A Gay Dad’s Requiem for a Little Boy Named Zachary, Killed Because He Might Become Gay

ImageWhen my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them.  Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them.  Since my sons are “almost twins”, only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.

Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating.  As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves.  They were becoming their own people with personalities.

This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe.  On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was the biggest thrill I could imagine:  seeing my two sons emerge and become who they would be.  I could not wait to meet and know, and love them.

I remember one morning when the boys were three years old, a cold Sunday, when I was orchestrating activities with them.  Jesse, for no apparent reason, came over, grabbed my face, pulled it toward him, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  My partner happened to be snapping pictures and he caught the moment.  I look disheveled, and the lighting in the picture is bad, but to this day, it is my favorite photo of all time.


Jesse, the generously affectionate young man he was becoming, had emerged for his first moment from the blond little toddler.  Knowing who he is now, it was a thrill to see the glimpse of him then.  Watching my sons develop from babies into the men they will be is my greatest life’s honor.

Not all parents relate to this joy of children developing into themselves as I do, particularly when those parents are homophobic and the child’s emergence is indicating that he or she may be either gay or transgender.  In those cases, things can get very ugly, very fast.

The “Focus on the Family” founder James Dobson declared that starting as early as age five, children might show some sort of inclinations, and he prescribed parental actions to make the children change their instincts.

One such parent was Oregon mom, Jessica Dutro.  Her little boy Zachary was not reacting things in as masculine a way as she expected.  She thought he would become gay.  “He walks like it and talks like it.  Ugh.” She wrote to boyfriend, Brian Canady, and she instructed Brian to “work on him”.  They both worked on Zachary.  Until Zachary was dead.

Jessica Dutro is an abusive woman.  Her behavior towards her other kids shows that fact.  The blend of homophobia with those abusive tendencies made her deadly.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a requiem to Fred Phelps, a man who personified hatred.  His life was a failure, and my final message to him was one of pity.  Today, I write a requiem to Zachary.  He was not hatred, he was sweet and energetic.  He was killed by hatred.  There is no pity in this message.  I am angry.

Dear Zachary,

Good bye.  We, the world, have failed you little one.  You came to us, bright and full of promise, and we left you in the hands of one who did not appreciate your brightness, and in fact, she sought to make you suffer for who she thought you might be.

I am sorry.   I did not cause the force that killed you, and in fact, I fight it daily.  You are dead, however, and for me, that means that I did not fight hard enough, not nearly hard enough.

You were killed by homophobia, my child.  It came through the hands of parents, through the very hands and arms that should have been there to grab you, and hold you and love you.  It was the force of homophobia that killed you however, not just those physical blows that delivered it.  While your parents embodied that hatred, it was not created by them, it had been given to them in many ways from the world around them.

I am sorry you were born in a world where too many voices tell you not to be you.  No one should have to fight for the right to be themselves, least of all, a four year old child.

I am sorry you were born into a world where so many feel that the ability to physically make a child is more important that the ability to love and nurture one.  Where people are writing court papers vilifying parents who do not physically procreate, they should be writing briefs condemning parents who do not love.  Birthing a child is merely bringing it to life.  Loving a child is truly giving it a reason to live.

I am sorry you were born into a world where people believe in misinterpreted Bible passages and tired dogmas.    They hold onto them only so they can rationalize hating something they don’t understand.  Something they see in you, even in your innocence.

I am sorry for all the beauty, magnificence, talent and life that you represented that is now gone.  I miss the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. I mourn the children you did not get to raise and the better world you did not get to help build.

A man named Fred Phelps died a few weeks ago,  two years after you did.  He lived his life being hateful, trying to get people to be more homophobic.  He failed and his efforts made people not want to be like him.  Homophobia lost.  You lived your life being loving, and your efforts made two people hate you.  Homophobia still lost however, because I will never ever forget you.

I pray that your short life is held up as the horrible cost of the homophobic mindset.  That mindset is not an opinion.  It is not a right to religious beliefs.  It is a deep and ever present danger that kills the innocent.  I pray that your life robs homophobia of its glory and helps shame it into non-existence.

Nothing will replace the life we lost in you.  You were our child and we allowed our world to inspire your fate.  You deserved so much better.

With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better.  We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder.  We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.

We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace.  You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them.  We owed it to you.  We will not fail again.


To listen to a podcast where the author delivers the requiem, please go to:http://outinsantacruz.com/firefox-cookies-and-zachary/

Please like the evoL= Facebook page here.

Follow us on Twitter @ JandJDad



About robw77

A single gay dad who cares. His story can be read here: http://www.imagaysingleparent.com/2013/02/02/rob/ and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/rob-watson-gay-family_n_4689661.html
This entry was posted in Civil Rights, Family, Hatred, Living, Prejudice and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to A Gay Dad’s Requiem for a Little Boy Named Zachary, Killed Because He Might Become Gay

  1. Ron Curiston says:

    This story, absolutely broke my heart. I knew at a very young age, I was much like him, but never would I ever let it be known, as I feared my father would likely beat me until I was normal. To this day, I have never told my family, due to that fear. I am now 50 years old, and try to live 2 lives, just to please those in my family, and live for me at the same time.

    I will never have children, as much as I wanted to be a father when I was younger, even getting married to a woman, trying to do the “right” thing. Now, I know why…..

    Rest in peace little man, you’re in a better place, away from the most evil of evil, your parents…..

  2. Jayme Holley says:

    Reading this made me realize how lucky I was to have parents that accepted me no matter my sexual orientation. I am so disgusted that a “parent” could ever hurt their child. My best friend and her husband have always wanted children but after 18 years of trying they’ve yet to get pregnant. They would have gladly taken in this innocent little angel and loved him no matter what. I am so angry and deeply saddened that a pair of monsters could have child yet someone who do anything to have children can’t conceive.

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  13. This made me cry–for the boy who was innocent, and should never have died, and because my mother embodied that hatred, too, clinging to it until her dying day.

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  18. diasporatica says:

    Reblogged this on diasporatica and commented:
    Everyone should read this.

  19. diasporatica says:

    Dear Rob,

    Initially, when I first heard about this story, it completely left me heart broken and shattered for days. All I could think about was why? I have a 9 month old son, I was raised in a strict religious home (I’m not very religious), and for the life of me, I could never imagine touching a single strand of hair on my son. Ever. The monster who cut short the life of a precious 4 year old, innocent, sweet, child, was more than a hateful homophobic BITCH. She was an abusive person that should have never been a mother in the first place. I’m so glad your kids have someone so kind and gentle like you as their father. It’s a shame that people slander LGBTQ individuals and don’t want them to raise children and they ignore monsters like her, while trying to come up with every stupid, flawed, useless reason as to why LGBTQ individuals should not be able to raise children.

    I know your children will grow up to be amazing people, and I can only hope my son will do the same, his sexual preference is irrelevant to me today, tomorrow, and forever. His gender is only a small part of who he is as a person. He’s simply my child. I wish Zachary had a chance in this world, I wish someone noticed his mother’s abusive tendencies, I wish her boyfriend gave a shit. I wish his sister didn’t have to witness what she did. Meanwhile, homophobic assholes are fighting to prevent people who love each other from being together, spewing rhetoric that has been manipulated and twisted every which way… I’m sorry that this is the world we live in.

    I applaud you for standing up for this little angel as you have done, your words have brought a headline to life in many people’s hearts.

  20. stvrsnbrgr says:

    Reblogged this on The End (so far) and commented:
    Two years ago, a 4-year-old boy named Zachary was beaten to death. By his mother and her boyfriend. Because she thought he might be gay.

    Next time you read a story about bullying or gay marriage or employment non-discrimination or homophobia or anti-gay ‘pastors’ of real or imagined ‘churches’… I want you to take a moment to connect the dots.

    As long as we live in a society which discounts a person’s humanity – in any way – because s/he is gay or perceived to be gay… then we will continue to live in a society in which a child like Zachary can be murdered by people like this. That she has been convicted of this crime is a pathetic acknowledgment that we failed to save this child in the first place.

    I’m reblogging this powerful post and hope you’ll share it, too.

  21. stvrsnbrgr says:

    So glad to find your blog, Rob. This post starts out so sweetly, so beautifully. And your letter to Zachary is such a powerful call to action, to each of us. We all have kids, one way or another. We need to pay closer attention to those who need us. Thank you for the reminder.

  22. Steven says:

    Great post. One correction: James Dobson founded Focus on the Family, not the American Family Association. The latter was founded by Rev. Donald Wildmon.

  23. Reblogged this on Adam from Norway – featuring my literary works / visual art & cool links. and commented:
    Excellent blog post. I hope many reblog it!

  24. Just found your blog and am breathless after reading your letter to Zach. You’ve got another follower. Thank you for this post.

  25. kzottarelli says:

    This is amazingly beautiful, and my only wish is that this will soften some of the very cold hearts that still remain in this world. I pray that in little Zachary’s death we will honor who he was and who he never had the chance to become and as sort of adoptive parents wrap our arms around him to spread a message of love, hope and peace.
    There is no place in my mind that allows me to conceive of a parent not having anything but unending love for their child. My heart is broken and continues to break a little piece at a time for each and every child who doesn’t have the unconditional love, safety and comfort of their parents.
    I honor, love and hold you in my heart little man.

  26. Thami Mlotshwa says:

    This cut so deep, my anger and disgust drove me to uncontrollable sobs. I find no words left to speak of but to say in my insignificant way RIP LITTLE ANGEL ❤ ❤ ❤

  27. Jane Foresta says:

    I was reduced to tears reading about Zachary’s death. I cannot believe that little boy was killed by the very people that should have protected him from the insanity of homophobia. What kind of a
    society have we become? I will mourn this little boy along with a son that I, myself, lost due to a drunk driver. May God hold them both tenderly in His care.

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  29. WOW!!!! will definitely have to share this one.
    all this hate in this world, is really sickening, but to kill a child because of homophobia, there is no excuse, no words harsh enough, especially, when it is the child’s own parents.I hope neither of them get out of jail.

  30. Jamie Pettus says:

    Reblogged this on Queer Landia and commented:
    This is very sobering and so well written. I am embarrassed that these ignorant, hateful people are from Oregon, but there is hate everywhere. Fortunately, there is also incredible goodness and light. Yin and Yang.

  31. Melissa says:

    This is hauntingly beautiful.. It really touched my heart. I, myself have 2 year old twin boys and I adore seeing the personalities they continue to grow into, no matter who they may be.. they will be unconditionally loved and always know the meaning of equality. Bless you, your partner, and your boys!! People like yourself will make this world a better place… One day! ❤️🌈

    • Thami Mlotshwa says:

      It sure stabs the heart violently,to think just how precious our kids are, not only to us but to the world at large and to each other,these wrongs my righted somehow.

  32. Severin says:

    Reposted to my Facebook Timeline for all my friends to see. I have many different sexually orientated close friends on my page. I have deleted so many that thought the LGBT was a sin and blah blah being completely bible thumpers. But I also have a little girl who is close to the age of 1. I don’t care what her sexuality is, Espicially considering that I am openly Bi-Sexual and my husband loves me despite it. I know the feeling of hate and judgemental people, I am full native, have tattoo’s, different colored hair and people judge me and hate me before they know me. I have a lot going against me but I do not hate people for it, It just breaks my heart that someone would do something so horrific like take the life of an innocent child. It’s absolutely disgusting that any parent could actually do that. My daughter will be raised with the thoughts of gender neutrality in her life. I also had another friend.. A guy in her town was recently beaten because he was gay and she posted something that moved a lot of us, It had to do with her children and she is openly Bi-Sexual as well and serves our military.

    “Buffington:: last week a young man here in town was beaten because he’s gay, so last night members of the equality center and friends held a safety rally. when i got home, i explained to the kids why it was held. they both agreed that somebody beating up somebody else just because they’re gay was stupid, and abby felt so bad that she wanted to make a get better soon card. on the way to drop the card off where the man works, abby asked me why someone would do that and i told her that some people are just rotten. she thought for a mnute and then said, “i think some people are so mean because they don’t get enough love. i think people like that need to be loved more.”

    Even children know the difference and know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

  33. Adele says:

    I have read your blog and it is so moving I have used it as the base for my blog post. Thank you for speaking out for this little boy who was killed because of homophobia. I’ve linked your blog. Here is mine. https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5905429276058214284#editor/target=post;postID=8178417202192354259;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=0;src=postname

  34. Elfeera says:

    I’m not crying I swear….
    I’m pregnant now, and just today I decided boy/girl doesnt matter (I’ve read to much about transphobia to care), I had just written it on my facebook how I hate it that little children (before they are born) are put in a box because of their genitalia.
    I live in Belgium: we have a gay Prime Minister, gays can get married, but I am sure there are lots and lots of gays in the closet still, just because of hatefull people.
    I want my kids to be raised (genderneutrally) in a way they’ll know Mommy and Daddy will always be there for them, no matter what: gay, straight, cis/transgendered.
    I never wanted children, until a few months ago, but I never understood parents who would do this to their children.
    I can only hope to raise them like you are doing: openminded, full of love, encouraging them to be what THEY want to be, not what society thinks they should be.

  35. Vanessa says:

    Very well written. Not to mention completely true. I am a lesbian. In a lesbian relationship, I am 37 years old and I can’t talk to my mother about my relationship. We are engaged and it hurts that to know that my side of the family will not be there. Thankfully, I raised my daughters with an open mind from a young age, encouraged them to be who they are and helped them learned that people are different, and it’s not a bad thing. My daughters accept me and my fiancée and that’s all that matters right now. I know, that my son would have been gay… He was the sweetest, kindest, loving kid you would’ve ever met. And I love him with all my heart. I miss him every day of my life… And I don’t understand how any parent would rather see their baby dead than alive and happy! My son died at 8 and 1/2 years old from heart transplant complications… And I’d give ANYTHING to having him here with me. Gay, straight, transgender, pan sexual, bi sexual, I don’t care! I would just like to see his face one more time, hear his laugh… Feel his arms around me…. Hear him say “mommy”…. What this woman did to this little angel is incomprehensible to me.

    • robw77 says:

      Vanessa, you have me in tears. Thank you for sharing your story, and my heart breaks for your loss. I cannot imagine. Sending you a lot of love, and I could not agree with you more. The idea of losing one of my boys is unthinkable, and how a woman like Jessica do what she did for any reason, is beyond me. Bless you and I am so sorry for your loss.

  36. Reblogged this on Absract Writer and commented:
    The loss of any child is a pain that I cannot comprehend in the slightest, but when a child is taken by hatred, fear, and ignorance, that’s not pain. That I see clearly for what it really is-weakness. I’m lucky to have two amazing parents who supported me when I came out at 14-years-old,and who continue to support me in all of my aspirations-my dreams. It’s not fair that I get to say I’m “lucky,” because parents are there to protect us from all
    of the bad, all of the hurt, and all of tears, senseless tears. In this blog you will see what a father should be.
    Please go take a visit his page and support evolequals in sending as much love to this amazing little boy,wherever he may be.

  37. Thank you so much for writing this amazing article. I came out at very young age and I’m lucky enough to have parents who love me unconditionally. It’s just not fair that I get to say that about my parents because every child should feel that love from their parents. A beautifully written article, if you don’t mind I would love to reblog your post? I really feel that your words should be seen by as many people as possible, and I would love to help with that.

    • robw77 says:

      I am honored when fellow bloggers re-blog evolequals posts, so please Christian, feel free. Thank you to all the others who have shared here and re-blogged this. The point is to send this little boy, wherever he is, as much love as we can…love that he should have received here. Thank you for your heart.

  38. candie says:

    Damn, that is wonderful writing. I hope many people read this, although I know they won’t. Just to make them think for a bit, maube talk to others about this.

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  40. Corinne says:

    So beautifully written, Rob. I nearly cried. Your tribute to this sweet soul truly honors this child in a way that I hope catalyzes readers to share the story and educate others.

  41. swo8 says:

    This is just too sad.

  42. vicromero says:

    wow… 😦

  43. jerbearinsantafe says:

    Reblogged this on JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
    This is a heartbreaking story of a boy murdered because his “mother” feared he might be gay. Tragic result of extreme homophobia…

  44. I’m horrified. That’s all I can say right now.

  45. C.M. Berry says:

    This is well said. I don’t have any children, but being one of six kids I am an uncle to sixteen little boys and girls; all with their own unique personalities and inclinations. A few weeks back I was watching my five year old nephew and we ended up taking a trip to the mall. While we were there he asked me if I would buy him a Barbie because his daddy (my younger brother) wouldn’t. Being that I’m gay and that I don’t want him to grow up feeling like he has to fit society’s gender roles, I wholeheartedly bought him a doll. When my brother (who mind you was completely open to and accepting of my sexual orientation) found out, he was furious. He told me that his son always says he wants to be a girl and is always asking for “girl things.” I was shocked by my brother’s reaction to it. Apparently it was one thing for him to have a gay brother and something else entirely to have a gay or possibly transgendered son. What worried him most was the idea that his son might actually want to be a girl. I asked my brother if he cared about his son’s happiness and he said yes. So I told him if he loves his son and wants him to be happy, he needs to accept the reality that his son might end up gay or transgendered and there is absolutely nothing he can do about it other than provide the support that his son needs. Gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered. It’s all the same. He is still the same tiny human no matter his parts or who he loves. I just hope when my nephew does figure out who and what he is, my brother will be on the right side of it all and not fail him like so many parents have failed their own kids. I’m hoping with me there to guide him, he’ll learn and grow the way that he needs to so that his son can feel safe to be whoever he wants to be.

    • Chloe Alexa Landry says:

      Mr. Berry, your an Uncle to cherish for how you treat your nephew. I wish I had you when I asked my mother that same question. When do I get to be a girl at three years old. Mom answered in a way I new never to ask this question again. Four years later a Nun in my school did something that taught me to never reveal this to anyone ever. My best friend I had the honor to know since we met in Kindergarten at five years turned out to be Gay, and it made no difference except I never got to share with him that I am Trans. He died with Aids in the mid eighties and I still miss his wit. Keep doing what you are doing as It helps us all, much as Rob Watson does with his different loving writings.

    • stvrsnbrgr says:

      You got it so completely wrong when you wrote “I don’t have any children”. Of course you do! This 5 year old boy knew instinctively that he could turn to you for help. Asking you to buy him the doll was his way of asking you to intervene in his life. He knew he could trust you and count on you. And you are there for him. I hope you can save your brother from himself, and give him another chance to be a real father to this boy. Either way though, you’ve got a 5 year old who needs you. Plus 15 other kids in the family? Yes… you have children. Lucky kids!

      We all do. Rob’s letter to Zachary, and your story, reminded me of that. Thanks guys.

  46. pinkagendist says:

    Superbly written. The fact of the matter is that this boy’s blood is on the hands of all those who create a hostile environment for gay children/teens. They lay the ground for things like this to happen.

    • carol says:

      Yes, fully agreed about people creating hostile environments and hatred and fear for gay children. There are countries is Africa where the religious right have affected and spread hatred and hostility so much so that young gay people are murdered in the most horrific ways and when my niece (who now moved to America and got down and dirty with the religious right) dare to post a comment about being anti-gay because of her religious beliefs and looking for sympathy because she cannot be openly proud about it. A great battle ensued on fb (I have a gay son who is my hero and my other two children look up to him) I was enraged. The whole of the crazy happy clappy garage preacher circle came down on me like a pack of rabid dogs, ughhh and dared to say that the “gay victim thing is getting old” I am glad that Obama stood up for the rights of gay people in these African countries. No time for this extreme homophobic idiocy to end.

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