She Went by ‘Daddy’

My daughter and I were in Manhattan over this weekend so I could do some research at the Met. Waves of people were coming into the city for Sunday’s big gay-pride march, where they could celebrate the Empire State’s new same-sex-marriage law. We sat behind some of them on the train, three young women with a precious, excited toddler girl in tow. The very evident leader of the clan was the patriarch. Adorned as if she might be an actor portraying a hip-hop teen from Cleveland, she had her meticulous corn-rows tucked under a backwards navy-blue flat-billed ballcap, a matching wife beater revealing a mural of tats on her arms, shoulders, and back. Baggy jeans rode low, leading to her construction boots with untied laces dangling free.

She was the only one of the adult threesome that interacted with the child, mindlessly uttering reassuring words like “Daddy will be right back” or “Sit over here by Daddy.”

You see, this is one of the things that most concerns me about the legal institutionalization of genderless marriage and parenting. We are told that nothing will really change with such laws; people who really love each other will just be able to enter really meaningful, legally protected relationships.

But, to use the language of our women’s-studies scholars, such a turn “does violence” to our concept of sex difference. They would have us believe that their way of looking at the world transcends the “narrow” confines of socially constructed gender difference, but these very folks end up playing to those very confines, usually in comically stereotypical ways. Think drag queen in her everyday clothes, like our Urban Outfitters dad on the train.

And while this adorable little girl on the train got to call one of her parents “Daddy,” did she really have a daddy? Well, her DNA would prove that she does somewhere, but in reality she only has a woman playing make-believe daddy, and like make-believe games, it’s all about the world this woman has created in her mind for her own imaginary fun and games. One problem: There’s a little toddler as one of the props.

Gender does matter for marriage, the family, and society, and those trying to teach us that it doesn’t can’t help but default to the very thing they are trying to overthrow.

This is the primary fallacy of the legislation New York just passed — not in theory, but in the reality of this little girl and her “daddy” on the train at Penn Station.

— Glenn T. Stanton is the director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family and a research fellow at the Institute of Marriage and Family. He is also author of the recent book Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity.

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