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A Gay Dad Defends His Family

Posted by Kara Baskin  September 21, 2012 09:00 AM

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Over the weekend, my friend Mark posted a story about his family on Facebook. But this wasn't your typical cute anecdote, family photo, or gripe about spit-up. Mark and his partner, Austin, adopted two children from foster care. Mark was upset by comments made in the Telegraph by the actor Rupert Everett, who declared that he "can’t think of anything worse” than a gay couple raising a child. Around this time, Boston Spirit reported that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney reportedly told a group of gay parents that "I didn’t know you had families." Well, lucky for us, they do. I think Mark is a hero. Here's why.

Mark's kids were rescued from a truly horrific set of personal circumstances that included physical and psychological abuse. They lived among animal waste and suffered burns, neglect, and trauma. Now these innocent little boys enjoy a happy, healthy life with Mark and his partner and have an actual shot at success. Mark's story brought me to tears.

I realize that some people still believe that children do "best" in a home with a mother and a father. I think that children function "best" in a home with caring role models, regardless of gender. The only harm these kids will face is when they see their parents stigmatized and marginalized by people with a myopic definition of the word "family."

Abuse and bad parenting has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation, as Mark's story shows. Gay parents can be bad; straight parents can be bad. Most parents, I think, try to be good. Parenting—the actual moments when you're making decisions about your children's well-being— have nothing to do with sexual preference. Choosing Andy's preschool, teaching him to say "please" and "thank you", trying to model behavior in which he treats other people with decency and respect (some days are better than others). Absolutely none of these things, not one, was influenced by my sexuality, because sexuality and values aren't the same thing. As I raise him, I hope that I impart values based on fairness and acceptance, principles that just don't square with some of the rhetoric that's out there today.

To be clear, I don't think Mark is a good dad because he's gay. I don't think his parenting skills have anything to do with his sexuality whatsoever. I think it's too bad, though, that he still has to assert his legitimacy as a parent at all. He's no better and no worse because of his homosexuality; he just exists. Which is fortunate, because without him and his partner, his sons might not have a home.

Mark gave me permission to share his story, below. The original link to his post is right here.

I can think of a few things that are worse than being brought up by two gay dads, Rupert. Would you like some examples? Shall we talk about about how my children came to be in foster care?

My sons lived in a home where they played in animal waste. Their mom tried to take care of animals and children, but didn’t know how to take care of either. So the animals and children didn’t have enough food. I’m pretty sure there was at least one dead animal present one of the times my sons were removed from their home.

Is that worse than being raised by two gay dads?

When my older son was four, a foster parent brought him to the dentist for the first time. His teeth were literally rotting out of his head from neglect. He had to get six crowns, in addition to a whole bunch of fillings. I know how unpleasant getting a crown was at the age of thirty. I can’t imagine what it might have been like at the age of four.

Is that worse than being raised by two gay dads?

Once, my older son arrived at daycare and told his teachers that “Daddy hits Mommy.” Another time, neighbors called the police when they heard a dispute. The police found my sons’ parents assaulting each other on the bed next to my younger son. He was not yet one week old.

Is that worse than being raised by two gay dads?

My younger son once arrived at daycare with burns on his hands. His parents had been using the oven to heat their apartment, and my son tried to climb in.

Is that worse than being raised by two gay dads?

How about the foster parents that called the social workers and said they couldn’t handle my younger son anymore? He couldn’t see food without screaming, probably because he had so often been hungry. He was two and still couldn’t speak, so his only means of communication were screaming and crying.

Is that worse than being raised by two gay dads?

What about the next foster home, where my younger son was assaulted? He had bruises all over his face, even behind his ears, and the doctors couldn’t identify what item had been pressed into his face so hard that they could still see the pattern when he was finally brought to the emergency room. Maybe the sole of a shoe, or a tennis racket. Something with a pattern like that.

How about that, Rupert? Is that worse than being raised by two gay dads?

Listen, I understand that you were a trailblazer. You came out when I was in high school. And it mattered. It made a difference. It was meaningful to me.

And I also understand that you paid a heavy price for coming out. Your career has not recovered. Though I have to be honest — sometimes I wonder if part of the reason your career hasn’t gone where you hoped is that you seem unable to give an interview without saying something hateful and embarrassing. If I were producing a film, I expect I would want that film to be the story, and not the internalized homophobia of its stars on display. You might want to give that some thought.

But I would ask you to think back twenty years, Rupert. When you decided to come out, what motivated you? Did you hope you could make a difference? Well, you did make a difference. At least one kid — me — saw you, and knew that things would get better.

You’re making a difference again, Rupert, when you give interviews like the one you gave to the Telegraph. But it’s the wrong kind of difference.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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