A recent letter writer asked how a gay couple should respond to detailed queries about their daughter's parentage, both from friends and strangers.
The responses to this question made me eager to further explore opinions toward gay parents. I asked Zogby International, the polling firm, to insert a question concerning Americans' attitudes toward same-sex parents into their most recent national poll.
The results show that a majority of Americans do not believe that same-sex couples can be as effective parents as opposite-sex couples. However, a sizable percentage (42) believe that both types of parents can be equally effective (6 percent weren't sure).
I welcome readers' comments and stories on this timely cultural topic.
Below is a sampling of the letters I received responding to the question of how gay parents should handle queries about their children.
In 1992 I became a gay foster parent and then an adoptive parent to two boys who were 12 and 15. I'm now the gay "Gampa" of the cutest 4-year-old grandson ever, but 1992 was a time when gay parenting was fairly rare.
Like the "Dads" in your column, I was asked lots of questions, often questions that people would never in a million years ask a heterosexual birth parent.
By answering the questions as honestly and politely as I could (without invading the boys' privacy), I educated a whole lot of people.
Being a pioneer often means you have to endure some discomfort along the way, but in the end you arrive in a wonderful new world.
Hamp Simmons, California
No matter how clever the verbal responses are to questions, it will never make the situation normal for children of gays.
It's one thing to tolerate gays, but it's a whole different matter when defenseless children are put into such an unnatural setting.
I am not anti-gay, but I am concerned about the children who have no say in these situations.
Spare the Children
I am the biological mother of our 5-year-old daughter. My partner is her adoptive mother. On our daughter's birth certificate, we are listed as parent and parent.
When we are asked about our daughter's parentage, we say, "The story is a little involved. If you want to know, give me your e-mail address and I'll be happy to answer all of your questions."
I am a gay man and am used to fielding questions from straights.
I think that at this point the whole idea of gay parentage is so new and so against-the-grain that such questions are inevitable and understandable. How could people not be curious? And what possible harm could there be in simply telling people how their daughter came about in as abbreviated, non-graphic and casually friendly a manner as you can -- and thereby teaching your daughter to do the same thing?
Universal acceptance and understanding of new ideas can take a long time, and pretending otherwise gets us nowhere. Like it or not, gay parents are that new idea.
Ray in Washington Dear Amy:
We, especially the straight ones of us, are really ignorant about all of this.
Believe me, I have no clue, and in the world where the whole sexual dimension of life seems to be "out there" in the public domain, why should these questions seem rude? Have these gay men, who even today are still outside the "norm," considered that there is a chance to educate people if they want us to understand them?
When picking my son up from school, a little girl asked my partner how he could have two dads. I think his response was one of the best.
"There are many different types of families. Some kids have a mom and a dad, some kids live with just their mom or just their dad, some kids live with their grandparents or maybe aunts and uncles and some kids have two moms or two dads. Isn't it neat that there are so many different types of families?"
Dad in Long Island
While waiting in a long grocery checkout line just ahead of two exhausted-looking men with a toddler, I overheard one of them say to someone behind them, "She has two parents who love her more than life itself."
I felt like applauding.
A Regular Reader
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, suggestions, insights and opinions with me and with one another.
Write to Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.
(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune
Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.