College student Evan Arnold-Gordon knows having a unique parenting set-up isn’t necessarily easy, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything. August 13, 2009 he found himself standing outside the steps of the city hall in San Francisco flanked by his two gay dads Jonathan and John. It seemed that after 23 years of a domestic partnership, the state of California was finally prepared to recognize his father’s marriage.
Other gay and lesbian couples were there too, celebrating what many of them had never dreamed possible. All Evan could think at the time was how could any of these marriages possibly affect the detractors of gay marriage? Many of those gathered could only wonder why they had been so embarrassed by their alternative family. Why did they have to be so different from the families that come with picture frames?
“That’s so gay.” “You’re so gay.” “Fucking faggot.” Evan was in sixth grade when these phrases became common among his classmates. He can still remember going out to recess to play “smear the queer.” As he run through the grass field at the back of his school, clutching the football in one hand and holding off oncoming tacklers with the other, he realize the goal of the game was to attack the gay person. He would always play because he love sports, but could never figure out why anyone would want to tackle a gay person.
He had been taught never to use these words by his parents because of the malice they represented. But did everyone else know why he didn’t conform to all his other classmates? Going to a Spanish immersion program for elementary school meant there were other diverse kids, either by their religion or race. Somehow that didn’t necessarily equate to a completely tolerant social life.
Evans dads met many years before he was born at a party in San Francisco. His biological father, John, lived in Davis and commuted to Sacramento while his other father Jonathan worked and lived in San Francisco. One of his dad’s favorite stories is the three of us walking past a television in the Castro district of San Francisco and Evan yelling, “Hey, that’s Mary Martin!” This flabbergasted the people around them who came up to his dads saying, “What have you done to this poor child?”
Nina, Evans mother, also lived in Davis and commuted to Sacramento. Eventually, she and John became friends, and their collective relationships led to a three-way decision to have a child. In simply deciding to have a family on their own terms, Evans parents seemed to be trailblazers — they went to parenting classes and had to explain their respective parental titles.
Being an only child had its perks. Evan was his parents’ sole pride and joy, after all. However at times it also felt as though he was a part of a whimsical, comical theatre that had never been rehearsed.
Evans close friends knew. They had been over to his house, met his dads, his mom, presumably with one of her girlfriends at the time and saw them as an ordinary family. Something was missing however, an empathetic ally who could act as Evan’s sibling going through the same trials and tribulations he was going through at school.
Evan’s mom had a close lesbian friend who was raising a daughter named Emily with her partner. Then one summer at Evan’s Jewish sleep-away camp, he met a boy named Ben who also had two moms. Emily and Ben were Evan’s allies, his sympathetic friends he thought of as siblings.
They understood the unique act of making two Fathers Day cards, or having different names for each of your dads. It wasn’t skin color, or religion they all shared. It was their shared understanding that human beings should not be discriminated against because of who they love. In hindsight Evan feels sorry for the other kids he grew up with, some of whom came from broken families or troubled households.
His family may have been different, but their love for each other was as strong as any other family. The only obstacles they had to overcome were society. And Proposition 8. Marching in pride parades, or trying to persuade voters to oppose Prop. 8 will always be a responsibility he has. He knew that Ben, Emily, and he had a duty to speak for a new generation, especially as the children of gay and lesbian parents.
But in school, he never joined the LGBT clubs for fear of people thinking he was gay. He was always the class clown and jock — most people knew him, but in actuality, they knew very little about him. He always befriended gay and lesbian students, and still he could not come forth with the truth.
He so wanted to tell his LGBT friends that they could come to his parents for advice and support, but he never did. He was afraid that word would spread about his family’s situation. The gay jokes would not have stopped, to which his close friends can attest (they say it’s a force of habit). But isn’t being a bystander the same as bullying? Maybe if he had the same courage his parents had when they came out to their friends and family, he could have spoken up. But he was afraid of how utterly different his family was from all the rest.
He would be lying if he said it has not been difficult. Why couldn’t he have a typical set of parents like everyone else? A family he could bring a girl home to and not have to explain how the whole dynamic works. What if he met a close-minded, Republican girl who he really like but who couldn’t accept his family?
But to put this in perspective, how ungrateful was he? He could be living in a country, where it is a crime to be gay, let alone a gay couple raising a child. If anything his parents love him too much. They’ve said before that when they were first realizing who they truly were, raising a son or daughter was practically an unfathomable dream. The older he got, and the more he thought about that simple fact, the more he realized he wouldn’t trade his life for anyone’s in the world.
Burdens can oftentimes end up being a blessing however and in Evan’s case, he is extremely blessed. There is a universal truth he learned during the campaigns to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married: If it doesn’t affect you at all, why should you give a fuck? Evan often likes to imagine a Twilight Zone episode, where every family has gay parents and saying, “that’s so straight,” would be the accepted term for “dumb” or “bad.”
But then he thinks to himself, you wouldn’t have a story to tell Evan. And there are plenty. One time, a flight attendant bumped my two dads and me up to First Class because she “loved our family.” And then there was being the only child in the Castro district, and getting as much chocolate as he could eat. And there was the time a couple of years ago, when his two dads and he were getting off the subway in San Francisco.
As they were about to get off they saw two men, holding hands with their son, no older than eight, standing between them. We all immediately smiled at them and as they walked past Evans dad nodded at him and said to them, “This is what you have to look forward to.”