Being Adopted Does Not Mean My Parents Bought Me As ‘Chattel’

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written here at ZFb, because I find my role as LGBT Editor at ThinkProgress provides me the venue to say most of what I feel needs to be said. Today is an exception, as I feel the need to write a personal response to an attack I received on me and my family from a semi-prominent spokesperson for the anti-equality movement.

This past week, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution affirming its opposition to same-sex marriage. I debunked that resolution earlier in the week, pointing out that its only foundation was the “bullshitjunk-science study on gay parenting by Mark Regnerus as well as a number of assertions that simply amount to declarations of heterosexual supremacy. This provoked a fairly heated response from one Robert Oscar Lopez.

Here’s what I know about Lopez’s story: he identifies as bisexual but has disowned his gay side, he blames his lesbian parents for his social ineptness, and he seems all too happy to help out groups who oppose same-sex marriage — at the state, federal, and international levels. Notably, he was among the featured speakers at the National Organization for Marriage’s “March for Marriage” last month.

Lopez’s primary talking point is that he was damaged by same-sex parenting and he wants to save other children the same fate. As my fellow blogger Joe Jervis describes his argument, “Nobody Likes Me,” and he makes it over and over. His argument against my “reckless dismissal” of the RNC resolution was similar:

 If you don’t see flashing red lights and a gigantic billboard saying “BAD IDEA” when you contemplate gay couples buying other adults out of their offspring and then raising kids as if one of the biological parents never existed, then there’s really no point in discussing the ethics of parenting. Please don’t call in the APA to settle the matter for you.

Zack Ford discredits Doug Mainwaring’s line that the same-sex marriage movement is turning children into “chattel” to serve the selfish demands of adults. Zack, how do gay men and lesbians come to be exclusive parents of children? They pay men for their sperm and women for use of their wombs, then pay them to go away. This is essentially buying other human beings as property because certain adults — not always gays, but here we are talking about gay adults — care more about having kids than about the kids’ right to half their ancestry. What part of “chattel” or “selfish” is unclear?

Mainwaring, I should point out, is another of NOM’s go-to “gays against gay marriage” — except they like to leave out the part that he’s a Tea Party activist essentially living an ex-gay life with a wife and children. Mainwaring and Lopez may both have sexual orientations that aren’t exclusively heterosexual, but if they’ve disavowed those identities except when it’s politically expedient, it’s hard to credit them as members of the LGBT community.

At any rate, I think Lopez’s argument is pretty offensive on its face and doesn’t require a whole lot of analysis on my part. It’s worth noting that he pits his own testimony and one fraudulent sociologist against the consensus of all psychological, psychiatric, and sociological groups. To prove his point, he made the following suggestion to me and my colleagues at ThinkProgress:

Maybe Zack’s compadres should talk to adoptees and people conceived with anonymous sperm donors or surrogate mothers.  While some are unaffected by the dislocation from their biological origins, many are haunted and scarred.  (As a descendant of slaves, I am haunted and scarred because my ancestors were cut off from me.)

But here’s the thing: I was adopted. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of other people who were adopted, as well as children of same-sex couples. As far as I know, none of us are “haunted and scarred.” I know essentially nothing about my blood-parents, but you know what? I know a lot about my actual parents — the ones I’ve known my whole life — and about their ancestors and whatnot. Just because I don’t share their genes doesn’t make me scarred. It’s actually just kind of cool. When I go to my cousin’s wedding next month, I’m not going to feel somehow ostracized from everyone there just because we have a few different strands of DNA. Family is family.

And I’ll be honest, while I think knowing about your past can be interesting and fulfilling, I don’t know that it’s healthy to feel like you need that information to define yourself and live your own life. I feel bad that Lopez doesn’t know anything about his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather — and obviously slavery was an egregious human atrocity — but is that what’s really holding him back in life?

That might be kind of a harsh personal challenge, but he did just insinuate that my parents were the equivalent slave-traders for adopting me. And given I’m also a gay man who someday hopes to have my own family, he also seems to think that I’m going to “buy” children for selfish reasons that will somehow impede their identity development.

Here are a couple questions I have for Lopez:

  • Were my (heterosexual) parents “selfish” for wanting to have a child in the first place?
  • Was my mom “selfish” when she put her body through hell (a.k.a. in vitro fertilization) trying to have a child?
  • Were my parents “selfish” when they adopted me after my mother failed to conceive?
  • Given you apparently oppose adoption, does that mean you fervently support a woman’s right to choose an abortion?

What I find most interesting about arguments like Lopez’s is how easy it is to see how they are the last remnants of past anti-gay talking points. It used to be that same-sex couples would either abuse their children or somehow turn them gay. Nowadays, the supposed threat to children is that they might just learn in school that same-sex families exist. The Regnerus study — and its knock-off imitations — are a last-ditch effort to try to convince people that there are consequences for the kids of same-sex couples. Now NOM is stuck arguing against adoption, suggesting the children of same-sex couples will resent their parents, and Lopez’s icing on the cake is that they will be deprived of “half their ancestry.” Is that compelling to anybody?

It just strikes me as sad that these groups have such antipathy against gays and lesbians that they actually have lost sight of what’s best for children. Adoption and foster care are good for children who don’t have parents to care for them. Marriage is good for same-sex couples and their children so that they have the same legal and financial protections as other families. Perhaps Lopez is just so troubled by the conflicting values he’s faced throughout his life that he’s lost sight of these common sense realities. I sincerely hope he can find a way to feel better about himself, his past, and his identity that doesn’t require attacking families like mine — both the one in which I was raised and the one I plan to raise myself one day.


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