A Note to the Judys of America

By Jeremy Adam Smith

The “Twenty-Five Ways for Dads to Change the World” series will resume next week; I usually take a break from blogging in December.

Right at the moment I’m in Florida for my brother’s wedding, and I thought I’d share this little incident: In the courtyard of my future sister-in-law’s apartment complex, I met a neighbor I’ll call Judy. She told me my brother is wonderful, my future sister-in-law is wonderful; she told me about her work buying and selling condos; I mentioned that I have a son.

Then she asked: “Where are you coming from?”

“San Francisco,” I said.

“You’re awfully brave to live there and raise a child,” Judy said.

“Why? Because it’s so expensive?”

“No,” said Judy. “Because of all the perverts! All I hear about on the news is gay marriage, gay marches, gay this, gay that. How can you stand all that perversion!”

This is not, in my experience, an isolated incident. Just about every time I go abroad to cities not named New York or Seattle, I find that perfect strangers—having ascertained that I am, in fact, a red-blooded, All-American male who has certified his heterosexuality by marrying a woman and fathering a child—feel free to say the worst, silliest shit you can imagine about San Francisco.

I was polite to Judy. I’m polite to all these ignorant wingnuts. I told her about our life on Castro St., about our gay and lesbian friends with children, how much we enjoy life and our neighborhood in San Francisco. I sketched the contours of my family’s life in the most upbeat, positive terms I could muster.

Later, I told a male relative I’ll call Bob about my conversation with Judy.

“Well, you have to admit,” said Bob. “It is unusual that you’re raising a child on Castro St.”

“No, it’s not unusual,” I said. “There are lots of families on Castro St. Lots of the parents are gay and lesbian.”

“How is that possible? Don’t you need a man and woman to have a child?”

“No, dude. People adopt, lesbians get sperm donors. You meet gay and lesbian parents on every playground, in every school. They’re a minority, sure, but they’re part of the world of families in the city.”

Bob just shook his head and walked away, as though he doubted what I had to say. He thought I was exaggerating, being politically correct, or something. He’s not a bigot, but my experience just didn’t seem to compute for him. According to everything he knows, gay and lesbian peoplecan’t be parents. They’re too busy popping meth and engaging in unnatural (and thus curiously appealing?) sexual acts to raise families.

The main difference between Judy and Bob is that Bob thinks it’s A-OK to engage in unnatural sexual acts. Their view of gay and lesbian life is identical, but Bob just doesn’t have a problem with it. The problem with Bob is that his picture of gay and lesbian life is waaaay too narrow.

Why am I writing this? Realistically, I guess, to remind myself and this blog’s tiny part of the world that bigotry and ignorance are alive and well. When you live in a bubble, you forget what it’s like outside, or at least I do.

But I also want to (unrealistically?) say something to the Judys of America, on the off-chance that one of their representatives has stumbled here: It’s just not nice to tell a San Franciscan, after having exchanged a few sentences, that our city is full of “perverts.” For pete’s sake, don’t assume that because I’m straight, I’m on your side. San Francisco is full of families, and some of them are straight, and some of them are gay, and some of them are related by blood, and some of them are formed of friends and lovers. We don’t live in separate spheres; we mingle and overlap, and the truth is that we’ve formed a great community in which to raise kids. And you know what? I’d rather raise my child in a city like San Francisco than among the Judys of America.

I posted a slightly different version of this entry to Daddy Dialectic, a group blog.