Don't get me wrong. I'm a lesbian and am happily married to my beautiful wife. I've also worked in LGBT advocacy for more than 12 years. I'm by no means anti-marriage equality. In fact, I'm still all smiles crossed with blissful disbelief that my marriage is now recognized in places like South Dakota, Alabama and Mississippi. I mean, c'mon. South. Freaking. Dakota.
While I shed tears of joy on Supreme Court marriage day, a whole new doom cloud of fears set in. Now that marriage is law of the land, us gays were going to start to feel some of the same stupid social pressures everyone else did. Cue the headache. It all made sense. The way my parents talked about all their friends who had new grandchildren the last time we went out to dinner. The mention my cousin made about how much more room we have in our new apartment.
For the first time in my life I felt an immense pressure to decide whether I was going to have kids.
The feeling of complete and utter overwhelming that swept over me was not unlike a newly arrived immigrant who sees Times Square for the first time. I had to squint because the brightness of the prospects was blinding. I went from zero to a hundred in no time and thought I might spontaneously combust.
Most little girls think about their weddings and their families from the time they're small. I remember my friends growing up leafing through bridal magazines. They had their dresses picked out and their houses picked out and knew what they wanted. I always felt like an outsider; I had never felt the need to take part in such rituals, but felt weird for not being like everyone else.
As a lesbian, I never grew up feeling pressured to follow any one course in life. I didn't have to get married or have kids largely because I couldn't. The question was already answered before I asked it. I wasn't allowed. That fact was both depressing and also a great relief. Most of all, it meant I didn't have to think about whether I actually wanted either of those things because they weren't possibilities. I pushed wedding dresses and baby carriages far out of my head until they grew cobwebs and the cobwebs grew cobwebs. My parents were mostly worried that I not get killed in the streets for being gay.
Now that we can get equally hitched, there's no underlying disparity when it comes to the fundamentals of building our families (though of course many other disparities still exist). In fact, the more I looked around (and at my Facebook feed), the more I realized gays were popping out kids in records numbers. Lesbian and gay in vitro baby twins seemed to be norm. Dads wore matching plaid shirts, a baby propped in each set of arms donning matching bonnets. Lesbians pushed double strollers and posted pictures of feeding time, bath time, smiling time, frowning time, poop time, when their baby rolled over, when their baby cried at his mashed bananas, when their pulled the dog's tail, when the dog spooned with the baby regardless and every moment in between.
It was maddening.
Us gays weren't supposed to walk down the aisle and dance the "Electric Slide." We were supposed to have raging orgies and fire dance naked on Fire Island's shores. We weren't supposed to buy baby formula and diapers. We were supposed to take mind altering drugs and write provocative poetry.
And yet, like a recovering diabetic, the temptation to dip into the candy jar was real.
Now that we can get married and have kids, is that something I might want?
Sure, the laws are still bad in a lot of states including places like New York City, and having a biological or even an adopted baby with same-sex parents takes a lot of time, money and creativity above and beyond what one already has to contend with as a parent. But something shifted in a very real and seismic way the day marriage became legal. It was as if the Jewish mothers of America took a collective sigh and officially started lobbying for grandkids.
My mom is not the typical Jewish mother. She doesn't nag. She doesn't brag. She is kind and sweet and generally low-key. Still, I could tell she wanted a grandkid. And the volume on her silent wishing to be a grandma only seemed to get louder once we rounded the corner on marriage equality.
More importantly, would I one day regret it if I didn't pop out a next of kin?
The problem with never having thought about whether I wanted to have kids is that I didn't know how to begin to think about it. It was like the immigrant who rode in a rickshaw and slept in a pile of sand on a cold, cement floor his whole life and is suddenly given the keys to a Lexus. He probably doesn't know what to do with it. He might think it's a house. Or a shed. Or god herself. My great-grandmother didn't know how to use the microwave we got her, so she used it as a bread box. The possibility of having kids was my mystery bread box.
There were so many giant and legitimate reasons to consider procreating or not, but I was missing the moral compass and decisiveness on the matter that many of my hetero counterparts have had their entire lives to fathom.
Of course, there are lots of valid reasons to be critical and cynical post-marriage equality that extend far beyond the pressure to turn your life into a drool and poop fest. Look at all that money and effort and political will we spent on marriage, feeding into an archaic institution, buying into that social conservatism rather than dismantling the notions of legal commitment. Look at what other potentially life-saving issues we could have poured our support into like getting LGBT homeless kids off the streets; finding innovative educational and advocacy vehicles for ending the violence against trans women of color; fighting the fact that millions of us can still get fired from our jobs, kicked out of our homes or shunned from public places.
Still, marriage equality is law of the land and equal rights in any form is a good thing in my book. I wish the next generation equal parts happiness and social pressure from their Jewish moms. After all, they may have a chance to start thinking about all this stuff earlier than I did.