The widespread mockery and suspicion of Gaetz’s relationship with Nestor isn’t just due to the congressman’s personality, however; it reflects sexist assumptions about parenthood. If Gaetz had been a woman, I doubt people would have questioned his relationship to Nestor quite so much. Women are expected to have strong maternal instincts – but we barely talk about paternal instincts. Women are expected to adore children, but society is automatically suspicious of a man who is fond of kids. A woman smiling at small children in the street? Totally natural. A man smiling at small children in the street? Call the police!
Gaetz will never understand what it’s like to be a black man in America. However, he now has the opportunity to help people – not least his fellow Republicans –understand that “family” comes in many forms and that a single man is more than capable of having paternal instincts and being a good dad. Parenthood is supposed to change people; let’s hope publicly acknowledging Nestor changes Gaetz for the better.