My question is about how to handle my soon-to-be-parents-in-law and the complicated reasons why they think we should never have children.
We're a thirty-something gay couple dating for many years and preparing our wedding. I'm more of the out-and-proud type from an uber-liberal family, while my boyfriend is European and from a very bourgeois, very Catholic family. His parents were surprisingly accepting of us. Through monthly dinners over the past few years, we've developed the sort of amicable and caring relationship that you'd hope for with your in-laws. However they were largely cold and indifferent about our impending wedding until they met my overly enthusiastic parents.
But something broke when we announced that we are planning to have children in the not-so-distant future. Although we'd mentioned it to them here and there, they pretended not to hear. But my boyfriend has now received three calls full of some of the most hurtful things a child can hear from his parents: If this is what you're planning then we might as well just die; A child has the right to a father and a mother; We didn't raise you with these values; You knew what you were signing up for when you came out as gay; Don't ask us to do anything at the wedding and don't invite any family.
Those words were traumatic for us, especially my boyfriend—though, you'll say, their reaction is not exactly unexpected and certainly not cast in stone. His parents came around once and accepted us as a couple. Maybe they will again and accept us as parents.
But recently my boyfriend revealed why he believes they may never come around. He's 75% certain that his father is also gay based on certain things he's found on the Internet history. Now THAT'S a surprise. If that's true, then our choice to have children not only challenges his Catholic dogmas and bourgeois conventions, but also his own choice in his early thirties to start dating in order to start a family.
What would you do, Dan? Should we be resigned that his parents' age, religious/family/social surroundings, and deeply personal issues will probably keep them from being part of our big happy inter-generational family? Put differently, do you think that a grandparent who believes that their child's homosexuality will have terrible effects on their grandchildren can ever really be trusted as a good and loving grandparent? Should we remain as out and loud about our plans to have children, even if this risks alienating two of the children's grandparents for whatever their reasons? Or should we keep quiet, try to rebuild bridges, and hope for the best, even if that makes us feel resentful and humiliated, which is not exactly how most couples want to feel on their wedding day...
Groom To Be
p.s. Just checking: do you give your advice to people by replying to their messages? Or do we need to read the column to see if you take up the question?
My response after the jump...
Congrats on your upcoming wedding, GTB.
Now here's what I would do if those were my parents: I would tell mom and dad—I'm pretending I'm your boyfriend here—that their tantrum was as ineffective as it was hurtful. Then I'd tell my mom and dad that I'm still going to marry my boyfriend, that we will invite whoever we wanna invite (including family), and that their ridiculous, ignorant objections to gay parenting will not factor into our decision about when or whether to have kids. And I'd close with this: "And finally, mom and dad, I want you to know that I love you very much. I also want you to know that you can love and accept me, love and accept my husband, and love and accept your future grandchildren—or you can fuck the fuck off."
It took your boyfriend's parents some time to come to terms/grips with having a gay son, GTB, and it was probably mundane interactions with a concrete, flesh-and-blood manifestation of their son's homosexuality—that would be you, kiddo—that helped them get over their homophobia, their shame, and their panic. I predict that the same sorts of interactions with their future grandchildren—not terrifying abstractions, not issues, but living, breathing, crying, shitting, hugging, loving children (their son's issue! (see definition #4))—will help your future in-laws get over their objections to, ahem, openly gay people raising kids together.
And if they don't come around? Then they can fuck the fuck off.