When I was a child I learned Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. A couple of weeks ago I was at the library with Lydia and came across a children’s version of the story, and we read it together. Lydia really enjoyed it – and I did too. And it struck me once again how wise and prescient the story is for our troubled times.
Today, for example, the BBC carried a news story: Ruth Davidson announces she is pregnant. Ruth Davidson is the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, a prominent LGBT figure, and is in a same-sex relationship with Jen Wilson.
Here’s the thing. How many of the news articles or people responding on Twitter mention the blindingly obvious thing: two women (or two men) cannot, you know, have a baby. Not without some external help. (I should add, I don’t want to pick on Ruth Davidson – it was the same when Tom Daley and Dustin Lance announced some months ago they were ‘having a baby’).
How many of the news outlets even mention the fact that this child will have a father who it doesn’t know? The baby is not even born yet, and already it is doomed to be born into a fatherless environment.
Near the end of Andersen’s story, he says:
So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, “Oh, how fine are the Emperor’s new clothes! Don’t they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!” Nobody would confess that he couldn’t see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.
I suspect that no-one is pointing out the bleedin’ obvious here because we have, as a society, collectively bought into the lie that two men or two women can have a baby. It’s seen as a mark of being modern, intelligent and progressive – rather than those backwards, bigoted, anti-LGBT folk, who still take the common-sense view that making a baby needs a father and mother.
The reason why this matters, and the reason why I can’t simply stay silent on this issue, is best explained by reading some stories of people who were brought into the world via anonymous third-party reproduction. For example, this one:
Anyway, there is so much I want to know, and no easy way I can ever find that information out, and it’s NOT FAIR. What do you look like? Do you have medical conditions I should be worried about? Do I have biological siblings? What’s your family history? Do you have a bunch of weird allergies, like me, or did I just lose the genetic lottery? What kind of things do you like? What do you do for work? What are your passions? What are your fears? Do you struggle with mental health issues like me? Who ARE you, and how much of who I am is from you?
Dear provider-of-my-genetic- materials;
I don’t want your money, I don’t need your love, I don’t need you to raise me. I just want to know who you are, and want to ask you so many questions.
Reading the stories is heartbreaking. How many children have to be brought into the world in this way, how many of them will have stories just like this one, full of questions, even crying out for the love of a father or mother who they were separated from before they were conceived?
Andersen ends the story:
“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.
“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”
“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.
So often children are the ones who speak the obvious truth – it’s the adults who hold back in fear.
One way or the other, I hope it won’t be too long before we as a society realise the emperor has no clothes.