mostly losing battles. There is only one state, Missouri, that says homosexuality constitutes parental unfitness. It's not cool to be homophobic in today's climate, and the judges know it.

Gays looking to adopt can be optimistic too. Adoption by gay men and lesbians is illegal in two states--Florida and New Hampshire. The Florida law is being successfully challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on a county-by-county basis.

Ultimately, gay marriage will cut through much of the disputed territory. I was skeptical when Dohrn and Kendell informed me that gay marriage would be available on a national level 30 years hence. But then Dohrn pointed out that exactly 30 years ago the Loving v. Virginia case ruling miscegenation laws unconstitutional had been decided. Here, 30 years later, it is inconceivable that interracial unions would be illegal--though they're still controversial.

Finally, consider what will happen when a generation of children raised by gay men and lesbians grow up happy and productive. It will be much harder to take as givens the chauvinism of the traditional heterosexual model and the gender stereotyping we impose.

My youngest child kicks inside me as I write these words. Perhaps it is he, along with the directory-assistance operator, who keeps me tentative in my

I am struck by how similar the act of imagining the future of gay parenting is to the act of imagining my son's 30-year-old face when I have yet to see his baby smile.

Benkov, author of Reinventing the Family: The Emerging Story of Lesbian and Gay Parents, is an instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a supervising psychologist at Children's Hospital in Boston.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:legalizing homosexual parenting in the future
Author:Benkov, Laura
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Oct 14, 1997
Words:764
Previous Article:Tomorrow's togetherness.
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