An Open Letter to Governor Brown
cc: Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Los Angeles
Dear Governor Brown,
I work for you. I am an Associate Professor of English and Classics at California State University-Northridge.
I know that a bill, AB 1951, sponsored by Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles, may reach your desk for signature soon. It will allow for birth certificates to be issued, which indicate gay men as “mother” and lesbians as “father.” I would like you to veto it and please begin the process of reversing California’s destructive trend toward same-sex parenting homes. While you may have been led to believe that children raised by gay couples are delighted with their lives and view their guardians uncritically, the hidden truth is that many of us who were raised by gay couples are hurting and feel that our rights have been violated.
Rather than compound California’s problem – too many kids growing up in gay homes – you need to veto this legislation and begin to reverse the process by phasing out third-party reproduction and ending gay adoption. What I am saying may seem infeasible, even shocking, but the reality is that gay parenting is a problem, not a solution. Like past social experiments, such as Lebensborn or mass adoption of Native American children, the drawbacks to this current fashion of custody are impossible to see for many people who are so immersed in the issue that they cannot take a broad view. The innovation is still new, there is so much pressure to view it favorably, and the people who want it to proliferate are powerful. Rather than exemplifying “the right side of history,” this situation mirrors the conditions that led to gross injustices in the past.
I am asking you to see beyond the here and now and look at gay parenting through a historically informed, humanitarian lens, so you can see that it is a bad idea and something that should be abated and then ceased, rather then encouraged.
I know that will take a long time but it is urgent that you do this because these gay homes, despite all the ways they have been romanticized in the press, are generally abusive and destructive.
They are abusive, first of all, because having a mom and having a dad are powerful, culturally significant parts of the human experience – impossible to quantify or attach a price tag to – and gay couples are being allowed to strip children of this universal entitlement simply to pursue their own dreams of the perfect alternative family.
We hear that gay couples have loving homes and they love their children. I don’t buy that because I think love means you sacrifice for the other person rather than expect the other person to sacrifice for you. If you love a child, you either sacrifice your gayness and raise the child in a home with both mother and father, or you sacrifice your dream of parenthood so the child can be adopted by a home with a mother and father. If the child is an orphan or a special-needs child or an abandoned ward of the state, the child needs a mom and dad more than anybody else, for they need stability and normalcy in the wake of trauma. You don’t ask your child to sacrifice something as important and universal as having a mother and father for your sake.
The “love” of a gay couple for children is coercive, because the child is being forced into an emotional relationship with at least one person who isn’t a biological parent, whether the child wants this or not. Like most Cinderellas, the child will often not want the emotional relationship but the gay couple emboldened by state endorsement will force it on him or her anyway.
To be the child forced to live someone else’s dream, and to have nobody to honor or commemorate on days as important as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, are not small pains. They are profound emotional wounds, worsened by the fact that the State of California, in trying to please gay adults, has inscribed into law the notion that our losses are meaningless, our pains non-existent, our missing fathers and missing mothers nothing to cry over. We are told to be grateful and smile for the cameras. That’s wrong.
We shouldn’t harass gay families that currently exist. Support them and please minimize the suffering of children in those homes, since it isn’t their fault, and they are very vulnerable to backlash from their parents. Most gay couples who have placed children in these situations have not had a chance to hear a frank, uncensored view of same-sex parenting from someone who grew up in such a home, reached adulthood, and now has the independence and hindsight to be objective. Many gay couples who raise children have been indoctrinated by an assimilationist agenda set by one part of the gay community. They don’t realize that they can be beautiful people and live wonderful lives without having to pattern their relationship after a man and a woman who conceive children through lovemaking.
I have tried to speak for the many children of same-sex couples who don’t like what was done to them, but I’ve been cowed into silence and blacklisted in California. My mother was a lesbian and was in a lifelong relationship with another woman for, basically, my entire childhood from my earliest memories until my mother’s death. She died when I was nineteen. That was 24 years ago.
The explosion in same-sex parenting homes is neither something to take lightly, nor something to be proud of. At first I thought I was an outlier, or someone with an anomalous experience, not applicable as a general principle. The more I got in contact with other adults who had gay parents, and the more I got to speak to children living in gay homes, the more I realized that my experience is the rule, not the exception.
Over the last two years I have been studying the testimonials of other people who were raised by same-sex couples. Currently I have twenty-five that are available for the public, some drawn from the work of Dawn Stefanowicz, a woman who was raised by a gay father. Dozens of others have communicated with me but they are fearful about publishing any details, let alone their names, which might make it possible for same-sex marriage advocates to figure out who they are.
The same-sex parenting research has to be thrown out, since it has been carried out by biased scholars who handpicked examples of children raised in gay homes. The national climate is so hostile to children of gay couples who have negative feedback, even the best-intended researcher would find it impossible to record frank testimony from children raised in such homes.
I do not have time to recount the whole ugly tale of what gay parenting advocates, including many academic scholars, did to me in punishment for speaking against the supposed “no disadvantages” consensus. Once I came forward with a respectful critique of same-sex parenting based on negative outcomes in my life, I endured a brutal retaliation at my California State University job, orchestrated by powerful gay organizations such as GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the New Civil Rights Movement. All three of these organizations became entangled with academic affairs.
GLAAD listed me on their “Commentator Accountability Project” list as someone who had supposedly made antigay statements. Their main complaint was that I, as a scholar of early American black literature, discussed the pain black slaves felt being bought and separated from their heritage, as a way of explaining why it is not a small thing to separate children like me from their heritage to make gay couples happy. They oversimplified this complex scholarly argument as “Robert Oscar Lopez equated same-sex marriage to slavery” and then wrote to Stanford University, urging them to block me from delivering a speech at a conference there on April 5, 2014. Based on GLAAD’s designation of me as antigay, a queer student group at Stanford succeeded in blocking funds to the Stanford Anscombe Society at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The Human Rights Campaign maintains a list called the “Regnerus Fallout” page, designed to identify people who were behind Texas Sociologist Mark Regnerus’s article, which came out in July 2012 in Social-Science Research. Mark Regnerus found that adults who had been raised by parents in same-sex relationships experienced lifelong difficulties. I had nothing to do with the study other than the fact that I wrote an article on August 6, 2012, describing my difficulties and pointing out that I could understand the Regnerus results in human terms. For this, the Human Rights Campaign listed me, misleadingly, as someone “involved” in Regnerus’s study; the Regnerus Fallout page also regurgitates GLAAD’s oversimplified claim that I compared gay parents to slave-owners. The purpose of the Human Rights Campaign’s list, like the GLAAD list, is to identify me and my existence in the academy, so that people know to block my publications, public speaking, or funding.
Long before I had even used my scholarship in African American literature as a comparison point to understand same-sex parenting, the New Civil Rights Movement had already waged a campaign of character assassination against me simply based on my honesty about negative experiences being raised by a lesbian and growing up in the gay community. The New Civil Rights Movement, in August 2012, had a writer named Scott Rosenzweig who wrote over ten emails to my co-workers and bosses at Northridge, accusing me of bullying, gay-bashing, and hate speech because I recounted honestly my lifelong difficulties as the son of a lesbian.
The Rosenzweig harassment was particularly threatening in late 2012 because he had already succeeded in forcing the University of Texas to open an investigation into Mark Regnerus. Laurie Essig, a Middlebury College professor and writer with the Chronicle of Higher Education, had cited Scott Rosenzweig as if he were a serious authority on same-sex parenting (he is actually not a professor or scholar of any kind, being only a blogger).
The actions by GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the New Civil Rights Movement demonstrate the extent to which political advocacy groups, flush with money, have interfered with academic research and retaliated against scholars who have contrary data—as well as against children of same-sex couples who have scholarly credentials that enable them to articulate negative feedback. The fact that they have moved so blatantly to contain any challenges to the “consensus” on same-sex parenting proves the urgency in throwing that consensus out, since it is based on coercion and suppression of pertinent contrary information. I should note that despite the highly public references to me by these three groups, no researcher in the field of same-sex parenting, other than Mark Regnerus and Walter Schumm, has ever contacted me or asked me for feedback on their scholarship. To them, apparently, I do not exist, which speaks volume about the illegitimacy of their research models.
Authorities in my college tried to block me from using grant money I’d received from outside donors. They approved a public records request which allowed emails with sensitive information to be released to Scott Rosenzweig. They created a hostile work environment where I was constantly nagged about small details that my co-workers did not have to worry about.
I am not going to say that the supporters of Proposition 8 handled the issue of gay parenting well. My view is that they should have stood up against gay adoption and third-party reproduction. They did not because they had a fixation with religious liberty arguments, and they felt that marriage was more important than children’s rights. It is possible that many traditional marriage supporters internalized some of the racist and classist assumptions about orphans or poor children. Perhaps they came to agree with gay advocacy organizations that a child raised in a wealthy gay home is better off than a child raised by struggling biological parents.
I am here to tell you that all the money and high-class living in the world cannot undo the pain and loss inflicted on a child forced to grow up without a mother and father. I grew up in a comfortable upper middle-class home and went to Yale, but I would have traded all that for a shack and gone to trade school, if I could have grown up with my father and mother and seen them love each other.
Being separated from half of your biological origins is always difficult, whether the people responsible for this separation were gay or straight. It just so happens that a small minority of heterosexual parents will decide to uproot children from their birth parents and place them in other parenting arrangements, yet one hundred percent of gay couples raising kids have made such decisions.
And then there is the reality that it isn’t the same thing, growing up with two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad. I needed a male parent to show me how to be a man. Lesbian moms who bring in “male role models” to teach this to their sons aren’t cutting it. It’s not the same because those role models have no real authority over you and aren’t truly a permanent or stable part of your life. The only way to make a father figure a stable part of your life would be for one of the lesbians to marry him and raise you as a family, which is precisely what the lesbians do not want to do. It is very difficult to learn how to be a man from men who are being actively excluded and minimized by two gay women.
As I was growing up, I also longed to connect with my father’s roots; he was Filipino whereas my mother was Puerto Rican and her partner was white.
On top of all these deprivations and confusions, there is the added reality that regardless of your parents’ sexuality, the chances are overwhelmingly that you are going to grow up to be heterosexual. I call myself bisexual because I was involved with many men during the long period of sexual confusion, which lasted from the ages of thirteen to twenty-eight.
I lost my virginity to a woman at the age of twenty-eight and realized that I was really meant to couple with females. But it took me an extraordinarily long time to get up the courage to deal with a woman, because I grew up with no examples of men and women loving each other. I do not wish to disown my earlier past, so I call myself bisexual.
Gay culture is not the same as other ways of life. It is highly specific and fraught with problems. As statistics attest, gay adults have higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicidal ideation. We need to help people who struggle with all these issues surrounding homosexuality. By that I mean we must help them live as happy homosexuals; I am not calling for gay people to “change” if they really are gay.
But helping gay people live satisfying lives is an issue quite distinct from the best interests of a child whose well-being has been entrusted to your state. A child does not need to be exposed to all those problems. It does nobody any favors to pretend that gay people don’t have a higher incidence of these problems and to feign equivalence between a gay home, where not one but two people come from this high-risk demographic, and a straight home, where the problems aren’t so rampant.
Of course there are specific examples of terrible heterosexual homes and then you will see carefully selected examples of highly functional, happy gay couples with kids, but as a governor you can’t be naïve. Gay couples have a lot more hardship and that hardship rolls downhill and affects the kids, who are often expected to protect their parents when they should be the ones being protected.
If my father had died or if he’d abandoned me through some kind of tragedy beyond my parents’ control, that would be one thing. I might have been able to deal with that. But it didn’t happen like that. Two lesbians valued their relationship with each other and dragged me into their romantic dynamics, cutting me off from my dad. I felt powerless and still do, when I think about it.
Overwhelmingly, the people who have spoken to me, who were raised by a biological parent and that parent’s gay partner, did not want to be placed in an emotional relationship with the non-biological gay partner. They viewed that person as someone whom they had to adapt to, in order to have access to their biological parent, not someone whom they wanted the state’s laws to impose on them as an added emotional burden. This dynamic, believe it or not, is evident even in cases where the child came into the gay couple’s home through sperm banking or through surrogacy. Even if the child has known nothing but the gay couple, the child generally does not want to have to deal with both gay adults as parents; they want one dad or one mom, and the added gay person in the adult pairing is a burdensome addition. Much of their longing and sadness in adolescence and adulthood focuses, moreover, on the vacuum left by the missing father or missing mother.
You will hear, from time to time, that same-sex couples need to be validated for their children’s sake. This is false reasoning. Most kids being raised by same-sex couples don’t want to be there and resent the implied threats from their gay parents when they feel dissatisfied with their state of deprivation. Gay parents do threaten their children when they hear kids saying things that remind them of homophobia. The problem is that often buzzwords or key phrases that remind gay parents of homophobia aren’t signs that the child is bringing home outside prejudice; rather, it is a child crying out in pain because adults stole a mother or father from him or her, and the child knows it’s unfair. The problem is that the unfairness was inflicted not by people who hated the child, but by the two people who claimed they loved the child most.
Governor Brown, up until now, the concerns and viewpoints I have expressed in this letter have been silenced and suppressed. In an incredibly undemocratic development, children have been forced to sever themselves from fathers or from mothers, because one political party wanted to please the gay lobby and the other political party decided we, the children, weren’t worth fighting for. The media, the academy, the courts, politicians, and even many religious leaders have told us to shut up—even threatened us – because our gay parents have more power than we do. It is systematic child abuse, and your veto of this bill could be the first step in correcting it.
Please, Governor Brown, do the right thing.
Robert Oscar Lopez
Associate Professor of English and Classics, California State University-Northridge
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