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"We're in the suburbs, and most people come out here because they want to raise a family with kids," he says. "So I think the pressure here is 'when are you guys going to have kids already?' Almost every gay couple we know either has kids or are planning on it."
As far as how being a gay dad has affected his career as a politician, Cooper says, "We're lucky that we live in a well-educated, relatively progressive community...We'd be at the Walt Whitman Mall, pushing a triple-stroller, and people would come up to us and say, 'What is this, mother's night off?' And we'd immediately say, 'No, we're the parents.' And they'd never bat an eye."
Cooper recalls once being on line with two of his children at a Huntington Starbuck's when a group of people recognized them from a recent newspaper profile and expressed their admiration. "It obviously had an impact on these straight, middle-aged women. I was floored," he says. So, although Cooper says he's all in favor of compiling data and publishing studies on gay parents, "what's going to change people's minds in the long run, I think, are the one-to-one relationships."
And some of the gay parents in the survey predict that their children will naturally learn open-mindedness and pass it on in their own relationships.
"I think that one of the biggest differences that I see is that in our family we don't have the bias against people that some straight families have," wrote a New Jersey mom of a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. "We're not sheltered. You know, there are a lot of straight families that are sheltered, that don't know anything beyond their bounds. We don't have that. I think that our children will be able to be much more open-minded and I think that as a result their friends will be much more open-minded."
But whether they are or not, it's clear that parents are parents, that most of them have the same dreams for their kids.
A lesbian mom of a 3-year-old wrote: "I think it's been great for her, and I don't know that it would be any different if one of us were a guy, if a guy would be the same kind of parent." And when it comes to possible teasing from other kids, she has the antidote that every parent tries to apply: "What we're doing now, what you do every day for your kid, all the time, is how can I build your self-esteem, and how can I make you feel comfortable with yourself, and comfortable with your family...and have her respect us and love us to the point where she says, yeah, two mommies is the best thing in the world."
Most of the gay parents surveyed by Johnson and O'Connor believed that having two moms or two dads would actually help better arm their children to deal with the world.
"We always love it when these studies come out," says one of those children, the now 34-year-old Dan Cherubin of the national group Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere. "To us, it's preaching to the converted, but it shows that parents are parents." Cherubin is gay and grew up in New York City with two moms, which he said was difficult because there were not many others in his situation. When he realized that he himself was gay, he helped to found Second Generation, an offshoot of COLAGE for gay children of gay parentsa sometimes controversial population that gay parents don't like to advertise because they fear it will help fuel the fires of homophobes.
Cherubin hates it when people point to him as an example of where gay parenting can go wrong. "It does infuriate me," he says. "I have two siblings and they're both straight. You're just as likely to be gay with straight parents."
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