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The Gay Artist, Not Gay Parent

The LGBTQ experience infrequently involves children. Yes, there are more children coming into the image of queerness as younger persons come out and technology allows for families to form yet children have historically been left out of the queer world for myriad reasons.

The obvious basis for this is that it’s pretty hard to have or get a child when same sex oriented. I’ve made my peace with this since—Well.—forever since I’ve never wanted a child. That said, I also believe that this particular feeling is reenforced by my naturally being attracted to people who I cannot make a child with. It seems like fate, albeit a pseudo-science based fate.

Despite my mother nagging and a few past boyfriends and friends popping the, “What do you think of kids? You’d be a great dad!” thought, the answer has always been a solid, “Not for me.” I’m happy to be the best uncle in the world but not a father. I have enough daddy issues on my own, thank you very much. As I’ve gotten older and reflected on the thought of a child, I’ve been able to narrow down why I feel this way beyond the vapid “I’m gay!” answer: it has to do with a sense of selfishness and achievement.

At thirty, I’ve yet to accomplish the majority of things I want for myself and my life. To be a writer, to be an artist, to be someone who thinks and creates and is known for thinking and creating, who also is an autonomous entity and own boss is the ultimate goal to be achieved—and where does a child fit into that? Nowhere, unless that is all reached in the next few years. Perhaps when I get there, I can reassess. As it stands now, I’ve dedicated myself to pursuing my craft, career, whatever-you-call-it. That’s what my being is about.

This isn’t a singular thought either. In talking to my aunt over the weekend, she mentioned a remarkable interview on Fresh Air where Terry Gross reflected on the life of children’s book author Maurice Sendak after his death in 2012. Sendak was gay and childless and was staunchly without child despite working in a field for them. The story is a shocking mirror image to my own beliefs and feels like the perfect articulation of queer anti-parentage.

Sendak explains that his children were the children who read his work and that, were he to have a child, he would have loved a daughter. I’ve always thought that too. “Girls are infinitely more complicated than boys,” he said. “Women more than men. And there’s no doubt about that, we all know it, we just don’t like to think about it and certainly the men don’t like to think about it.” My thoughts exactly.

From here, Gross turns directly to Sendak to ask him why after a statement like that did he not have a child. Times have changed from his coming of age in homosexuality—so why didn’t he have a child?

The answer is the answer of so many queer persons and certainly myself.

GROSS: If you were able to be out in a period like we live in today where it’s socially acceptable in lots of circles to be gay and have children, it’s so much easier to be gay and have children now, would you have had a child?

SENDAK: No. No.

GROSS: But you just, you just said that you fantasized all your life about having a daughter.

SENDAK: But fantasized.

GROSS: OK.

[Laughter]

SENDAK: There’s too much hard work involved.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

SENDAK: And I am devoted to being an artist and a person who reads books for the rest of my life, however long I have.

GROSS: And that takes a certain amount of self absorption to be able to do that.

SENDAK: Well, I think so and I think it has to do with time spent trying to understand what it means to be an artist. To get under the skin of what is happening as best you can. And to have a real child, a real daughter would be hard work, work I would not want to do.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

SENDAK: Changing clothes, fixing, taking her to school, putting up with her anger, putting up with her indifference and praying all the time that she grow up to be a good woman and take care of her poor old dad, yes…

[Laughter]

SENDAK: It is typical of a male and it doesn’t make any difference what kind of male you are, you are a selfish pig in very, very complicated ways.

[Laughter]

SENDAK: And yes, I would fantasize a daughter full-grown. She would have to be in her late 30s or early 40s and be all over me and taking care of poor old dad.

“I am devoted to being an artist and a person who reads books” is perhaps one of the deepest proverbs in the book of gay artists. It’s something I want tattooed on my face, for everyone to see that this is my goal in life, with “I would fantasize a daughter full-grown.” as a footnote on my chin. It is so representative of a certain life, a gay life, that it makes my toes curl.

(This isn’t to say that certain heterosexual or bisexual, etc. people don’t choose the same path. I know several of them and I feel like they could stand by this statement as well. As The Onion says…)

If interested, you can listen to this full interview with Gross and Sendak from 2011 here. It is a great interview for all creatives and same-sex persons alike.

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