The Thinking 

One Mother Too Many

August 10, 2012


AT Public Discourse, Robert Oscar Lopez, an assistant professor of English at California State University, writes movingly of his childhood in “Growing Up with Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View.” Lopez’s mother became a lesbian and he spent much of his childhood with her and her female partner. It is not entirely true that he lived with “two moms” as he spent a significant portion of his time during the week with only his mother but these two women were the parental figures in his life and his weekends were with them.

In many ways, the arrangement failed him. It failed him for reasons that are obvious to anyone with basic, commonsense understanding of child psychology. He writes:

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.

Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes; they understood what was appropriate to say in certain settings and what wasn’t; they learned both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine social mechanisms.

Even if my peers’ parents were divorced, and many of them were, they still grew up seeing male and female social models. They learned, typically, how to be bold and unflinching from male figures and how to write thank-you cards and be sensitive from female figures. These are stereotypes, of course, but stereotypes come in handy when you inevitably leave the safety of your lesbian mom’s trailer and have to work and survive in a world where everybody thinks in stereotypical terms, even gays.

I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mother and her partner were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers. As a result, I had very few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily. Gay people who grew up in straight parents’ households may have struggled with their sexual orientation; but when it came to the vast social universe of adaptations not dealing with sexuality—how to act, how to speak, how to behave—they had the advantage of learning at home. Many gays don’t realize what a blessing it was to be reared in a traditional home.

My home life was not traditional nor conventional. I suffered because of it, in ways that are difficult for sociologists to index. Both nervous and yet blunt, I would later seem strange even in the eyes of gay and bisexual adults who had little patience for someone like me. I was just as odd to them as I was to straight people.

Life is hard when you are strange. Even now, I have very few friends and often feel as though I do not understand people because of the unspoken gender cues that everyone around me, even gays raised in traditional homes, takes for granted. Though I am hard-working and a quick learner, I have trouble in professional settings because co-workers find me bizarre.

Lopez says that children from homosexual households are destined to become, if not homosexual, then at the very least confused enough about their sexual identity to be bisexual. Bisexuality significantly impairs the ability to form stable marriages, he says.

Lopez ‘s embrace of conservatism has caused some to disregard him. He writes:

Many have dismissed my story with four simple words: “But you are conservative.” Yes, I am. How did I get that way? I moved to the right wing because I lived in precisely the kind of anti-normative, marginalized, and oppressed identity environment that the left celebrates: I am a bisexual Latino intellectual, raised by a lesbian, who experienced poverty in the Bronx as a young adult. I’m perceptive enough to notice that liberal social policies don’t actually help people in those conditions. Especially damning is the liberal attitude that we shouldn’t be judgmental about sex. In the Bronx gay world, I cleaned out enough apartments of men who’d died of AIDS to understand that resistance to sexual temptation is central to any kind of humane society. Sex can be hurtful not only because of infectious diseases but also because it leaves us vulnerable and more likely to cling to people who don’t love us, mourn those who leave us, and not know how to escape those who need us but whom we don’t love. The left understands none of that. That’s why I am conservative.

Lopez’s essay is a rebuttal not only to those who support homosexual “marriage,” but to those who say divorce is better for some children than living with parents who are not getting along. It is not the relationship between parents that is alone important to a child, but the presence of both male and female, both father and mother, in his home.

—– Comments —–

Robin writes:

Laura writes:

“Lopez’s essay is a rebuttal not only to those who support homosexual “marriage,” but to those who say divorce is better for some children than living with parents who are not getting along. It is not the relationship between parents that is alone important to a child, but the presence of both male and female, both father and mother, in his home.”

My husband and I were just speaking about this in the morning! He grew up with only his father; his mother was just too unruly and abandoned the family twice, ultimately ending in divorce. If it is painfully obvious in a heterosexual relationship (our family) that my husband had no mother, I can only imagine how it is to have no father! I was saying this morning that it was actually better for my husband that he had only his father (rather than only his mother), because at least he saw how to be a “man’s man”; my husband is very masculine in most ways!

However, because of his lack of maternal influence, he very obviously lacks the ability to enjoy the “softer side of life” that comes with having a mother around. He is lacking in compassion toward me in particular, although he is very compassionate (most of the time) toward our little girls. I actually think God uses our girls to bring out my husband’s empathy and compassion toward me in our marriage; it is amazing! It gets better with time.

I have the opposite issue: although I did have both of my parents in the home, my father was completely emotionally absent and abusive toward both me and my mother in many, many ways. They did remain married until my father passed away. All but the last years were spent miserably, but they were committed people, both older when they adopted me.

I had no idea how men truly thought and behaved when I married, to the detriment of my first marriage when I was only twenty years old. My mother was overbearing and dominant; a radical, liberal feminist. I think my father fought back by becoming violent.

My husband has had to deal with me treating him as though he were a woman; slowly, I have understood what a “man’s man” thinks and acts like! It has done wonders for our marriage!

What you say is so very true: a home out of God’s order in any way, whether it is “too many mothers”, “too many fathers” or the single-parent home – causes lasting and dramatic negative emotional impact upon the child. In my opinion, this is far greater than the impact caused by two people staying together unhappily in a marriage and raising children through it. I did admire (and still do) the tenacity of my parents in not divorcing. At one point they were prepared to divorce, and the thought broke my heart (I was 18 years old at the time.) My father unexpectedly suffered a massive stroke and the divorce talk went away – my mother launched herself into caring for Daddy and rehabilitation for him for the remainder of their marriage until his passing.

I do believe, though I say this humbly, that the trust issues with women that my husband suffers because of what happened in his home are far more destructive to his heart than what happened in my home. He would probably agree if asked. He is aware that his tender psyche was damaged by his mother being gone at age two, and again at a pivotal point at age fourteen.

People who encourage redefinition of marriage and who rally for the cause of no-fault divorce should be forced to listen to hours and days of testimony from folks like us, that it might just saturate their brains and cause them to think about the effects of t.heir actions. They should have to listen to the grown children of homosexual unions talk, just as this man has shared his heart. Nothing but destruction and confusion comes from any perversion of traditional marriage.

Laura writes:

Robin writes:

My husband has had to deal with me treating him as though he were a woman; slowly, I have understood what a “man’s man” thinks and acts like! It has done wonders for our marriage!

Happiness in marriage depends on understanding differences, not similarities. Our culture’s radical denial of the differences between the sexes causes untold disharmony.

Sheila C. writes:

Thank you for bringing this article to my attention. This was a fascinating, yet terribly depressing, confirmation of how critical the classically Western, nuclear family is to proper development and socialization. I was especially heartened by Lopez’s conclusion: ” Once I was a father, I put aside my own homosexual past and vowed never to divorce my wife or take up with another person, male or female, before I died. I chose that commitment in order to protect my children from dealing with harmful drama, even as they grow up to be adults. When you are a parent, ethical questions revolve around your children and you put away your self-interest . . . forever.”

How I wish all those women divorcing their husbands for various, banal offenses and desires (such as my hairdresser, who dumped her second husband and the father of her young, only child, because, among other things, she wanted to learn to play the guitar) would similarly learn the difference between motherhood and self interest.

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