Blogging for the Ruth Institute, Jennifer Johnson recounted her experience of growing up with five parents. The piece responds to claims by Masha Gessen, a prominent LGBT activist who was recently honored by the state department, who has famously celebrated her own unorthodox family as the shape of things to come:
I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.
Johnson's mother and father divorced when she was about three. Her mother remarried once and her dad remarried twice, so she has experienced what life is like with five parents--a mother, a father, two stepmothers and a step-father. Johnson's experience shows that growing up in such a structure is not as rosy of a picture as LGBT activists paint or something to be approached casually:
In this day and age children can already have five parents. That’s how badly marriage has deteriorated already. The main difference between what Gessen advocates and my experience is that my step parents were not legal parents; she advocates for all of the adults in her situation to be legal parents.
Having more than two legal parents will be a nightmare for a child...adding additional legal parents will create more disruption for children’s daily lives, more chaos, more confusion, less unity. And why are we doing this? So that adults can have the sexual partners they want.
Masha Gessen had a mom and a dad, so it appears that she benefitted from the socially conservative family structure--it appears she was not raised under the family structure she advocates... Since I lived under the family structure they advocate, I will sometimes ask [activists]: would you trade childhoods with me? They either say no or they don’t reply.
If what I had is so great, then why don’t they want it as children? Here’s my conclusion: they want it as adults but not as children. They want the benefits of the socially conservative family structure when they are children. But as adults, they want sexual freedom, or at least they want to appear “open minded” and “tolerant” about others sexual choices, even at the expense of children, even though they themselves would never want to live under what they advocate. It’s a bizarre sort of a “win-win” for them, I guess.
It’s very painful for me to have conversations with these people. They don’t understand what they advocate, and they don’t seem to want to understand.
Johnson's experience shows such structures have a profoundly negative impact on children--putting the desires of adults over the needs of children does a giant disservice to the young, vulnerable children involved.
Advocates of redefining marriage can push junk science through the liberal media and claim that mothers and fathers are interchangeable, but when push comes to shove, science and common sense demonstrate otherwise. Children like Johnson who were raised in unstable environments rarely wish the same on anyone else.
Is it just and fair for adults to put the well-being of children on the backburner so that adult desires can trump everything else?
Johnson also asked readers:
Imagine having each of your parents completely ignore the other half of you, the other half of your family, as if it did not even exist. Meanwhile, imagine each parent pouring their energy into their new families and creating a unified home for their new children. These experiences give you the definite impression of being something leftover, something not quite part of them.
Johnson's experiences say a lot about redefining marriage: it hurts children and even advocates of redefining marriage are glad that they benefitted from being raised by both a mother and a father.
Gessen has also advocated for the abolition of marriage altogether, saying:
...it is a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist... The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change, and again, I don’t think it should exist.