or some, the idea of a gay family is a contradiction in terms. ‘Every child has a right to be born into a situation which has the potential of male and female relationships,’ said Reverend Bill Wallace, convenor of the Church of Scotland’s board of social responsibility, after newspapers reported that a gay Edinburgh man had fathered a child to a surrogate mother in America.
William Zachs and his partner Martin Adam planned to adopt the baby girl and live together as a same-sex family but the media attention this domestic arrangement has generated must throw their future as parents into question, with the couple now in hiding. Given Rev Wallace’s position, it can be deduced that ofﬁcially the Church of Scotland regards Zachs and Adam as ‘socially irresponsible’, a harsh judgement on a couple who are by all accounts in a stable, long- term relationship — surely the main requirement for family life.
The ‘moral questions’ the issue supposedly threw up seemed to have a darker undercurrent which fed off prejudice about allowing gay men to come into contact with children. Sexual abuse can only be a step away seemed to be the unwritten sentiment behind much of the reporting of the story.
Alternative famin arrangements — alternative, that is, to the ‘ideal’ of ma. pa and two weans — are commonplace in Britain, with single parents largely accepted by society as more and more marriages end in divorce. The notion of gay families, however, still has the power to provoke condemnation. Two parents may be better than one as long as they are not the same gender. it seems.
For a lesbian couple living in Edinburgh with their three children from previous
straight relationships, the churchrnan’s comments came as sharp reminder that the acceptance of their situation among close friends and community did not necessarily reflect the view of wider society. Margaret (not her real name) was only prepared to speak to The List anonymously because the recent adoption row prompted fears that her ex- husband might try to seek custody of her two children, aged eight and ﬁve. ‘It is a real worry that until my children are sixteen my husband could come in at any point.’ she says. Although
‘AII mothers have worries about whether they are doing the best for their children and lesbian mothers are no different.’
it’s unlikely that she would lose custody of her children, the prospect of her domestic arrangement coming under any kind of ofﬁcial scrutiny is prospect.
Margaret lives with her partner, who has a ten- year-old son. They are, by their own definition, a ‘normal’ family. though Margaret admits there are situations where it is easier to allow people assume she is a single mother bringing up two children alone. Her partner does likewise. The fear of prejudice forces them, often for their children’s sake, to effectively deny the existence of the person they love. Margaret’s eight-year- old son prefers not to tell his friends at school that he has two mothers, which requires the odd white lie at parents evenings. She accepts there
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GAY PARENTING FEATURE
will come a point when his school mates are likely to ﬁnd out, but hopes he will be conﬁdent enough to deal with it.
‘He doesn’t seem to have much confusion about not telling other people but he thinks his friends wouldn’t understand,’ says Margaret. ‘That’s a responsibility I’ve put on him but I think all mothers have worries about whether they are doing the best for their children and lesbian mothers are no different.’
Even before Margaret separated from her abusive husband and came out as a lesbian, she had tried to encourage her children to be open- minded about homosexuality. When it came to explaining to them that they were all moving in with another women to create a same sex family, this groundwork paid off and Margaret says it caused no real problems for the children.
‘Having two mothers is better than having the father they had,’ says Margaret. ‘They are now in happy, stable, non-violent relationship and our house is a peaceful house. There’s this myth about having to be a family unit. When you look at the statistics, how many people live happily in that way? Where are these people that are really happy families with mummy, daddy and children? I think it’sjust in advertisements.’
While Margaret believes there is more acceptance by society of gay male relationships than lesbians, conversely it may be easier to be a lesbian mother as Zachs and Adam have probably di:-overed. ‘It’s more accepted for women to take on the role of parenting which is ﬁtting in with society’s expectations,’ she says. ‘But lesbians are more threatening to society because of the idea that women can chose to live
without men. I think our children are really lucky that they have two women looking
after them. I don’t want to say that
men can’t be good fathers but we are both good mothers.’
The List 20 Sept-3 Oct 199611