Married With Child

Oh my lord, it’s nice to be home! It was absolutely lovely, reading by my brother’s pool—or, as I told the stepson, doing my homework. (Stay tuned, here, for the resulting review of Linda Hirshman’s forthcoming book Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution). My nephews thought I was crazy, swimming in March. But it was 90 degrees out!

But while I loved the physical climate, I can’t say I’m so crazy about the social. As we changed planes in the Atlanta airport, the flight attendant guarding the entryway to the plane asked, alarmed, “Who’s that stray black child?” "He’s ours," my wife said. Let me describe this clearly: He was standing between us, two white ladies, one of whom had just handed this woman all three tickets.

The same thing has happened to us before, albeit in DFW. That time we were furious. This time we were resigned.

My sense is that two unconscious perceptions were converging in that instant. One is racial: black children belong with black parents; they do not belong with white adults. That’s true even though the latest statistics show that roughly one in seven new American marriages are interracial—including in the South. And when we’re at my brother’s, believe me, we never let him walk alone up the long private road from my brother’s to the main street, past that crazy dude who sits outside his garage with his shotgun. We’ve never seen another black person in the neighborhood. We will never risk it.

The other perception, or lack thereof, is about whether two short-haired women might together have a child. It’s unpleasant, to say the least, to have our family configuration be invisible. That suggests that, to at least some folks in the South, our grouping is still socially unthinkable. Surely that’s true here in Massachusetts, but I haven’t encountered it. Both in Cambridge, where we live now, and in Worcester, the red part of the state where we used to live, our group is instantly legible as a child and his two moms, even before we say a word. Being able to marry legally really does change how lesbians and gay folks are perceived; it means that we are, literally, seen.

And so as we circled Logan Airport before landing, I said,“Too bad, honey, you’re married again.”

“Oh no,” she shot back, without missing a beat. “We’re still in federal airspace.”

I had to marry a lawyer.

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