This weekend, Jeremy Hooper wrote a beautiful piece about how his perspective on activism has changed since he became a father. For those of us who work in the fight for equal rights, the attacks that come from anti-gay quarters can start to become more of a daily annoyance than anything, and they roll off our backs without making the slightest impression. But, as Jeremy explains, one thing he wasn’t prepared for was how he would feel about them once there was a tiny person in his care, somebody who hasn’t developed a thick skin meant to ward off cruelty and hatred:
I’m not breaking new ground when I tell you that parenting has altered my perspective in just about every way imaginable.
But what I didn’t expect, and what hasn’t been adequately covered, is just how much nastier the anti-LGBT movement’s words and actions would start to sound once I had another little set of eyes and ears in the house to see and hear them. Everything has become much more personal and pointed, with anti-LGBT attack lines that used to seem more like political speak now striking my heart like the targeted rhetorical missiles that they were always meant to be. For me, a commentator who extensively covers and pushes back against those who fight against LGBT rights, protections, and general welfare, this new level of awareness and family protection has lit a new fire under my booty—one that has turned me into a warrior not only on behalf of myself and my husband, but also for the growing kid whose sweet nature and peace of mind I so desperately want to protect.
Jeremy describes hate tweets sent by the notoriously dishonest and cruel Porno Pete, tweets that went far beyond attacking LGBT people as a group, and were full of personal hatred for Jeremy’s family:
When my daughter was born in September of last year, the way I process this stuff changed overnight. I mean that quite literally, since immediately after her birth, an anti-LGBT activist attacked me (and, by extension, her) on Twitter. This same activist has publicly denigrated my family on several prior occasions, and every time, I pushed back with my patented blend of passion and wit. This time, however, things felt different, and viscerally so. Even though I, as a well-adjusted adult lying in a hospital bed that felt like cloud nine, lucky enough to be holding this swaddled gift in my arms, could snarkily dismiss this nastiness for what it was, it didn’t take me long to realize that everything that these folks say about me and my family is now bigger than just me. It’s all recorded on the Internet for folks to find for themselves. Before, I’d always loved the fact that the Internet has this kind of long memory, as I am more than confident that these cruel attacks on my family are a trillion times more beneficial to the equality cause than they are to the pro-discrimination movement, since a growing majority of thinking adults see them and understand just how disgusting anti-LGBT bias really is. But I felt that way because I was really only considering Internet users who had reached an age where they can accurately process this stuff. Now, however, I had to think in a new way. I had to think about my kid, once she became a six-, seven-, eight-year-old, Googling my name and finding this kind of nastiness. How would she react if she found this stuff at an age where she couldn’t possibly understand? What would it do to her precious innocence? How could I possibly protect her from it?
These thoughts broke my heart.
I’m not a parent yet, but I know many of our readers are. As I write this, I’m babysitting my ten week old niece for the first time, and, even though she’s not mine, she’s part of my family and I feel a sense of responsibility for her. When she was born, I had an emotional moment when I realized that this child, my brother’s child, will be raised by a family who will always support her, no matter what she wants to do with her life, and no matter who she loves. Because I haven’t yet experienced it for myself, I can’t even imagine how intensely protective I would feel if I were in Jeremy’s shoes, or my brother’s shoes, and someone like Porno Pete was attacking my family, or I was having to read the vile messages from groups like NOM (which Jeremy has covered more than anyone else has), messages that are meant to convince people that children of gay parents are automatically in harm’s way. But I think I’m starting to have an inkling of what that’s like.
One of the worst things about the people who make money off of encouraging discrimination against the LGBT community is that their work inherently dehumanizes people. I’ve never had an ill thought toward Porno Pete’s family, or Linda Harvey’s family, or Brian Brown’s family, but the sad thing is that we know that, by their very ideology, they hate our families. With Porno Pete, we have an example of a man directly attacking a happy family led by two committed, loving gay men. When I have children, he’ll probably do the same to me.
Jeremy finishes by telling readers that parenthood has made his work much, much bigger than himself:
We want to encourage her exploration without limit, but, like all parents, Andrew and I want to protect our child from all of Earth’s harms. Sadly, for same-sex parents like us, some of the most threatening harms come from fellow human beings who know exactly the game they are playing, but who simply don’t care. They should know better, they just don’t. Or at least they won’t, so long as the fundraising dollars keep rolling in.
And since they won’t stop, I can’t either. My work is now much bigger than myself.
Our families are in the way of their ideology, and we know from past experience that anti-gay activists put ideology before humanity one hundred percent of the time. Indeed, this work is huge. For Jeremy’s family, for my family, for your families, it continues.
Hopefully by the time the ten week old next to me is starting her own family, we won’t have to worry about these things anymore.