Wednesday, 30 July 2008
at 7:48 pm by Anna
A few weeks ago, I looked after a friend's two preschool kids while she was at work. During the day, the kids' colds turned into something more sinister, and when my friend got home we took the kids to the doctor. In the consultation room, my friend and I cuddled a child each, and together answered the doctor's questions. It became clear as we spoke that the doctor thought my friend and I were a couple.
To our pleasant surprise, the doctor was nothing but accepting and kind to us. He didn't look askance at us - in fact, he didn't skip a beat. He was supportive of our assumed joint parenting, involving us both in the conversation about the kids' health, and advising us both on how to care for them.
I'm not naive enough to think the lives of gay and lesbian parents are all smiles and rainbows. Still, I felt buoyed by my experience at the doctor's. I can't help but compare it to twenty-odd years ago, when the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was the topic de jour. I was a kid living in Southland, and I still find it unsettling to think back on the dreadful homophobia expressed at this time.
My dad once told me an anecdote from the controversy surrounding the Bill. He'd been listening to talkback radio, and had been stunned by the announcer's ignorance. According to this guy, decriminalising homosexual acts was going to lead to hordes of leering paedophiles at school gates around the country. To illustrate that the announcer wasn't well informed on the issues, my father rang in and asked on air, 'My young daughter is being taught by an openly heterosexual teacher - what should I do?'. Pull her out of school immediately for her own safety, advised the announcer.
Dear oh dear. Homophobia is of course still with us, and is as hurtful as ever for those who are its targets. But to get acceptance and support from a doctor - an authority figure in our society - seems to indicate that, in some quarters at least, social progress has been made. If I'd been a 'real' lesbian, I think it would have made my day.