The Republic of T.

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

Poisonous Parenting vs. “Real” Parenting

This weekend, the hubby and I took advantage of the baby-sitting co-op we joined when we moved into our, got a babysitter and went out to a friend’s birthday party; something we haven’t done in about a year. It was a chance to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while, all of whom asked us how Parker is doing and how old he is now. When we said that Parker is five years old one friend of ours noted how happy and “unstressed” the hubby and I appeared to be the parents of a five year old boy, and implied that means we must be doing something right.

I like to think so. In the five years that have passed since I walked out of the hospital into a cold November night with our son, I’ve discovered that now I never stop being a parent. From the first step I worried that he might get too cold going the short distance between the hospital and the car. Anyone who meets Parker immediately notes what a healthy, energetic, smart kid he is. I like to think we had something to do with that, and that it means we’re doing our jobs as fathers well.

But every so often I run in to someone who questions whether we are “real” parents, or just two people taking care of somebody else’s kid; in other words, glorified babysitters. People like the on who left the following comment in a previous post in this growing series.

Just curious:

How did you get to be a “father” if you are gay? I thought they compared being gay to being black. You’re born that way and that’s it. I don’t know too many black people that changed their color except for Michael Jackson. Any relation?

I left the following comment in response.

Just over five years ago, my husband and I adopted a four-day-old baby boy, whose birth mother chose us to be his adoptive parents because, in her words, she felt we would raise him with unconditional love and give him the best education. He is now a happy, healthy five year old who loves to run and climb and swim. He’s a smart kid who’s already reading, and surprises me at times by reading something I didn’t know he could read. He goes to the library every three week, and checks out books that we then read to him for the next three weeks. He’s a five year old boy who last week spontaneously jumped into my arms, gave me a hug, and said “Daddy, you’re the best,” and who has also declared that when he grows up he wants to live next door to his Daddy and Papa.

We did not bring him in the world, but we are raising him, loving him, and equipping him to make his own way in the world and hopefully leaving it a better place for his having been in it. If not bringing him into the world makes me less of a father, what does bringing him into the world make the man who — having gotten him conceived — walked away from the rest of the job? One that we have happily, willingly taken on, and would do so again in a heartbeat? Is the bar for fatherhood now set no higher than ejaculation?

I am black. I am gay. I am as black as I am gay, and as gay as I am black. I have been black for as long as I have been gay, and I have been gay for as long as I have been black. I have been both for as long as I have been a person in the world. The only way you or anyone else can claim to know differently is to have walked around in my skin for 38 years.

Apparently, in this commenter’s eyes someone who ejaculates and evacuates is more of a father than someone like me, who’s spent the last five years loving and raising an amazing little boy. And, if I may say so myself, doing a pretty good job of it. If you can achieve ejaculation and/or ovulation, you can probably achieve procreation, and nothing else deserves much consideration. This sounds vaguely like the logic of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

“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.

By this primitive logic, making babies is privileged above all else, including loving and raising the resulting children in homes where they can grow up knowing they are loved, wanted, safe, respected, and appreciated. So long as you have the working body parts to get them into the world, it matters somewhat less whether you have the capacity or desire to see them safely through it.

I thought about writing another extension in this series when I read a follow-up on the Baby Grace story. It reminded me of Parker’s first words, which were “thank you.” Actually, it was a baby translation of “thank you” which came out “dee doo!” when Parker said it. I don’t know if he picked it up from he hubby and I, or whether he learned it from his teachers, but it was an unusual and endearing first word. Baby Grace, who’s real name was Riley Ann Sawyers, was basically killed for not saying “please.”

According to court documents, Trenor, 19, told police she and her husband killed the girl in July and hid her body in a shed before dumping it in the bay.

Stickler said Zeigler, 24, was overwhelmed by his sudden fatherhood and didn’t know what behavior to expect from a toddler. Trenor moved with her daughter from Mentor, Ohio, to Texas in June to be with Zeigler, whom she met online.

Zeigler wanted his wife to spank Riley with a belt when she failed to say things like “please” and “yes sir” or “no sir,” Stickler said Wednesday. Zeigler didn’t believe Trenor was doing it, however, because the 2-year-old’s behavior wasn’t changing.

The fatal beating happened after Zeigler stayed home from work to make sure his wife was following his discipline plan, Stickler said.

In her statement to Galveston authorities, Trenor said the girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor.

Trenor is (a) fertile — having made a baby with Riley Ann’s biological father — and (b) heterosexual, having gone from Riley Ann’s biological father to Zeigler, who became Riley Ann’s stepfather. In the eyes of the commenter, Trenor is probably still more of a parent than the hubby and I will ever be. And in the eyes of the Maryland Court of Appeals she and Zeigler are more deserving of the rights and protections, because Trenor made a baby, and she and Zeigler could possibly make a baby.

That they beat Riley Ann with belts, held her head under water, and threw her across the room doesn’t enter the equation. Trenor and Zeigler could marry each other tomorrow and no one would be able to legally stop them. Remember, even convicted serial killers have the right to marry. (Serial killers who, by the way, usually don’t have a right to conjugal visits).

You can see samples of Ramirez’s work — but consider yourself warned that the images are graphic and very NSFW — here, here and here.

And “Manson Family” member Tex Watson married and divorced while in prison. You can see samples of his work — again with the warning that the images are very graphic and NSFW — here.

And the late Ted Bundy, albeit through manipulating Florida law on courtroom declarations (still something same-sex couples can’t do), managed to get married on his way to death row. He even managed to make a baby, which means he makes the cut for marriage as far as the Maryland Court of Appeals is concerned, despite — and again, the warnings about graphic, NSFW images apply — what he did in his spare time.

What’s my point? Well, as the examples above point out, there is almost nothing you can do to lose the right to marry. Even what these guys did couldn’t lose them the right to marry (even if it did lose them the right to make babies as there are no conjugal visits on death row, though Bundy even found a way around that). It’s that basic a human, civil right. Nothing you do can cause you to lose that right.

Nothing except love another man if you’re a man, or love another woman if you’re a woman.

Then, it doesn’t matter what you do — how many happy healthy children you do raise, or how many people you actually don’t kill. If you’re gay, no matter what you do, you can’t marry the (consenting adult) partner of your choice. If you’re heterosexual, it doesn’t matter what you do — how high the body count, or how many of your own or somebody else’s kids are part of that body count — you can marry the (consenting adult) partner of your choice.

The 21-year-old Hagerstown, MD, man who was just convicted of killing his girlfriend’s baby could marry that same girlfriend the day after his sentencing if he wants and she wants. Even though a doctor called Justice Stotler’s injuries the worst he’d ever seen. The four-month-old baby boy didn’t have an easy death either.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comA Hagerstown man remains in jail without bail on charges that he murdered his girlfriend’s 4-month-old son.

At a bond hearing Monday afternoon, Floyd Bingaman, 20, made no comment about allegations that he killed Justice Stotler by shaking him and either hitting him in the head with a blunt object or smacking his head against a wall.

Justice died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore early Saturday morning, about 28 hours after he was hurt, officials said.

Presumably, Bingaman is heterosexual, and we know the girlfriend/mother is fertile and likes men well enough to at least reproduce with one. If they showed up at the courthouse to see the justice o’ the peace at the same time the hubby and I show up — with a happy, healthy, living child we didn’t happen to conceive — guess which couple would get waive through and which would get turned away.

Dan Porter is free to marry again too, after kidnapping and killing his son and daughter to get back at his ex-wife.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comThe father of two children whose remains were found in a shallow grave more than three years after they disappeared confessed publicly and was charged Tuesday in their shootings.

Dan Porter, 44, is already serving a 38-year prison term for kidnapping his son, Sam, 7, and daughter, Lindsey, 8, in order to terrorize their mother.
He was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree murder.

Speaking to reporters after a brief court appearance, Porter admitted he killed his children, apologized and said he thinks about them all the time.
“I can’t get them out of my mind,” he said as he was escorted from the courtroom to a sheriff’s van.

The children’s bones were found in September in a wooded area near the Missouri River in nearby Sugar Creek and were identified using dental records. The children had been missing since Porter picked them up at their mother’s house for a weekend visit in the summer of 2004.

This is the same father who last year initially told police that his children were sold to a child porn ring (and later that he strangled them, and cut them up) when the reality was that he brought them into the world and then took them out of it. In the eyes of some people, that he brought them into the world makes him more of a “real” father than the hubby or I could ever be to our five-old-son who is safely sleeping upstairs in his room as I write this. In the eyes of the Maryland Court of Appeals, that Porter has reproduced and could possibly reproduce again makes him a better candidate for marriage than the hubby and me.

So would Tessa Noel Zelek and James Alvin McCart, who starved and abused their two children. And probably the grandmother who discovered the children’s condition and did not report it, who also happens to be special education coordinator. Grandma was busy teaching a class on child development when she was arrested.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comClayton County police charged the grandmother and parents of 13-month-old twin boys with child abuse after discovering the children weigh less than 10 pounds each — far below the 27-39 pound range for children that age.

The grandmother, Christi Ann Zelek, is the special education coordinator for Henry County schools. Clayton County police Chief Jeff Turner said she is also charged with failing to report the child abuse as state law requires education employees to do.

Zelek was teaching a class on early childhood development at Union Grove High School when Clayton police took her into custody.

“During the interview with police, Christi Zelek told us there was ‘nothing wrong with those children,’ ” said Officer William Clendenen.

The babies are in state custody while receiving medical care at Egleston Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Turner said the boys weigh 8 and 9 pounds.

The weight range for children their age is 27-39 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Zelek and her daughter, Tessa Noel Zelek, and the twins’ father, James Alvin McCart III, both 23, were arrested Thursday.

Turner said Christi Zelek went to the couple’s home at LaCosta Mobile Home Park in Lovejoy Nov. 20 and found the parents passed out and unresponsive.

The severely malnourished twins were in another room, Turner said.

Turner said the grandmother deliberately evaded medical services intervention.

“Instead of calling emergency medical services, she called a family member in Fayetteville to come pick up the twins, specifically to keep police and state welfare from discovering the condition of the children,” Turner said Friday. “Then she cleaned up the mobile home before calling emergency medical services for the couple.”

They may have been passed own in a cocaine-induced stupor while their kids starved in another room, but Zelek and McCart are more “real” parents than the hubby and I, even though I get up ever morning and give Parker breakfast while the hubby makes his lunch, and we sit down for family dinners several evenings each week. Likewise, the Maryland Court of Appeals would allow Zelek and McCart to marry, and not even have the kids at least weigh-in first, because they made babies. That they starved and neglected them afterwards doesn’t matter much.

Likewise Carlina and Ryan Davis who, in their alcohol induced stupor, didn’t hear their two-year-old screaming in the back seat.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comThe 2-year-old child of a drunken Oldsmar couple was inside their running car, hysterically crying and trying to wake them, when a Largo Mall security guard spotted the family in the mall’s parking lot Saturday night, Largo police said.

The guard banged on the car’s window for 30 to 45 minutes, but got no response, Largo police Sgt. Mark Young said. Police, who were called about 9:20 p.m., had to remove the mother from the 1997 Ford Taurus to wake her.

“Neither had any memories of the last several hours,” Young said. “Neither has any recollection of how they got to Largo Mall. The last thing they remembered was they were drinking on a boat somewhere. The mom thought it was Monday, not Saturday night.”

Carlina Elizabeth Davis and Ryan Andrew Davis face one count each of child neglect without great bodily harm.

The couple, who also have a week-old child in a hospital’s intensive care unit, remain in the Pinellas County Jail, Young said.

There’s the man and wife from Chippewa County, WI, who not only beat but tortured their two sons.

On Oct. 18, a Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department investigator and a Department of Human Services case worker spoke with a 6-year-old boy at Cadott Elementary School. The boy had a large bruise on his left upper hip area, a bruise across his back above the belt line and bruising on the left jaw and ear area. The investigators indicate they learned that the boy’s mother had slapped him on the face and his step-father had used a belt to punish him.

The investigators were also made aware of an incident in which, after being struck with a belt, the boy was duct taped to his step-brother as they were standing outside with their pants off, and water was was poured on them.

The information was confirmed by the 7-year-old boy, who had also received a spanking with a belt, though he did not suffer bruises.

They have a marriage license though, earned — at bottom — by the ability to ovulate, ejaculate, and thus procreate, and that can’t be taken away from them no matter what happens to the kids beyond the birth canal.

That couple is only outdone by Armando and Tanuja Heredia, whose child torture reached new depths and even took on religious overtones.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comA local nurse and a former prison guard from Atascadero were sentenced Wednesday for abusing their adopted sons. Investigators said the couple mistreated the boys by duct-taping their hands together, making them pay for food and keeping both boys in a jail cell-like bedroom.

Armando Ramirez Heredia, 40, was sentenced to 270 days in County Jail and five years of formal probation after pleading no contest — which results in a conviction without admitting guilt—to two felony counts of willful cruelty to a child likely to cause injury.

Tanuja Rana Heredia was sentenced to five years’ probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor count of allowing a child to suffer injuries.

…Investigators believe the boys were abused for several years in the Heredia home, according to court records.

Atascadero police learned of alleged abuse after the then- 13-year-old boy ran away on Oct. 31, 2005, to a neighbor’s house.

“(The boy) looked like he was shaken up and had some cuts and scrapes on his body. (The boy) related that he had just run away from home because his parents had been treating him badly, hurting him, making him wear a weighted backpack day and night and spraying him with the hose while he split firewood,” court documents said.

The boy told police he had not eaten for two days and that his parents made him wear a backpack with 20-pound weights for several days. His mother pulled him by the ears and his father put him in a wristlock and twisted his arm, the records show.

“He also spoke of several occasions where his hands were duct-taped together after he had stolen food,” according to court documents that described the boy as weighing 89 pounds.

…Armando Heredia told police the older boy stole food from the home and a store and his punishment was to earn money to pay for the food by chopping wood for $1 per log. Spraying cold water on him was a way to make the boy work faster, the father said.

Armando Heredia told police the backpack was a “burden pack … like the burden of sin,” and was used to help the child admit he had done something wrong.

Armando Heredia denied that the boy had not eaten for two days.

Again, the Heredia’s have a marriage license. The hubby and I don’t, can’t, and won’t if the Maryland Court of Appeals has the last word. And some people put the word “father” or “parents” in quotation marks because we are less “real” parents than those who can make babies, whatever they might do to them once the afterbirth is washed off.

I look at the parents above and ask myself what makes them less “real” than the hubby and me as parents. In the time it took to ovulate, ejaculate, and thus procreate, they did indeed manage to do something the hubby and I can’t do. At least not with one another. For the last five years, however, we’ve managed to do something the parents above and the rest of the parents in this series did not. We do it every day, because it’s what we love most of all to do, and we’ll continue to do it: loving, teaching, guiding, protecting, and raising our son to a happy, healthy adulthood.

Tell me again. Why do we deserve less recognition, and fewer rights and protections than them?


  1. You and your husband make great fathers.

  2. T.,

    Everything you say really rings true. I must have been plugged into your brain the same day when I wrote this.

    I hope someday our families will be afforded the protections that other people get. Until that day, be safe, be happy, be good.

  3. I really thank you for writing this and definitely opening up my eyes. I applaud you for adopting a child and doing your job as a parent. That is disgusting how others think less of you for it and do not even appreciate your fathering capabilities. I’m from Mcdonough, Ga and actually knew of Tessa Zelek. When I first started dating my husband, he had mentioned that he had a best friend (Tessa) whom he used to party with. I remember one day getting a phone call from her basically calling me names that I can not even type without being embarrassed. All because I was dating her best friend. Needless to say we (my hubby and I) did not hear anything about her until the news came on. So so so terrible because I never considered her a “lovable” person, but I never thought she would do this to her kids. Anyways, it just goes to show you that just because you are heterosexual really does not make you have great character.

  4. Everyone needs to know the facts before passing judgement on Christi Zelek! The fact of the matter is that 90% of what is being reported is FALSE! Lets start 13 months ago….Tessa Zelek went into labor 3 months early (the day after her baby shower) and had to have an emergency “C” Section. The boys weighed a little over 3 lbs at birth and spent a long time in Southern Regional. The media failed to mention that the twins were Premi’s and not normal 13 month old children! The boys have been to multiple doctors and have been sick since the day they were born! They have spent most of their lives in and out of the Hospital. Tessa has asked numerous Doctor’s why they were so small and she has laways been told “it is because they are Pre-mature babies and they are not as developed as normal children their age” and she has also constantly been told “You will always have criticism because they were born so Pre-Mature.” Now lets fast forward… There is alot that has not been reported in the media. First was that in October the boys saw the Pediatrician and was even given a Flu Shot! Tessa called the day after because the boys were sick because of the shot and was told to give them tylenol. How could that quack Doctor give sick Pre-Mature babies a Flu Shot? If there was a malnutrician problem at that time why didn’t he send them to the hospital instead of giving them the flu? Why did the reporters not state that DFACS was out at Tessa and Jay’s house 1.5 weeks before 11/20/07. When the caseworker unexpectedly showed up at their house Tessa was in the process of Feeding the boys. The caseworker held the boys, talked to Tessa, came back the next day and drug tested them (They passed!) and stated he did not see anything wrong. Why has none of this been reported? The friday before 11/20/07 Tessa had to be taken by ambulance because she had a seizure while she was in the store. Tessa has been under the care of a Doctor for some time bacause of Grand Mal seizures. On 11/20/07 when Christi Zelek came to Tessa and Jay’s house to check on them they were not unconscious! Tessa was very sick and had had a seizure earlier that day. She was vomitting and very weak. Jay was also very sick. The family member that Christi Zelek was said to have called actually called her offering help and offered to care for the boys so that christi could get Medical help for Tessa and Jay. There was no hiding of any children!!!! Christi told her to do whatever she needed to do to care for the boys. The “family member” had the boys for a while and stated they were doing OK and said she would contact another “family member” who had experience with Pre-Mature babies to help. Meanwhile Tessa was having seizures with the Paramedics at their house. Jay and Tessa were both Taken by ambulance to Henry Medical Center. Tessa never refused a drug test and never signed herself out! The head nurse at the hospital was also called and begged to please keep Tessa over-night for observation and would not. Tessa was released at 2:30am that morning because they said that she had not had another seizure and was just weak and vomitting. Christi Zelek did nothing wrong! She loved, cared and tried to help a whole family!!!! She did not “clean up” the trailer, but she was the boys bottles. I guess cleaning bottles is considered cleaning up!

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  6. I found this series through a link (I don’t know which blog it came from now). Reading it, all I can think of is the parents I knew when I was growing up in the South. Their kids would come to school with bruises every day while the parents raged on about what terrible people homosexuals were.

    You and your husband sound like great parents, and your kids sound adorable. I’m bookmarking your blog.