The Republic of T.

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

Poisonous Parenting In the New Year

It goes without saying that becoming a parent changes you in countless ways. I’ve heard it described as having your heart walking around outside of your body. I’ve heard it said that you learn to love in a way you never did before, and you learn to fear in a way you didn’t before. I know that becoming a husband and a father made me a lot more emotional than I’d ever been. I can access emotions now that seemed to be permanently walled off. I knew something was up the day I found myself crying while watching an episode of Oprah.

I’ve also developed a kind of “parent radar” or at least that’s what I call it. That is, I don’t just keep up with my own kid. When we’re out at a park, playground or social event. I keep an eye out for other kids too. It’s like I automatically scan the area and figure out which kids belong with which adults. (And which adults, at a playground or a park, aren’t there with a kid, a dog, or their jogging shoes.) And out of the corner of my eye I’ll spot a kid rushing headlong in to danger. Once I saw a toddler about to get hit by a bicycle—neither the bicyclist or his mother saw him in that moment—and pulled him out of the way just in time.

Maybe it’s because I see a little of my own children in every other child I see. Maybe I see that same vulnerability, and I’d want someone to look out for them if I wasn’t there. Maybe it’s not that unusual. No one wants to see a child hurt. Or at least most people don’t. Who wouldn’t try to save a child from harm, even if it’s not their own? After all, not being a parent doesn’t mean preclude anyone from loving or caring a child. And, unfortunately, being a parent—even to children they’ve conceived and birthed—doesn’t make some people any more inclined or equipped to deliver the love and care that comes after conception and deliver. Thus, this series.

I guess it’s inevitable that I’d continue this series. Going through the loss of a baby, finally becoming parents again this year, and taking care of a newborn again while also raising a five year old is causing me to question again why procreation (or the possibility of it)—something the hubby and I can’t do with each other— is privileged with the benefits of marriage, but here parenting—which we’re doing double-time every day—isn’t.

At least not by itself. According to the opponents of marriage equality, marriage is primarily for making babies—something only a heterosexual couples with functioning gonads can do, or possibly do. Parenting those same kids and doing it well—something even a pair of ‘Mos can do pretty well—comes somewhere after that.

So, I can’t help checking out the people who rank ahead of me when it comes to marriage equality. And the only requirements are that you and your partner can potentially achieve (a) ovulation, (b) ejaculation, and (c) procreation with one another.

Who are these people?

Last year I, in what was kind of a precursor to this series, I blogged about a woman in D.C. who plowed her car care into a crowd at a street festival while she was high on crack. Tonya Bell, who was just sentenced to 25 years, had her seven year old daughter in the car with her.

According to prosecutors, Bell had gone on a crack binge in the 24 hours before the street festival, consuming $700 worth of the drug. She then placed her 7-year-old daughter in the back seat of her station wagon and headed toward Unifest, a church-sponsored street festival in southeast Washington.

At speeds of up to 70 mph, Bell made two passes through the area, knocking people to the side and under the car. A police officer who tried to pull her over said she was laughing as she drove. Her station wagon was finally stopped when officers crashed their scooters under the vehicle and a man jumped through the window to put the transmission in park.

Bell may have had tortured life, with absent parents and abusive parents (who, despite that, would also rank ahead of us on the marriage front though we’re neither absent or abusive parents, because they ovulated, ejaculated and procreated together), and mowed down innocent festival-goers while high on crack, with her kid in the back seat. But she’s heterosexual and fertile. So despite her jaunt through the festival, she’s still out in front of us whn it comes to marriage. Why, she could even be a prison bride if she can find the right guy.

If she does, she’ll have more rights and protections than the hubby and I do. And the worst thing that happens to our kids in the car is being stuck in traffic, while strapped in their car seats.

Tomorrow, one of us will take Parker to his swimming lesson. And, no, that doesn’t mean throwing him in the water and yelling “Swim!” That appears to be what Lam Luong may have done.

PhotobucketLam Luong was charged with four counts of capital murder in the death of the children, who range in age from 4 months to 3 years, after he broke down and confessed, authorities said Wednesday.

Luong, 37, was to appear in court Thursday for a bond hearing. District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said he did not think Luong had an attorney.

Authorities believe Luong threw the children from the bridge after an argument with his wife, but they gave no details on what the dispute was about. Luong had a crack cocaine possession charge pending in Georgia, and his wife’s brother-in-law described Luong as a drug addict.

Or not.

Authorities say Lam Luong confessed to killing the children, ranging in age from a few months to 3 years, a day after reporting them missing and claiming a woman had taken them.

But Luong’s appointed attorney, Joe Kulakowski, said his client told him he falsely confessed under pressure after being questioned Monday night and the entire day Tuesday.

“When police yelled, ‘We know you killed them,’ he at some point realized they weren’t going to believe him,” Kulakowski said.

“We don’t have any bodies. There’s a lot of emotion, and nobody knows the facts right now,” he added.

…Kulakowski said Luong told him the children were taken Monday morning by a woman named Kim who claimed to know their mother and would get them food and clothes. He said they were not returned later Monday as promised.

He said officers should be searching for Kim and a second woman who left with the children in a van.

Prosecutors said Luong, 37, gave that account after the children were reported missing Monday but confessed after investigators pressed him on holes in his story.

Maybe Luong didn’t take his kids or an impromptu swimming lesson. Maybe he did. Whichever is the case, he doesn’t know where his kids are. That and his crack cocaine possession charge aside, according to the Maryland Court of Appeals and the rest of the “marriage-is-for-making-babies” crowd he’s actually a better candidate for marriage than the hubby and me because he have (a) achieved ejaculation with a partner who (b) achieved ovulation, and he result was (c) procreation.

There’s an implication in the belief that’s encapsulated in this Limbaugh quote.

Marriage is simply the way humanity has discovered that it is the best way to build a building block of an orderly society and sustain it. That’s all it is.

It is also the means by which you produce legitimate offspring. And I — and I’ve — whatever else Barney and his mate do, they cannot do that. And that’s the sole purpose.

The implication is that that so long as you make babies, you’ve got the right to marry and access all its benefits and protections, even if you throw them off a bridge or taken them on crack-fueled joy ride after conception and birth. Because it’s all about getting them here. Being a good parent—raising a child in a home where he is safe, wanted, and loved— is something that, according to 67 studies so far, even queers can do, and do at least as well as any heterosexual couple.

But, as Rush said, it’s the producing of legitimate offspring that really matters. That’s what marriage is for. I suppose it’s intended to encourage heterosexuals with working body parts to put them to use in perpetuating the species. But privileging procreation above parenting, in reducing the basis for marriage to making babies and nothing else, ignores one important consideration. Procreating—making babies, that is—is a short term commitment that doesn’t take much longer than the sex act (and I don’t pretend to know how long that does or doesn’t take), conception and gestation. The real business of “perpetuating” the species comes after the kid leaves the birth canal, in terms of raising them to a happy, healthy, independent adulthood. Compared to the time it takes to have sex, get pregnant, and give birth, the latter is not only the longer term commitment, but the one that demands the most in terms commitment, compassion, care, and courage.

The only things required for the first part are functioning body parts.

Banita Jacks managed the first part. Her family’s story has been unfolding here in D.C. for the last few days, starting when marshals came to serve an eviction notice and discovered the bodies of four children.

U.S. marshals serving a routine eviction notice in Southeast Washington yesterday were met at the door by a calm woman who offered no clue about what would be found inside the house: the decomposing bodies of four girls, believed to be her children.

Authorities said the girls — ages 5, 7, 9 and 17 — were found upstairs in the two-story home and might have been dead for two weeks or longer. How they died remains a mystery, and the woman, 33, was being questioned last night at police headquarters.

…A knife was found next to the skeletal remains of the eldest child in an upstairs bedroom, authorities said. The other bodies, not as badly decomposed, were in a separate bedroom. Downstairs, the home was bare and had no furniture.

Lanier sought to reassure neighborhood residents by saying that there were no signs of forced entry to the house. “I don’t want the impression that someone kicked in the door and carried out this crime,” she said.

It turns out they were her daughters, and she apparently killed them.

PhotobucketA Southeast Washington woman accused of killing her four daughters told police that they were “possessed by demons” and that they had been dead for at least four months before marshals found their bodies, according to police and charging papers filed yesterday.

Authorities said they believe the girls, ages 5, 6, 11 and 17, could have been killed as early as May, noting that the bodies were in an advanced stage of decomposition when discovered Wednesday by marshals serving eviction papers at the two-story brick rowhouse. The mother, Banita Jacks, lived a hermitic existence with the bodies upstairs, in a house that had its electricity cut off in September.

…Authorities said that Jacks has denied killing the children and said they died in their sleep. Prosecutors said evidence shows otherwise. Brittany Jacks, 17, had three puncture wounds consistent with a stabbing near the neck, they said. Tatianna Jacks, 11, and N’Kiah Fogle, 6, had marks suggesting they were strangled. Aja Fogle, 5, had less-pronounced marks consistent with strangling and signs of blunt-force trauma to the back of her head, prosecutors said.

Not far away, another parent with a working pair of gonads had what it took to produce offspring, but not sense enough to know that you don’t leave a loaded gun under the sofa cushion with a five year old in the house. (Or under any circumstances.)

Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said handgun charges will be filed Tuesday against the father of a young boy who shot himself in the upper thigh.

Richard Donato, 33, of Monrovia will be charged in connection with the shooting Dec. 26 that wounded his 5-year-old son Charles. Sheriff’s deputies said the boy reached under a sofa cushion and touched the loaded gun, causing it to fire one shot.

Parker plays on our sofa every day. It serves as the landscape for his imaginative play with his trains and toy cars. I can hear him making up the stories as he goes along, and I’ve fished countless toy cars and trains out out of the couch, but I’ve never found a handgun there. Then again, I never put one there either. Some parent I am, huh?

Plus, our eldest has already reached the ripe old age of five. Andrew Griffin’s parents, Susan and John Griffin—who lived right here in Maryland where marriage is mainly about making babies, having fulfilled their duty to bring their son into the world, made sure his stay in it wasn’t any longer than two years.

When he died this week, 2-year-old Andrew Patrick Griffin weighed about 13 pounds, roughly the same as the typical 3-month-old. His body was covered with bruises and abrasions, and he appeared malnourished and dehydrated, according to investigators.

His parents, a Towson couple with four other children, have been arrested and charged with child abuse in connection with the toddler’s death, Baltimore County police said yesterday, describing the case as one that bears the signs of protracted neglect.

…John Griffin took Andrew, who would have turned 3 in February, to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Towson on Wednesday, police said.
The child was “cold to the touch and unresponsive,” according to court documents. Doctors were unable to resuscitate the boy and pronounced him dead about 3 p.m., according to the documents.

The child had several bruises on his head and ears and around his eyes, and areas on his head appeared indented, court documents said. His nose and lips were “scabbed and discolored.” Some of the child’s injuries appeared recent, and others appeared to be in the process of healing, indicating that they were sustained over a period of time, according to the documents.

John Griffin told police that about 1 p.m. Wednesday, he checked on Andrew, who had been napping, and “didn’t like what he saw,” according to the documents. He said his wife attempted to perform CPR on the child for about 20 minutes but could not get him to breathe.

John Griffin told police he drove Andrew to the hospital, rather than call 911 for an ambulance, because they live close to St. Joseph’s. Susan Griffin stayed home to watch the other children, according to the documents.

Police said that during a search of the Griffin home Wednesday night, they found what appeared to be blood inside the bassinet in the master bedroom where Andrew slept. There also appeared to be blood on clothing, the four walls and the ceiling, according to the court documents.

To explain the child’s malnourished state, John Griffin told investigators that the child had suffered a flu-like illness in August or September, according to court documents.

He said that he and his wife didn’t take the child to their pediatrician because the doctor had disallowed the family from making any appointments over a billing issue, the court papers say.

In the charging documents, police quote John Griffin as saying, “What did you want me to do … pay $400 to have my child seen by a doctor and work out the details with the insurance company later?”

And it goes on and on. In Rockville, Ruth Sendejas has been charged with the murder of her two year old son, who was apparently asphyxiated. In Spotsylvania, VA, a father has been charged with the rape of his teenage daughter.

The Griffins were, and still are, married. Besides Andrew, they had two older children, thus having proven their procreative ability as a couple three times over. That they brought Andrew into the world qualifies them to marry, even though they almost certainly took him out of it just two years later.

The hubby and I didn’t conceive Parker, and couldn’t have. But since he joined our family, at just four days old, we’ve nurtured and loved him into a happy, healthy, creative, smart, talkative, inquisitive, five-year-old who—and we will do everything in our power make sure of this—has a bright future ahead of him. And now we will do the same for Dylan, whom we also did not conceive together.

But that does not qualify us for marriage. If we were heterosexual, we could make a baby every year, toss it over a bridge as soon as it was born, and still have the right to marry, with all its attendant benefits and protections. But we are two men, raising two children we’re not biologically connected to; giving them better care than any of the parents above who conceived their children themselves.

But Maryland says marriage is for making babies. Raising them well—with love care and compassion—comes in second, itit eners the picture at all.


  1. I am a black hetrosexual woman who reads your blog often. It is really bothersome that you choose to highlight the worst of the worst of hetrosexual parenting. How can we have meaningful dialogue about our differing views when all you do is degrade and mock hetrosexual parents?????

  2. Cherylanne,

    It seems to me that Terrance is simply showing heterosexual folks how it feels when all we gay folks read is story after story of how we are not fit to be parents. I don’t blame you for thinking that Terrance is pushing it too far, but in actual fact all he is doing is mirroring how we can sometimes feel over the relentless anti-gay negativity pushed by the (American) media.

    So Terrance makes you feel uncomfortable – I ask you, how do you think such anti-gay reporting makes Terrance feel?

  3. Goeff,

    Uncomfortable would not be the word I would use. I have my own reservations and questions about gay parenting. I feel that the mocking and taunting tone
    of Terrance’s articles would not encourage me to even want to engage any gay
    parent in dialogue.

    I have no hateful feelings about gay people but I have questions. I know that it is not the job of any gay person to make me not feel ‘uncomfortable’. However, the impression I get from Terrance is that if you straights have any
    questions or want to know more about ‘us’ then you better eff off…

  4. Cherlyanne,

    Then, I’m sorry, but I think you have completely misunderstood what Terrance is about. If you have questions about gay parenting, why not address them to Terrnace and see what his replies are?