Newsflash: Gay dads are just dads.
That truth seemed illusory last week when Chicago couple Kordale and Kaleb posted a family photo to their joint Instagram account.
The response was immediate and passionate and the photo of the couple getting their kids ready for school went viral. The responses were both positive and negative with a good helping of racism and homophobia with a sprinkle of concern trolling.
Even the articles that praised the photo dripped in condescension, with one of the most popular pieces on BuzzFeed featuring the instagram photos titled, “These Black Dads and Their Three Kids have the Cutest Instagram Ever…Much cuteness. Such adorable.” Instead of praising the picture for showing a close-knit family going through their morning hustle and relating with it because it mirrored their own lives, many of the responses pointed to the picture’s uniqueness.
Kordale and Kaleb released a statement in response to the controversy telling The Huffington Post, “As far as the positive; yes we are two gay men with three kids who have no problem with preparing them for their education every morning; that comes with anything and everything they may need for school!” And in response to the negative and homophobic responses the couple said, “The picture was put out on social media for an opinion so we can’t be mad when people give just that: an opinion. People tend to think that gay people cannot raise their children to be heterosexuals. Instead, they have derogatory thoughts of us “tainting” our children or “confusing them” with what society sees deems as wrong and unmanly because we’re gay. But this is all comical because people forget where a lot of gays come from: a heterosexual household.”
First off, the picture of a gay couple taking care of their children shouldn’t be newsworthy. It’s 2014, 17 states currently allow gays to marry and as a group they have notable political, social, and economic power in many aspects of American life. Most Americans know personally or are related to someone who identifies as gay and the majority believe they are just like everyone else and deserving of all of the same rights.
Second, the picture of black men taking care of their kids is also not newsworthy. It’s an old and ugly stereotype that says that black men by and large do not take care of their children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control released a new report finally proving that the absent black father stereotype is an ugly myth. The new data says that not only are dads more hands-on in their parenting than previously believed, but also that black fathers are actually more involved in the daily lives of their children than fathers of other races.
The reaction to Kordale and Kaleb’s family photo is a product of these two wrong stereotypes. Gay men raising a family isn’t outside of some preconceived norm and the data shows that black men take care of their kids despite pervasive myths to the contrary. Courtney Baxter, writing at Feministing.com, hit on the disturbing aspect of this, writing, “I’m frustrated and conflicted – we do need visibility around the “normalcy” of our queer lives.
But while Queer in Public is intentional, maybe Kaleb and Kordale were just trying to document their lives like everyone else on Instagram…Ultimately, this story illustrates how far we have to go in accepting queer parents — of all races — as normal. I can’t wait for the day when BuzzFeed would name that article “This Family has the Cutest Instagram Ever.”
Kaleb and Kordale are just two parents taking care of their kids. Sensationalizing their morning routine in this way by playing on ugly stereotypes is proof positive that we have a long way to go.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.