You don’t know me, but we have quite a bit in common.
We’re both American. We’re both gay men. And we’ve both spent a great deal of time in Boston. We love pop culture. We recently became fathers via surrogacy. And we’ve both been dad-shamed on Instagram by women who should know better.
I first came across mom’s judging you online before the internet picked up on it. I follow you on Instagram, so I giggled with glee as the photos started rolling in shortly after you welcomed your son Benjamin into the world.
I expected excitement from my fellow fans. What I got was the polar opposite.
You don’t need me to remind you of the “how could you take your newborn on a plane?” or the “don’t place your baby in a crib with pillows.” But I will.
I will because it hit so close to home. I too have received unsolicited advice on precious images of my newborn children. I too have had mothers (and a few fathers) skip any niceties and rip apart my parenting style with blunt force. And I too have spent far too long second-guessing my actions because a stranger attacked me for putting my daughter in socks instead of letting her walk barefoot – turning the very best, completely unplanned moment into a stressful one.
I think this is an example of universal bias in favor of traditional parenting roles.
It’s a misguided belief that only women are suited to raise babies, but it’s a popular one. So popular, in fact, that I think it’s what’s driving the criticism you’re receiving on a daily basis.
I’m sure it’s unintentional, but the “momsplaining” that’s occurring to us both has to be in part because you’re a guy. And the fact that you’re a gay guy doesn’t help your case.
The story that “men lack the essential knowledge and experience needed to properly raise a child” is not a new one. It’s been reinforced in movies and television every week of every month of every year since forever. Then you add homosexuality into the mix – an area that challenges the status quo by definition – and it’s a recipe for social media disaster.
Hear me out.
I don’t believe that all of these people are homophobic. I’m sure most of them love the gays. But the comments. Those nasty comments! They lack enough common decency and empathy to escape mild homophobia. Just like a sarcastic comment about a woman climbing the latter at work is sexist no matter the intention, I believe the types of comments you’re receiving are wildly inappropriate and shouldn’t be tolerated.
Listen, you know that being a celebrity means you’re forced to deal with internet trolls. I don’t need to tell you that. But when it comes to parenting, why are other parents consistently the worst part?
It’s usually mothers, the ones who should understand the pain and stress of parenting tiny humans, that are the cattiest and most judgemental. They forget the “hope you don’t mind some unsolicited advice” or “you’re doing a wonderful job, but I was told to…” and go straight for the jugular. They speak directly at you as if their recommendation is the bible and your way is complete shit. And then they are shocked when you’re uncomfortable or upset.
“Don’t be so sensitive,” they say.
“I’m just trying to be helpful,” they say.
But what they mean is, “I know better than you, so just shut up and listen.”
It baffles me. And it should infuriate you.
But that’s not why I’m writing you this letter.
I’m writing to say thank you. What you’re being forced to deal with is helping me. What you and other famous gay dads like Niel Patrick Harris and Perez Hilton and Ricky Martin are putting up with daily is, in fact, making it easier for the rest of us to live in this strange world.
Your struggles, on and offline, are forcing our families into the national conversation. And the more we’re represented, the more normal we become. And the more normal we become, the more open and accepting the world becomes with it.
So, thank you. And good luck raising Benjamin. You’re doing amazing!