Though neither of the key adjectives in the title of Brett Webb-Mitchell’s On Being a Gay Parent: Making a Future Together apply to me, the book is an informative read and has much to offer. Perhaps surprisingly, its lessons aren’t just for gay parents, but also for parents of alternative families (hey, even if sexuality isn’t the question—and when isn’t it? — it’s still hard for kids to explain why they have just one parent, or co-habitate with another family, or are raised by grandparents, etc.) and for those grappling with the politicized issue of same-sex marriage.
Webb-Mitchell begins his book explaining that he had originally envisioned it, years earlier, as a completely different parenting tome. And then, evidently, life happened. He discovered his own sexual orientation, went through a divorce, found a loving partner and entered into a rewarding relationship. And did all of this — impressively, if not enviably — while rearing two children.
The author is also, and perhaps most importantly, a Presbyterian minister. While some readers may have an issue with the term “gay Christian,” Webb-Mitchell’s faith-based approach to both parenting and simply being human gives his writing a certain cache. He’s a deep thinker, he follows not just his gut but a moral compass, and he’s backed by a supportive community.
Most charming about Parent is the chapter subheads. Trite, perhaps, but I loved them. On “Households,” he quips, “Take One Heterosexual Mom, Add Two Gay Dads + Two Children + Two Dogs + One Cat = Very Full House.” The levity and brevity of the sentiment go a long way in communicating an important fact: Gay families are dealing with same issues as straight families.
But Webb-Mitchell is well aware that his task is greater than pointing out these simple truths. He takes his readers back to step one, addressing how to come out to to the family, the surprised spouse and the kids. He talks about how families can figure out what to call the gay parent’s partner, and how kids can be prepared to answer questions about their unique home-lives.
There is also well-organized material on Christianity, which the author holds up as more of a support for gay parenting than the force of anti-gay sentiment the religion is often reported to be. And there are reality-check sections, such as the one addressing discriminations gay parents face. Overall, though, Parent is a positive book, written in an easy, conversational style.
Brett Webb-Mitchell reads from On Being a Gay Parent at Malaprop’s on Monday, January 28. the 7 p.m. event is free. Info: 254-6734.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter