by Baptiste and François Thollon-Choquet
translation Louise Thunin
To be a family: for a male couple like ours, and despite our relatively young age, such a perspective didn’t always go without saying. To be a family or to experience our love-life orientation ? There seemed to be incompatibility. And it was only when the law on marriage for everyone was adopted in France, and also, perhaps, thanks to the strength of our love, born at that time, what had seemed incompatible became possible. Early on in our relationship, we envisioned having children. At the outset there was, we admit, the desire for a child. We often hear that expression used pejoratively, and it seems to indicate, according to those who use it, that homosexual couples are guilty of a sort of irresponsible desire for parenthood, which proves us to be infantile. Even more surprisingly to us, this expression suggests it would be preferable not to desire a child, in order to be good parents. Being a family therefore occurred in our respective lives and in our marriage as a happy surprise. And here we cannot help but think of Sarah and Abraham desperately awaiting the child of the Promise, who does not come and who seems improbable in their situation. Sarah laughs the ironic laugh (a bit like ours before we imagined becoming parents), which turns into the joyful laughter that she will transmit to her son through his name (Isaac also means, ˝ He will laugh˝).
The question at the time was : how can it be done ? On the level of biology, our couple is, in a way, sterile. Together, at any rate, because if one of us can give of himself to have a child, the other will always be left out of the biological bond. We therefore asked ourselves whether this tie, so dear to ˝traditional˝ couples, was important to us. Did we need to be able to say : flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood ? And here we thought of Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father, who agrees to parenting, to complete responsibility as a father, despite the absence of flesh-and-blood ties (today we would say, rather prosaically,without a biological connection) to his child. Is a natural extension of oneself a requirement for love ? Our experience and our instincts led us to conclude that, even if such a connection could be important, it wasn’t the main thing in love. For a variety of reasons, which are our own, we decided not to emphasize this connection and to explore another possibility, which was to welcome a child into our couple, into our family. An important decision, for it meant accepting a being, no matter how small, with his or her own history, his or her own name as well. The first attribute of parents, the nearly unconditional power of heterosexual couples who decide to have children, is to name them, often even before their birth. And this first baptism often brings with it very personal choices which allow them to place the child in his or her lineage : he’ll be named for an uncle, she’ll be named for a grandmother… With our choice, that became impossible. He or she would have a first name and a family name. The image of Zachariah, father of John-the-Baptist, came to mind immediately. This future father, who wants to name his son according to family tradition and who becomes mute so long as he cannot manage to say the name willed by God, illustrated perfectly the expectations we experienced while waiting to welcome our child. We didn’t know the gender ; we couldn’t even call the child by a name we liked, and when he arrived, we had to take him as he was, without giving him the name we would have liked.
We loved him immediately, with that unconditional love that binds young parents to their child. Of course, love can be born in a glance, but to last over time, it must be built upon: we must tame one another, recognize and accept the other person in all those aspects that make him or her similar to us and different as well. To be a family, whatever the family is like, is always a long, and, we hope, beautiful adventure. We are only at the beginning but already grateful.