Is being a parent the new “must-have” status symbol for gay men and couples? That’s what some are suggesting in the wake of growing numbers of famous queer dads.
In an article for Air Mail, Israeli filmmaker Yuval Hadadi is quoted as stating that “Children have in a way become a status symbol among many gay men. They signify a certain level of time, money, and ambition.”
In recent years, a host of A-list celebrity gay men and gay couples have very publicly become fathers, usually through surrogacy. Leading the pack is Elton John and husband David Furnish who are raising two sons, the first of whom, Zachary, was born in 2010.
Most recently, besties and television hosts Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen revealed that they were proud dads within months of each other.
“No one is suggesting that well-known gay men are reproducing just to boost their follower counts,” writes David Kaufman. “Rather, the optics and messaging around their growing families can create pressure for less resource-rich gay men who might hope to follow suit.”
He argues that this adds to existing “competitive” pressure among gay men. “No longer is it enough to simply be successful in your career and also be in possession of a six-pack. Gay men aspiring for Cooper levels of cool now need a newborn to compete for likes.”
“There’s no question the pressure and expectation for gay men to have children is definitely here,” adds Hadadi. “The real question is whether gay men who don’t want to have kids will one day be seen as less worthy by the community – will one day be forced into a new kind of closet.”
This kind of questioning is accompanied by whiffs of heteronormativity and even homophobia. Yes, we are all subject to social pressure to conform, especially when it comes to today’s social-media standards. But it seems unfair and simplistic to suggest that having children is now simply some kind of new fad for gay men.
Gay and queer men are entitled, just like everyone else, to feel very human paternal instincts and to want to love and proudly celebrate their offspring. The fact that being able to do so (in some places in the world) has become possible, thanks to technological advances and increased acceptance, should be celebrated, not scorned or belittled.
It’s also important to remember that gay men can choose to raise children through adoption, a great social boon when we consider how many kids are unable to find a loving home.
And let’s face it, competition to have children seems to be an accepted reality among the heterosexual community. But when it comes to gay men it needs to be singled out and judged.
The harsh reality is that for a gay man to have a child takes a great deal of thought and commitment. There can be immense legal expenses, bureaucracy and discrimination to deal with, and far more planning than most heterosexual individuals or couples will have to consider.
Wanting to be a queer parent should not be flippantly equated to buying a new car or going to a trendy destination. It’s also (usually) not as simple as just having sex – something that the heterosexual community may take for granted.
Those heterosexual people who do struggle to conceive or choose to adopt children may also have their challenges and difficulties, but at least they do not have to face accusations of raising children “to be cool.” Their parental urges and achievements are usually welcomed and supported. So should ours.