Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Of Children and Blogs

I need to write a happy blog at some point. This is not that blog, unfortunately. Also, I should probably find a topic other than gender rights, LGBT rights, and politics. Those are fairly done to death around this corner of the web. But the next one is political, and this one's about gay stuff. So eh. I write what I have. 

Also, it would appear we're kicking on a M/W update schedule, but seriously, don't hold me to that. Official updates are still just Mondays.

Getting into the topic for this blog a bit sideways: if you want a good view into a reasonable Catholic mind, go read BadCatholic. He's a good writer, bit wordier than even I am on occasion, and he actually has a very similar style to mine. He uses expository thinking, strawman arguments (lampshaded, of course) and intersperses humor and humorous pictures when called for. He also makes logical faults, but so do I on occasion. Oh, and I don't endorse his views. But I like his style.

A word to the wise, though: where I use ridiculous amounts of links to secondary sources, he uses said links and goes scuba diving into the depths of the Catholic faith. So this ain't no 101 class, kiddos. His theology is sound but, like all good metaphysics, it takes a couple cups of coffee and a few passes to get the various levels and subtexts that allow theology to form a decent understandable whole.

For anyone that's annoyed that I'm linking a Catholic blog on a ranty alt-social blog? I have the blessing of Ceiling Cat. And he's watching you. All the time.

All the time. (Source)
Anywho. That's housecleaning, and a nice lead-in to my current post. Pull up a chair, Herr Doktor Internets. We're going into my head today. 

My introduction to BadCatholic came courtesy of a friend on the Facebooks. I swear, I think I'll abandon Facebook some days, just to get a breather. But then I'd have no juicy fodder for this blog, and all my readers would complain to me. (No, really. Every time I stop, I get at least three people I had no idea read my stuff come up and ask me why I'm not writing.)

What was I saying? Of, yes. So, this post on BadCatholic. If you're going to get upset at the guy, you have to read the whole thing first. I did, and I noticed a few things. 

First, he and I actually agree pretty evenly. He's still against, I'm still for, but the reasons and arguments are fairly similar. "Civil marriage is a crock anyway" being the outstanding example, but annoyance at ridiculous generalization is another. And yes, there's a lot of Catholicism to wade through in all of that, but I've had the training to read that stuff, and once it kicked in, I figured out that he was largely supporting his arguments that civil marriage is a crock and has nothing to do with the sacrament of marriage. 

I'm paraphrasing, to be clear. There's no way I'm going to try and take him point by point, because it would boil down to "ok, look, he's using a different paradigm, but we're really saying a lot of the same things, and this is where the translation points come in."

I'm going somewhere with this, I swear. Bear with me.

Like me, he builds to a final point, using his previous arguments and musings to create a foundation and structure his final point can stand on. At the risk of losing a few of you, here it is:
"Do children have the right to a mother and father? If the answer is yes, then I oppose the redefinition of marriage on the grounds that such a redefinition would restrict a child’s basic, human right." —BadCatholic

Everyone take a step back and hold your fire. Though I don't agree with him, that's a highly valid point, for two reasons. I have some issues with his support of it, but that does not invalidate his argument.

For the first reason, I'd like to note that the studies he cites take a great deal of time to go through, but they come down to concerns over claims of "no appreciable difference" that are not statistically supportable based on the size of the studied samples. And they're correct. Meaningful data cannot be drawn from the sample sizes used in the studies addressed.

That does not automatically prove the opposite. All it means, in the end, that we still don't really have anything more than anecdotal evidence to go on as to whether GLBT families have better, worse, or the same quality of child-rearing capability as heterosexual families.

Reason number two is that he phrases it quite clearly as a conditional opinion, "if-then." So if you don't hold with the initial assumption, the conclusion does not apply to you. And I like that phrasing a lot. It gives a writer room to run without first having to declare that this, and only this, can be true.

Where am I going with this? Well, as stated, I don't agree that it's harmful to children to raise them in alternate family structures.

But I live in terror that I'm wrong, and he's right. That kids get screwed up without a Mom/Dad structure. After all, we just don't have the data to back it up one way or the other. Ah yes, and now my dear readers can understand why this is a "Herr Doktor Internets" blog.

See, I know, intellectually speaking, that kid raising is a crapshoot. Horrible parents can raise good kids, good parents can raise horrible kids, every flavor of family can have mixed results, and the only way to get any idea of what works requires a vast sampling. And the only thing we can get meaningful samples of is heterosexual family structures, and the options there generally point to stable, longterm partners delivering the best quality of child-raising.

And I know, too, that while family structure is important, at the end of the day it's case by case to the individual. Some gay and lesbian couples might have no business raising kids, but at the same time, there's plenty of straight couples who equally have no business trying to grow micro-people.


But there's a fear, held by anyone that wants kids, that they're going to screw up horribly. And in my case, it's coupled with a vast amount of people informing me that I'm absolutely correct, I'll be a rotten parent as a ground state simply by ruining the kid's life by virtue of imposing my non-hetero family structure on him or her.

I mean, I don't know any kids who were raised by gay parents. Maybe they do get screwed up, and I just don't know about it.

On top of societal problems is that fact that I really want to adopt. I think that rather than creating micro-people of my own for the sole purpose of handing off DNA that, if we're being honest, carries relatively high probability of intelligence as one of its few redeeming qualities, I could give a home to a kid who might not have one otherwise. Short version of that last line: my genes sorta suck, and there's kids who need a home.

But that means inviting the government into my life, which is a fairly Lovecraftian prospect. At that point, I not only have to raise a kid, I have to do it to the standards of strangers, using methods acceptable to those strangers, under the eye of a bureaucracy that gives no fucks about real life and its complications if I'm not crossing every t and dotting every i.

I have to try and raise a kid who may wonder why his or her friend's parents won't let them come over for fear of me and my husband. I may have to explain to the little tyke that teachers treat him or her differently because they think his or her parents are wrong for giving him or her a home. I might have to fight, more than once, to keep my kid when even good people decide there's a genuine concern where none exists and the state jumps down my throat on the word of strangers.

I may have to teach my children how to recognize and deal with logic and rhetoric so he or she can defend him- or her-self against the soul-crushing pain of being told they're tainted by their parent's very existence.

In short, I could start three chips down and lose the whole pot without ever being given a chance to try. And whether I fail on my own, or with judicious interference by strangers, friends, and the US government, it will be taken as validation that gay parents can't raise kids. And if I succeed it will be taken as a statistical blip. "So that one managed it. It's still bad for kids, anyhow."

And if I go with my husband's preference and we surrogate? Well, that kid may still go through everything I listed above, and can still be subject to summary removal from our care on the grounds that we're gay, and so of course we shouldn't be raising a kid.

Bottom line here, then.

Do I believe a nuclear family structure is the optimal way to raise kids? Not really. I believe it's in the range of optimal, but only because it has the highest rate of occurrence and therefore has the best statistical success rate. If you put enough numbers in a box, eventually you get two extremes that are unlikely, and a wide middle ground. The smaller the sample, the narrower the middle ground, and the more plausible the extremes look.

But am I still worried that my kids, if I'm ever allowed to adopt any or keep any we surrogate, will be horrible people solely because of my orientation and the backlash that will come with it?

Yup. Because while enough people saying something doesn't make it does make it niggle at the back of your mind, and keep your eyes open at 3 a.m. wondering—

"What if they're right?"