I enthusiastically shared the news of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s same-sex marriage endorsement with my medical school classmates yesterday. I even publicly posted the AAP’s article – the sole public posting on my private Facebook page – because to me, the strong endorsement of equal rights by an organization of 60,000 pediatricians seemed enormously important for my colleagues and for our world.
I was disheartened to read the viral blog post by Erik Botsford, a gay dad who writes of being “so annoyed” by the AAP’s “dispassionate” research and endorsement. Mr. Botsford fails to recognize that the importance of the endorsement is not the personal validation he might receive from the AAP affirming that they agree he is a good dad. Really, the important impact here is how the AAP’s statement can influence the REST of the world – those people who may NOT know that a person can be both gay and a good parent.
I grew up in one of those multiracial families that Mr. Botsford mentions – those families that he claims society “gushes over” and views as “enriching and rewarding.” My family unit was absolutely confident that multiracial couples could capably raise children. But the rest of the world didn’t always agree – and although we grew up in liberal, educated, picturesque suburbia, the bigoted comments that my brother and I received as children attest to the persisting need for a more tolerant society.
Physicians are in a unique position to be able to help normalize diversity and educate about tolerance. In medical school, we learn the art of asking carefully worded questions. We’re taught to elicit a sexual history by asking, “Do you have sex with men, women, or both?” – a routine and standard question that simultaneously helps us attain relevant health information while conveying to our patients that we are accepting, knowledgeable, and comfortable discussing sexuality and its implications for their health.
Pediatricians can replicate that “men, women, or both” model to help normalize the concept of same-sex marriage. In eliciting a social history from a child, I’ve been taught to ask the open-ended question, “Who lives at home with you?” It’s a good start — yet I believe we can do better. I would love to see us start asking in pediatric clinics, “Do you have dads, or moms, or both?” Let us signal to young people that we accept and support same-sex marriage. Let us send our youth to school ingrained with the basic knowledge that while some kids have one mom and one dad, other kids don’t. And it is neither good nor bad; it just is.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Botsford in his final point: I, too, wish we lived in a world that didn’t need 30 years of research to figure out that a gay man can be a good dad. But given that we do live in this world, let’s start figuring out how to use this powerful endorsement from our nation’s pediatricians to effect change so that we can all live in a better world in the future.
Stephanie D. Yoshimura is a medical student.