The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Savaging Gay Families

We had a pretty good weekend with Parker. On Saturday, we took him to his swimming lesson and then to the library for our regular (once every three weeks) visit, where we checked out some books for him that we spent the better part of the evening reading to him. His favorites right now are Curious George and The Magic Schoolbus.

Reading to him has become even more enjoyable because he’s showing even more interest in the words. He’ll stop us in the middle of a sentence and ask questions like “Which one spells ‘George’?”. And after we spell it for him, the next time he sees the word on a page he point it out, saying “That spells ‘George,’ and that spells ‘George’, and that spells ‘George.’ And he gets it right every time. As a writer and an avid reader, naturally I hope my son develops the kind of love for books and reading that I did as a child, because I think it will serve him as well as it has me.

Sunday we took Parker on a special trip to Baltimore, to visit the National Aquarium. We’d gone once before, when Parker was a couple of years younger, and we thought this time he’d be old enough to enjoy it. We were right. He didn’t care much for the larger fish, though he was fascinated by the dolphins. And he thoroughly enjoyed looking at the smaller fish, some of which he recognized from Finding Nemo, and called them by the names of the characters in the movie. The frog exhibit was a big hit too. He seemed to recognize the tree frogs from watching Go, Diego, Go!, and got a kick out of calling the red ones “strawberry frogs.”

After we got home, we baked a cherry pie together, because we figured it was something Parker would enjoy. Once it was in the oven, I surprised him with a DVD of he favorite-movie-of-the-moment, Cars, which I’d secretly purchased on Saturday. I got the idea when Parker relayed the entire plot to me a couple of weekends ago. We watched it together, and I think he enjoyed sharing the movie with us.

Finally, that evening, I helped Parker brush his teeth before bed. We’re transitioning him to a “big boy” toothpaste, and trying to teach him to spit it out rather than swallowing it. He was anxious to show me how well he could brush his own teeth. Then I took him upstairs, as it was my turn, read Goodnight Moon to him, tucked him in and kissed him good night.

It wasn’t until that evening, after the weekend described above, that I finally sat down to catch up on blog reading and saw Michael Savage’s comments.

Now, I don’t normally pay much attention to Michael Savage, or spend much time here responding to his comments. But I think it’s worthwhile because however extreme he may be, Savage is part of a conservative media noise machine that keeps him employed because he says the things that conservative leaders can’t say, and in a way that they couldn’t get away with.

And personally, because I don’t think anything about the weekend we had with our son, or the relationship we have with him, constitutes what Michael Savage calls “child abuse.”

ETHERIDGE: I have to thank my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children, Becky and Bailey and Johnnie Rose and Miller, and everyone –

SAVAGE: Turn it off. Get her off my show. I don’t care what her name is. I don’t like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. How’s that? I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it’s child abuse. That’s my opinion — one man’s opinion. If it’s illegal, tell me it’s illegal to have an opinion in America. Maybe I can be excommunicated for having an opinion.

Savage’s remarks got him dropped by his agency, which prompted him to complain about being “attacked” due to “hatred” against him before continuing his initial attack.

SAVAGE: Then there was this case of this woman, really, who I really have heard of from time to time — who gets up and says she thanks her wife. I find it nauseating, and I said that. Play it again. Play this Etheridge [unintelligible].

ETHERIDGE clip: I have to thank my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children –

SAVAGE: All right, I find it nauseating. Turn it off. Now, I said that on Monday, that I find it nauseating, the idea of a woman saying “my wife.” She didn’t have to rub our face in it. She had no obligation to make us all listen to her agenda.

Nevermind that there was not a single heterosexual Oscar recipient that night who did not thank their spouse or significant other. Forrest Whittaker thanked his wife. Hellen Mirren thanked her husband. Jennifer Hudson thanked her boyfriend. The composer who received the special award of the evening even had his wife serenaded by Celine Dione, singing one of his compositions, before thanking her in his speech. And on, and on. Etheridge wasn’t doing anything that anyone else who got a statue didn’t do. But that’s another post for another time.

I’ll give Savage and his 8 million listeners the benefit of assuming that the things I’m about to name would also make them “want to puke.” But since I described what our family did this weekend, it makes sense to include some of the stuff we didn’t do, because it would never cross our minds to do any of it.

We didn’t leave our child locked in a squalid apartment that smelled of feces and urine.

We didn’t leave him locked in his room with the windows nailed shut.

He wasn’t sold to buy a car.

He wasn’t locked a cage.

We didn’t leave him with lacerations covering 80% of his body.

We didn’t beat him to death to keep him from turning out gay.

We didn’t kill him while trying to exorcise him.

He wasn’t thrown off a bridge as a sacrifice to God.

He wasn’t rented to a pedophile and then held down.

The parents who did all of the above were heterosexual, but I’m not saying that they’re actions are typical of heterosexual parents. I’m not even saying that Michael Savage and his audience approve of what these parents did, or that they’d approve of what any of the parents blogged at Parents Behaving Badly did to their children. Savage and his audience would probably agree that these people forfeited their right to be considered parents when they shrugged off the responsibility to care for and nurture their children. I’d agree with that as well.

But the problem is that Savage and his audience put me and the hubby — and all gay & lesbian parents — in the same category as the parents above; child abusers. And not because we do anything to our kids like the parents above did to theirs, or would ever do anything like that. In our case, the very act of parenting together — doing things much like the things my family did this weekend — qualifies as abuse.

Never mind that we’ve never laid a hand on our son to strike him, or that we rarely raise our voices to him. Never mind that he’s healthy, confident, inquisitive, thriving, and doing everything a kid his age is supposed to do. Nerve mind that how he runs to meet me, grinning and yelling “Daddy” when I come home and he spots me coming up the street, or how excited he is to tell me about his day.

To Savage and his audience, my son is an abused child, because he has two fathers. Having us as a family means he might as well have suffered everything the children above suffered at the hands of their parents, even though we’re not doing what those parents did. It doesn’t matter to Savage and his audience that their beliefs about gay parents have no basis in reality. It doesn’t matter that 30 years and 67 studies haven’t proven their “fears and smears” against gay parents, and have actually gone further to prove them wrong.

The 30-year search for proof that gay parents are destructive looks a lot like the hunt for WMD. The American Psychological Association has compiled abstracts of 67 studies. Some are plainly biased, and only the latest two or three have avoided the methodological flaws of earlier investigations. But after 67 tries, you’d expect the harm of gay parenting to show up somewhere. Yet in study after study, on measure after measure, kids turn out the same.

And the latest such study supports gay & lesbian adoptive parents as much as heterosexual adoptive parents.

Adoptive parents invest more time and financial resources in their children than biological parents, according to a new national study challenging arguments that have been used to oppose same-sex marriage and gay adoption.

The study, published in the new issue of the American Sociological Review, found that couples who adopt spend more money on their children and invest more time on such activities as reading to them, eating together and talking with them about their problems.

“One of the reasons adoptive parents invest more is that they really want children, and they go to extraordinary means to have them,” Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell, one of the study’s three co-authors, said in a telephone interview Monday.

“Adoptive parents face a culture where, to many other people, adoption is not real parenthood,” Powell said. “What they’re trying to do is compensate. … They recognize the barriers they face, and it sets the stage for them to be better parents.”

… The researchers said their findings call into question the long-standing argument that children are best off with their biological parents. Such arguments were included in state Supreme Court rulings last year in New York and Washington that upheld laws against same-sex marriage.

The researchers said gay and lesbian parents may react to discrimination by taking extra, compensatory steps to promote their children’s welfare.

“Ironically, the same social context that creates struggles for these alternative families may also set the stage for them to excel in some measures of parenting,” the study concluded.

It makes sense when you think about it. Gays and lesbians don’t often become parents by accident. That is, we tend not to “fall down drunk and wake up pregnant,” but instead we become parents by deliberate intent and often through long and difficult processes. Legally adopting, in my experience, means going through a process that includes fingerprinting, a criminal background check by the FBI, and a series of visits with a social worker to determine our psychological and emotional fitness as parents. And that’s just to get to the point of being considered.

But even before starting that process, we usually have to spend time talking with each other about how and when we want to become parents, why we want to be parents, and how we want to raise our families. And afterwards we go to extraordinary means to protect our families, though that usually means securing only a few of the protections other families enjoy.

If heterosexual couples had to go through a similar process, there would probably be fewer stories like the ones above. But that doesn’t occur to Savage and his audience. They would rather see a child taken away from a gay couple who took him in when he was born HIV positive, to a crack-addicted mother, and no other family members wanted him.

An eight-month old child has been removed from the foster care of a same-sex Miami couple and the men say the decision was based solely on the fact they are gay.

The HIV-positive baby had been placed with Roger Carillo and partner Hiram Perez The Children’s Society when his birth mother, a crack addict was deemed unfit. At the time no other family member wanted the child, named Ricky.

When he was born he weighed only 4.5 pounds. Since being with Carillo and Perez little Ricky has gained weight – he now weighs 20 pounds – and despite his HIV status is otherwise healthy.

The couple applied to become permanent foster parents for the child but shortly after making the application this week men received a call from The Children’s Society that a caseworker would come by to pick up Ricky.

Tuesday, shortly before noon the caseworker arrived with three police officers to reclaim Ricky.

… Carillo and Perez say they were dumbfounded and believe the child is being given to the grandmother because they are gay. They say that when Ricky was placed with them the grandmother did not want him.

Under Florida law gays cannot adopt but can be foster parents.

I can’t help but wonder if the grandmother is the same one who raised the crack-addicted birthmother or the birthfather who’s apparently disappeared (though I imagine this is the maternal grandmother), and why the state of Florida thinks the child would be better off with her, but this story is similar to the story of the Lofton family and their fight to keep the son they raised since he was nine-weeks old.

Bert was born in 1991 and placed as a foster child with Steve and Roger when he was just nine weeks old. He came into a bustling home with two very hands-on fathers and three toddlers. Like the other kids, he tested positive for HIV at birth.

In 1994, a Florida case-worker noted that Bert was “thriving” in Steve and Roger’s care, and urged them to apply to adopt him—even though they would surely be rejected because they’re gay, and Florida law bans all gay people from adopting children.

They left the question about sexual orientation blank, so the application was denied.

Over the years, Bert has grown into a smart, intuitive, funny kid. He is 10 years old now. He’s popular at school, and equally enjoys sports and art. He’s learning how to play chess. He likes spending time with Frank and Tracy and the two little ones, Wayne and Ernie.

Unlike the other kids, Bert no longer tests positive for HIV today—which makes him “adoptable.” On June 21, 2001, Bert’s caseworker called Steve and told him she was looking for someone else to adopt Bert. The caseworker asked Steve if he or Roger knew anyone who might be interested. Evidently, Bert’s file was next in the stack of kids who had been in foster care too long and would need to be moved into permanent adoptive homes.

Even in cases like this, my guess is that Savage and his audience would say that Bert Lofton endured 10 years of abuse that left him a healthy, thriving little boy. They would probably oppose bills like the ones proposed in Michigan and New Hampshire to make our families more secure by explicitly allowing same-sex couples to adopt together, so that our children aren’t left vulnerable by having only one legal parent because of differences in how adoptions are handled from one county to the next.

But if I said Savage and his audience would prefer to see our children suffer for having same-sex parents, I’d be accused of bigotry and slander. If I suggested that Savage and his audience are complicit in stories like this attack on a gay family I’d be accused of taking things too far.

Harper Junior High School student, Zack, hasn’t been to school in almost a month. He says after years of being teased because his father is gay, one day, it went too far.

Several students were disciplined, from detention to suspension. But Zack’s father says it’s not enough, especially when his son went back to school and was teased again.

Almost two weeks ago, at a standing room only school board meeting, dozens of people from the community gave three hours of emotional testimony.

Davis school leaders say they’ve held assemblies, conducted staff meetings and held classroom discussions about bullying and harassment. They hope to eventually get Zack back in the classroom.

To complicate matters, the family’s car was torched in front of their South Davis home in October. While police say there’s no evidence of a hate crime, Zack and his father say they fear what could happen next.

Savage has a right to say what he wants about our families, and his audience has as right But if Savage and his audience can make false claims about the consequences of gay parenting, can I begin to suggest that when he savages our families on his program and his audience applaud him and then savages our families at the ballot box that they also bear some complicity when the consequences of their words and actions come to roost on our doorsteps?

5 Comments

  1. Terrence, brother…I feel you on every count. I doubt someone like Savage, or those who voted against your option to marry, know you or WOULD care to know parents such as yourselves.

    You’re still and abstract theory to them, and not a solid reality. Yet, it’s thes solid reality of your lives, that’s taking the hit.
    I resent it, I resent it big time.
    I have had the good luck to know gay and lesbian parents and their children.
    Many.
    Perhaps it’s just my intense involvement in the marriage equality movement that I would know a lot of gay parents, but these are folks who NEED to marry, whose obligations REQUIRE it.
    Like ethnically mixed parents, gay parents know their need to have a network of other parents who share their background and children of similar ages.
    Loving parents, however, gain a network of competent and caring adults, regardless of background.
    What I’ve loved about adoptive gay parents is they most often have children of different colors from themselves. Different physical competence, and gender roles are not an issue in these households. Therefore you get kids for whom color, disability, gender and religion, or sexual orientation are accepted unconditionally.
    Gay parents are invested in their kids to be in a world with less prejudice…and why is THIS a problem for others who themselves don’t adopt children in this way or this reason but far more selfish ones?

  2. First time to come to your BLOG,I like it and support you.Happy Everyday!

    Greeno In Beijing

  3. Pingback: Mombian: Sustenance for Lesbian Moms » Blog Archive » Homophobia and Protecting Our Children

  4. Found you via Carnival of the Liberals, and will be back. I support your fight to care for your son.

  5. You are a model citizen, from what you describe. We need more gay american heros. We need an Army of Homo(Heros) like Larry Kramer says, to rise up, and demand equal rights. I bow to you.

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