The equality movement is chugging along like a freight train with the lights on and the horn blaring. Living in the south, we are well aware that our home state is resisting change and pushing back with anti-gay legislation. After becoming a brand new family of three, waiting for marriage equality in Tennessee had become less desirable and frustrating. I have always joked about shotgun weddings, but I believe there is some subconscious thought process after a child is on the way that made us both start to plan the “official” happily ever after.
A date was set while both Matthew and I were on paternity leave. The three of us would travel to Washington, DC for the time needed to apply for a marriage license, the three-day wait period and the actual ceremony. We carefully debated the idea of inviting our parents, but after the adoption process that was still ongoing, our new little family will be the only ones participating in a very private ceremony. I am sure there are many of you that can relate with me on this, the adoption process is very open and public. You are constantly networking in an effort to reach potential expecting mothers who are considering adoption for their unborn child. Our previous 14 months had been a frenzy of emotions and exhaustion and this was our chance to share a special moment without the worry of planning, catering, hotels and everyone commuting seven hours to the nation’s capital.
Our marriage trip was spectacular. The decision to have a private ceremony as a family was the perfect way to celebrate and enter into this life long commitment. Words cannot describe this beautiful day that will forever be imprinted in my mind. The weather was phenomenal. Harper looked beautiful in her white dress. Yes, someone had to be in a white dress. Instead of a wedding cake, we celebrated with a street vendor hot dog. Our wedding was one of a kind!
Our Mini Wedding Album
There are several things that I learned on our journey to marriage and parenthood. The majority of people support equality. A large majority! We were very concerned with possible reactions that we might receive when applying for a marriage license. Everyone was spectacular and Harper stole the show. Living in Tennessee, we have been beyond surprised by the outpouring of support and encouragement from our community. This experience was very moving for both of us and we are optimistic about full equality, even in the south, as days pass by.
People consider our relationship as newlyweds and think it is a fairly new commitment. We have now been married for almost six months, and our lives technically are no different from before. Matthew and I would have married years ago if it were not for discriminatory laws in Tennessee. It seems like we hear the word commitment a lot. “Marriage is a huge commitment” and “We are excited for your commitment.” The truth is, our commitment started six years ago. March 11, 2008 we made our commitment to each other. The major difference is the lack of commitment many states have towards their citizens and recognizing their commitment to marriage equality.
Justin and I started our journey for adoption a little over a year ago. We have talked about what a roller coaster the journey has been. We have had hurdles with agencies accepting us as an LGBT couple even though we have been together over 10 years. We have had people call and scam us about being a birthmother and then not even being pregnant. But we hit the greatest obstacle on our journey yet…. the words “some assembly required”.
We bought several items to put in the nursery such as a toy chest, Pack and Play, and a baby sleeper. Thinking it was a rainy Sunday and we would assemble them for something fun to do together, we dumped boxes of parts out on the floor. Hours later, and I emphasize hours, we have a toy chest assembled with the drawers in backwards! We held out the instructions that have no words, just drawings of screws and wooden pegs with an arrow pointing to another piece. I think Justin even said at one point “are you sure we are reading this right side up?”.
Now keep in mind we are both smart people. I have an engineering degree and should be able to figure this thing out in a heartbeat. But we sat there in our pile of screws, pegs, side A’s, and front panel’s for hours putting together these simple pieces. It got me chuckling that in order to be a parent you really need to be part daddy and part engineer to figure out how to assemble the nursery.
One of the best things we did when we bought the crib last summer was paid the deliverymen to assemble it. For $20 they would deliver and assemble it. Money well spent in my eyes. Justin probably agrees, because I am sure we would be divorced if we had to put that together ourselves. Or we would have 5 screws left worried if our crib would fall over!
Just wait until years from now when our child is waiting for Christmas or their birthday. The daddy engineers will be in the family room assembling their toys. I know the “some assembly required” is going to get more complicated with a kid hovering over us waiting for the toy to be done – and it will be worth every moment of agony assembling when we see the joy in our child’s eyes playing with the toy. Tonight the hopeful dads and part engineers sit together in the nursery dreaming. We are blessed and hopeful of things to come. Keep us in your thoughts this month.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on JasonandJustin.com.
The Poop! – The first black tar that comes out of your child is shocking. After that the months are a blur but the amount of poop you’re handling and butt you’re wiping is etched in your brain. The quantity increases exponentially with each increasing size of diaper. When you’re at a 4 and you find a leftover NB on the bottom of the diaper bag that you finally have a free minute to clean out, you wonder how the NB fit on your baby, let alone hold any poop. You try to stay ahead of the tide of poop and be prepared to move up a size before the quantity becomes overwhelming, but it’s futile. When you least expect it (meaning when you have no change of clothes available and you’re in the biggest rush), the poop will find its way out of your toddler’s clothing much like the Blob found its way out of each building that they tried to contain it in. If you haven’t experienced the poop crawling up baby’s back and exiting through its hair and neckline, you haven’t lived!
The Meltdowns! – Your child is having the best day. You haven’t seen him so happy-go-lucky and carefree. He is enjoying every moment of quality time with you, his siblings, and anyone else who we meet along the way. You’re thinking to yourself, “This is so great. I must be doing something right. And I lucked out with such a healthy, normal kid!” Then it happens. You accidentally toss out the wrapper of his granola bar with an eighth of an ounce of unfinished bar still lodged in the unripped end of the wrapper. You didn’t see it in there. You have a brand new bar, with six yummy ounces all waiting to be devoured. But no matter. The ground shakes and the sky falls, as all hell breaks loose. You see the two eyes of your offspring merge into one as the deafening sounds explode and the body goes limp in a pile right in front of you and other horrified spectators. The show goes on for what seems like eternity before the anger turns into a cold shoulder with intermittent shuttering as the emotions wind down. The magic is gone, and all you can do is hope that there will be another day soon when it will return. You walk on eggshells the rest of the day, and breathe a sigh of relief when the bedroom door is closed after the last good night.
The Activities! – Who knew there were so many activities for kids in this world? Maybe it’s because we live in the shadow of a mayor metropolis (Los Angeles) whereas my childhood was in a very rural area (upstate New York), but who has choices like this? Is this normal to have five different activities to choose from for each half of each weekend day? And websites that are geared toward letting parents know what is available (i.e. Red Tricycle). For slow half days you always have the fallbacks like Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, the beach, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Kidspace, the Zoo, or Underwood Farms. Of course that’s if you don’t have a play date planned with your child’s friend, or friend of a friend, or sibling of a friend. Or with one of the above mentioned does not have a fabulous birthday party to which your child is invited. If you have relatives nearby that’s always an intermittent visit. Then there’s always the library! The point is that all these venues and events have been created for the sole purpose of getting you sanely to around eight or nine o’clock at night, where it’s then all up to you to “put down” your child. Personally I’m waiting for someone to devise a “put down” party.
The Love! – I used to hear parents say that they would gladly lose a leg for their child, or even give up their life, and I would kind of chuckle to myself. I like my legs, and I’m in no rush to end my life. But now that I’m almost seven years and three boys into the whole parenting thing, I would throw in a kidney, an eyeball, and a tongue for them. Every day I’m doing things that I would never have imagined myself doing before the boys were here. Scoping out the road as we make our way across the intersection. Putting the texting machine (i.e. my cellphone) in the trunk as I drive the boys around town. Catching a sneezeful of snot in my bare hand so my sniffly older son will not infect my still healthy youngest. But those pale in comparison to the ways that my sons show their love to me. Asking, “Can we snuggle?” as we catch the last bit of TV before bed. Running over and making sure I’m okay when I hit my head on the corner of an opened cabinet door. Yelling, “I love you, Daddy!!!” out the front door as I start on my jog down to the beach, over and over again until I am simply too far away to hear that it’s still happening. It is surprise number 4 that makes surprises 1, 2, and 3 so easy to deal with. I just hope I’m ready for 5, 6, and 7.
By Brandy Black
The other day I sat with my three children and the computer and went down blog memory lane. In an effort to find out when we transitioned from crib to toddler bed with our oldest, I took the computer out and began flipping through blogs and pictures. The twins were thrilled to see images of their big sister as a little girl, we read about all the silly questions she had and the funny things she would say. Sophia pointed at the videos and pictures “Look Penn, look Bella, that’s me at your age.”
It got me thinking about how little I document their tales, I have a book for everything on our oldest, a birthday book, travel book, art book, scrap book, photograph books and the twins I think I have one maybe two. I already feel them hating me in therapy years from now! I swore I wouldn’t be that parent. I’m all about fair, everything equal, to the point that I got in a fight with our couple’s therapist years back. I believe in making things as fair as humanly possible. Yet here I sat with the computer on my lap, heartbroken, wondering what stories I will be able to show them.
The truth is, there is a lot of juggling with three kids. Life moves fast at our house and I’m lucky to remember to pay the bills and make sure they get haircuts and clothes. I don’t know how people do it. I envy the parents like John Jericiau, who seem like they have it all together. I need more hours in the day so that I can sit down and write my thoughts, make picture books and take the time to collect memories that will last them forever. If anyone has any advice on the topic, I sure need help.
I guess the twins have many amazing experiences that my oldest didn’t, like being dressed in the mornings by their big sister or learning games and how to spell their names in Japanese and having one another to laugh with each morning. I hear them in the monitor giggling “You funny” Bella says to Penn, laughing. They have the gift of family, one that my wife and I truly fought for and it was a sacrifice, not a loss but a conscience effort to selflessly give our children the gift of siblings.
This is how I talk myself off the ledge, this is how I justify the tough conversations I will have with the twins when they are 10 and want to see all the sweet memory books that I put together for them. Or perhaps you will suddenly see an influx of blogs and images of our twins. “Not sure what happened in the early years kids, but I sure kicked in when you were two.”
By Rob Watson
When my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them. Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them. Since my sons are “almost twins”, only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.
Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating. As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves. They were becoming their own people with personalities.
This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe. On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was the biggest thrill I could imagine: seeing my two sons emerge and become who they would be. I could not wait to meet and know, and love them.
I remember one morning when the boys were three years old, a cold Sunday, when I was orchestrating activities with them. Jesse, for no apparent reason, came over, grabbed my face, pulled it toward him, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My partner happened to be snapping pictures and he caught the moment. I look disheveled, and the lighting in the picture is bad, but to this day, it is my favorite photo of all time.
Jesse, the generously affectionate young man he was becoming, had emerged for his first moment from the blond little toddler. Knowing who he is now, it was a thrill to see the glimpse of him then. Watching my sons develop from babies into the men they will be is my greatest life’s honor.
Not all parents relate to this joy of children developing into themselves as I do, particularly when those parents are homophobic and the child’s emergence is indicating that he or she may be either gay or transgender. In those cases, things can get very ugly, very fast.
The “American Family Association” founder James Dobson declared that starting as early as age five, children might show some sort of inclinations, and he prescribed parental actions to make the children change their instincts.
One such parent was Oregon mom, Jessica Dutro. Her little boy Zachary was not reacting to things in as masculine a way as she expected. She thought he would become gay. “He walks like it and talks like it. Ugh.” She wrote to boyfriend, Brian Canady, and she instructed Brian to “work on him”. They both worked on Zachary. Until Zachary was dead.
Jessica Dutro is an abusive woman. Her behavior towards her other kids shows that fact. The blend of homophobia with those abusive tendencies made her deadly.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a requiem to Fred Phelps, a man who personified hatred. His life was a failure, and my final message to him was one of pity. Today, I write a requiem to Zachary. He was not hatred, he was sweet and energetic. He was killed by hatred. There is no pity in this message. I am angry.
Good bye. We, the world, have failed you little one. You came to us, bright and full of promise, and we left you in the hands of one who did not appreciate your brightness, and in fact, she sought to make you suffer for who she thought you might be.
I am sorry. I did not cause the force that killed you, and in fact, I fight it daily. You are dead, however, and for me, that means that I did not fight hard enough, not nearly hard enough.
You were killed by homophobia, my child. It came through the hands of parents, through the very hands and arms that should have been there to grab you, and hold you and love you. It was the force of homophobia that killed you however, not just those physical blows that delivered it. While your parents embodied that hatred, it was not created by them, it had been given to them in many ways from the world around them.
I am sorry you were born in a world where too many voices tell you not to be you. No one should have to fight for the right to be themselves, least of all, a four year old child.
I am sorry you were born into a world where so many feel that the ability to physically make a child is more important that the ability to love and nurture one. Where people are writing court papers vilifying parents who do not physically procreate, they should be writing briefs condemning parents who do not love. Birthing a child is merely bringing it to life. Loving a child is truly giving it a reason to live.
I am sorry you were born into a world where people believe in misinterpreted Bible passages and tired dogmas. They hold onto them only so they can rationalize hating something they don’t understand. Something they see in you, even in your innocence.
I am sorry for all the beauty, magnificence, talent and life that you represented that is now gone. I miss the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. I mourn the children you did not get to raise and the better world you did not get to help build.
A man named Fred Phelps died a few weeks ago, two years after you did. He lived his life being hateful, trying to get people to be more homophobic. He failed and his efforts made people not want to be like him. Homophobia lost. You lived your life being loving, and your efforts made two people hate you. Homophobia still lost however, because I will never ever forget you.
I pray that your short life is held up as the horrible cost of the homophobic mindset. That mindset is not an opinion. It is not a right to religious beliefs. It is a deep and ever present danger that kills the innocent. I pray that your life robs homophobia of its glory and helps shame it into non-existence.
Nothing will replace the life we lost in you. You were our child and we allowed our world to inspire your fate. You deserved so much better.
With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better. We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder. We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.
We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace. You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them. We owed it to you. We will not fail again.
To listen to a podcast where the author delivers the requiem, please go to: http://outinsantacruz.com/firefox-cookies-and-zachary/
Born in the 60’s and living as a teenager in the mid to late 70’s, my early years seem so much different than anything my sons are sure to experience when they hit their teen years. That’s a good thing because the world has so much more to offer now. Alas, that’s also a bad thing. They have a hyper vigilant father, because in this day and age I know I have to be. There is social media, the Internet, and cell phones to contend with. Predators get their own five-week coverage on CNN, so we learn every scary detail about them. Across the nation gay men and women are enjoying a ride to the land of normalcy as we speak, but with that comes the extremists and religious zealots who will stop at nothing to prove their point, even going as far as to hurt our children.
I’m torn because I want my sons to have a sense of adventure, but I’m afraid that if they do some of things that I myself have done or experienced, my heart will not be able to take it. I’ve gone skydiving, for example, just to check it off my bucket list, but with skydiving the odds seem very much in the jumper’s favor. Nevertheless, I will be horrified the day they tell me they want to try it (and I’m sure that at least one of them will!)
I’ve had other experiences that I couldn’t even fathom happening in this day and age. Like my solo bicycle ride across the US when I was 22. Several months before the summer of 1984 I announced to my parents that I would be bicycling across the nation in order to get to California, which I had recently come to learn was a mecca for both triathlon training and gay life! Who knew? Although my parents were a little nervous to say the least, there was no negotiation or discussion about the rationality or the intelligence of my decision. I was doing it and that was that. I could not imagine anything less than a ton of conversations with plenty of grilling going on with my boys if they were to want to do this trip.
For two months (91 miles per day average), I pedaled west (and then south down the entire Pacific coast), not knowing where I was going to sleep each night until I got there. If it wasn’t a church yard, or school yard, or behind a billboard, or in the woods right off of the beaten path (I had a lightweight tent and sleeping bag with me), then it was in the home of an absolute stranger that invited me in for the evening. I hadn’t watched ‘Nancy Grace’ or ‘America’s Most Wanted’ prior to my trip, so I had no reason to think that anyone had any bad intentions. In other words, I was extremely naïve. That would not be the case with my sons. I would totally load them up with fear.
Another time, when I was a young athletic 15-year old just learning about sensuality and sexuality (I was a late bloomer), my family took the hour-long car ride to New York City to see the big tree at night in Rockefeller Center during Christmas break. We ate at a fairly upscale restaurant right across from the tree, with a beautiful window table so we could see the tree as we dined. It was halfway through the meal when I noticed him. An older guy (30s?) was smiling at me through the window, and then the current of the crowd would take him away. Minutes later he was back, giving me “the look” as he was again swept away. This went on for the remainder of the meal and I could hardly contain myself. When he saw us getting up after settling the bill, he was gone and did not return to the window, despite my every attempt to will him back.
We went close to the tree where a crowd was of course congregating all around, celebrating and meandering as the holiday music played and flurries fell in the freezing cold. I was standing a couple of rows behind my family, just so it wasn’t so obvious that I was searching for my guy with the jean jacket over a white hoodie. All of a sudden I could feel hands come from behind me and slip effortlessly into each of my pockets. I knew right away it was he as he pulled me close to his gymnast body and said, “You are so sexy.” I think I said “You too”, but the music was crazy loud by now and anyway it didn’t matter what I said. I stood there and enjoyed his hands for the next several moments until he was gone, just in time for my parents to say, “Let’s get going” to my siblings and me. I now know how easy it would have been to pull me away to a windowless van waiting down the street.
Overall I think my experiences affected me positively but clearly I dodged some bullets. My parents didn’t have the World Wide Web. They had seven television channels, one of which was extremely fuzzy unless they shook the rabbit ears just right. I will do my best now to stay ahead of the learning curve, be on the lookout for the danger de jour, and talk talk talk to my sons about what lies ahead, and beneath, and above them. Learn from my mistakes, I’ll say, no matter how pleasurable they actually were.
Early April 2013 a story on social media started immediately “going viral”. 72,000 people shared a story called, “PARENTS PUT 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER UP FOR ADOPTION AFTER LEARNING SHE IS GAY”. Almost as suddenly as the story had taken off, it halted. Blushing page administrators started removing it quickly as details, such as the family living in “Southern Carolina” pointed to a growing understanding. The story was fake. It was, in fact, a satire from the site Deacon Tyson Bowers III.
The story was not far fetched. Writer and LGBT youth advocate Cathy Kristofferson states, “Youth who come out to their parents are rejected by those parents at a rate of 50%, with 26% immediately thrown out of the house to become instantly homeless and many following soon after as a result of the physical and verbal abuse … Empowered by the gains in equality and acceptance with the heightened visibility the adult gay community has welcomed of late, youth are emboldened to come out at ever-younger ages while still reliant on parents who are a flip of the coin away from rejecting them.”
For a teenager named Corey, the story not only could have been true, it WAS true for him. It happened two years earlier than the social media fraud.
Corey did not have an easy life. He was a popular jock guy in high school, but by the age of 15, he had been handed more than his share of abuse. His parents were conservative, religious, on welfare and on prescription narcotics. According to Corey, his birth father beat him at times, and neglected him at others. Corey was raised with a belief that gay people were not only sinners, they were sin itself. His birth father made sure that Corey was aware that gay people all were killed at some point before they reached old age.
Corey had been meticulous about keeping his sexual orientation a secret. He was athletic and he was popular as a “ladies man”. “It was all to keep everyone from knowing,” he told me. Finally he started telling some of his extended family. This left him feeling exposed and vulnerable at home. If the subject were to come up, he was no longer in a position to deflect and hide as he had been before. Whatever security he had felt before was gone, and his self doubt and self loathing were at all time highs.
One evening, the issue of sexual orientation came up, in a big way. As Corey prepared for an evening at a family relations’ house, a news story about gay rights came on the television. Corey reacted with a subtle positive endorsement. His birth father exploded, “If any fag lived in this house, I would shoot them in the head with a shotgun” he screamed. Corey bolted from the house immediately. He was feeling feverish, scared and sickened. Did his father know? Was that a threat for him, or just a reminder that he lived in a den of hatred?
At the party, Corey got drunk, and physically sicker. He ended back at home and as fever raged, his despair imploded into his gut. His parents, suspicious, ignored him. Several days later, at 2 am in the morning, he was up, unable to sleep, delirious and suicidal.
Across town, a woman named Mindy was closing up her household. Husband Dale was sound asleep, as were her two sons. Only her daughter Aubrey had the late night candle burning. As she strolled by Aubrey, who was diligently typing on the computer, Mindy opened her mouth to scoot her daughter off to bed. Suddenly she saw something chilling on the computer screen over her daughter’s shoulder. Written in the chat box was the statement, “I am desperate. Things here are so bad, I want to slit my wrists. I am not kidding.”
Mindy dove in head first. “Who IS that?” she asked Aubrey. Aubrey told her that it was Corey. Mindy had met him when he had taken Aubrey to the homecoming dance. Aubrey explained that he was sick, but his parents were ignoring him. Much to Aubrey’s shock, Mindy declared, “We are going to get him.”
Some mama-grizzley instinct took Mindy over. “It was like I was possessed by someone else. I knew I needed to act, and to do something, but everything I did was against my nature and not how I usually act as a person.”
Forty minutes later, Mindy and Aubrey were at the trailer in which Corey lived with his family. He came out and got in their van. His father wandered out and demanded to know what Mindy was doing. The normally honest to a fault Mindy heard herself telling a lie. In a casual nonchalant demeanor, especially one for almost three in the morning, she heard herself say, “Oh hi! Sorry to disturb. We had invited Corey to go to the mountains with us. We thought an early start would be best.” Corey’s birthfather turned flirty and asked Mindy when she was going to come take HIM to the mountains. Mindy laughed coyly, played the part and flirted right back. After a few minutes, the van was on its way, with Corey in it.
When they returned home, Mindy was in for the biggest shock of the night. When Corey walked into the light, she could see he was almost blue, he had pneumonia, and she knew that without her intervention, he would have likely died. For Dale, he was just mystified. “I came downstairs in the morning to cook breakfast and there is this kid sleeping on my couch. He wasn’t there when I went to bed!”
For the next few weeks, Corey’s birth parents did not inquire as to where he was. Finally, nursed back to health, he returned home and the growing awareness of his homosexuality again became the unspoken issue. Finally, he decided to confide in his mother. He figured that she was oppressed and passive, and likely to keep it to herself.
That was not the case. She called Corey’s birth father who stormed home and broke into the house railing at the top of his lungs. “He was yelling and screaming about how a fag was living in his home and he can’t believe the devil was in his presence. I locked myself in my room when my brother came home. The first thing my father did was tell him about how his brother was nothing but a worthless fag,” Corey recalled. All three family members rattled on his bedroom door for hours. Later they retreated, and Corey escaped to the bathroom with a much stronger door and lock. He sat in a corner of the bathroom with his possessions in a paper bag, afraid for his life. In the wee hours of the morning, when the three had passed out, he escaped the house–never to return.
He went back to his friend Aubrey’s house. This time, it was not just Aubrey and Mindy to his rescue. Dad Dale, and brothers Andrew and Mason all stepped up as they had during his illness. The family had come to love him. For them, he belonged. He was home. They did not know at first that he was gay. They just understood that he needed them. When they did find out that he was gay and had been driven from his former home because of it, it did not matter, not even to conservative dad, Dale. They already loved him, and for some unapparent reason, they seemed to need him too.
The family met together so that each person could have his or her say. It was unanimous; every single member wanted Corey to stay permanently. Dale described what happened next, “Initially we set Corey’s bedroom up in our basement. We gathered what we could since he didn’t bring anything with him. His first bedroom in our home was made of walls with moving blankets tacked to the ceiling. There was a bed, a nightstand, an old dresser and a box fan. That kid was so freaking happy. I think that moment really made Aubrey, Andrew and Mason appreciate what they have. Made me cry to see Corey with next to nothing and be happy about it.”
The next year was a challenge for all involved. At first the birth family created noise. The small community also backlashed against Corey’s new family. Andrew and Aubrey were both taunted at school for going after a gay brother, and some of Mindy and Dale’s family and friends out and out rejected them.
Corey stood strong, and it inspired his new family to do so as well. Dale stated, “I had issues growing up and I wish I had been as strong as Corey to stand up for myself when I was a teenager. Corey has taught me a lot.”
The family got a court date. They were extremely nervous and had documented all the events leading up to the adoption. They watched the door of the courtroom waiting for their adversaries to arrive. They waited and watched. Time passed.
Corey’s birth family did not show up. They had no apparent argument to contest the adoption-like legal guradianship, no concern. Their offspring was gay and they signaled that they were perfectly willing to adopt him out as a consequence.
For Corey, Mindy, Dale, Aubrey, Andrew and Mason, the day became known as “Gotcha” day. A family got Corey, and he got them. Aubrey, Andrew and Mason became tireless advocates for Corey and LGBT rights in general. Eleven year old Mason, who previously had been disinterested in things outside of a little boy’s world made a rainbow freedom art project that he dedicated to his new big brother.
Mindy describe the events of the past three years. “I want the world to know that Corey is a beautiful human being. I want them to know that any pain we went through or will go through is worth it. Why is it worth it, because love is the most powerful force. I want the world to see Corey’s pain and know it is not necessary. Sexuality is such a small part of who we are. First and foremost Corey is a loving, genuine, caring, intelligent human being. Who he is attracted to and who he marries is of little significance. I’m certain his partner will be as kind and loving as himself. Isn’t that what this world needs? I want the world to know that standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves is vital to our survival. Standing up for what is right is not always easy, but it is always right. Our family fell in love with Corey for Corey…his sexuality did not change who he was. I also want the world to know that we are a family. I want people to understand that genetics are just science. Families are built from unconditional love. ”
For Dale, it is a little simpler. He told me that he still sees Corey’s birth father around their small town. “He knows how to put on a front,” Dale commented. “He smiles and acts like nothing is a big deal. He says, ‘thanks, appreciate what you are doing for my boy.”
In those encounters, Dale does not say much. He turns and walks away. Quietly, inaudibly, he whispers, “I have news for you. He is not your boy.
He’s my son.”
If you are interested in giving a home to an LGBT youth like Corey, please email: email@example.com
Post script When the above blog piece broke and went viral, Corey’s birth family came forth on Facebook and berated his version of events. Here is a sample of their comments. Judge the story from both sides for yourself:
Corey’s birth brother: “For all you that read my brothers little pity story on here, it’s a joke and I’m honestly in shock someone has enough nerve to lie about shit like that. Yes some is true but the major key points are false. If anyone has a problem come to me my brother is a fake and a coward. He has the power to manipulate a person better then anyone I know.”
Corey’s cousin’s reply:”They knew exactly what they were doing. Funny how Corey’s “story” was published the day after gay marriage becomes legal in some parts of MI.”
Corey’s birth brother : “Exactly fucking homos. You know why every homo is successful. Because they our selfish and all they care about is themselves.”
Corey’s birth mother: “I cant believe it myself, we never kicked corey out, he left. he was in no danger from his dad, he would never hurt corey, he just don’t believe in gays he don’t support it, he has his beliefs.”
Corey’s birth brother concludes: Karma is a bitch and it’s coming his way.
As the original blog author, with 45 pages of notes on the story corroborated by five independent individuals, I know what Corey’s adoptive family told me was true, and the birth family’s protests do more to convince me of that than to dissuade me. Meanwhile, over 100 families have contacted Raise-a-child with interest in taking in a homeless rejected LGBT youth.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Henry: Our Son is nearly 2 ½ , he is the light of my life and just the sweetest, goofiest little person I know. Our Family consists of our boy Ben, my Husband Joel and I. Joel and I met in 2005 and were legally wed in Boston, October 10, 2009. I still remember when the Reverend that married us said “May their family tree be fruitful,” we had only discussed having children casually although we both loved the idea of being Dads. It would not be until later in 2010 when they stopped enforcing the Gay adoption ban in our then home of Florida that we really began to pursue Parenthood. We initially thought that adopting through our state made the most sense for us, neither of us felt that using a surrogate was that important. Our feelings were that there were already babies in need of homes, we did not feel the need to create a new life. Joel and I were part of the first openly Gay and Lesbian group going through the process of becoming Foster Parents in our county. It was our hope to adopt via Foster Care but that did not work out for us. We were blessed with two incredible placements, two beautiful babies but they were both reunited with their biological families. Somewhere during our Fostering journey we were privately introduced to a young lady that was 5 months pregnant with a boy. She wanted to give the baby up for adoption and after a few meetings decided that we were the perfect couple. The process was difficult, the climate for Same Gendered adoptions was/is not the warmest in Florida but we had an incredible law team in our corner and shortly after Ben’s October, 2011 birth we became the first Same Sex couple to jointly adopt a baby in Broward County Florida. When the Judge said that we had now paved the way for other families like ours to be created I nearly burst with happiness. That was a perfect day.
TNF: How did you meet your husband?
Henry: I met my Husband at work, I broke the cardinal rule of “no fraternizing” and honestly it was the best bad thing I have ever done. We moved in together pretty quickly, rather organically. We kind of just woke up one day and said, “wow, when did all this happen?” One day just magically turned into the next and we are now heading towards 9 years together.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Henry: This is an interesting question, we are quite conservative and traditional in values. We do not live in a very “Gay” area. The majority of our friends are actually either heterosexual or Lesbian so all in all we are quite a regular family. Having said that we are still a two dad family and although we have never faced obvious discrimination, we are still highly visible in our community and often approached with curiosity, albeit it lovingly it still plays as a constant reminder that we are indeed different.
TNF: Is it tough being a gay couple where you in Durham? Do you feel accepted?
Henry: We feel extremely accepted here in Durham NC. We live in a pretty cool blue bubble in an otherwise red state. We are actively involved in LGBTQ parenting groups here so our Son see’s lots of different types of families. I am also working with some wonderful people who are hoping to finally open a LGBTQ Community Center here in my town. My function will be to hopefully oversee the parenting programs, offering resources and help to the parents in our community. I will also offer guidance for those wanting to become parents either via Fostering, Adoption or Surrogacy. We will also offer a place where children of LGBTQ parents can gather, find fellowship and thrive. When Ben was born I created DADsquared, it was initially meant to be a place where Gay Dads could gather and help one another, It has grown into one of the largest on-line communities for same gendered families and those hoping to grow their families. I hope that much of what I have learned with DADsquared along with my training as a life Coach can translate into my role with the Durham Community Center.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Henry: There really are no words. I grew up wondering If I could ever be a happy, self-loving, well-adjusted Gay man. I never dreamt that in my life time I would see doors opening that would not only help me marry the man of my dreams, but to also be able to experience the honor of being called Daddy. It’s quite something. My Mother passed away in 2004, she never met Joel and never got to see me this happy. I know that as Ben was making his way through the heavens to join us she got the chance to hold him and kiss him, I know he met his Abuela somewhere out there and that gives me great joy and peace.
TNF: Tell us a bit about your site and why you created it?
Henry: As I said above, when Ben was first born we felt a bit alone, we did not have many similar families around us and I just wanted to see others like us. It began with the Facebook page and grew into the actual Website. We have so many wonderful members that share their experiences and resources with each other. We have an awesome group of Pro’s that we work with like great Attorneys, Doctors and Adoption Agencies that have literally helped us help others create families, how amazing is that? We have also helped bring families together, we help people locate other families around them that they did not know existed. When I get photos sent to me of a new baby or of two families that have met because of DADsquared with smiling faces looking back at me because “Johnny has two dads just like me,” I literally at times burst into tears. Sometimes in life we ask ourselves, “what is my purpose in life?” “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Well luckily because of my involvement with DADsquared, my family and my Coaching practice, I no longer ask myself those questions.
Thank you Henry and Joel for sharing your story with us. What a beautiful family! We love Dadsquared!
By Brandy Black
TNF: What is Colage?
Robin: COLAGE is a national organization that unites people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents into a network of peers and supports them as they nurture and empower each other to be skilled, self-confident, and just leaders in our collective communities.
TNF: What is your role there?
Robin: I am the National Program Director so I oversee and develop our programming, work directly as a mentor to people with LGBTQ parents and provide support for LGBTQ families.
TNF: Do you have LGBTQ parents?
Robin: Yes! I was born into an LGBQ family I have two moms (one is bisexual and one is a lesbian) who both wanted to have children and found my donor dad through the gay and lesbian community. Both my moms birthed a child (me and my brother) with the same donor dad who was part of our lives growing up. My dad’s partner has also been in my life since I was 5 so we call him my bonus dad. In COLAGE we call that a, “bothie,” when you have both moms and dads. I also am bisexual and plan on being a parent myself so my children will also be part of this community!
TNF: What inspired you to be involved?
Robin: I grew up in rural northern New Mexico extremely isolated from other LGBTQ families. I was born in the 80′s and my family was quite closeted for safety and because of the nature of the times. I grew up ashamed, scared, alone yet also with a fierce sense of pride. I always knew I was missing something, a place where I was understood, supported and loved for all of who I was. When I was in my early 20′s I decided to write a book about my experience because I didn’t know of any resources at the time. In my research I found COLAGE and my long lost family.
TNF: What are some key initiatives of Colage?
Robin: COLAGE’s three main initiatives are to unite people who have LGBTQ parents, provide programming and resources that foster community building, and to provide training and leadership opportunities for youth to become advocates. We have an extensive collection of resources for parents and COLAGErs on our website, online communities, 15 community groups across the country as well as national programming for youth to receive more in depth leadership training.
TNF: What age is appropriate to introduce your kids to Colage?
Robin: Traditionally, our programming starts around the 3rd grade level, partly because this is when we have seen other resources for LGBTQ families drop off, and also because this is a time when youth really needing to be able to talk about their families and see that they are not alone. We do think it is valuable to provide COLAGE spaces for people of all ages and work with parents who have younger children to utilize our resources and do community organizing to support their family.
TNF: Do you have any events coming up that our readers could attend in LA, New York or any other markets?
Robin: Yes! Our national team will be in LA April 12th providing a full day of programming for youth ages 6-18, a parent cafe, as well as a public panel of COLAGErs, and events for adult COLAGErs. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out our Eventbrite listing. We also have active chapters in both LA and New York that hold events year round. Both of those communities can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
TNF: Do you have any tips for LGBT parents or parents-to-be?
Robin: Find community, be open, listen to your child (we all have different experiences with our families), and realize that your child has an identity connected to yours and that is a wonderful and challenging thing at times. When we are connected to other people who have families like ours, we are able to see that our difference is our strength and become empowered individuals with a unique and blessed experience to offer the world.
By: Stephen & Adam Podowitz-Thomas
Stephen and I fell in love over freshly-made tortillas and tomatillo sauce. Our first official date was at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in downtown Palo Alto, CA, nearby where we were both in graduate school. I had spent some time building a schoolhouse near Merida, Mexico when I was eighteen, and loved the food and culture I experienced while there. Ever since, I have kept an eye out for authentic Mexican places, but had never heard of this tiny place that Stephen raved about. Nervously venturing into the restaurant, I was excited by the aromas I smelled and the sight of Stephen standing up to greet me. Needless to say, the food was stellar, but even more so the company.
We made many more visits to La Morenita, often sitting at the same table as that first date. I was excited one visit to spot chilaquiles on the menu (a breakfast favorite from my time in Mexico), and Stephen was always happy to get another order of their chicken sopes (a dish hard to find in Manhattan, his collegiate stomping grounds). It was also at the restaurant that we realized that we both wanted kids, after laughing at a child delightfully chowing down on his first tortilla chip.
Stephen mulling over our options at a traditional tapas restaurant
Over the years, eating out and trying new foods have become a big part of our lives. We look for restaurants serving cuisines we haven’t seen before and get to know the places we live and visit through the foods they share with us. Developing memories of Hawaii while eating the best saimin (a noodle dish) on Kauai during our honeymoon and hiking a tall hill in San Francisco for Nepalese food has kept our relationship interesting and fun. Further, this sense of exploration, instilling a deep sense of wonder and discovery in both of us, is something we hope to impart to our kids in the future, because it was such a key lesson of our own childhoods.
Sharing food and the love that it entails has fed into other aspects of our lives, from our own exploits in the kitchen that we discussed in our last post to planning our recent wedding. One of the very first decisions we made in the planning process was that we wanted a family-style wedding dinner with our closest friends and family gathered around a communal table. We purposely kept our guest list small and on a beautiful August day in California, were able to enjoy a meal where passing dishes was expected, while laughter and conversation filled the air. The night reminded us of the many family dinners we had when we were kids, surrounded by our loved ones, and enjoying food prepared by our parents. And we hope that it was simply the first of many dinner parties for us, parties that we hope to eventually share with kids of our own.
Our family and friends sharing food and conversation at our wedding
Read more about Stephen & Adam and their adoption process on Facebook.