Saturday, March 16, 2013

No Second Best

The National Organisation for Marriage must be wishing that Maggie Gallagher would come out of retirement because the guys speaking for them today have a terminal case of hoof-in-mouth disease. At least in the web of lies and misconceptions Maggie spun for the public, she never insulted  a Supreme Court Justice , nor a vast swath of Americans who she hoped to reach with her "gays are taking over marriage" tear tactics.  And yet, the people who have taken over her job of talking to the media simply do not seem to run their comments through any kind of internal editing process before letting them out in the sunshine to run around and terrorize the public. Case in Point: this week I read, via Towleroad, and story from the AP that made my blood boil. Apparently John Eastman, of the National Organisation for Marriage was waxing philosophic about the likely hood that the personal lives of the Justices could effect their decisions in the upcoming Prop 8 and DOMA trials...and let slip that he considers adoption a "second best" option. Check out his comments and my take on them after the jump...

(emphasis mine)
 You're looking at what is the best course societywide to get you the optimal result in the widest variety of cases. That often is not open to people in individual cases. Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts' family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option," said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. Eastman also teaches law at Chapman University law school in Orange, Calif.

Now I'm  not exactly sure in what sense Mr. Eastman regards adoption to be second best, and given the choppy and unclear nature in which it was made, I'm not sure even Mr. Eastman knew what the hell he was saying. Is he saying that adoption is second best to having your own biological children?...or second best to the kids being with their biological parents. In both cases, he would be wrong.

His words seems like just the kind of uncensored, off-the-cuff  moment that probably made him kick himself afterward. However, it probably isn't a good idea to refer to adoption as "second best" when your organisation is one of a hand full who have in interest in defending Prop 8 and DOMA before Justices that have Justice John Roberts who adopted his two children in 2000 and Justice Thomas who adopted his grandnephew. Nor is it a good idea when you are trying to reach out to mainstream America that gay marriage and adoption in bad by insulting huge numbers of adoptive families. I'm not sure, but I think that would be considered bad strategy....for them....But hopefully their candid comments could translate into a boon for us.

To be fair to Mr. Eastman, he is claiming that his comments were being misrepresented:

"An article by the Associated Press has been mischaracterized by The Huffington Post to grossly misrepresent my views on adoption. I believe that couples who adopt children are heroes and do a great service to society, and to the children they adopt. I strongly believe, based on thousands of years of experience and countless social science studies, that children do best when raised by a mother and a father within the bounds of marriage. I commend all those couples who selflessly give of themselves to raise a child who, through no fault of her own, has been deprived of a mother and father. There is nothing 'second best' about adoption."

Perhaps Mr. Eastmans clarification is authentic, perhaps not. Many who will regard his original comment as being purely motivated by his bigotry and indicative of a viewpoint that their are some people and some families that are better than others. But regardless of his actual motivations, there does seem to be more than a hint of damage control at play.  To me that is most evident by how often he uses the word "hero" in regards to adoption and adoptive parents. Whenever I hear of adoption spoken of in that way it signals to me that the speaker really has no understanding of what adoption means to the kids and parents they bring together. Nor is Mr. Eastman...regardless all his anti-gay animus...unique in holding this distorted view of adoption as a less desirable way of building a family. Or alternately, as something too frightening and difficult for most people to manage. Sadly, I get versions of these opinions all over the place.

Both my husband and I are still involved with an adoption support group run through our agency. It's a great place for the kids to be around other kids with backgrounds like theirs and a great place for us parents to vent our worries, fears, and frustrations among others who have been there. One common complaint I hear from other parents is the person who finds out that a person is an adoptive family and then says of their children, "Oh, they are so lucky to have you!"...usually backed up with ,"You are so brave!"  In both cases the person giving these remarks thinks you saved a troubled child from a world of hell and that you must be an incredible individual for being able to take care of a child who has to have obvious behavioral and emotional baggage. It sounds very unflattering when put that way...and I know that the person who says it doesn't mean it that way...but the fact they often miss is how much adoptive parents had a child shaped hole in their hearts that only these kids could ever have filled. Nor do they understand that adoptive parents understand that even the best of families come with some baggage that we learn to love each other through it....our kids and families are no different. In short, our kids make us feel like the lucky ones and I try not to take offense when I hear this because I know the person means well...they just don't get it.

What can be more frustrating is the notion that it's better to have your own biological children than to adopt someone else's. As an example, a few years ago our family went on a Rosie O'Donnell, "R Family" cruise. There among other gay families like ourselves, we had hoped that we could just enjoy our vacations without having to focus on who might be looking at us as different. It makes it kind of hard to relax. In engaging other couples about their kids(as parents always do)it began to be clear...especially in male couples....that surrogacy was looked at as a more socially desirable option because it meant that...A) you were biologically related...and B) you could afford it. After hearing all about their process and having the chance to share our own we would often get "...oh..." as a response...and that's all. It was kind of a head scratcher for me and sometime just pissed me the hell off. Our kids were not less wanted or loved for having been brought into our home via adoption and it irritated the hell out of me that anyone felt that way...especially a gay person. If they had said to be, "I think your so brave!"...I think I would have gone off on them. But, I have to ask how many straight families there are out there in the world that think the same way? How many people feel the need for a biological connection with a child in order to look at them as really their own? That seems so sad to me and a loss to both kids and parents alike.

Also...I think sometimes the status issue involves a fear that somehow children in need of adoption must have behavioral issues too frightening to deal with...or that a child they adopt will reject them as a parent because they fear the day they may hear, "your not me real dad!". This is a piece that I think stops a lot of people from considering adoption and also something that most people don't want to own up to. Just like parenting any child with special needs...considering the prospect feels scary at first. Will they be too much to deal with? Will they accept me or I them? Both are really a question of if they will be able to completely bond and feel secure in their role as a parent. I kinda went through this a bit. especially with my son Daniel, who's medical issues gave me pause at first. It's not something I am proud of, because I don't want to think that here I was presented with my son and I hesitated, but his medical issues scared me. I didn't know if I could adequately take care of him, I feared for his experience at school(which brought up my own bullying issues), and I wondered whether a five year old boy would miss his biological dad too much to ever accept me as his father. Those were my very first reactions to seeing his profile. And yet....

The first day I met Daniel and Selena was at an arranged visit at Social Services in Sacramento. I walked into the building to see this little boy holding his foster mothers hand with his big eyes and terrible bowl haircut....and he looked so small. My heart broke wide open then and all the fears I had seemed to be so much less important that loving this little boy who looked so small and so lost. During our fostering period with him and even after final adoption, he would ask lots of questions about his dad and finding his dad(his father had been deported due to criminal activity and could not be contacted). Those questions were hard to deal with, but I understood why Daniel was asking them and I would have asked all the same questions in his we did our best to give him the truth in as much as he could process at his age. Sometimes Daniel would be overly compliant and behave super good because he was afraid we would send him back...and sometimes he would express his anger in the night, when we couldn't see or hear it, in the form of ripping all the pages out of his story books and hiding them under the bed. We had our issues to contend with and it wasn't all smooth sailing. But, all the things I was scared I might have to face turned out to be so much less scary because the love I felt for my kids made it seem so much less important. And they were my kids...even when Daniel asked about his dad...even when Selena asks about her mom. I know that deep down, even they get older and maybe will someday meet their biological parents again...that the people that tucked them in every night, cooked them bad dinners, and forced them to do their homework are who they are going to remember as dad. I know it when Daniel says "I love you" and gives lots of hugs... and I know it when  Selena draws me cute pictures of all of us together. We are a family the same as if we had been there for their birth.

And so, when someone says how lucky an adopted child is for having been adopted by us, we will always respond with, "No...we are the lucky ones." We are the ones get to be the beneficiaries of all those hugs and we are the characters that will wind in and out of their memories of growing up...and on into the future of their lives. That makes me feel pretty special actually.

So again we come back to Mr. Eastman and what could have been in his mind when he uttered the words "second best option". Did he mean that my kids would be better off still with their biological parent's being abused and neglected? or simply that they should have been adopted by a man and a woman. Which, if that is the case, makes me wonder how many kids Mr. Eastman has adopted with his wife. But, regardless of if Mr. Eastman spoke his words out of bigotry or not, any adoptive parent who gets called a "hero" will have their red flags go up. our children  are not some herculean task we put up with....and they have rescued us as much as we have them. I can't speak for Justice Roberts, but I bet he's had similar experiences enough to see comments like Eastmans for what they are...the words of a man who does not understand how awesome it is to be a part of adoption and how no parent that's ever been through it could EVER view it as the second best choice....because even on our worst days, everyday I wake up to my family, I feel like I won first prize.

Until next time dear readers....


  1. Weirdly, reading the part about Daniel having issues and behaving really good so he wouldn't get sent back. When i was growing up, i had a friend who was adopted, I think he was aged 9 or 10 years old, he grabbed a bag and packed some clothes then sat at the bottom of the stairs. His mother found him and asked what he was doing, to which he explained how he was ready to go back for adoption.

    I honestly don't know how i would face a situation like that, but there again, i'm 24 and at this point in my life, i don't really have any inclination as to wanting to become a parent yet, but i know when it comes to it, i'd give adoption a look at first. Why bring another child into the world when theres some out-there who could well be wanting what i have to offer.

  2. Thank you for the article.
    Adopted children should know that the may not been born to their current parents, but the were chosen.
    They are special.

  3. When I got too much for my parents to handle, they would frequently tell me that they would send me for adoption !!! --- I'm guessing that you and Daddy Jay don't ever make such threats to Daniel or Selena.

    Your family story really makes it easy for some of us to see a future with adoption as a possible to start/grow our own families. After seeing all you videos and reading your blogs, I do have some more questions, and I hope you can help me answer it :

    1) How far in advance would you plan for an adoption ? --- > including everything thing like money, adoption process etc

    2) I hope this is not seen as a 'mean' question , but was there a point during or after the adoption process when you felt that they were REALLY your kids ? --> I think this question really stumps a lot of us would-be adoptees.

    3)Do you guys ever worry that if you were to someday have your own biological kids ( let's just say for the sake of argument ) that Daniel or Selena would feel jealous ? And have you asked them this question?

    4)A lot of straight pregnancies are surrounded by rituals like baby showers etc. I'm guessing that almost all adoptions are bureaucratic and filled with legal issues -- the same can be said with surrogacy I think ( I've never actually went through these processes, so I'm actually conjecturing, please correct me if I'm wrong! ) The question I have is if you guys would recommend any special rituals when going through the adoption process ? -- > Is there anything you guys did to 'sweeten' the whole process, or perhaps make it more 'magical' ( for lack of a better word ) like a baby shower?

    I hope you can answer these questions, and I hope that it's not personal. They are just questions that I think I might have when I get to considering having children through adoption.


  4. Hi there!
    I'm an adoptive parent who met Jay and Bryan through our support group. In answer to some of your questions, Tze Goh, I'll give you some of my observations:
    1. It depends on what kind of adoption process you are doing. In our case, we decided we wanted to adopt in January 2007 and started the process of paperwork, classes, etc. We were visited by social workers to approve our home and family (called a "home study") and then around June of that year we were officially legally ready to adopt. It took another 9 months after that (ironically) before we got "the call" that our daughter was waiting. She had been born in December 2007 and we found out about her and met her when she was 3 months old, in March 2008. We adopted her through the foster care system, and so, in our case, we didn't have to save up a lot of money as some people would have to in the case of private or international adoption.
    2. I think your question is valid...a lot of people worry about that one. I think that I knew very soon after meeting our daughter that we were meant to be together and that I would do everything in my power to fight for her ...I think that when the right situation comes along, you just know.
    3. I don't know about this one. A lot of adopted kids grow up with siblings who were born to the parents, but it's not our situation.
    4. We were lucky to have some support around us and our mothers had a baby shower for us. It was when our baby was 6 months old. Interestingly, not many of our friends came to a shower that my friend had for us. That felt weird. When we finally adopted our daughter (when she was almost 2 1/2) we had a big party to celebrate with family and friends. You can definitely have special events and rituals that make the process sweeter...letting family and friends know how special the process is can hopefully make them understand.

    I think that if you're thinking of adoption, it can definitely work for you. Stay positive through the process (a lot of people can make a lot of things sound negative). Get a good network of support for yourself and your child(ren). Have faith. Remember that the result is really worth all the struggles (we had such a battle, but in the end, I get to wake up and see our beautiful 5-year-old every morning). The right child(ren) that is (are) meant to be with you will come!
    I hope some of that helps. :)

  5. I think I'm probably guilty of going on about how wonderful it is when I hear that someone adopted. It wouldn't occur to me to call anyone a hero because that just sounds quite exaggerated and a bit false.

    What I'm commenting about with my 'oh how wonderful!' is that I think it's really lucky, fortunate, great, wonderful, fantastic and everything that all you guys have found each other - that you got the chance to become a family and that this happened for you all. In your case all four of you.

    And see it as a great thing for someone to adopt kids when I think that they might not have, that they might have been scared off from trying because they think it's too difficult. That's my main reason for holding people who adopt in high regard. Because if you don't then more kids are left in the system and although I don't know what that entails exactly, it doesn't sound terribly great. Every child should be able to have parents who care for him or her, whether they are the biological parents (whether a straight or a gay couple. Or people who take the parents' stead, like grandparents or other relatives etc) or adoptive parents: someone to belong with, a place to call home that's home of your family: parents and children. And too many kids 'in the system' don't get that.
    These are really my main reasons for being so happy to hear about adoption.

    I might mention the 'you're so brave' phrase when I know that the child wasn't a baby any more at adoption - because it must be a cause for concern to perhaps not know if you can cope with issues. But I wouldn't say it out of an assumption that all kids up for adoption come with problems, I don't think I assume that. But this initial doubt and concern, it's just natural, isn't it? It means you didn't go into it naively or unrealistically unconcerned. It's better to expect things to perhaps not go as smoothly as you would like, to feel like you are a bit more prepared to face what comes.

    I am so very happy for all four of you that you are a family. And I know that any foster kid in your care has the wonderful opportunity to be looked after by two great guys, people who really care for their well-being. Thank you for posting the blog and the videos, it is a privilege to be able to hear how things are for all of you. All my best wishes!


  6. The child shaped hole in your heart, all to true. Children are such wonderful beings, spreading love and endless faith in us with each hug and smile.

    Adopted children are never second best, but some people sure seem to think so. After my brother in law and his wife adopted a cousin at birth, his mother never considered her "blood" and when asked how many grandchildren she had, she always and forever left her out, 8 grandson's she say very proudly. Wounding my niece every single time she heard her grandmother leave her out.

    Some people I think have seen to many tv shows, day time talk horror stories to believe that even through the rough times, it is still worth adopting. To be honest, raising any child biological or not is no easy task. They dont come with a manual, its all on the job training. But worth the work and tears and struggle.

    Oh, and that NOM guy? Yeah of course he's a windbag, what else could he be working for them?

  7. If adoption is "second best" for whom? My niece who is adopted and her brother, my nephew, that is family by marriage are still family; my brother is still their Dad.
    My sister, whos mother was not mine and my oldest brother(I've never met) are still family though they are technically half siblings.
    We build families with people that are not blood relations all the time, the issue becomes that they lack legal recognition for the sake of obligation and inheritance. That I think should change.

  8. I think you are all blessed to have each other. You guys are a REAL family. They are VERY fortunate to have been accepted into a family that loves them. So many kids 'fall through the cracks' of the foster system, so many kids are from single parent families or families where they live with the mom who has a new boyfriend and the dad has a new girlfriend... I babysit 2 kids on weekends from such a family - the mom and dad split two years ago and they now have new relationships, the kids live with their mom and see their dad a couple times a month. The kids are 9 and 7 and the oldest - the boy has not adjusted well at all to the break up and has a lot of anger issues. So just because children are with their biological parent(s) it doesnt not gaurantee they will be free of trouble and problems.
    I look at ur videos and the love u all have for each other is very clear. I think u were all blssed and lucky to have found each other. And while many may disagree with me on this as a Christian I firmly believe that God has had His hand on all ur lives and He will continue to guide and bless u all and u grow together as a family.
    God bless!!

  9. I am adopted and appreciate the fact. I also know that my mother, and to a lesser extent my father, needed me almost, if not as much, as I needed them. As you admit, there are still issues.

    In my opinion, especially as a child, there was too MUCH sharing by my mother of the fact that I was adopted, for example. I know some of the reasons that she did it, but still, not everybody had to know.

    What that points out is that adopted or natural born, parents are still human beings and will make mistakes, have questions, and not be perfect. However, overall, adoption is NOT second best, sometimes it is the only real answer.

  10. I think you are great parents. I wish I had a dad like both of you.

    I was moved profoundly by you youtube video "Daniel Martinez-Leffew, Son Of Gay Dads, Urges Supreme Court Justice John Roberts To Embrace Gay Marriage"

    Posted: 03/18/2013 1:11 pm EDT
    The Huffington Post

    I wish this website was around years ago when I was searching for positive role models. Perhaps, I would have learned to love myself regardless of being gay.

    Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind.

  11. Hello! I just find the videos on youtube and wanted to thank you for the wonderful work on each topic and courage to you to be seen by everyone, worldwide, I of Brazil, and still live in a small town have to live with the prejudice and hatred the entire LGBT community.
    Keep doing this great job and do not ever think that any subject should not be discussed because the aversion to homosexuals is intrinsic in the culture of almost all Western countries.
    Big hug!

  12. @Tze Goh

    1) Well, in my opinion there is two levels to planning adoption. The first and most important is being on the same page with your partner about it (assuming you are not adopting single...which happens a lot). There are some conversations you have with a boyfriend when you know you are serious and of those being, "Do you want to have kids?" You will probably then revisit that conversation a lot as you work out what your personal parameters are. Like...are you ok with raising kids of a different race than you?...or what issues can we deal with? For instance, jay and I were ok with medical issues but felt that a child with a history of sexual abuse was beyond what we could deal with. There are a lot of things you have to hash out before you get to the stage of actually calling an agency.

    But....once you do....the steps you need to take for adoption will vary by states and some with have more rigorous requirements than others. For us, California required us to register as Foster parents and then once Daniel and Selena were placed with us, we had to live with them as Foster children for six months before we were able to adopt. From start to finish our process took about a year with....maybe, three-four months just spent doing the adoption home studies and other prep work it took to be qualified to adopt.

    2) There was a little bit of unsureness at first. However, I needed to remember that we were as new to them as they were to us. You just do your best to do your parenting best and both parents and kids ease into the new transition. Just as you will have your worries...the kids will have their worries of being rejected by you too. After all, they have been removed from their parents, and maybe a foster home or two...and they are gonna have some fears that this may not be their last stop. You have to be patient and let them work through it and in the process you will be working through your fears too.

    They will find a little piece of your heart and move in and one day you will look inside yourself and know it's true. All the fears you had...and all the difference you thought you saw...don't matter any more. YOU are their parents and that's all that matters.

    3)You know...jealously is always and issue with potential siblings. We have done a fair amount of Fostering other kids and when there is a new kid in our home, we keep a look out for how it is affecting Daniel and Selena. New siblings will almost always require you to take time to reassure your kids that they are the apple of your eye no matter if they came to you through biologically, adoption, or foster care.

    4)Yes adoption and surrogacy are filled with bureaucratic stuff like paperwork, social workers, and the like....but that is no reason not to observe all the same events as any pregnancy would see. Why NOT have a baby shower if your adopting an infant? You're still going to need a mountain of daipers and baby swag and who doesn't love a reason to celebrate?!

    Plus...the day you finalize your adoption is a pretty big deal. The day we finalized in court we celebrated with all our family and our social worker.

    There is not one reason in the world to withold all the special moments of bringing a child into your family just because that child may be coming via adoption. I'd say it's even more important to.....get your invitations out there and get your party on!


  13. @Giselle...

    "That's Wonderfull" is a very welcome comment and light years away from "your so brave"...or "they're so lucky"....which can come off like the adopted parent is performing a charity rather being a parent.

    Again...I am not trying to make anyone feel hypersensitive to their words to where they are afraid to say anything....just to correct peoples missperceptions about adoption and the kids who get adopted. People tend to treat it as a rescue instead of the building of a family with all the celebration and "thats wonderful's" that would entail. Like I said above, pur kids really do give back to us as much or more than we ever gave to them.

  14. For instance, jay and I were ok with medical issues but felt that a child with a history of sexual abuse was beyond what we could deal with.

    I served on the special grand jury in Chicago a couple years ago. The most heart breaking cases were the cases of children who were sexually abused. How do they heal that experience? Perhaps, the same way a survivor of suicide does. They go back and help others who are going through the same thing.

    It is great you both did not let medical needs persuade you from adopting. Also, know there are people out there who will see beyond the sexual abuse and help the child heal like you both did with your children.

    Just some thoughts . . .

    We are all God's children.

  15. I found your blog through Upworthy, and just had to comment here. I have an adopted daughter and I just cannot wrap my brain around what this man said! "Second best"?!?!? He definitely needs a brain-to-mouth filter!

    I am loving reading about your very awesome family!