The Soapbox: On Rupert Everett & Having Gay Parents

The actor Rupert Everett, who is gay, believes children should have a “mother and a father.”

My father, who is also gay, shared the same beliefs. So did my gay mother. So did my gay father-in-law. So, in fact, did the Christopher Plummer character in “Beginners.”

But can it be true that there’s “[nothing] worse than being brought up by two gay dads,” as Rupert said?

Ask my husband, whose father and stepfather fully participated in raising him. Ask my children, who have three of four openly gay grandparents.

The difference between Everett and those from a previous generation? Everett can be openly gay and still have a career, be publicly in a same sex relationship, even choose to have and raise a family — whether he believes the latter is his right or not.

If Everett doesn’t want to speak out in favor of marriage equality, that’s fine. But to speak against it is to deny the progress and freedoms afforded him by those who have gone before — those who have been denied jobs, families, civil rights, a safe living.  These are all things I want for my children and theirs.

When Plummer’s character in “Beginners” comes out of the closet in his 70s after his wife’s death, his son, played by Ewan McGregor, asks him why he chose to live a secret life. The son had been a lifelong witness to his mother’s loneliness and isolation, and is therefore grappling with his own inability to love.

“Because I liked my life,” answers Plummer’s character. “I couldn’t have been director of the museum, I wanted to have a family. Do you think I didn’t want to change? I would have given everything to change.”

My parents and my father-in-law did not have the choice to live openly and also have unfettered, unmolested lives. My father-in-law, who came out when his children were young, nearly completely lost custody because of his sexual orientation.

My father rose to great prominence in his field, one that required security clearances that an open homosexual could never have received. My mother was president of the PTA and head of her golfing circle at the local country club. None of this would have been possible in the 1970s for proud queers.

They didn’t have the freedoms and choices that Everett has.

My siblings and I had no idea about our parents’ personal lives until after they divorced when we were adults. On the other hand, my own children and my vast tribe of nieces and nephews have been raised with two different sets of grandparents known as “Grandaddy Mike and Grandaddy Steve” and another known as “Ahma and Auntie Margie.”

Since they were old enough to ask, I could explain that sometimes daddies love daddies and sometimes mommies love mommies. They take this in stride, as part of normal reality.

And I dearly hope and pray that this means that one day, if they find they are gay or bi or transgender or anything, they won’t feel the need to live a lie. I hope they won’t feel a desperate need to change.” Because they’ve seen their gay grandmothers and gay grandfathers and the only thing they noticed was love.

And, if they are straight, I think they will never view homosexuality as strange or deviant. Already, when other children call something they dislike “gay” my children ask them not to use that word.

So, Rupert Everett, you don’t think children should be raised by two gay men?  Then don’t raise a child.  But don’t get in anyone else’s way.

Suzanne Turner is the President and Founder of Turner Strategies, a public affairs and communications firm based in Washington, D.C. Before starting her own business, Suzanne spent seven years at Fenton Communications, where she served as Senior Vice President. Suzanne is the co-founder of Fem2.0, an online women’s rights community that is a pro bono project of Turner Strategies. She is also a co-founder of the Internet Advocacy Center and a founding member of Progressive Communicators of D.C. Suzanne studied at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and the Université de Paris IV-La Sorbonne, and holds a BA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.