I always imagined myself as a father, but I never imagined being asked questions quite like these.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I went with queerest questions — other than the obvious alliteration and overall cleverness, that is. Because while some of the questions are offensive, some are annoying, and some are downright stupid, they’re not all offensive, annoying or stupid. But they are all queer — as in odd, strange, bizarre. Much like the entire experience of parenting.
Now, if we’re done questioning the queerness of my headline… on with the questions!
*LGBT community, I’m talking to you, too.
I’ve been remiss in my duties as a same-sex marriage magnetic merry-maker. I decided at some point (probably during the whole Utah kerfuffle, or perhaps Indiana flip-flopping) that I wasn’t going to fully celebrate a state legalizing same-sex marriage (with a magnet and blog post) UNTIL IT HAD FULLY LEGALIZED SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. The majority of recent court cases on marriage equality haven’t resulted in immediate (or lasting) positive results. I’m the kind of person that likes to wait to celebrate until the contract has been signed, the keys are in my hand, or the baby is in my arms. I’ve been burned a couple of times from premature revelry, so I’m particularly cautiously optimistic when it comes to this subject.
And it’s admittedly been confusing to keep track. Here’s the tally,** as of this writing:
- 18 states and DC have legalized same-sex marriage
- 2 states are in progress, with marriages set to start (or restart) later this month
- 9 states are in flux or on pause. In most instances, a court ruling was made declaring a same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional… resulting in marriages being performed… and then a stay being put on the ruling while the opposition got out their red tape to cause some clusterf*ckery.
There are scads of people (my husband included) with more legal knowledge than me, that could use more official terms and offer more detailed explanations. But this is how I explain it to keep my brain from imploding from all the minutia and two-steps-forward-three-steps-backwardness of it all.
One important thing to be gleaned from the current state of same-sex marriage in the United States is that momentum is clearly in our favor. Every single case that has gone before a state court in 2014 has ruled for legalizing marriage equality. Our team’s win column is filled to overflowing.
But I have a bone to pick with “our team” — the LGBT community and our ever-increasing number of hetero allies: Please stop raining on the same-sex marriage parade.
We were winding down from a particularly drama-filled play date. There had been sharing-related skirmishes; LEGO lay strewn about the playroom like carcasses on a battlefield; there had been tears. And after much cajoling and promises of future bounty, there had been an “I’m sowwy” from my little force of nature to his playmate and host. Jon can sometimes be like a giddy locomotive off its tracks. Full steam ahead, tooting its merry horn, nary a thought for the fact that it’s derailed and tearing through the countryside, mowing over everything and everyone in its path.
Yet while he may be full of drive and boundless energy, he’s always been very affectionate. Which, for me — his somewhat introverted and decidedly less adventurous Dad — makes it all manageable.
After we’d made our apologies and gathered our things to go, Jon approached his friend — 6 years old to Jon’s 4 and-a-half — to tell him thank you. He followed with one of his epic hugs — both arms flung out fully extended, not closing them until he’d fully enveloped the huggee. His friend seemed a little overwhelmed, but hugged back; then my son tilted his head, stretched up on his toes, and moved in to give his pal a smooch on the cheek.
The friend jerked his head away, reacting with an annoyed “WHAT THE…?!?” Jon just kind of shrugged and let go. But my heart broke a little.
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The birthplace of Letterman, Lincoln and Larry Bird — and now home to a whole lot more little pink houses* — Indiana joins 18 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage! Just over a month after gay marriage became legal in Pennsylvania, equality wins out two states over as U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young declared Indiana’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.
In his ruling, Judge Young states,
“In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as [the plaintiffs], and refer to it simply as a marriage — not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”
Until that time, congratulations to all the homo-Hoosiers who can finally get hitched! Indiana is the 11th state where a federal judge has struck down a marriage ban since SCOTUS overturned Prop8 and DOMA. We’re on a roll, baby!
BUT WHAT ABOUT UTAH?
First it was legalized. Then it wasn’t. Then yesterday a judge overturned the ban. While I’m very glad for this step back in the right direction, the governor still plans on appealing the overturn of the denial of the freedom for the refusal of rights on the ban and… OH MY GOD I’M SO CONFUSED!!! So until same-sex marriage in Utah is a once-and-for-all done deal, signed in blood and toasted with Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, I’m holding off on putting their magnet up gain.
Since the next step my very well be the U.S. Supreme Court, when they do get around to appealing, the decision could be monumental — and hopefully turn my whole map green…
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES
as of 6.25.14
Click to biggefy. Source: Wikipedia
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Every time a country or US state legalizes same-sex marriage, I post a photo of a magnet from either my fridge or that of a reader. Take a look at some of my previous magnet posts.
*In 2010, the song “Pink Houses” was used by NOM (a leading opponent to same-sex marriage) in an anti-gay rally. Songwriter/performer and Indiana native John Mellencamp sent them a Cease and STFU. Thanks Johnny Cougar, you R.O.C.K.!
As we approach Father’s Day, there have been some pretty cool lists about dads floating around the Internet. So of course I had to make a list of my own, ensuring families with double daddies (or one great gay dad) are represented.
I originally intended to intro my list with lots of statistics showing how more and more Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage and adoption. Or how same-sex couples will be counted as families by the U.S. Census for the first time. Or that gay dads have turned up in all manner of commercials and top-ranked TV shows. Or how I belong to a Facebook group of over 3,000 gay fathers.*
But instead let’s just celebrate what makes gay dads unique, as well as what makes them as equally awesome as all the other active, engaged and loving fathers out there.
1. You’re raised to be caring & compassionate
And you learn how to put your compassion into action… and be all cute and matchy-matchy while doing it. [Photo courtesy of Andy Miller]
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Maya Angelou • 1928-2014 • Rest In Peace
I initially published this drawing without words. How is it possible to honor someone so eloquent with any language of my own? But as I thought about Maya Angelou, I recalled a special memory I wanted to share.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published the year I was born, and from my earliest memories it sat on my parents’ vast bookshelves amongst my minister Father’s religious books, my English professor Mother’s literature, the World Book Encyclopedias. Long before I read Caged Bird, I remember asking my Mother about it, as the title (and cover) intrigued my young mind. She painted only the broadest strokes of the plot, but in the process I received my first lesson about racism.
The book is set in Arkansas, birthplace of Ms. Angelou, as well as both my parents, and home to nearly all my relatives. I lived there between the ages of 2 and 7, and one of my frequent playground pals was Felicia, a black girl. Racism was confusing when my Mother explained it then, and I dread the confused look on my son’s face when I explain it to him.
I’m thankful to Maya Angelou for finding beauty in the midst of horrible humanity, and for teaching generations (and generations to come) what it means to have hope.
I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Chevrolet for airing two commercials during the opening days of the Olympics that were inclusive of gays and lesbians.
Yup. CHEVY. Bastion of American capitalism and producer of big-ass trucks. The last word in “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and…”
Chevy paid upwards of a BAZILLION* dollars to run two commercials featuring gay couples during the Olympics. The Olympics being held in Russia, where the government recently legalized homophobia, essentially sanctioning hate crimes.
I want to preface by saying that I find articles titled “An open letter to…” a bit pompous and self-important. So with that, please enjoy this pompous, self-important open letter to the makers of holiday photo cards — in particular the four companies (un)fortunate enough to have me on their mailing lists.
One of my favorite and longest-running holiday traditions is designing our family’s holiday card. I first created a card for Papa and myself in 2001, and haven’t skipped a year since. With the onset of daddyhood, a requisite family photo has been incorporated into now dominates the design
. However, a couple of years ago, I was forced to use <gasp!> an online photo card company. I was not a happy Designer Daddy. It’s like if Santa had to send all the presents FedEx. This was due to restrictions set by the photographer we used, yet it ended up being a relatively pleasant experience, even if I couldn’t claim it as an original DD creation.
As this year has had an above-normal level of stress, it crossed my mind to save some time and sanity and browse the photo card catalogs we’d received. Whenever I came across a layout I liked, I tried to picture our goofy mugs in place of the picture perfect families smiling back at me. But as I turned page after page after page, I found myself growing disheartened, searching in vain for a photo of a two dad or two mom family. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, considering very few companies of any kind feature same-sex couples or LGBT parents in their marketing or advertising. Even the ones that are historically inclusive rarely show gays or lesbians outside of LGBT publications or broadcasts.
So I did a little experiment. I went back and scoured each of the catalogs I’d gotten, tallying up the families, couples and kids featured in all their glowing, photogenic glory, in order to get some concrete(ish) information. While I was at it, I also took a look at how people of color were represented.
But then a friend messaged me the link to one of the articles. “Have you seen this? So awful.” was all he said. No shit. That’s why I’d been avoiding it. More sensationalist fodder to fuel the 24-hour-news-cycle hyperbole machine. Another emotional train wreck that so many somehow never grow tired of rubbernecking at.
Do you know who doesn’t stop to stare at train wrecks? People who’ve actually been in a train wreck.
As an adoptive parent, I avoided this story the same way I’d avoided the reality series The Baby Wait. This show (from the creators of Teen Mom, 16 & Pregnant, and Jersey Shore…yikes) followed adoptive parents during the revocation period — the time after a child is born when the birthmother can change her mind and terminate the adoption. Sure it shed some light on open adoptions (like ours is) and even featured several same-sex couples. Nonetheless, those pluses were overshadowed by the fact this was a show capitalizing on loss and rejection. Before JJ came into our lives, we had experienced such an ordeal. Why would we want to relive it in any form ever again?
So yeah, I wasn’t reading any story about adoptive parents abandoning their child. I had my own life and adopted child to worry about. And not abandon.
Then later I saw my friend had posted the article on Facebook, and realized that he had written it. With a mix of courtesy and curiosity, I gave in and read it. Here are the miserable highlights:
Cleveland and Lisa Cox adopted their son when he was three months old. Now he’s 9 years old, displaying some aggressive behavior, and is reported to have threatened other family members with a knife. The Cox’s took their son to their local Ohio children services, leaving the state to deal with him. A judge is considering charging the parents with reckless abandonment, for which they could face 6 months of jail time and a $1,000 fine. The parents apparently were frustrated that the boy would not agree to get help for his behavioral issues. The couple took their 2 other children and left the area for a couple of days, then turned themselves in on Friday. The Cox’s will appear in Juvenile Court November 27 to address their request to terminate parental rights.
I’m sure there are details the public isn’t privy to. And I’m not here to pile on more judgement and vitriol (although the temptation is very strong).
So why write about it? Because by all appearances, these two were not meant to be this boy’s parents, and are — by their own admission — unfit to be so. But more importantly, now there’s a 9 year-old boy with likely behavioral problems, stuck in the foster care system. Those are not the kinds of kids that get adopted (again) quickly. Or oftentimes, at all.
My hope is that the more this story gets out — sad, dramatic details and all — the more quickly this boy will find his true and permanent home. Whether it’s a new family with the patience and strength to love and support him unconditionally; or by some miracle, the Cox’s, repentant and willing to do everything it takes to get help for themselves and their son.
As with the vast majority of any honest parents, my child has made me want to yank out my (remaining) hair many times, but I’ve never even pondered “giving him back.” What does that even mean? I don’t sit around thinking about him being adopted, even when I’m angry and frustrated and at my wit’s end. I know JJ is right where he belongs. We’re far from a perfect family, yet he’s mine & Papa’s and we’re his — a forever family. My son has brought so much life to my life, and I could never imagine returning to a time without him.
Thank you to David Wallach (from Dad All Day) for sending me your article.
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P.S. If you don’t already “Like” Designer Daddy’s Facebook Page, but you like the blog, please come by for a visit for additional content, photos and conversation.
I jumped out of a cab and into the sweltering DC heat. I jogged across the street and joined the other 100 or so men in red polo shirts standing across the sidewalk from the US Supreme Court Building. It was June 26th, and less than two hours before, DOMA and Prop8 had been struck down, giving significant momentum to same-sex marriage, and LGBT rights overall. This was more momentum — and public, official support — than gay America had ever experienced.
The guys in red were my friends family and fellow members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. We had been on call for a couple of weeks, awaiting word for when SCOTUS would read their rulings on these closely watched cases. The call had come, the rulings had been read, and we were there to sing — thankfully not in protest, but in celebration.
It was our time — so like a big, sweaty amoeba, we squeezed through the crowd of camera crews, ralliers and a grumpy passer-by or two. As we neared our designated spot, a cheer rippled through the group and I spotted Barney Frank trying to make his way in the opposite direction. I snapped a quick photo, then leaned in for an overly eager hug and a too loud “Thank you for all you’ve done!” in his ear. I may have even kissed his cheek.
We finished forming our rows in front of the steps; our director raised her hands to lead us in the first of our two songs — “Make Them Hear You” from the musical Ragtime. Written from the perspective of African-Americans at the turn of the 20th Century, the lyrics are universal in their admonishment of maligned people to protest peacefully, yet loudly. We reached the final verse…“Go out and tell our story to your daughters and your sons,” and I thought of my own son and the ever more tolerant world he’s growing up in.
We then began to sing the national anthem. I’m amazed at how incredible it feels — both musically and emotionally — to sing this. It’s a powerful thing to hear a host of men’s voices blending together, marginalized citizens showing pride and passion about the country slow to embrace them fully. I’ve had the privilege to perform it with GMCW several times at Washington Nationals’ games. Being behind home plate, hearing our voices echo up into the cavernous stadium full of fans, catching a glimpse of myself on the jumbotron — the experience is always exhilarating.
But that day in front of those steps, it was different. More momentous, yet more intimate. A shift had occurred, and we’d been brought one step closer to equal with our heterosexual neighbors, families and fellow citizens.
If you haven’t thought about the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a while, take a moment to do so:
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
We all know the anthem is about our flag, surviving a brutal battle during the War of 1812. It remained intact, waving proudly amidst the turmoil, giving hope and speaking of bravery and endurance.
And that’s how I felt as we sang in the hot, midday sun. That we as a community had endured so much turmoil and discrimination, merely because of who we love. Yet we had only grown stronger, given greater visibility and resolve by the glaring rockets and bursting bombs all around us: Stonewall. Harvey Milk. AIDS. Matthew Shepard. Westboro Baptist Church. The countless victims of rejection, bullying, excommunication, suicide and murder.
As we neared the end, I choked up, unable to sing. My heart filled with pride for my country, my community, my chorus brothers, my family. My thoughts filled with anticipation and relief and immense patriotism. My eyes filled with a mixture of sweat and tears.
We finished the song, and I hugged several of the guys and took a few more pictures to capture the day. But it was a swampy summer afternoon in Washington, and I’d had enough. I walked back across the street to hail another taxi for an impromptu trip to my husband’s office. I wanted to share and celebrate the moment with him before heading back to work myself.
As I cooled down in the air-conditioned cab, my thoughts went to the pile of work I had waiting for me, and the fatherly work after that feeding, bathing and putting my son to bed. I thought to myself how much time it had taken out of my day, traveling by subway and cab and on foot, the time it was going to take me to get home and the unavoidable stress… but then I stopped myself. I had experienced the struggle of gay Americans in a microcosm that day. Working so hard, traveling far, enduring the searing heat, then one moment of communal triumph… then back to work.
Time to get back to work and family, and all the day-to-day things that make up my life. The only difference was that my relationship and my family were now just as protected and supported as every other American… and that made all the difference.
The reception of our performance has been pretty astounding. It has been featured on PBS NewsHour, The Washington Post, Business Insider, NPR, MSNBC and most local news stations. Oh yeah, and even Glenn Beck’s web site. If you saw/heard it anywhere else, send me the link and I’ll add it to this list.
If you’re on Facebook, you can view my photo album from the performances here.
(P.S. That’s me in the yellow Superman visor, far left.)