Originally published at The Tennessean
Lawmakers here in Tennessee are catching a lot of flak for their support of HB 836, which supposedly allows adoption agencies to “discriminate against” LGBTQ applicants. At first glance, it looks unfair. After all, we all have friends we know and love who are gay and who deserve to be treated fairly. But HB 836 sounds unfair only if we are looking at it from the adults’ perspective. When we view adoption from the child’s perspective, prioritizing homes with both mothers and fathers not only makes sense, it’s critically important.
For the first eight years of my life, I was raised by two gay men — my father and his partner. My formative years were almost entirely devoid of women. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a mother until I watched “The Land Before Time” at school. My 5-year-old brain could not understand why I didn’t have the mom that I suddenly desperately wanted. I felt the loss. I felt the hole. As I grew, I tried to fill that hole with aunts, my dads’ lesbian friends and teachers. I remember asking my first grade teacher if I could call her mom. I asked that question of any woman who showed me any amount of love and affection. It was instinctive. I craved a mother’s love even though I was well-loved by my two gay dads.
Gender matters in parenting
Why is that? Because gender matters in parenting. And because gender matters in parenting, that means gender matters when placing children for adoption. I have personally experienced the pain that motherlessness causes. I could never support any law or institution that endorses motherlessness. Many sociologists agree that fatherlessness is a scourge on our society. Why would anyone think that purposely depriving a child of the love of a mother or father is a good thing?
When it comes to HB 836, we need to be clear about who adoption is for. In adoption, the child is the client. Adoption is not about giving children to adults who want them. It’s about finding the best home for children who have lost their parents. When adoption is done right, every child will be placed in a loving home, but not every adult who wants a child will get one.
Next, we must recognize that for the child, adoption begins with loss. Even if they are placed with their adoptive parents at birth, adoptees suffer trauma as a result of being separated from their biological parents. As an adoptee who knows several other adoptees, I can tell you that it’s a trauma that affects children for life. The adoption agency’s job is to find a family that is best positioned to shepherd their child through her loss and trauma. There are multiple factors in that calculation — from the couple’s finances, to background checks, to readiness to parent the child’s special needs, to relational stability, etc. But make no mistake, the presence of a father and a mother should be a factor in every agency’s calculation.
Men can’t be mothers, and women can’t be fathers
I know what I am about to say is unpopular, but it’s true nonetheless: Men cannot be mothers, and women cannot be fathers. Kids need both. The well-established difference between mothering and fathering reveals that men and women offer distinct and complementary benefits to children. From the ways they play, to the ways they talk, to how they discipline, to how they prepare children for the world. Male- and female-specific parenting optimizes child development. Tennessee agencies that recognize and prioritize homes where children will receive maternal and paternal love should be praised, not demonized.
I am not saying that gay couples cannot love and parent children well. I love my dad and his partner deeply, and we share a wonderful relationship. I acknowledge that there are times, given the child’s needs and availability of adoptive parents, when two fathers or two mothers may be the best placement for the child. But to say that the biological sex of the parents is irrelevant is based in ideology, not reality. I am also not saying that just because you are a married man and woman you are automatically qualified to adopt. Plenty of heterosexual couples will not make the cut. No adult, gay or straight, has a right to adopt. Rather, children who have lost their parents have a right to be adopted. And whenever possible, they should be adopted by a mom and dad.
Samantha, thank you for your common-sense, yet profound, view of this issue. Although I’m religious, one doesn’t have to be so to realize the crucial importance of ensuring that our children are raised in a dad and mom household.
Thank you. Please persevere.
Excellent article! We need to hear more from children that are being placed into same sex homes. You make an excellent point that should never have been missed by adoption groups who seem to do whatever it takes to make those $$$ from adoption…that “adoption is not about giving children to adults who want them. It’s about finding the best home for children who have lost their parents. ” Since a baby comes from a male and female, a baby deserves to have a mother and father for their parents. It’s about the baby, not the adults and since there’s really more people that want to adopt than there is babies to adopt, there’s no reason to start off a baby’s life with less than what was taken from them when they were born.
So you believe you should have been removed from your gay father’s home and placed in a home where there is a mother and a father?
Thank you for your thoughts Samantha. However, do you not fear that you’re making huge generalisations based on your upbringing alone, while the lion’s share of academic research seems to contradict your experience? Moreover, it is also possible that your craving for a mother came from the hetro-normative social norms that idealise the idea of motherhood, etc?
Agree, Seb: Samantha, every child wants to feel “normal,” and every child has ways they feel different, or they don’t fit in. You would have longed for something in a different situation– you could have had a mother and a father, for instance, who didn’t make you feel as “well-loved” as your Dads did, and longed for that love. I’d encourage you to talk to your Dads about your experience, if you haven’t already. They are human, and might have some things they would have done differently, as any parent might. In the meantime, I wonder if there are special ways you understand the world– and thrive in it– because of your unique experiences. Maybe embrace and accept them rather than use them to push a hateful agenda. https://childandfamilyblog.com/children-adopted-gay-fathers/
The left sure believes gender matters when they blame black crime on NO FATHERS in the black community. I guess we can just chalk it up to another example of the double standards and hypocrisy so they can do what ever the heck they please, no matter how immoral.