The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Progress, Success & Gay Families

I was impressed with Abigail Garner’s blog, Damn Straight, after reading it for a while, so it was inevitable that I’d pick up her book Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is. Plus, as Parker approaches birthday number four, I want to try and understand as much as I can about what he’s going to face, and how I can help him deal with it. Two chapters in, and I’m already underlining significant passages for future reference.

But one passage that jumped out at me was this reaction to a reporter defining gay families having “made it onto the front page of the newspaper” as “success.”

Being profiled in the paper simply because I was from one of those famiiles is progress, but not success. Success will be when a child with LGBT parents can be profiled for some other reason, and the mention of his or her family can be referenced without sexual orientation becoming the main focus.

Sometime yesterday, after reading that passage, I returned to this Washignton Post article about teenage vegetarians, that I’d bookmarked for later reading. I actually ha to go back to the beginning and read it again before I thought of what Abigail had written about progress vs. success.

When Leslie Calman’s 16-year-old son, Ben, came home from school one day last year and announced he was going vegetarian, Calman and her partner, Jane Gruenebaum, did what few families do when a child decides to stop eating animals: They immediately supported his decision.

“I like a family meal ritual, and so embracing rather than fighting it seemed like a good idea on every ground,” remembers Calman.

While statistics are scarce, Ben appears to be part of a growing cadre of kids who reject the meat-eating habits they grew up with. A poll conducted in 2000 by the Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit group dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism, estimated that 6 percent of American youths ages 6 to 17 don’t eat meat; 2 percent skip fish and poultry, too; while 0.5 percent are vegans — they also forgo dairy and eggs.

The American Dietetic Association believes those numbers are on the rise, which fits with my experience: My 18-year-old daughter is trying a no-red-meat diet, and increasing numbers of her friends are choosing variations on a vegetarian theme.

Notice what the article’s not about? Yeah. Me too. I read the whole article just to be sure, and Ben’s family didn’t get any more explanation than the families of the other kids in the article. (I suppose that the reporter could have chosen not to lead with Ben’s family.)

And I was all set to write a post about teenage vegetarians. (Hey! That’s great! More veggies means more demand, which means more choices, variety, etc., for all of us). But I couldn’t not note that Ben’s family was part of the story, but the composition of his family wasn’t the story, and wasn’t even the most interesting thing about them in the context of the story.

Is that success? Maybe. Progress? Well, there’s an LGBT family being treated like any other family I’d say that’s progress.

Oh, and on the veg tip, since the hubby and I have a “mixed marriage” in that sense (he’s an enthusiastic red meat eater, and I often joke that he was “on the Atkin’s Diet before there was an Atkin’s Diet”) we’re not raising Parker to be vegetarian. It’s hard to raise a kid vegetarian in a house where both parents aren’t vegetarian. So, he’s expose to both, and he decides to be a vegetarian when he’s older, of course we’ll support that.