Blog Posts by Steven Petrow

  • [Updated on June 25th, 2011]

    Last night New York voted to legalize same-sex marriage and thirty days from now you may find yourself receiving an invitation to your son and his fiance's wedding or to the nuptials of two lesbians, whether friends or co-workers. Like many others - straight and gay -- you'll realize that you're now entering an unmapped twilight zone since many of the "rules" for same-sex weddings have yet to be determined.

    Not surprisingly, there are gay couples who find that old-school, straight wedding traditions serve them remarkably well in their ceremonies and celebrations: formal invitations, engagement parties, gift registries, and frothy white dresses alongside or well-tailored black tuxedos. Except that "We'll take two, please!"

    Still, for many in the gay community, a very strong spirit of invention is at play as we create new roles and rites, not only for ourselves, but for all those in attendance. The good news is that it's up to each couple to

    Read More »from Straight Talk: New York Makes It Six! -- The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Same-Sex Weddings
  • Straight Talk: "The Modern Family When a Son Becomes a Sperm Donor"

    Q: My son is in his first year of medical school and some lesbian friends of his want him to help them get pregnant. He's thinking about it, but I'm a wreck. This is my grandchild they're talking about, and I'd never even get to see the kid!

    A: It's perfectly understandable for you to want a relationship with your son's special DNA project, but it sounds as if you're doing what I often call "future tripping." Which is to say, "Slow down, Grandma!" From what you've written it sounds as though your son is still contemplating this arrangement -- that he hasn't made a decision one way or another. Even that's just the first juncture in this long and winding road. Assuming he decides to become a sperm donor to one of his friends (or potentially both down the road, making any kids half siblings), he probably doesn't know yet what role, if any, he'll be taking with the little one.

    So don't leap to the conclusion that your son's donation would put your grandchild out of your reach.

    Read More »from Straight Talk: "The Modern Family When a Son Becomes a Sperm Donor"
  • Straight Talk: When a daughter changes her gender, does she become a son?

    Q: My friend's daughter now says she's transgender and had surgery to remove her breasts last week. I guess I should have written my friend's "son." Anyway, "he" seems thrilled with his results, but he is still a girl where it counts, so it is very confusing. And does this make him gay, or what?

    A: With all the news about Chaz Bono being transgender, your question provides a timely reminder of how complex the whole topic of gender identity can be-and how easily gender identity can be confused with questions of sexual orientation. They are in fact quite different; so let me see what I can do to help you understand what's going on with your friend's son.

    And he is indeed her son; no need for quotation marks around the word. One of the basic concepts of gender identity is that you are the gender you think and say you are. The external genitalia that make a doctor proclaim, "It's a girl!" in the delivery room are not the sum total of that individual's gender

    Read More »from Straight Talk: When a daughter changes her gender, does she become a son?
  • Straight Talk: “Is it creepy that Elton John is now a dad?”

    Q: Now that I've seen Elton John being interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20 about his new son, I have to ask: Am I alone in feeling that Elton raising a child is about the creepiest thing one could ever think of?

    A: Regular readers of this column know that, even when provoked, I try to do very little finger-wagging when I answer people's questions. But this question disturbs me because I think the questioner really means: "Isn't the idea of a gay man raising a child revolting?" I don't think she's creeped out by his flamboyant stage outfits or his songs (and I will admit that I truly dislike "The b---- Is Back"). Nope, I think she's truly upset by the fact that he's gay.

    For those who don't know the backstory, Sir Elton (yes, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth) and his husband spent years trying to start a family. About five months ago, their son Zachary was born. Little Zach joins the millions of kids being raised by gay parents around the globe; according

    Read More »from Straight Talk: “Is it creepy that Elton John is now a dad?”
  • Q: I'm very gay friendly-in fact, you could say that "some of my best friends are gay"-but one of them recently called me out, and I don't really understand why. Some friends and I are going to a wedding next month, and we were talking about what to wear. I said something like, "Well, you gays don't have to worry about that. You were born with an added style gene." My friend Mario said he understood that I didn't mean any offense, but I was still repeating a stereotype, and "a stereotype is a stereotype." I'm wondering what your take is on this exchange.

    A: Let me create a couple of visuals for you. Think about Barney Frank (see left), the perpetually rumpled congressman from Massachusetts, or Bruce Vilanch, the veteran "Hollywood Squares" comedian who is sartorially challenged. I could also reveal the names of a number of gay friends of mine who often fall short in matters of style, but I love them nonetheless. My point-and I imagine this was your friend's point too-is this:

    Read More »from Straight Talk: "What’s wrong with saying that gays have ‘an added style gene’?"
  • Straight Talk: “A homophobe and a gay couple at the same dinner party?”

    Q: I recently had a small dinner party that was a disaster. My guest list included a gay couple, several straight friends, and - amongst them and unbeknownst to me - an unabashed homophobe (I'll call him "Roger.") In the middle of a conversation about a recent Glee episode, (and after a number of drinks), Roger said he couldn't stand the show because of all the "f-- ots" in it. When he saw peoples faces drop, he added: "Just kidding." One of my straight guests pointed out - correctly, although I thought rudely -- that there was nothing funny about Roger's remark and called him a "homophobe." My gay friends didn't actually say anything, but I felt terrible for them. Not surprisingly, the evening never recovered. As a host what should I have done at the time?

    A: As a host, your primary responsibility -- after making sure no one gets food poisoning --is to ensure that no guest is made to feel uncomfortable. While we can't be held responsible for the political or religious views of our

    Read More »from Straight Talk: “A homophobe and a gay couple at the same dinner party?”
  • Straight Talk: How do I know which is the "real" gay dad?

    Q: Sometimes through friends or my work here in New York City, I'll meet a family with gay parents and I'll wonder where the kids came from. Did they adopt? Use a surrogate? Are they from a previous (straight) marriage? The other day, I met these two really nice guys with a young son. I didn't want to be rude so I didn't ask, but is there a polite way to find out which one is the "real" dad in such a situation?

    A: To be honest, I'm not sure why you need to know who the "real" father is- other than idle curiosity. Let me ask this in response: What difference would it make to you to know which father has a genetic connection to the child -- if that's what you mean by "real"? I think that being a good father (or mother) has much less to do with a blood connection and much more to do with hands-on parenting as well loving and providing for a child.

    Or if you mean "real" in a legal sense, consider how tricky affirming gay parenthood by law can often be. You likely know that very few gay

    Read More »from Straight Talk: How do I know which is the "real" gay dad?
  • Straight Talk: “What do you call a gay a person’s significant other?”

    Q: It seems to me that the language keeps changing on what gay men and lesbians call their significant others. The word "partner" seems more and more common, but I think it's confusing: Business partner or life partner? And even some couples who have found a way to participate in legally binding same-sex marriages don't like "husband" or "wife"! Do you have any advice on where to begin with this tricky issue before I insult my gay friends by using the wrong term to describe their relationship?

    A: Yes, it's confusing. Perhaps one day the titles gay people use for each other will be more standard - but that probably won't be until legal marriage is permitted in all 50 states. So, for now, there certainly are a lot of options in play these days; one thing's for sure, many lesbians and gay men folks feel pretty strongly about what they don't want to be called.

    The key thing here is to pay close attention to the way gay couples introduce each other or describe their

    Read More »from Straight Talk: “What do you call a gay a person’s significant other?”
  • Straight Talk: “Do gay people change their names when they get married?”

    Q. I live in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal and I'm confused as to how gays and lesbians decide what family name to go by. I know it's only been a couple of years since gay marriage became legal but is there a "new" tradition?

    A: Certainly, the predominant custom to date for same-sex couples is for each to keep his or her name, but this is by no means always the case. There are actually a number of other choices open to us, too - none of which I imagine will shock you.

    By the way, it's worth noting that when a lesbian or gay couple does make a name change (or two), it has little to do with the type of religious or civil ceremony they choose -- or whether or not the marriage is legal in the eyes of the government. If anything, it reflects a couple's views on the symbolic component of a family name, which is to say their public identity.

    Here are the four basic options available:

    1. No change: Frank Roberts and Mack Stasio simply stay Frank Roberts and Mack

    Read More »from Straight Talk: “Do gay people change their names when they get married?”
  • Straight Talk: "Why were handholding lesbians asked to leave the mall?"

    Q: I read recently about a lesbian couple who were asked to leave a shopping mall because they were being affectionate with each other in public. Not anything extreme - just handholding and a peck here and there. I can't imagine this happening to a straight couple, can you? What's your opinion of who was right and who was wrong?

    A: I actually met this very nice couple soon after they had been ordered to leave Raleigh's Cameron Village Mall for being too affectionate in public. Here's what happened: They were sitting on a bench, and decided to hold hands and then, spontaneously, buss each other. A security guard passed by, but instead of thinking, "How sweet" she asked them to stop-and then ordered the women to leave the premises. They asked to see a supervisor, who agreed with the guard, and ejected the women from the mall even though they pointed out that they were being singled out. Of course, straight couples are allowed to be affectionate in public.

    Not surprisingly, I

    Read More »from Straight Talk: "Why were handholding lesbians asked to leave the mall?"


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