The Rainbow Picket Fence

Picket FenceBoth the New York Times and Details magazine have just published articles that look at the “settling down” of gay male culture. The Times, in a Sunday Magazine cover story, explores the trend of even young gay men in their 20′s getting married. Details looks at “The Gay Baby Boom.”

It’s a good thing that mainstream media is finally realizing there’s more to gay life than darkened bars and sparkly drag shows. At the same time, I can’t help but think: Didn’t we gals go through this already? Newsweek’s famous cover article on “Lesbians: Coming Out Strong” appeared back in 1993, and these days you can’t find a lesbian on mainstream television who isn’t trying to become a parent.

I guess that’s old news by now. Old news, it seems, is soon forgotten. Detail’s Edward Lewine says “And as with many trends, the increase in gay fathers has afforded its own terminology: the gayby boom.” Hold it right there: “Gayby boom” was a term first applied to gay and lesbian parents across the board, not just gay dads, back in 1990. (“The Future of Gay America,” Newsweek, March 12, 1990. Thanks, Word Spy.) With 22 to 28 percent of lesbian households in the 2000 U.S. Census (PDF link) having children in them (including those over 18), versus 5 to 14 percent of gay male households, and one in three lesbians having given birth versus one in six gay men having fathered a child, it’s fair to say we dykes were a driving force in the need for such a term. I’m happy to acknowledge a baby boom among gay men, but let’s not attribute the origin of the phrase to them alone.

Lewine also reports:

And it’s not just gay couples who are investigating IVF. Many homosexual men have decided to go it alone, which provides at least one tangible bonus: While single parenthood can be a turnoff on the heterosexual dating scene, being a single gay dad is—there’s really no other word for it—hot.

“In the gay community, having a child as a single man is a sign of assertiveness,” [gay dad] Ron Poole-Dayan says. “It’s also appealing to know this is a gay man who isn’t afraid of commitment.” Poole-Dayan says he’s seen six out of the seven single gay dads he knows pair off after the births of their children.

Funny, the three books about single moms I’ve reviewed recently (Choosing You, Knock Yourself Up, and My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy don’t view single parenthood as such a dating boon. Double standard? No. I’m not sure a child is really a dating accessory even for gay men. Lewine and Poole-Dayan are confusing cause and effect. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that gay men, like others who choose to become single parents, usually do so not because they want to parent by themselves, but because they haven’t found the right person by the time the parental urge becomes overwhelming and the biological clock starts ticking down. If six of seven single gay dads find partners after becoming parents (and that’s not scientific data), it’s not because children are a hot dating accessory, but because men who have children are also likely to desire the whole family package, partner included. Usually, a partner comes first, but not always.

Both the Times and Details remind me, though, that while the LGBT community forms a certain whole, it is at times more a loose federation than a unified construct. We may all be plunging towards a life filled with white picket fences and strollers, but we are coming from different places and moving at different rates. Some of us, too, may choose not to go there.

LGBT activist Wayne Besen observes “The changes in the gay social scene have happened so fast that they are sometimes difficult to comprehend. . . . Caught between the wild party and wedding party generations, the rapid pace of change can seem unsettling, yet reassuring.”

Luckily for those gay men who find themselves unsettled, there’s bound to be a couple of lesbian moms (if not lesbian grandmas) down the street who will invite them in for some comforting advice over herbal tea and hummus.