This piece from Philippa Taylor on the excellent new conservative woman website highlights how these days it increasingly feels as though we have all walked through the looking glass.
The complexities and ramifications of the case are headache-making. How on earth have we got to a point whereby children have a biological mother and father who have no legal rights over them and are at the centre of a battle between their biological mother who has no legal rights, and two legal parents, one of whom gave birth to them, the other who came into their lives later?
As Philippa points out case law now needs to define the three different types of parent; gestational, legal and social or psychological and accord respective rights.
No-one would disagree that this is a horrendous situation but it is the inevitable consequence which denies the importance of complementarity between the sexes and treats children as a right or option which should be available for every single couple who wants one and wishes to define every single romantic relationship as ‘equal’ and worthy of being given official family status.
Broken relationships cause havoc and heartbreak for children and I speak from the perspective of one with personal experience of having to manage and mitigate the fall-out for a child. The situation is a lot better than several alternatives, I have a happy and well-adjusted child, but nonetheless it isn’t ideal for her. It would be delusional to claim otherwise and no amount of civility, maturity or friendship between the the adult parties will entirely repair the damage for the child who is forced to emotionally navigate the complexities of having biological parents who live entirely separate lives and switch into different modes or personas depending on which parent they are with as well as the upheaval of splitting their lives between two homes.
There is no easy solution. My paternal grandparents’ marriage was a casualty of World War II, and it was decided that it would be confusing for my dad growing up if he had regular contact with his father. Consequently they did not meet until my dad had reached what was then legal adulthood at the age of 21. It’s a loss that he still feels keenly. Single-parent families and step-families can and in many cases do an admirable job, but there is an additional barrier when it comes to ensuring the psychological welfare of the child.
Knowing how hard these situations are for the child, why then contrive a situation in which a child will be deprived of a mum or dad? Leaving aside the manner in which such a child is conceived or procured which infringes their intrinsic dignity, you are from the very outset creating a set of circumstances which will require compensating for, regardless of whether or not you are a single woman exercising your choice to have a child at the most opportune age, or a same-sex couple.
Right from the moment of deliberately contrived conception, one is automatically creating an extra layer of complexity for a child to negotiate as they are growing up, regardless of whether or not the parent is single or in a same sex relationship. In both cases you often end up with the situation of a woman giving birth to a child who is not biologically hers. That matters, every child has a innate longing for identity, to know who they are and where they are from, as well as a curiosity, not least in terms of hereditary dispositions.
In the case of gay parenting, if the relationship is stable and lasts the course, that’s all well and good, but as gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon there is little in the way of firm data to indicate whether these unions are likely to be more or less long-lived than heterosexual ones. This matters, because in the case of same-sex parenting, say in the case of two males, you then have custody of a child needing to be split between two ‘dads’, only one of whom may or may not be biologically related. Then if these two men go on to find new partners, you have the case of a child who has two fathers and then two step-fathers. Arrangements become extraordinarily convoluted and onerous for the child. Of course its fair to mention that it’s not right for any child to be subject to a series of transient step-parents or families, regardless of sexuality, but neither can it be right for a child to have to divide their time between two families each comprised solely of one gender with no other example of other gender parenting modelled for them.
Yet this is the risk that is being taken and these situations will become increasingly common. For those who point to the relatively small number of people who identify as LGBT (around 1-2%) and corresponding marriages, that the number of children who could be affected might be small, doesn’t justify the situation. Doesn’t every single child deserve a loving mum and dad or do the wishes of the parent trump the needs of the child? Do we treat children of same-sex couples as being less important in terms of their rights?
Yet this attitude towards children as rights or objects is not merely confined to one section of the community. Yesterday as we were hurriedly bundling the children into a lift in town, another, slightly older couple bustled in. Looking at our family, the man noted the appearance of 4 girls and smiled benignly “ah so 4 girls then?” Yes we said, bracing ourselves for the usual “you’ve been busy, don’t you have a TV, don’t envy you when they are teenagers” banter, when the man ventured that they too had four girls, but added “you need to do what we did, get yourselves to the doctors for IVF for a boy.”
Not wishing to get into a protracted discussion we smiled weakly whilst exchanging wary eye-contact. There was just so much wrong with that statement, from the assumption that we only had 4 children because we were trying for a boy, the assumption that having a balance of genders in your offspring is important, that boys are better, more important and necessary than girls, so much so we ought to go in for physically, financially and emotionally costly treatment. The consequences of IVF, the wasted embryos and lives, the environmental impact and the eugenic nature of the procedure all seemed to have escaped this guy. The fact of having four children of one sex meant that we were justified and entitled to take whatever action necessary to ensure that we had one of the opposite gender. All other ethical considerations should pale into insignificance next to our projected desire to have a boy.
The French have intuitively understood this, which is why the Manif pour Tous movement enjoyed such success. They realised that rejecting the notion of complementarity could have disastrous effects for the rights of the child, they recognised same-sex marriage as being all about imposing gender theory of homogeneity on the wider population and blurring the differences between male and female. Gender theory, as promulgated by the likes of Judith Butler, is helpful for this cause in that in validates individual selfish desires. It allows for the importance of gender and complementarity in child-rearing to be disregarded in order to qualify the pursuit of personal happiness. Which is what allows women to feel that their children don’t need fathers and has in turn allowed men to get away with irresponsible feckless sexual behaviour together with the idea that promiscuity can be consequence free. Sexual libertinism and gender theory are complementary; each feeds the other. Combined they produce a dystopian society which declares that children no longer need loving mothers and fathers as a way of justifying lust and all-consuming natural biological desires for children. In our brave new world a child (free of any discernible disability) and even of a specific gender is no longer a gift or blessing, but an inalienable human right and marker of equality.
Which is why we then wind up with a situation whereby a woman is jeered, booed and hissed at for attempting to point out that every child deserved a loving mother and father. There is a dissonance in a society which calls for equal numbers of men and woman in business and politics but wants to deny children the equality of a mother and father.
I’ve come in for a lot of “what about the children” mockery, but a child is not merely an object or a pet, which needs to be provided with resources from any loving or caring party in order for it to thrive. Why is the statement the needs of the child, supersede those to have a child, quite such a radical heterodoxy in twenty-first century western society? And why can’t we see that driving a coach and horses through the rights of a child and denying the importance of a child’s natural parents has terrifying implications in a state which seeks to impose its own vision of parenting and checklists upon the population, especially if they are perceived as disadvantaged.