What Life Is Like When Children of Gay Couples Don't Matter
On March 27, 2015, five other children of gays (COGs) and I went to Washington, D.C. to deliver our amicus briefs to the Supreme Court of the United States. The biographies of Heather Barwick, Katy Faust, BN Klein, Robert Oscar Lopez, Denise Shick, and Dawn Stefanowicz have already been narrated, perhaps excessively, in conservative publications, so I will not waste the reader’s time by recounting the specifics of each confessional. What should have mattered – and what, as it turns out, didn’t matter – is our categorical identity. We are the real-life faces of people with serious standing in the question of gay marriage.
Especially in light of Justice Kennedy’s sweeping inclusion of custody and birth certificates in his definition of gay adults’ Fourteenth Amendment “equal protection” rights, gay marriage has a much greater impact on children than it ever could have had on gay couples. Whereas gay adults may get married, then get divorced, and even remarry to the opposite sex if they wish, children placed in mother-mother or father-father homes are irreparably estranged from half or all their heritage, and permanently denied a mother or denied a father.
Among the six of us, many including myself are former supporters of gay marriage. Why? Because we loved our guardians and did not want society to treat them as inferiors. They were a big part of our lives, regardless of whatever imperfections we may have described in our memories of growing up. They mattered to us. By extension, gays and lesbians mattered to us. We changed our mind and started opposing gay marriage when we realized we didn’t matter to gays and lesbians. And the fact that we counted for so little in the eyes of the community asking for total power over people like us was not only emotionally hurtful, but also, and perhaps more importantly, politically terrifying.
A funny thing happened on the way to equality. It started with tales of lesbians stuck in the hospital after car accidents, unable to receive their own lovers as visitors. Who could oppose legal protections to prevent such tragedies from happening? I bought into these anecdotes partly because I remember during my mother’s convalescence how important it was for her lover to be at her bedside. And of course there were tales of teenage boys being bullied by mean kids after school. As someone called a sissy and chased down by serious jerks, I was willing to endorse anything that might ease the suffering of people targeted by hate and intolerance.
Then there was a bait and switch. Suddenly self-appointed leaders of the Gay and Lesbian Community, Inc., decided that receiving legal recognition was not enough. They had to have the right to have children – and not just on the terms forced upon the vast majority of society, but solely on their terms. They wanted to have legally recognized and government-subsidized relationships with the same sex. They wanted to exclude adults of the opposite sex from their home, intimate lives, and property. They wanted the bodies of children – to wit, loving and obedient children – in their homes, genetically connected to them if possible. They wanted nobody in the home (including the kids), nobody in their neighborhood, nobody on TV, and eventually nobody in the entire world to make any passing reference purposeful or casual to the fact that this arrangement was strange, came with risks, and might be unfair to the very kids the couples expected to love them.
These demands are incredibly unreasonable and cruel, not only to the children, but to all the other parties whose kinship bonds must be mangled or who must be silenced in order to meet such a tall order. My criticisms fell on hostile ears. I have been deemed anti-gay, an ex-gay, a virulent homophobe, an exporter of hate, and a million other epithets. At this point the accusations are so predictable and commonplace I rarely notice them. My routine: “What is it, Tuesday today? Oh, the Human Rights Campaign has linked me to people who drafted anti-gay laws in Uganda, a complete lie. Whatever. Time to get ready for my morning lecture on Whitman.”
But let’s set aside the meanness and irrational vitriol that have become a mainstay of gay internet trolling and look objectively at what gay leaders were demanding. Is it reasonable to expect to have children without building a life with the children’s other parents? Along with this demand goes the demand for silence and speech-policing on the parts of the outside world to keep such captive children from ever hearing anything that might trigger a liberating thought in their mind. Forbidden are the thoughts that have sparked the movements of oppressed people to rise up in the past: I see what has been done to me. I see injustice. This is not fair. I must speak truth and call this unfair, or I will suffer in silence. I must call injustice by its name.
Let’s be real. These are unreasonable things to ask for. Regardless of how many cute photographs run on The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, it isn’t fair to the children, and many of the children will eventually awaken to harm that’s been done to them. You can run cereal ads about gay men adopting children for only so long before the fakeness and shallowness become painfully apparent. Not only is it unreasonable, but such petulant expectations of society reflect serious character flaws. People who scream that they want things that go far beyond what is rational to expect are – what do we call them? – petulant, selfish, inconsiderate, solipsistic, overly entitled, arrogant, spoiled. These are adjectives that describe individuals and can also describe trends of entire social groups. These are adjectives I would use to describe the gay activist community’s attitudes about children. They want women’s eggs, women’s wombs, men’s sperm, given to them at dirt-cheap prices, and kids to populate their estates who won’t utter a peep of protest, especially in front of other people.
What begins as an unreasonable, skewed perception of one’s entitlements vis-à-vis the world quickly turns to cruelty. The many COGs who have come forward with mixed reviews about gay parenting have gotten brutally attacked, not by homophobic Christians who hate their parents, but rather by gay parenting advocates who hate anybody proposing limits on their demands. Many of us have gotten fired or been blacklisted professionally by gay professionals writing to employers or other authorities in our fields of work. All of us have been threatened, bombarded with defamatory slurs, and slandered by gay people who raise children or who want to.
The gay community is full of people who should not be trusted with children. They don’t think as parents. If they had the minds of parents, they would see dissident COGs being mistreated and see a mirror of the children they are raising or hope to raise. Instead, they see dissident COGs and see people threatening their own petulant and irresponsible expectations declared in the name of their gay identity. In other words, they think about themselves and don’t actually think about the children, except as a means to satisfy themselves.
Countless heterosexuals are awful parents, but the government does not make it a general policy to look past their awful behavior and promise them the love and obedience of other people’s children. When people criticize their awful heterosexual parents, heterosexual parents listening to the criticism generally think in terms of how unfair things were to kids.
Awful heterosexual parents are structurally and existentially worlds apart from the awfulness of the gay community’s parenting practices.
The gay community told all of society, over 20 years ago, that they could be trusted with other people’s children. When children emerged as the fulfillment of the demands this community made of society, many of them had stories that ran counter to what the gay community promised. The gay community had nothing to say. Pro-gay Americans had nothing to say. Conservatives just wanted to talk about their own Christian principles being threatened by having to bake cakes for lesbian weddings. Nobody had anything to say about the fact that a grand social experiment had been based on vows that an irrational, conceited community had made and broken, with no sense of repentance.
Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four conspirators in his willful ignorance – Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg – were given ample opportunities to look past hashtags, propaganda, and the gay community’s temper tantrums. They signed off on a decision in Obergefell, which essentially argued this: (1) Gay people have suffered in the past. (2) The Fourteenth Amendment was passed to protect the liberty and due process of people who have suffered. (3) Ergo, anything that gay people want is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. If they want children and have the money to buy them, have at it.
But according to Justice Kennedy, the Fourteenth Amendment does not protect children whom gay people demand as an entitlement. Children of gays are slaves. Justice Kennedy made no reference whatsoever to the COGs who had submitted detailed amicus briefs to him. The four dissenting justices made no reference to us, either. In the eyes of the court, we do not exist. Some COGs do exist: that is, children of gays who refrain from criticizing their loss of their heritage and who cheer for the gays who control them and keep them silent. At least the latter “good” children get to exist. But they don’t really matter any more than we do. If they mattered, they would have the liberty to say the things we say, which they clearly don’t.
W.E.B. DuBois once mused on the question that crossed black men’s minds: what is it like to be a problem? The question crosses my mind: what is it like when you don’t matter?
I inhabit a horrible world and am a citizen of a nation I increasingly fear and despise. Having devoted my whole life to studying early American literature and celebrating our country’s cultural and political roots, I find it hard to be positive anymore. My nation used me and people like me as toys for their little political games. My country ruined my humanity and broke all its promises to me.
When you don’t matter, you can’t trust anyone. And I don’t. Life is lonely and heartbreaking when you don’t matter. With each day the Christian in me grows and the American in me withers: perhaps, I tell myself, God has dealt us these painful blows so that we realize that government is not religion, courts are not church, and judges like Anthony Kennedy are no gods. A higher purpose exists – I know that now, better than I ever have. That is the only positive thing about living life as someone who doesn’t matter.
Robert Oscar Lopez edited Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family “Equality.”