When a Homophobic Cousin Attacked a Woman’s Marriage, He Helped Her Understand What True “Family” Means

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Once upon a time there were two cousins, Jessica and Robby. They grew up together in the warm and wet Mississippi back lands. They swam, they fished and Jessica loved and respected her cousin. He gave her the sense of understanding family and loyalty.

That sense of family and loyalty was upended completely recently when Robby recently ran to the American Family Association, an entity defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate” organization, to get their help in humiliating and attacking Jessica’s marriage. Robby has never met Jessica’s husband.

Jessica and her husband, Nick, are legally married. Nick is a transgender male. A mutual friend introduced them a few years ago. Jessica states, “Nick has been my best friend since day one. We can always count on the other one during the hardest times in life. While he was in paramedic school, Nick felt my full encouragement through the whole way and I never gave up on his dream with him.  We stand by each other through every thing just as a husband and wife should. I know at the end of the day I can count on him and that’s what real romance looks like. Our love is the kind some people only dream about and I’m very lucky to be able to say I found that in this life with him.”

On the afternoon of September 23rd, Jessica got a private message from her cousin Robby out of the blue. It said “Jessica, I want you to know that I love you both as a person and as my family. You hand I practically grew up together, and I don’t want you to think that I am angry with you. But I have to tell you that what you and Nick are doing is wrong, and I am going to be doing all that I can to challenge it. I realize this might upset you, but I have to do what is right as difficult as it is going to be.” Jessica had no idea what he meant about “challenging it”, but she was soon to find out.

That evening, Robby posted this to his Facebook wall: “Last week I learned of a same sex marriage that took place right here in the state of Mississippi. Two females, one of which is a family member of mine, applied for and was granted an official marriage license in Desoto county. One of the partners poses as a man and managed to obtain a driver’s license that legally identified her as a male. I would like to urge all Mississippians who are outraged to join me. This is a battle that has come to us and we cannot afford to lose traditional marriage”. Then he then gave the phone numbers of the attorney general, lieutenant governor and the governor.

Around midnight, Jessica received another private message from a woman she had never met. “You need to see this video,” the message said. The video was her cousin Robby on a show with the AFA’s Bryan Fisher. Bryan Fisher is infamous for homophobic statements that include the encouragement of the kidnapping of children from LGBT families. They were making public Jessica and Nick’s names, implying that they were criminals, that their marriage was a fraud scheme and stating out and out lies as fact. The video is here .

“The video makes it seem like we did all of this to pull one over on the state of Mississippi, and that’s nowhere close to the truth.” Jessica told me. “Mine is not an illegal marriage in any state, because it is not a same sex union at all. That is not legal in this state, and there is no “loop hole” for that to be possible. Nick actually transitioned from female to male, and had his name and gender legally changed complete with birth certificate, social security card, drivers license, and all medical licenses. After all of that was completed we were able to apply for our marriage license and got married, the same as any other opposite gender couple.” Bryan Fisher characterizes Jessica and Nick as two lesbians, one of which had a hormone shot, and then fraudulently had records changed.

Nick’s process to his correct gender started before 2010. He had undergone full psychiatric exams in preparation. In 2010 he started a permanent hormone therapy program and had physiological operations in support of his transition.

Nick works as a paramedic saving lives and he has been seen as a true hero in his community. The AFA’s intrusion into his private life, and their dishonest portrayal has now caused him issues at work. Jessica reports, “While he is out saving strangers lives, we have to worry about the safety of our family and his career. It takes teamwork from his fellow co-workers and since the videos and articles have come out, he has been treated like an outcast.” Many that Nick worked with had only known of him as male, his actual gender. Now feel they have license to judge.

Jessica reached out to the popular Twitter site Stop-Homophobia. “Help us,” she asked, attaching a link to the AFA video. She began hearing from many people who have showered love and support. Those messages helped her deal with her feelings of betrayal and crisis over what family was supposed to be about. “For me when I saw the video I felt it was one of the worst betrayals ever, to find out that someone made us out so horribly, and on top of it for it to come from a family member. The feelings we felt over this outrage, words can’t describe. We are being vilified for the same loving and commitment other married Mississippi couples share with each other. Our right to commit to each other for the rest of time is being portrayed as everything it’s not. The video want to portray us as deceivers who did all of this to pull one over on the state of Mississippi, and that’s nowhere close to the truth. The truth is our marriage is built out of the love we have for each other.”

“We are very grateful for the support and love that we have come across through this attempt to humiliate us,” Jessica states. “So much of our family have stepped up and let us know they are open minded and accepting and loving. The members of Nick’s family are powerful defenders of him as a man and a hero. Especially his dad, who has always been his biggest supporter. My family accepts Nick as the person for who he really is, especially my sister and most of them right here in Mississippi.”

This has given Jessica and Nick a new definition to, not the word “marriage”, but the word “family”. Blood cousin Robby is not family. The “American Family Association” is not an association of families; it is an association of those who want to attack families that do not look exactly like a set of limited parameters. Those who see his life saving work but who cannot see Nick as he is, are not family. It is the people who love, support and celebrate him who are the true family, and Jessica and Nick are blessed to have many who have such qualifications in their lives.

“Nick taught me what marriage is,” Jessica commented. “Now someone I grew up with has caused me to re-look at what I thought being family meant. It does not mean blood and telling falsehoods to meet an agenda. It means love and honesty. I stand corrected, and we are now a stronger family as a result.”

Sharing DNA is no big deal. A person’s ability to look deep, push past their own pre-conceived notions to better understand a family member they love, and then stand up for them, that ability brings the greatest value in life. Some will learn they have that ability within themselves and stand proud. Others will make videos.

 

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Posted in Civil Rights, Equality, Family, Living, Marriage equality, Mixing religion and politics, Politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to a “Christian” Mother Caught on Tape Wishing Death on Her Disabled Lesbian Daughter

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Video has again captured a “Christian” parent behaving badly. This week, the Facebook and Twitter mega-page Stop-Homophobia broadcast out a post depicting the plight of a lady named Kelly.

Public disapproval over who could marry whom was an issue for Kelly’s family early on. Her father is black, and her mother is white. Kelly and her brother were bullied frequently in the small town of Guntersville Alabama. They were the only mixed race kids in town. Kelly was quiet and shy and kept to herself.

When she was 16, Kelly found a name for the identity that had been growing within her: lesbian. Her feelings had been developing for a while, but it came to fruition when she started a relationship with a girl in her class. Kelly was confident that the hardships her parents had gone through would make them accepting of who she was growing up to be. She was wrong. “At the time I thought that being gay that my parents being a bi-racial couple that they would be more accepting. My father had nothing to say. Til this day he hasn’t spoken about me being a lesbian. My mother freaked out. She put me in counseling to try to make me straight.” The counseling did not change Kelly, as her mother had hoped but in fact, made her more confident in who she is.

Kelly’s mother kicked her out of the house. While her father did not intervene, he divorced her mother shortly thereafter, and Kelly suspects that her mother’s behavior might have been a contributing factor. Kelly found refuge with her aunt in Huntsville, Alabama.

Kelly passed her GED, and did not see or hear from her mother for over a year. After a period, Kelly’s mother made contact again. She said she had reconsidered, and wanted to re-establish contact. Kelly was reluctant but over time, resumed sporadic communications.

Eight years ago, Kelly had moved to Florida and met a woman named Leslie. Leslie fell in love with Kelly immediately, and had to work hard to get through the protective emotional walls that Kelly had built up. Kelly over time was able to trust this wonderful woman in her life and to trust that the love they shared was real. As they quickly became soul mates, and were working towards a happy ever after in their life journeys, tragedy struck.

“I started breaking out all over my body and everything hurt. You couldn’t touch me without me screaming,“ Kelly states. What was first diagnosed as shingles, finally was determined to be Lupus, which was running out of control through Kelly’s body. She also was found to be suffering from both Fibromyalgia and Lumbar Disc Disease.

Conditions with the fibroid tumors led to a full hysterectomy. Kelly understands that at this point, her mother may have started doing fund raising in her local church. The funds presumably raised allowed for Kelly’s mother to come down for the operation. If other funds were raised to help Kelly, Kelly never received them.

Kelly’s heart has been damaged by Lupus. She was finally declared Disabled, and is on constant risk for heart attacks. Financially she was devastated and relies on Leslie for survival. Half of her disability income goes to pay past medical debt.

Kelly’s aunt was under the impression that money was coming into Kelly from Kelly’s mother and the church. Kelly decided to have a casual conversation with her mother by phone, tape it, and get confirmation for her aunt that no money was coming Kelly’s way.

The conversation (you can hear it below) did not go as Kelly had planned and instead of an admission that funds had been diverted, Kelly’s mother outlined the plan should Kelly pass away. Her exact words were, “You know Kelly, I tell you what. If you die before me…you know what, when you get dead, we’re going to go through your house and we are going to strip it, and that girl won’t have a pot to piss in…you little heifer, you have put my life through hell. Gay sh*t. I hate gay sh*t. I am not going to live my life telling you that I believe in two women being married. It is not in the Bible, it is a damned SIN!   And I am ashamed you live with a damn woman… You go straight to Hell! Go to Hell, Bitch!” Where other videos speak to the horror of coming out to homophobic parents, this one speaks to the vital need for marriage protection for couples like Kelly and Leslie.

Kelly has not communicated with her mother since.

But I will:

An open message to Kelly’s mother:

I am the dad to two boys, 12 and 11 years old. When I got them as babies, I somehow knew that as a parent, I was being given a special charge. I was to throw all that I could muster to their well being, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I admit, that spiritual well-being takes an open hand since none of us has all the cosmic answers. I can only nurture them so they grow into good men and develop a consciousness of their own discovery within their soul to something greater. I do that through my own spiritual path and inspiration through Christ.

Emotionally, I strive to believe in them. I am learning who they are, and what they can accomplish. It is not mine to define them, but to witness them. It is mine to love them, cherish them and celebrate them and as an influencer of their sensitive self-worth, to do my best to make them as emotionally confident and grounded as possible.

Their physical well being is the most obvious and tactical. I care for that part of their well being every day. I make sure they are nourished, protected and healthy. In times when they have been sick, I have been amazed that an almost parental super power kicks in. I have been soaked in vomit, diarrhea and wiped snot. For some reason, from my sons, those things have not fazed me.

They are my charges, my charges from God.   Kelly is your charge from God. In my opinion, there is no greater accomplishment that you could achieve that to be with her at the end of her life, and have her feel “Thank God for my mom,” and for you to know at the end of your life that you did all in your power to protect her.

Obviously, you are not there now. Your behavior is dark and evil and belongs more in the plot of a horror movie than in a mother/daughter relationship. That is your current legacy to bear and to rectify.

For your daughter, and for whom I do not presume to speak, I believe a change in you would bring forgiveness, as exemplary, on her part, as that sounds. One of her first comments to me was how she holds the recording of you to remind herself to stay away. She said, “ I will delete it when I find myself not missing her. As much as … she hurt me she is the only mother I had.”

It is time for you to find that higher calling as a mother. Step up. Your family needs you. Your family is plagued with a woman suffering from a terrible disease. The disease is ugly, painful, debilitating and it ruins the heart. That woman is not Kelly, it is you. The disease is not the horrible one of Lupus which Kelly has, it is the disease of Homphobia that you have. Kelly’s disease takes a lot to manage it and she needs a good deal of love and help around her. Your disease can be cured by a change of heart.

In the scheme of things, you have the option to institute a healing where Kelly cannot. You have the option of change. Kelly may not be able to find relief from the physical hell she has been through, but you can revolutionize her world anyway.

She needs a miraculous physical cure, but even more than that, she needs a mom who loves her. She deserves both.

 

(Note: A friend of Kelly’s set up a gofundme account after seeing the video, it is here: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/tjt5/disabled-woman-need-help )

Photo: Flickr/Vicki&Chuck Rogers

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Posted in Family, Hatred, Living, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Christian Grandmother Proposing Homophobic Themed Books for Teens

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Laurie Higgins is a Christian grandmother with a limited professional background (according to her bio). She has worked as “cultural analyst” for The Illinois “Family” Institute for six years, and before that was employed in the “writing center” for a high school. I am not exactly sure what the job qualifications are to be a “cultural analyst” but whatever they are, they have not won Ms. Higgins many friends. The Illinois “Family” Institute is one of twenty three hate groups in Illinois tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Consider Ms. Higgins dubious honors: She is listed at # 764 in the Encyclopedia of American Loons. There, she is described as “an unrepentant, hatefilled bigot”. Q Salt Lake anointed her as “Creep of the Week” for the week of December 4th, 2013. The website Reasonable Conversation nominates her for “Human Excommunication”. The blogsite Skepacabra defined her in a three-part article as a “Crazy Bitch.” (Skepacabra was referring mostly to Laurie Higgins alleged stalker-like attempts to get atheist Herman Mehta, known throughout the blogging community as the Friendly Atheist, fired from his teaching job for expressing his opinions.)

Her reputation is earned through her own actions and statements, in 2010, for example, she stated that McDonalds is “hell bent on using its resources to promote subversive moral, social, and political views about homosexuality to our children.” It “hoists high the rainbow colors of the homosexual movement that points to the substitution of the worship of man for the worship of God and leads to depravity and destruction.” McDonalds had run an ad in France depicting a young gay man.

This week she publicly explored a new potential avocation—that of theoretical teen book author. JK Rowlings has nothing to worry about. Ms. Higgins listed out a series of plotlines she proposes Illinois librarians consider having on their book shelves to enhance public intellectual discourse, and because, in her opinion, it will quench some deep unmet thirst within kids in LGBT families like mine.

I googled the plotlines to see if any of these books, or something close to them, actually exist for discussion. It appears that they are only in the frantic mind of Ms. Higgins. Based on the reactions of all I’ve asked, the general hope is that they stay there.

Here is Ms. Higgins proposal, in her exact words: “If librarians really cared about the full and free exchange of ideas and if they really believed that “book-banning” is dangerous to society, they would direct their rage and ridicule at the powerful publishing companies, professionally-recognized review journals, and their own profession, all of which do far more book-banning than does a handful of powerless parents seeking to have a picture book moved… Next year, will the Schaumburg librarians display photos of empty shelves where books that challenge Leftist assumptions about the nature and morality of homosexuality should be (you know, pro-heterosexuality/pro-heteronormativity books)?

  • Will they ask for young adult (YA) novels about teens who feel sadness and resentment about being intentionally deprived of a mother or father and who seek to find their missing biological parents?
  • Will they ask for dark, angsty novels about teens who are damaged by the promiscuity of their “gay” “fathers” who hold sexual monogamy in disdain?
  • Will they ask for novels about young adults who are consumed by a sense of loss and bitterness that their politically correct and foolish parents allowed them during the entirety of their childhood to cross-dress, change their names, and take medication to prevent puberty, thus deforming their bodies?
  • Will they ask for novels about teens who suffer because of the harrowing fights and serial “marriages” of their lesbian mothers?
  • Will they ask for picture books that show the joy a little birdie experiences when after the West Nile virus deaths of her two daddies, she’s finally adopted by a daddy and mommy?

Surely, there are some teens and children who will identify with such stories.”

As a gay dad, and a parent at the helm of one of the families Ms. Higgins targets, I feel compelled to respond.

Dear Ms. Higgins,

Thank you for concern over the possible reading material available for the kids in families like mine. Reading is an absolutely vital part of a child’s education. Getting my sons to do it, and finding the books in which they have interest, can be a challenge.

I would say “thank you” for trying to help, but your intent was not to help. It was to apply your very warped and misguided perception of what LGBT families must be like, but universally, in reality, are not. Instead of that thank you note, I thought I would give you some Insight into our actual lives and show you where you have severely missed the mark.

The plots you outlined only exist in your mind of fanciful perversion. You speculate that your plot ideas might have a market since “surely some teens and children will identify with such stories.”

I am please to tell you that, no, in fact, none of the hundred-some kids I know from LGBT families would relate. I specifically tested them on my own sons (in terms they could understand.) My eleven year old commented, “those sound like the dumbest books ever,” while my twelve year old looked me in the eye and just said simply, “what is wrong with her?”

I asked them to develop a few ideas for the books that they would like to read about families like ours, and these are what they came up with:

  • A dad and a papa and their two sons find a trunk with some wizard robes, and when they put them on they are transported to a land where they fight a dragon and find a lost treasure.
  • A girl and her mom are trapped at the bottom of the ocean to deal with enormous sea creatures, while the girl’s other mother is the head scientist in the ship above trying to help them.
  • Two brothers are stolen by pirates and hit the seven seas while their fathers search after them with the old pirate map that is left behind in their bedroom.

I believe my sons have a better sense of “good books” than you do. Theirs sound like a lot more fun.

More importantly, they reflect the real dynamics of LGBT families where parents and kids are focused on the happenings in our current lives, not focused on the procreation process that brought the kids into being. I suspect heterosexual families are essentially the same. Their dinner discussions do not start with dad sharing, yet again, how he impregnated mom. Even when we do discuss that aspect of our lives, we are not ashamed of having adopted our kids. They are not ashamed or regretful for being adopted. You need to stop attempting to shame families like mine for the beautiful bonds we have created from situations that were otherwise dire.

The book plots my sons imagined recognize that each person is uniquely individual, and no two personalities exactly alike. Your point of view boils each person down to being solely identified by genitalia. Your mono-vision conflict against your boogey man “The Left”, and its underling “Homosexual Activists” blinds you. I have to note that of all the characteristics you list in your plots from promiscuous gay dads, serial marrying lesbian moms and dying parents, none are accurate descriptions of the real parents I know in LGBT families. The same sex parents I know have stepped up in some of the most super-human situations imaginable, and have accomplished heroic things on behalf of their children. Our families are beautiful, and if you can’t respect that fact, the least you can do is not to spread ignorance about us.

Your plots and point of view imply a foundation assumption that simply does not exist. You hypothesize that for kids in LGBT families, there exists a mother/father family alternative in the wings that have either been robbed of these kids, or are sitting available should they be called upon. Again, in 100% of the families I know, this is not the case. A possible exception could be perceived in cases where the children’s lives were saved by being taken from an existing mother and father who were incapable of keeping them safe. I would not consider such parents as being “robbed” or “sitting available,” however.

That is the case with each of my sons. Both were born to drug addict parents and were exposed to drugs in the womb. All the parents were given the opportunity to show they could responsibly care for my sons, but each failed. At least one of the birth parents was life-threateningly violent. The two birth fathers each spent significant time in prison. All four of the parents have multiple children with multiple partners—in total my sons have twelve birth siblings in the world – none of which are in the custody of their biological parents.

If you think I somehow beat out an eligible mom/dad combo for the adoption of each of my sons, that did not happen either. There are plenty of children in my sons’ situation to go around. The fact is, most heterosexual couples find other ways to start a family, and see our way as an act of desperation were they to do it. I remember when I was talking to a family friend when I first got my oldest son. Born 6 weeks early, my son was 4 lbs and slept on my chest in a sling. She had just finished declaring how adorable he was and then segued into a story about how her sister had “almost” adopted recently. “Really?” I asked. “What happened?”

“It wasn’t right,” she explained. “It turns out the child was ethnic and had drug exposure. You know…” her voice trailed off as she looked at my son whom she had just been fawning over — my son, the beautiful Mexican heroin-exposed infant asleep on my chest. “Oh my God…” she said quietly as the realization hit her. My beautiful baby was just like the one who “would not work out” in her own family.

If you do not believe me about the reality of these fantasy parents of whom you think kids of LGBT families have been deprived, you only have to look as far as the case of the two incredible Iowa moms who lost their baby boy back to the birth mother when she changed her mind. The baby ended up dying a month later at the hands of the teen birth father.

The imaginary land of removed moms and dads is as far fetched as your plot concoctions. Also far fetched is your evil implication that my sons would be somehow relieved to be assigned to a mom/dad family after the death of my partner and me. Should my death occur, my children would be devastated and would not feel solace from being assigned to any new parents same sex, or opposite sex. Your suggestion otherwise is sociopathic.

The meanness and vitriol with which you attack gay families may have an additional unintended consequence that you may want to also consider.

You are a grandmother with a number of grand children, and I assume the number of that clan will grow exponentially over time. The odds of at least one of those kids being gay are high.   That may lead to a plot line, more likely to be true to life than any you have suggested, that goes something like this:

  • The grandson of a highly visible homophobic “cultural analyst” discovers he is gay. He tries desperately to hide his sexuality from his angry grandmother, which leads him to a crisis of faith, depression, drug experimentation and suicidal thoughts. Finally, he can hide it no more and has to tell her….

How that storyline will end will be up to you. Will you hold to your irrational hatred and dogmatic theories? Will you look to see that your beloved grandson is the same as he has always been, and continues to be worthy of your love? Will you reject him or celebrate him?

In your story, you will get to pick the part you ultimately play. You will be the one who decides if you are the prodigal hero, or the unrepentant villain. Choose wisely, a villain’s life rarely ends well.  For LGBT families, you are currently playing the proverbial bad guy, minion of the Dark Force, maniacal Devil’s henchman. Like in any good story, though, you can change.

Nothing concludes a tale better than an affirming resolution with a former evil-doer’s redemption. Do it. Re-write the book. Give us a happy ending.

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Posted in Family, Hatred, Living, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Gay Dad Says Good-Bye to Joan Rivers

Joan RiversThe old adage is that celebrities pass away in threes. In the past few weeks, this theory could be said to have been “proven true” with the passing of Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and Joan Rivers. One can only wonder if when Joan was calling Robin out fondly as one of the “nice guys” that she could have known that she would be number three.

There are huge differences in saying good bye to each of the three. When Joan Rivers death was hitting social media, those who loved her decried her passing, but there were plenty who were quite clear that they would not miss her at all. Even within the LGBT community, people had to weigh feelings for one of our first and strongest allies with a recent failed quip that President Obama was “gay” and that the First Lady was a t-slur.

Joan Rivers thrived on shock, inappropriateness, and “saying what everyone is thinking” in the most in-your-face way. Her theory was that to laugh at it, even in derogatory terms, was to master an issue. She stated that had she been captured and sent to Auschwitz, she would have been in the barracks cracking jokes – shock humor to battle the horror.

Many did not agree. For me, as a gay dad, I know that she fascinated me and I was constantly laughing at things that I “officially” did not find funny. The name of her recent memoir gave me pause. “I Hate Everyone….Starting With Me.”   Hatred, and particularly self-hatred is the core of so much of the violence in our world. Certainly, she meant mock hatred, but is shock humor around our society’s core failing really a help, or does it make it worse?

On the issue of bullying, most bullies terrorize their victims with the claim of “being funny”. Where is the line? Is a bully with great comic timing acceptable, but one that merely demeans his or her victim just doing evil?

While I had guilty pleasure over Joan Rivers comedy, I would never have permitted my young sons to see it, or to mimic anything like it.

Joan Rivers has exerted her influence on American humor for five decades. The trickle down effect through less talented hands has not always been pretty, or funny. As I watched the “tweeny” vision programming that my sons have wanted to view, I cannot help but observe the shock/insult style of “humor”. This poorly executed humor seems to be attempting the Joan Rivers shock punches, but ends up as just insults followed by an old 1950s sounding laugh track.

When young viewers ,who see spouting insults as a popularity badge, copy it with their school mates the results are worse. I nipped this in the bud with my son Jesse, who sincerely want to make his friends laugh, “Pal,” I admonished. “Mean does not equal funny. Being cruel is NOT cool.” He has gotten the message, and that programming no longer graces our living room.

Is that nature of comedy the fault of Joan Rivers? No, of course not. It is no more her fault than the huge waves are the fault of the master surfer. To Joan’s credit, she rode the line of being a foul mouth terminator on stage, while being to all accounts a gracious lady in person. I was surprised at how many of my gay men friends had personal accounts of close encounters with La Joan.   One had done her hair and she apologized for not being MORE personable as she poured over her notes. “Comedy takes a lot of homework”, she told him. Another friend heard her at a convention where she was not only funny, but talked at length about her very deep care for her daughter.

For me, my own elbow rubbing happened in a Tower Records store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The record store was right next door to famed Wolfgang Puck’s eatery and Joan and her husband Edgar had landed to do a quick walk through to see how her new album at the time, What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most, was doing. Joan was running the show and handed the gay clerk at the front a copy of the album. “You really want to be playing this, it is funny as hell.” She advised. “It’s going great Joan!” the young man gushed. “I was just going to put it on.” Joan and Edgar counted all the copies in the bin, and then the couple was flying out the door. “Love you!!!” the clerk shouted at the star. “Oh I love you too, mwaa mwaa mwaaa,” the famous voice echoed in, now from the parking lot. For those of us in the store, we sort of felt like witnesses to a small but hugely powerful tornado.

That was Joan Rivers, taking our culture by storm.   While I will not teach my sons to zing or to shock people by screeching insults, there is much of the spirit of Joan Rivers, I would want to see them and myself emulate.

I want to emulate her love of family. I love my sons with the same intensity which Joan loved her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper. I hope my sons in turn love their own families with the same fervor.

I want to be brave and stand up for people before it is popular to do so. She was pro-gay before it was “cool” to be in any circles. Her “take no prisoners” style gave us means to diffuse our anger and outrage while not apologizing for who we are.

I want to live my life right to the end with the full gusto that she did. I do not want to melt away in some rocking chair remembered for some past glory. I want fire and passion to the end. I am reminded of the lines from Cabaret when it comes to Joan: “I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie ; With whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea; She wasn’t what you’d call a blushing flower; As a matter of fact she rented by the hour; The day she died the neighbors came to snicker; “Well, that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor” But when I saw her laid out like a Queen; She was the happiest corpse, I’d ever seen; I think of Elsie to this very day… as for me ,and as for me ; I made my mind up, back in Chelsea; When I go, I’m going like Elsie”

Mostly, I want to emulate her sheer guts. She had guts as a woman. She had guts as a person of age who refused to let ageism take her down. She had guts as to one who met failure and rejection and kept coming back for another day. She had guts to use her brand of humor to make a point about strength and beating adversity rather than to rationalize bullying.

Judge Judith Sheindlin (“Judge Judy”) made the observation of her old friend Joan on the talk show The View:

“Joan Rivers knew how to be the hero of her own story”

For my sons, that is the quality that I hope they learn the most from the legacy of Joan Rivers: face your triumphs and your disasters without taking either too seriously, and strive to become the hero of your own life.

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A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Homophobic Parents Caught on Video Throwing Their Gay Son Away

 

parents caught on vid

Another young person has been thrown out of his home for coming out as gay. I have written about this on a number of occasions covering such events in the United States, Nigeria and Uganda.

This time the event was recorded. Trying to imagine the evil some people can impart on their children is no longer necessary. Now we can hear them in their own self righteous voices

It started when the family called 20 year old Daniel Pierce to an “intervention.” He left his phone recorder going during the confrontation and was later posted online as “How not to react when your child tells you he is gay.” It has gone viral. In the video, Daniel , explains to what sounds like his mother, step-mother and father that he is gay. The choices this set of parents makes as a reaction are almost as bad as they possibly could be.

His mother makes a statement at the outset that becomes increasingly shocking as the video proceeds and the parenting adults collectively verbally attack and physically abuse the young man. The mother’s statement is “I have known since you were a young boy that you were gay.” If there was ever clear pointed evidence that Daniel was “born that way”, her comment would be it.

She knows who her child is, yet due to her own personal agenda she pretends he is making a choice and coldly rejects him as a result.

This is my open letter to Daniel’s parents.

To Daniel’s family:

Now you know.

You have handled this badly. I don’t know you, and I don’t know of what you are capable, good or bad. I hope that there are better people within each one of you than those displayed on that video.

I am a parent as you are. For me, contributing to my sons’ welfare, personal joy and life success is my purpose and mission in this world. I hope that somehow in your own warped way, that you want that for Daniel. I have written to children killed by parents who feared they might grow up as gay, and I can’t be sure those aren’t individuals who share your mindset.

To Daniel’s dad: I hear great frustration of not being thanked for having provided the food and “roof over the head” of a child for twenty years. Accomplishing that is no small feat- I have two sons, 11 and 12, and I provide for them. I have to. I will not get thanked for it. It’s cool, it is the gig I signed up for. Part of being a parent is being your child’s oxygen. They need us to survive, but they do not thank us as they take each breath. We just have to provide for them, because being a parent means you do that.

We seek to inspire our children to be the best they can be, and to do that, we have to know who they are. You all now know Daniel .

Choice is relevant here, but not for Daniel. It is for you. You are choosing only to accept him if he is as you want him to be, rather than who he really is. Instead of embracing this child that you nurtured through life, you cling to a bastardized concept of “the word of God” that has turned a religious practice into an exercise of superstition.

Where exactly you get this religious mandate is itself a mystery. The Bible does not define itself as being “the word of God”. It defines Jesus, and Jesus alone as being “The Word”. Jesus never once claims that gay people choose to be gay. The Bible directs us to the covenant of God, under Jesus, as written on one’s own HEART and HIS MIND (Hebrews 8). I believe that Daniel DID ask God, and God wrote back on Daniel’s heart and mind, “I made you gay.” God generally does not cc others so, you getting a copy of that directive is unlikely. That is what the Bible says and you can choose to believe it if you want.

To Daniel’s mom: At the beginning of the recording you tell him you love him. He says he believes you. I don’t believe you.

For me, my sons come first—before my dogma, before my standing in the local community, before anything.   If I was Abraham in the desert and Jason and Jesse were strapped to a stone slab, and a big voice in the sky was telling me to make a sacrifice of them to Him, I would turn to the heavens and say “Screw you.”

That’s how monumental my kids are to me—they are beyond biblical proportions of importance. All the real parents I know feel the same about their kids.

Daniel has very little choice here. He is who he is, and now thanks to your rejection, he will do what he has to in order to survive. Our community will come around him, love him support him. He will be our son now and we will give him healthy alternatives. Many in his situation do not get that chance. They end up on the street and within weeks are surviving through less than savory means. We will watch Daniel, and encourage him to grow. We will give him hope for his life, and a vision for an inspiring purpose. That purpose for him may or may not include a family of his own. We will show him how to find joy and fulfillment, and he will do it without you. Unlike you, we will let him know he can be his authentic true self.

Your choices are important ones that will affect the rest of your lives. Rejecting is a choice. Not caring for Daniel is a choice. Saving your face in the community over the well being of your son is a choice. What is your best possible choice? That would be a sincere re-evaluation of your priorities, bringing him home, and working towards a level of acceptance.

Whatever you choose, it will define you forever. You will either be defined as the people who worked to grow as parents, or the people who should never have been parents in the first place.

If you do have any love in you at all, it will fester and one day you will find yourself sitting upright in bed, having a better educated sense about the nature of the true God, and realize that you have made a horrific and terrible mistake. One that, at that point, you may not be able to fix.

You may truly be cold loveless shells. Certainly, it appears that one or more of you deserves to be in jail right now for assault. Instead of looking for healing, you may launch into a further tirade of homophobia and tell us about the vengeful God that you emulate.

You will not need to preach to us about hell, however. We will see it in your eyes.

 

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Posted in Bible, Family, Hatred, Prejudice, Religion | 86 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Guide to the Men’s Room for Single and Lesbian Moms

dad guide mens room evol 1

I am a fan of blog writer Shannon Ralph.  She recently wrote a piece that hit me right in my dad-spot called  11 Things Only the Parents of Boys Understand.  While my generalizations meter was on high guard as I read the piece, I was charmed.  I laughed.  I cried.  She killed me softly with her song.

So, it was with measured excitement I read my next Shannon Ralph, a tongue-in-cheek piece called A Lesbian Mom’s Struggle With the Men’s Room.  When I got to the end of the article, my tongue had long left my cheek, it was clucking.

From the perspective of the article, one would think that the men’s room was an ongoing display of male nudity and the epicenter for child molestation threats against young boys.  Her concerns were so great that she had resolved not to let her son go into the dreaded men’s room zone solo until about age 9.

Many of the comments in the discussion section from some other moms seemed to enforce the 8 or 9 year old age range as appropriate.  I was shocked.  My son’s have been going there on their own since age 6.

How could I see something like this so differently as someone with whom we clearly related in terms of the vision of our boy filled families?  I has to see if I was the anomaly, so I sounded out a bunch of dads.  Their attitudes were like mine—their sons were venturing in as early as 4 years old, and certainly were autonomous pros by 7 or 8.  The dads I talked to had no concern about predators, their leading concern was cleanliness.

Then I got it.  Just as the women’s room is essentially a strange territory to me—you know, one of those places where women grab all their social circle and head there together (what is THAT about???)—and likewise the mens room seems to impose that element of unknown onto some single and lesbian moms.

Rather than be pissy about perceived men’s room aspersions, I decided to be helpful instead.  Here is an insider’s view to aid the single and/or lesbian mom, with some tips and observations.  Bear in mind, this assumes the restroom is in a decent location.  Parks, beaches and locations where people camp out in the restroom would take extra scrutiny—and maybe avoidance all together.

  1. You have every right to check the facilities as a single or lesbian parent.  You are considering sending your opposite gender child into a location that you in theory, cannot go rushing into should you feel he has been gone too long.  For that reason alone, you have every right to ask the server if you can check the room.  Simple knock and waiting for a minute until it is vacated is all this would take.  (If the restroom is too busy for you to reasonably check it, it is also less likely to be unsafe.  Predators like a controlled environment.)  My partner and I were no stranger to women’s rooms when our boys were babies since those facilities often had the only changing tables.  We asked permission and jumped the gender line, you can too.
  2. Bodily exposure is not a men’s room requirement.  All restrooms are not created equally, especially in how urinals are configured and how exposed they are to other patrons.  Most are now set up with dividers, or the urinal itself is designed so that the modest can relieve themselves easily and out of sight.  Below are a couple of examples and some recommendations.  Here is a sampling to the various urinal options your son may encounter:

dad guide mens room 3

This is the most common—urinals with privacy partitions. There is very little chance of exposure or visibility. Urinals that are lower to the floor are meant for kids, usually one such fixture is at either end of the urinal row.

dad guide mens room 4

These are also common—urinals without partitions. The sides of the urinal are designed in a way that the user still can stay hidden if he stands properly. His neighbor may stand less hidden, but if the user avoids the temptation to glance over, things stay essentially private.

dad guide mens room 2

The stalls. Maximum privacy. The biggest caution here is the seat. Make sure that your son is instructed to lift it before peeing, or to wipe it down and use a paper seat guard before sitting on it. Unfortunately, a pee splashed toilet seat is a common issue in even the best restrooms.

dad guide mens room 6

This is an older “what the heck were they thinking” design of urinal. Little privacy and pretty awkward. If your son does not feel comfortable using one of these—have him use the stall.

dad guide mens room 5

Let’s call this “what the heck were they thinking” II , These are worse than the ones above however. Not only is there maximum exposure, but if one pees straight ahead, pee mist bounces back on your pants. If you pee towards the floor, it bounces back on your shoes. Avoid.

dad guide mens room 7

These are the new water-free urinals. Privacy protected, and the user walks up, does his business, and it flushes itself.


  1. Don’t pass on homophobic restroom tips to your son.  Teach respect instead.  In the comment section of Shannon’s article one mom was relieved to find online “help”.  “Vanessa” declared “There are YouTube videos for little boys that show him how to behave in the men’s restroom. There are unspoken rules apparently, and little boys who are frequently with women aren’t typically told that men don’t retreat to a bathroom to talk and primp. They may not know to keep a few empty spaces between them and another person in an empty bathroom.”  The sound you may be hearing is me pounding my head on the desk.  Sorry Vanessa, those are not helpful tip videos.  They are humor videos that play on straight guys having to deal with their homophobia while holding their genitals and interacting with other men.  Your son does not need to avoid any specific urinal, and he can follow whatever rules you give him in terms of greeting a stranger standing next to him.  What is important, is to make sure your son is respectful of people’s spaces and privacy.
  2. While your body does not have to follow him into the men’s room, your eyes can.  While almost every single dad I spoke to was comfortable with a younger age of autonomy in terms of going to the restroom, one factor was a requirement:  that the parent be able to see the restroom door.  Author of Free Range Kids  Lenore Skenazy states, “ the world is not a perfect place. Criminals do exist. But to operate as if predators are prowling behind every plate of Swedish meatballs, ready to pounce on a table full of children, in public, in broad daylight, is the stuff of bad Bruce Willis movies. <a watchful eye and> concern for those kids will keep them safe!…<A pervert attacking> all in the 90 seconds between the time the mom is <not present and then is>? Can anyone seriously think this is probable? Not whether it is POSSIBLE. Anything is possible. ..There’s a big difference between possible and probable — a difference that parents are being encouraged, by busybodies and sensationalist media, to ignore. That’s what is making parents so fearful these days: We are “What if?”ing ourselves to death.”  In other words, a parent watching the door, even from several feet, is significant protection.
  3. If your concerns are higher, use your voice to have full access to the men’s room   If you are still nervous or your guy is younger, then go full throttle protection.  Go to the mens room door open it (don’t worry, most doors are strategically placed so that this will not be invasive), and say in a clear mom voice  “OK, here you go.  Call me if you need anything and I will be right in.”   Not only will your son be now under the invisible cloak of protection of mom, but some patrons may expedite their business and clear space.  As far as some know, you are standing right outside the stalls.
  4. The women’s room will give you a heads up on legitimate concerns in the men’s room.  As I pointed out earlier, from those of us in the “know”, predators were not the concern of most dads, filth was.  We have all seen some amazingly disgusting things left in restrooms, stalls and even urinals.  Should you choose to do an arrival inspection, it is this situation that I would look most for.  Should you not inspect, you will likely get a good heads up by seeing how well the women’s room is maintained.  From what I have been told, neither gender can take a prize for being the least possibly gross in a restroom space… and the same cleaning crew maintains both facilities.   If the women’s room is a dump—the men’s room is likely not healthy either. 
  5. Reassess your safety paradigm.  Here is the good news: the restroom is likely safe.  It is highly improbable, like the odds of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning, that anything will happen.  The bad news has to do with another comment in Shannon’s article, she said, “Now, I know some perfectly lovely men … Men I respect. Men I love. Men I trust completely. But I am leery of sending my son off to the men’s room all alone with strangers.”  Here is the most likely portrait of someone who would target the son of a single or lesbian mom for molestation:  According to 4,000 admitted child molesters in the Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study:  “He’s married, just like 77 percent of the more than 4000 child sexual abusers in the Child Molestation Prevention Study. He is religious, like 93 percent of the abusers. He’s educated. More than 46 percent had some college education and another 30 percent were high school graduates. Like 65 percent of the admitted abusers, he is working.”  According to the Children’s Assessment Center, most victims know the perpetrator, who has targeted the family and worked to establish trust.  Single parent households are often at greater risk.  In other words, it may be more prudent for you to relax more in the public restroom arena, but make sure you have a healthy guard up with men who are seeking to be ones you “trust completely”.  For me, I have trained my sons in terms of what is acceptable in their own privacy and what violates it—no matter who the person trespassing might be.

So, single and lesbian moms, enjoy your evening out with your kids and have no fear of the dreaded men’s room.  Your son will appreciate the vote of confidence and the independence.  It is a rite of passage to conquer that private/public space.

Don’t forget, you are formidable.  You are a trail blazer in this society.  That mysterious smelly room behind the slamming door, will never hold anything over you.  It is within your control.

Your son will also see it as nothing to fear, and with your love at his back, he will know he can accomplish anything, from his solo trips to the restroom and beyond.

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Posted in Family, Living, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Gay Dad’s Requiem for Robin Williams, the Icon of the Modern Father

 How Robin Williams Influenced Modern Fatherhood More Than Any Other Person in Today’s Culture 081214 robin williams dad

The shock of the news of his death will be forever carved in my memory. I heard it from one of my least favorite sources, Fox News. I was taking care of my elderly parents who insisted on having the conservative channel on, and the breaking bulletin interrupted their regular programming. Robin Williams was dead.

I had been filtering out the misinformation from the channel for the previous hour, but this report, sadly, had a ring of credibility. I jumped onto social media and announced it to my immediate base of followers. There was some push back as Williams had been the victim of previous hoax death announcements before. As more news sources picked up the story, it was confirmed. The unthinkable was true. Fox News went on to more disrespectful commentary of Williams, but I was too overcome to deal with small mindedness.

My instant grief over this celebrity was profound, but it took me a while to process and get some clarity as to why. Certainly, he was a man of incredible talent and accomplishment. He was a cultural icon and it is unfathomable to imagine the creative landscape without him. There was a deeper profound loss in the news for me, however, something very personal, and it took a night of sleep for me to fully get a sense as to what it is.

I am a dad. It is the part of my being with which I identify first and most strongly. As I awoke this morning, the first morning of a Robin Williams-less world, I felt a loss in the definition of what it is to be a dad. The icon depicting the spirit of the modern dad is gone.

The tapestry of Robin Williams characters had given me the rich definition of what it took. His enormous resume had everything on it, from alien to robot, to mythical genie, but , unlike any other artist, the golden chord running throughout was a comment on what was required to be a dad. Titles of his lesser known movies “Fathers Day” and “The World’s Greatest Dad” seem to underscore the point.

In the decades before Williams we had the Spencer Tracey style dads who ruled homes from a detached but lovable distance. We had the hero dad in To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch. In television we had Ozzie Nelson and fathers knowing best, culminating into the first significant depiction of all dad parenting in Fred MacMurray’s My Three Sons.

Fred MacMurray’s father image also carried into films such as the Flubber movies, and fittingly, Robin Williams was the modern heir who stepped into the Flubber dad shoes.

My first recollection of Robin Williams as a dad was in The World According to Garp. It was in this first venture in which he depicted the true complexity of modern fatherhood. Garp was a dedicated dad, but he was tragically imperfect. He had failure, guilt and resurrection. His story was strange and atypical, yet the spirit of what many good men, and good fathers felt was true.

Even monumental roles where Williams did not literally play a father still spoke unflinchingly to the behavior of fathering. From Aladdin to Good Will Hunting, Williams embodied the influential fathering figure inspiring a young man to be himself. In Dead Poets Society, he inspired boys whose actual fathers had emotionally abandoned them. William’s character taught them to not only “seize the day” but to look at life from different angles.

It was this concept, of not being constrained by predetermined limitations, that infused itself into what was, in my opinion, William’s most significant redefinition of fatherhood. His dad characters never stayed in their limited boxes, but broke free, challenged perceptions and grew.

Robin Williams was the most visible gay dad in cinema history to date. In The Bird Cage, he took a role that had been played by others in French cinema and on stage. He brought it the widest visibility in popular culture. In the film, his character navigates a very human fathering path with his son, one which speaks to me as a gay man raising my own sons. It is a path where “being there” for his son seems to include denying his own identity. From boy scouts to introductions to my sons’ newest best buds’ families, that path is all too familiar. Williams taught me how to bring life’s audience to the realization that being gay and being a father are far from mutually exclusive propositions.

Williams most compelling impact on the true nature of modern fatherhood was not as a theatrical gay dad however. It was also not as the dad who searches for his children in the afterlife, or as the dad who is a grown up Peter Pan, choosing fatherhood over the ability to remain a little boy forever. Those held additional insights to the modern dad, but not the greatest.

Williams most profound impact as a dad was when he donned a skirt, a fat suit and bifocals. It was not that he became Mrs. Doubtfire, it was that he was a divorced dad willing to become Mrs. Doubtfire. The Williams portrayal of Doubtfire said more about a man’s ability to break free of conventional wisdom and be a full nurturing parent than Sally Field’s Norma Ray said about women being union leaders.

The cultural persona Robin Williams brought to modern fatherhood was not the guy with all the answers, and the demand for authority. He was the all human guy who was learning to release his boyhood, and throw his full intentions to the well being of his kids, for whom he would make any sacrifice. His characters loved their kids beyond anything else. They trashed their own egos and identities for the sake of their kids and in the process evolved into better men. Modern dads have learned – – – we have a lot to fight, but if we stay focused on that love for our kids, we’ll be better men.

This, for me, is the heroic contribution of Robin Williams. He was the imperfect dad, but the dad who would do anything to get it right. He was my cultural role model dad, and what he depicted is what I have grown up to be. He earned respect while never pretending that he was anything more than human.

Dear Mr. Williams, I am a stranger to your real life and the demons you could not overcome. I mourn you, and I will miss you for what you contributed to me in my life, nonetheless.

Speaking for many modern fathers, I would like to say, “Thank you, Dad. We salute you and we will never forget you. The love our kids freely experience is all the better for having known you.”

 

 

For some other thoughts on Robin Williams and being a dad with depression, please read this important article

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Posted in Entertainment, Family, Living | 12 Comments