The Republic of T.

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

Further Adventures in Poisonous Parenting

I guess I don’t need to say it, given the three previous posts, but “Poisonous Parenting” has morphed into a series at this point. And while I’ve heard the criticism about posting these stories in this context, I stand by the point I made in the previous post.

The point is that there are people who put me and other gay parents in the same category as these parents. The point is that there are people who believe that being heterosexual makes someone an inherently better candidate for parenthood and that being gay makes one an inherently inferior parent, because gay parents are abusive and selfish by definition. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do to your kids. Being heterosexual doesn’t automatically make you a good parent, but you can’t be a good parent and be gay, according to their logic.

…But because I’m a gay dad, it doesn’t matter what I do. Because of the reasons mentioned above, I supposedly belong in the same category as some of these parents; and maybe even a step or two lower, because at least they’re heterosexual. If they clean up their acts, they can still be good parents. Better than me, even.

There’s something actually a bit deeper going on with this line of thinking, but it didn’t occur to me until I re-read “…you can’t be gay and be a good parent.”

Asking “Can you be gay and be a good parent?” is just one step removed from asking “Can you be gay and be a good person?”

It comes down to a basic question: Can you be gay and be a good person? Can you be good person and be gay? Can you be gay and good? Good and gay? From religious conservatives, there seem to be two answers: Maybe. And no.

Answering the former depends on how you answer the latter. And in that sense, I’m still stuck on the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling on same-sex marriage. In particular, I’m stuck on this passage from the majority opinion.

“Looking beyond the fact that any inquiry into the ability or willingness of a couple actually to bear a child during marriage would violate the fundamental right to marital privacy recognized in Griswold, 381 U.S. at 484-86, 493, 85 S. Ct. at 1681, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, the fundamental right to marriage and its ensuing benefits are conferred on opposite-sex couples not because of a distinction between whether various opposite-sex couples actually procreate, but rather because of the possibility of procreation.”
-Judge Glenn Harrell, Jr.

Now, maybe it’s because both of our kids are sleeping in the room as I write this. (Being a blogging dad with a newborn baby, for me, means stationing the pack-n-play/basinette near my desk at night, so I can handle feedings until I go to bed.) But I find it galling that some people think because the hubby and I (a) have the same plumbing and (b) didn’t use it conceive and deliver the two children we’ve adopted and are raising, we (c) are inherently inferior as parents and (d) should not be permitted to marry because we didn’t make the babies we love and care for every single day.

The flip side of that seem to be that heterosexuals are inherently better parents and better people (thus deserving the rights and protections of marriage, whereas we don’t), no matter what they do. As Regan put it in her comment on a post linked above, “Murderers, thieves and adulterers…can all marry. Once and again, as long as they are heterosexual.”

So, in this on going series, you might say I’m scrutinizing the ways of my apparent “betters” — as a person and a parent — to determine where I’m falling short. That is, besides the obvious. And sometimes it might seem like I’m going for the low-hanging fruit, or even picking on people who have enough problems already. But these are people who are a rung or two above me on the parenting and personhood scales. Else, why would they have rights and protections that I don’t and can’t?

So, I can’t afford not to look at all of the above and ask myself what they’re doing that I’m not. Right.

For instance, I’ve never left my kids in a hot car. (Nor have I been stupid enough to leave them in a car parked outside of the county jail.)

2006166683691047300 RsA Prince George’s County mother faces child abuse charges –after she allegedly– left her babies in a parked vehicle.

Trina Hall of Indian Head, Md. was arrested after police say she left two young children unattended in a vehicle on Saturday.

…The two little girls — ages three months, and one year old, respectively — were allegedly left in the car, and were dehydrated, and sweating profusely.

A sheriffs department spokeswoman tells 9News Now that Trina Hall was visiting someone who was an incarcerated offender at the Frederick County Detention Center, and that the investigation indicates the children were left alone inside the vehicle for approximately 50 minutes.

EMS personnel were first on the scene. The children were seen distressed, crying and sweating profusely. Temperatures climbed into the high 80’s in Frederick on Saturday.

Presuming that Trina Hall is (a) heterosexual (no word yet on whether the incarcerated person she was visiting was the father of either baby, or both) and (b) made those babies with her own organs, I could learn a lot from Trina. Those two little girls are luckier than Cecilia Slaby who was left behind in an SUV — forgotten, actually — for eight hours. In fact, I first saw this story on the television in the maternity ward waiting room last week.

2003298412193121635 RsA 2-year-old girl found dead inside a sweltering sport utility vehicle was there for at least eight hours and died of systemic hyperthermia, or heat-related causes, a coroner’s office said Friday.

Cecilia Slaby was strapped in a car seat in the rear of the vehicle, which was in the parking lot Thursday of Glen Este Middle School, where her mother is an assistant principal, authorities said. The windows on the vehicle were up.

Brenda Nesselroad-Slaby, 40, reported to work about 7:15 a.m. for meetings on academic plans for the upcoming school year, said Gary Brooks, superintendent of the West Clermont school district.

Her daughter was in the vehicle until about 3 p.m., said Debbie Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Clermont County coroner’s office. Police arrived at the scene after receiving several 911 calls about 3:15 p.m. from school staff who spotted the girl.

Temperatures in the area reached 100 degrees Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

“She’s blistered and everything else,” a teacher helping perform CPR on the girl told a 911 operator.

Nesselroad-Slaby ran out of the school building and cradled the girl in her arms, according to 911 calls.

Now it might seem a bit heartless to cast a “poisonous” spotlight on a parent who has to be grief-stricken beyond measure. People in her community are divided, after all. That may be why no charges were filed against her. (It’s against the law for same-sex couples to marry in Ohio, thanks to a state constitutional amendment passed in 2004, but there’s no law against leaving your kid locked in the car for eight hours, in 100 degree weather.) According to the news report I saw, there was a lot of debate in the community over whether she would keep her job.

The problem is, Cecilia had been left alone in the car before. Often.

2004207821859245871 RsDocuments released by Union Township police Wednesday show that two-year-old Cecilia Slaby had been left unattended in family vehicles numerous times before she died in her mother’s hot car behind Glen Este Middle School August 23.

That information was contained in a 38-page report sent to Clermont County Prosecutor Don White, who on Tuesday said he would not prosecute Brenda Slaby, the child’s mother, in the case.

…According to the police report, the three incidents occurred at The Compass School on Waterstone Boulevard in Deerfield Township, Warren County. The Slaby’s older daughter is enrolled there as a student. Two were this past winter and the third was on August 21.

A parent at the school, Karen Clary, told police that in the winter of 2007, she saw a baby alone in a car outside the school when she dropped off one of her children. She told police that a short time later, a man came out of the school, got in the car and drove away.

A week later, Clary reported the same baby alone in the same car. The parents turned out to be the Slabys.

…Two other incidents happened in the two days immediately before Cecilia’s death, according to the police report.

On August 21, a teacher at the school, Tara Phillips, told police that Slaby came to pick her daughter up at 5:10 p.m. She allegedly told the child to hurry up, “because the baby was in the car.”

When officers questioned Phillips about how long Cecilia was in the car, she replied, “approximately two minutes.” The next day, Brenda Slaby came to the school at 3:05 p.m. and her daughter asked her to watch her part in a play.

“Mom stayed and they both left at 3:15 p.m.,” Phillips noted. “Mom didn’t go outside to check on the baby.”

Now, maybe I’m hyper-vigiliant, but I’ve never left either of our kids in the car alone. Even when Parker was a baby, I actually felt bad that he had to wait in car even for the amount of time it took me to walk around to open his door and take him out.

And if he has to wait in the car, for behavioral reasons, I wait with him. In fact, yesterday I had to escort Parker out of the grocery store due to a “hearing problem” (he apparently couldn’t hear me saying “Stop” and “Come here” repeatedly), and let the hubby finish picking up the few items we needed for dinner. I put Parker in his car seat, got in the car myself, and then turned the car on (and locked the doors) so we’d have A/C for the few minutes we were watin for the rest of the family to finish shopping.

But Tara and Trina are heterosexuals, and can apparently make babies with their chosen partners.

Somehow that they’re heterosexual puts them ahead of me in the realm of parenting, as a gay dad with two un-baked kids. And, because they made those babieswith their own reproductive organs, thus proving their reproductive capabilities — no matter how well they parented them once they got them out of the delivery room — they meet the Maryland Court of Appeals minimum requirement to be deemed worthy of the rights and protections of marriage, for themselves, their spouses and their children.

Not so for my family.

So, help me out here. What can I learn from Tara and Trina here to make me a better parent and thus perhaps worthy equal marriage protection?

One Comment

  1. I hear you. And unfortunately, right now, there’s not much we can do… but times are changing. They need to change *faster* though!

    Whenever there’s a story about a kid left helpless and trapped in a car, it makes me want to go postal on the offending parent. And I do point out the hypocrisy to folks in discussions — I ask them point-blank “How does being straight and married and killing your kid somehow *automatically* make you a better parent than someone else who is gay, legally not able to marry, and who adopts a child into a loving home and family?” I’ve never had anyone be able to adequately answer that question. I hope they take those thoughts that I’ve spurred and mull them over a bit more…

    I completely fail to understand the people who have the gall to equate gay parents with bad parenting a priori. I also fail to understand those people who automatically equate gay men with pedophiles.

    Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t realize how normal gay people are. None of my gay housemates were into kids, you know? None of my gay housemates were perverts or dangerous, or all that crap that the fundies all spout. They were all great, kind, caring individuals.

    (And BTW, they were a *lot* better about divvying up house responsibilities than any of the straight housemates……)

    I love your blog, and wish you much respect,