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Anna Roche's column

"I'm ready to be a Parent 2". Anna Rosch on gender prejudice, same-sex families and LGBTQ+ propagandas 1 and Parents 2"


A week ago, my son, almost four years old, declared, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a mum! I'm going to have a baby boy living in my belly." I had to explain to him that a project with a baby in my belly is unlikely to be successful.

"Are there any dads who are mums?" - My son, who doesn't give up so easily, asked. "No, son, mums are mums and dads are dads. But there are families with two mums or two dads." The conversation ends there for now: I think that's a sufficient level of understanding of the subtleties of gender identities for a four-year-old.

I tell it to my child, so that when he meets such a family, he will take it for granted.

Of course, if Russian propaganda is to be believed, the effect is quite different. Upon hearing about the possibility of having children with another father, my son will immediately decide that this is what he needs and will never even look towards girls.

What's there to be petty about, though? If you listen to what the valiant defenders of "traditional values" have been spouting lately, this conversation should have gone a different way altogether. I should have said, "Son, dads and mums don't exist. It's an illusion. We are all just Parents 1 and Parents 2. By the way, go tell Parent 1 (I'm also a feminist, so I'll give my husband first place, after all, he collects the child to the garden, takes him to and picks him up) that dinner is ready."

We live in Europe, right? Here the words "daddy" and "mummy" will soon be banned by law.

In kindergarten, the child is told, "Gather round, your Parent 2 is here." During childbirth, a woman is told, "Parent 1, push!" and then the relatives say "oh, who's such a darling, just like her grandmother, I mean, Parent 1 and Parent 2".

Crying dear to my heart native Russian values, I ask my son not to call me Mom: what if it breaks out somewhere outside the home and we all go to the re-education?

All this nonsense is willingly believed by many in Russia and other countries where homophobia is rampant. Especially those who have never been to Europe but sympathetically ask whether "gays bother us here" (I wonder how exactly they bother us).

What is really going on in Europe?

Certainly, recognition of the rights of LGBTQ+ families has progressed over the last decades. But it is still too early to talk about full equality.

Twenty-four of the 27 EU countries recognise any legal form of same-sex civil union. In other words, such unions are forbidden in three EU countries. Marriage is possible in 18 countries, and it is even more complicated with children.

In Italy, Greece, the Balkans (except Slovenia) and Eastern Europe, same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children. If either person in the couple is the biological parent, in most of these countries the other parent will officially be a nobody to the child. Even in many of the more progressive Western European countries, the second parent will have to go through an adoption process.

Whereas, if a hetero family has used donor sperm or eggs, they will both automatically be considered the child's parents. In other words, the real picture bears little resemblance to the one painted by Russian propaganda, where mum and dad families will soon have no place in society.

Photo: Attila Csaszar/Moment Collection via Getty Images

The words "mum" and "dad" are not going anywhere either. The terms "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" are only used in documents, and not everywhere, even in Western Europe.

For example, although many German states choose this wording, at federal level it is still only a recommendation.

In fact, the issue is bigger than just the terms. Those who do not like the words "Parent 1 and 2" do not want to give LGBTQ+ families equal rights: some openly, as in countries where inequality is legislated and homophobia is considered normal. Whereas others, deep down, think "I'm not against LGBT+, but...".

I have always wondered why. Why do people get so freaked out that two men or two women can get married and have children?

Scientists find psychological reasons for this. It's often simply because people want to fit in with their social group.

"Everyone around me doesn't like gay people, so I won't like them either."

But you can dig deeper. Recognising LGBTQ+ rights is about change in society, and people don't like change.

Research shows that conservatism in attitudes is often linked to fear.

People want to feel safe, and the less change and diversity around, the calmer it is.

If surveys are to be believed, conservatives are on average more satisfied with life than liberals. They are more likely to have a clear idea of the meaning of life and their mission. In short, it is psychologically easier to be a conservative. That is to say, opponents of LGBTQ+ rights and other progressive ideas fear that they will destroy their understandable, comfortable world.

Of course, no one is actually going to destroy anything. What would happen to hetero families if LGBTQ+ families married and had children? Well, apart from having to fill in forms with the terms "Parent 1 and 2"?

I don't even want to write about the "propaganda to minors" argument, there are so many studies proving it's nonsense. If people turned gay at the sight of two men or women walking hand in hand, there would be no LGBTQ+ people in Russia at all, would there?

What would change for hetero families in terms of the law?

Roughly nothing.

Fortunately, rights are not a pie to be shared. You can bake the same pie and give it to LGBTQ+ families. The pie of traditional families will not become any less sweet.

Photo: Laurel Golio for The New York Times

In terms of the state of society, recognising LGBTQ+ rights is part of the movement towards greater inclusion and acceptance. Not only for people with a different sexual orientation or gender identity, but also people with specificities, with a different skin colour, with a different cultural code. Of course, those who cling to white cisgender privilege may not be happy about this. However, they should not forget that they too might have a child with special needs and their son might fall in love with a dark-skinned girl (or, horribly, a guy).

In places where LGBTQ+ people are comfortable, there are also fewer gender stereotypes: good news for women, whose place is no longer in the kitchen, and for men, who can finally express their emotions not only with their fists.

Accepting differences ultimately creates a society where mental health levels are higher, because people are not tormented by not fitting into a certain picture.

Lastly… So they recognised same-sex marriage, allowed us to have children... Why make us write that we are Parent 1 and 2? Can't they cross out "dad" and put in a second mum?

Visibility is important. If a person goes to fill in a form and doesn't see a box that reflects their situation, they feel something is wrong with them. Whilst affirming to a homophobic neighbour that their life model is the only true and correct one.

I don't really care what they call me, as long as they help society take a step towards equality.

But that's it, I have to go. Parent 1 brought his son home from kindergarten.

Author: Anna Rosch
Cover photo by the author