Well, “they” in this case is Rosie O’Donnell, and her take on gay couples’ splitting up is decidedly self-reflexive: she has a documentary on the value and endurance of family coming out on HBO on January 31–while she herself is estranged from her partner, Kelli Carpenter, with whom O’Donnell raised four children.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, O’Donnell attempted to reconcile the seeming contradiction between her belief that family is forever–the subject of her upcoming documentary A Family is a Family is a Family–and the fact that her own family no longer resides under the same roof. Somewhat bizarrely, O’Donnell argued that her amicable split with Carpenter is due to their sexual orientation:
Gay people, at least women that I know who have children, they’re all friends with their exes. You know, it’s not the same heterosexual paradigm, where they break up and everybody’s mad and nobody talks and there’s tension. It’s not like that. We worked for a very long time to try to find a solution, and when we realized we couldn’t, we worked to have a transition into something different, so it’s been a long process and everything’s OK.
Although O’Donnell is clearly viewing her breakup with some rose-colored (pardon the pun) glasses, her advice on helping kids through divorce seems sound in any situation. “That’s how we talk to the kids, both Kelli and I, we tell them the truth,” she said, on explaining to her daughter that family endures even if the parents no longer live in the same house.
But does this calm, open approach to divorce really have anything to do with being gay–or simply with being a compassionate parent? It certainly has not been my experience that gay couples are necessarily “better” at dealing with breakups than straight couples.
Despite the weird gay/straight dichotomy O’Donnell seems to be setting up, it’s refreshing to see HBO airing a documentary on family values by a divorced, gay woman.