It’s a family tradition

Many of the most rabid anti-gay crusaders have spawned gay kids. Coincidence?

Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlafly are most likely responsible for their relatives’ gayness.

Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlafly are most likely responsible for their relatives’ gayness.

Photo Illustration by Ginger Fierstein

With the current brouhaha over California’s Senate Bill 1427 (which aims to include the accomplishments of gays and lesbians in California’s classrooms), as well as the recent local dust-up over the Sacramento City Unified School District’s (SCUSD) endorsement of the “Day of Silence” (which draws attention to the way that GLBTQ youth are silenced in school), my attention is drawn once again to the hysteria that some conservative parents dive into whenever the existence of gay people attracts notice. You’d almost think homosexuality was contagious!

I was particularly taken by the description of the adorable 6-year-old girl who’d been coached by her oh-so-righteous parents to diss gay folks verbally. As reported in SN&R, this little cutie approached a gay-rights supporter in the restroom at an SCUSD meeting last month, put her hands on her hips and said, “Gay P.U.”

All I can say is that her conservative parents had better get ready for the shock of their lives when that little doll—err, baby dyke—grows up. It’s apparent to me, based on available evidence and my own personal experience, that being conservative makes your kids gay. That’s especially true if the parental conservatism is of the religious variety.

Yes, I’m childless, unless you count my cat. Of the necessary traits for successfully raising either children or puppies—energy, consistency, unconditional love, patience and a sense of humor—I’ve got a surplus of only the last. Still, even without any experience (or interest) in parenting, I’ve noticed a few things that might be of interest to the folks who are so determined to keep gays and lesbians from marrying, adopting children and going to school in peace. In fact, contrary to the suspicions of the religious right, it might be good for their side if more liberal, secular queers raised children.

Yes, such a statement might be counterintuitive. But look at the evidence. Starting with the vice president of the United States, how many famous—or infamous—conservative leaders have raised gay children or grandchildren? A whole boatload, as my daddy used to say, bless his conservative heart. He’d have said that right before my mama, the Jehovah’s Witness, started waving a Watchtower in my face to make me straight. Didn’t work for them, and it doesn’t seem to work for all those other conservatives either.

Let’s start right at the top. There’s Mary Cheney, who worked as a paid consultant to her father’s last campaign—a follow-up to her gig as the liaison to gay and lesbian consumers for Coors beer—and took her partner on stage with the rest of the Cheney clan following 2004’s vice-presidential debates, just like regular people. Of course, Mary Cheney would never say a word in public opposing the administration’s anti-gay policies, but she did manage to soften their homophobic image by giving her dad a chance to show some fatherly tolerance. Unfortunately, mother Lynne’s pursed-lipped, silent disapproval is only too familiar to many gays and lesbians.

But Mary’s new book would lead you to believe that she’s a regular gay activist—unless you know how her party has scapegoated gays and lesbians for the last, oh, what is it now … 30 years!

In addition to Mary Cheney, there’s … oh wait. I’ve got a list. The public conservatives with gay children, grandchildren or siblings include: Phyllis Schlafly (queen of the anti-feminists), Randall Terry (of Operation Rescue fame), Newt Gingrich (Mr. Contract With America), Jesse Helms (who needs no description, except that he’s slightly to the right of Genghis Khan), the late Barry Goldwater (a libertarian who really didn’t care who loved who), and the late Sonny Bono (yes to gay daughter, no to gay rights).

Alan Keyes—former presidential candidate, family-values advocate and, most recently, a carpetbagger who sought to keep liberal Democrat Barack Obama from the Illinois Senate gig—put his college-student daughter, Maya, on the campaign trail while he bashed Dick Cheney for tolerating his lesbian daughter. Then Maya came out, and in a flurry of family values Keyes tossed her from the family home and cut off her tuition money. Don’t you just absolutely love those conservative family values?

But that’s not all. There’s the recently deceased Charles Socarides. He fathered both the discredited “reparative therapy” movement (which claimed that sexual orientation could be changed through psychiatry) and Richard Socarides, an openly gay official in the Clinton administration.

Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a group that advocates “tough love” and lots of scripture to turn your homo kid around to heterosexuality, has a gay son. Sadie Fields, a state chair of the Christian Coalition in Georgia, has a lesbian daughter, as does Bill Byrne, the Cobb County, Ga., commissioner who pushed through a resolution declaring “the homosexual lifestyle” unwelcome in suburban Atlanta. Apparently his daughter’s not invited to Thanksgiving. Not that she’d want to go.

And in our own state, we had the late state Senator Pete Knight, a traditional-values firebrand who led the so-called Knight Initiative, 2000’s Proposition 22, which amended the state constitution to refuse legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Knight’s plan to keep gay couples from marrying didn’t stop his gay son, David, from tying the knot with his long-term partner during San Francisco’s giddy wedding party in early 2004, before the courts overturned the marriages.

Given the lengthy list of conservatives who’ve produced gay offspring, a recent plan in Ohio to introduce legislation banning Republicans from adopting children makes sense. Some initially may have thought that Ohio state Senator Robert Hagan was making an attempt to bash the family-values party line with the club of irony, but in light of evidence, it seems instead to be a right-minded move to slow the production of practicing homosexuals.

Yep, being conservative makes your kids gay. Obviously, there’s something about the up-close, day-to-day inner workings of the so-called traditional family that leads its brighter children to say, “Oh, no thank you! None of that for me.” If anything, advocates of heterosexuality ought to be begging gays and lesbians to adopt children just to make sure they turn out straight!

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Kennedy clan. That hard-partying pack of liberals is constantly scrutinized by the both traditional media and paparazzi, and, as far as anyone can tell, there’s not a queer in the bunch.

If you want straight kids, you’d better learn to love the lefties.