Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Advice from a gay guy to the straight guys about having kids...

So if you didn't know me or haven't met me before, let me start by admitting that yes, I'm gay, and I happen to care very deeply about the importance of preventing teen pregnancy. Friends and family are often surprised when I tell them about the work that I do, after all, my partner of 4 years and I, will never have to worry about an unplanned pregnancy. But that's the point I want to address with all those straight male readers out there. I want to give you some advice about what it takes to start a family.

Recently I read that Levi Johnston, famous for his relationship (and unplanned pregnancy) with Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol, just had his second child. When asked in an interview if this 2nd pregnancy was planned he said “No, but uh, you know, things happen…” Things happen? Come on, man! Is that how babies are made? Have you been watching Disney’s Dumbo where babies were delivered by storks?!

Several of my family members have had children, and I love my nephews, niece, and cousin’s daughter all very dearly. In fact, I take great pride in being an uncle, shopping for birthday gifts is a blast every year and my relatives can count on Uncle Ryan to always give Dr. Seuss inspired books and toys or event better, baby sized Converse All Star (Chuck Taylor) shoes – passing along some of my favorite things to these wonderful children. But if you asked any of my family members, if they had planned to have kids, or in hind site, were they truly ready to have kids, I’m pretty certain all of them will admit that they were not ready to have kids at their age, even if they started at 25 and older with good careers and stable homes. Starting a family changes everything in life and guys need to prepare for that fact.

You see, intention to have kids, or another way of saying, planning when not to have kids, takes some effort. Using a condom takes a few steps starting with whether you actually have condoms available. Visiting a doctor to request hormonal contraception is not a difficult process for most individuals but takes effort to plan ahead. What is not difficult and costs nothing, is making the decision that you will wait to have sex, or deciding to take steps to delay pregnancy, until you are truly ready to have children!

See, if Levi Johnston, had been planning for when “things happen” was about to happen, he could have put on a condom or checked with his girlfriend about her contraception usage. That small step to plan a pregnancy or the delay of pregnancy, means the difference of having a child before you are ready to be a parent.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning Levi for having two children, both unintended, nor am I in anyway trying to imply that either child isn’t a wonderful addition to our planet. Each life that is born is precious and we should not demonize any child born as a result of the choices their parents made. But studies show, that when children are born to teen parents, their chances of growing up in poverty are higher, their health is often not as great, the cycle of poverty continues and the outcomes for the child are not usually as positive as when a child is born after careful family planning. The point being, if teens aren’t ready to start families because they are still teens, then we need to be helping support those teens decision to delay their families till they are ready to become adults.
Take it from a gay guy, who if he ever wants to have kids, will have to think long and hard about the choice between surrogacy or adoption, will have to save up thousands of dollars, employ lawyers and doctors to help get to a place where I can be a father… It will take a lot of planning and intention for me to have that child some day and to start a family with my partner. I will have to be absolutely sure about wanting to be a parent before I can start that process. Once I do become a father, I will love and support that child because I worked hard to reach a point where I was ready to start a family.

So my advice to straight guys, keep me in mind as you think about when you plan to start a family. You can’t just ‘you know, let things happen.’ You gotta put some thought and intention into your actions. You have to work just as hard NOT to have a child, as I have to work some day TO have a child. You gotta be willing to carry, and use, condoms to be sure that your not causing a pregnancy that you could prevent. You gotta have the guts to ask your partner if she is using birth control so you know whether she is taking her own steps to prevent pregnancy and then you still need to use the condom so you can prevent transmission of STDs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"You May Now HUG the Bride"

I attended a wedding this weekend where it was evident that the wedding was truly an event to celebrate life, love and family. It was one of those weddings that I walked away from feeling the love and not just wondering "geez, that was a pretty pricey wedding to celebrate a sham of a relationship...well at least the food was good"(and don't judge me, you have been to those weddings too). I suppose the beauty in the wedding that I attended was the fact that the brides' parents are still madly in love with each other and have an amazing relationship with their adult children. I was in awe of the way that the mother of the bride lit up when she was looking at her daughter walk down the aisle and the way the father of the bride was overwhelmed with joy to gain a son-in-law. When most fathers only see their responsibility as footing the bill for a wedding, this father actually officiated the wedding so that he could play a larger part in the ceremony.

These types of relationships are completely nonexistent for some young people; they never get to see what it is like for the adults in their life to have a healthy, loving and supportive relationship with anyone. Since most of my childhood was in a single-parent home, I often wondered what it was like to have both parents at home or even both parents in the same room without some sort of disagreement or evil-eye stare. One of our responsibilities is to teach young people about healthy relationships but shouldn’t we also be modeling those healthy relationships? All too often I see an adult in a completely unhealthy relationship, and they just can’t understand why their children are in the same kind of relationship. Young people not only need to know the factors related to a healthy relationship, they need to see them in real life. As adults we have a responsibility to practice what we preach to our young people. We can’t be engaged in unhealthy behaviors with our own partners such as cheating, lying, controlling behavior or abuse, and then lecture to young people about how they should avoid these behaviors in their own relationships.

After attending this wedding, it gave me hope – hope that all young people will have adults in their life that have loving, supportive and healthy relationships that they can aspire to have with their own partners. When young people have the opportunity to see what a healthy relationship looks like, they will be more likely to emulate these behaviors with their own partners. The bride and groom at this wedding are lucky enough to have these relationships in their life and they know how much they are loved and supported by their parents. Of course, the bride will always be her daddy’s little girl so at the end of the ceremony the father of the bride couldn’t help to revise the traditional script by saying “you may now HUG the bride.”

by:  Sarah Kershner, Project Coordinator for SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy