Spent the night last night in front of the tube.
Rarely have had more pleasure from that marvelous little window on the world.
In connection with GLBT month, Channel 9 (PBS) has been broadcasting non-stop programming on gay and lesbian issues. Some are familiar to anyone who’s been keeping up. One last night, though, just blew me away. It was called Daddy and Papa. Here’s the blurb:
10:30pm KQED 9 | Independent Lens: Daddy and Papa
What if your most controversial act turned out to be the most traditional thing in the world? This film explores the growing phenomenon of gay fathers and their impact on American culture through the stories of four families, including the filmmaker's.
Repeats: 6/30 1:30am, 5:30am, 9:30am, 1:30pm, 5:30pm & 9:30pm (KQED Encore).
For the entire list of programs, see: http://www.kqed.org/topics/history/heritage/lgbt/tv.jsp
OK, so I have a soft spot for gay daddies, but these guys make you sit up and stare. Woven into the background of the story is the fact that while kids needing adoption usually find good homes, there are a bunch of black kids nobody wants, and gay men, often white gay men, fill a chunk of this need. This could have been really sappy, with “heroic” fighters putting their lives on the line to save the world and fight racism at the same time, but it comes across as ordinary men, not entirely sure of what they are getting into diving in to the challenge of raising kids.
They are in for a bunch of surprises. One of the couples divorce, and their daughter has to contend not only with two daddies, but with two divorced daddies. Suddenly here’s a kid for whom gay parents are not the issue, but the sadness of a broken home. She is resigned, and happy with her new (third) daddy, but she still admits she’d like to put her two real daddies back together again.
Another couple, both gay men who hate sports and see the Christian right as something straight out of hell have to contend with the fact, now that they’ve made this little person of theirs a permanent part of themselves, that without knowing it, they’ve drawn a little jock, and suddenly everything has to change while they learn about baseball and plan for days with other sports-loving parents. Even worse, it turns out that the foster mother of their little boy is a Born Again who was adamant about not letting her charge into their clutches. The film shows how they won her over and ended up including her permanently in their family as a “grannie” to their kid. If anybody wants a reality check on the challenge of parenting, they really ought to see how they measure up against these guys. Not a dry eye... I’ll tell you, in this story.
Another touching vignette was the point when a daddy in Florida takes his boy to a Disney movie which turns about to be all about a boy who dreams of finding a mommy. When he gets home, the kid has been brought face-to-face with the question of being in the spot of the kid in the movie. “Some kids have two parents; some have only one; some have a mommy and a daddy, some have parents who don’t love them, some have people who love them very much. There are all kinds of people.” The film is clearly not a propaganda film for gay parenting, opening itself up to the criticism of opponents like this. And granted, I’m predisposed as hell in favor, having seen some marvelous gay families up close. But there is something about the authenticity of the folks portrayed in this documentary that is seriously disarming.
The story that touched me the most of the four was that guy in Florida who took in a boy from a father on drugs. His biggest supporters are the birth father’s own parents, the boy’s grandparents. With so much complexity in the homework you have to do in working through some of the ethical dilemmas of the day, it will make your day to watch people cut through the crap and do what’s right like this.
There is a downer to this last story. Thanks to Anita Bryant and the fearful ignorant who still hold that homosexuality is all about a menace to children, Florida still does not permit adoption by gay parents. No matter. Maybe someday. Meanwhile, “he’s white, I’m black,” but he’s my daddy. Florida is the only state in the union to expressly forbid gay adoptions, but the right is busy at work trying to line up others. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, one by one countries are removing bans on gay adoption just as they are removing bans on gay marriage. If you’re interested in where things stand in the U.S. as of a few months ago, Lambda has the figures at: http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/documents/record2.html?record=1923 And if you want to see signs of the ongoing battle in Florida, check out: http://www.lethimstay.com/index1.html
If you happen to be somewhere where it’s playing, take the time to see it. You won’t regret it. Meanwhile, check out the website at: http://www.daddyandpapa.com/clips.html and read the synopsis at: http://www.daddyandpapa.com/synopsis.html
The film, made three years ago, was nominated for Outstanding Documentary at the 15th Annual Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in 2004 (it lost to Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin), was chosen by the Taiwan Association of Visual Ethnography to tour the country that same year, and was shown to members of Iceland's parliament as they considered how to craft their country's legislation about gay adoption. The happy news here is that Iceland approved gay adoption three days ago, on June 27. With zero votes against. None! That brings Iceland up to date with Sweden, the Netherlands, Andorra, Spain, England and Wales, Scotland, South Africa and Belgium. Norway, Germany and Denmark allow "stepchild-adoption" so that the partner in a civil union can adopt the natural or adopted child of his or her partner. In the Republic of Ireland, individuals, whether heterosexual, homosexual, cohabiting or single, may apply for adoption. And as recently as four months ago, in February, France ruled that both partners in a same-sex relationship can have parental rights over one partner's biological child.
Running through the Chronicle this morning, I noted with great satisfaction that Arkansas’s Supreme Court just decided the ban on gay adoptions cannot stand, citing evidence there is “no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual.” The court also threw out the arguments that being raised by gays causes “academic problems” and “sex identity problems.”
To anyone who has seen the phenomenon of gay parenting close up, the appropriate response to this is one giant DUH!
Damn, it smarts to see how wrong people can be about things when with a little probing of the actual terrain they could clear the cobwebs.
Gay parenting is not the only victim in the culture wars of ignorance and fear on the part of the right, of course. This morning’s paper also carries the story that some folk are up in arms about Warren Buffett’s $30 billion gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The reason? Warren’s wife Susan was big on women’s reproductive health, and Buffett is partly responsible for the approval of RU-486, now called mifepristone, the chemical abortion pill. And Planned Parenthood has received $34 million from the Gates Foundation. This spells gloom and doom for the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, the Roman Catholic priest and president of Human Life International who fears contraception in the Third World will follow. Buffett, says Euteneuer, “will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents.”
June 30, 2006
P.S. (Added February 17, 2007)
There’s another must-see. Same story – two gay dads in Florida adopting black kids. If anything even more heart-wrenching, since these guys are nurses in the pediatric HIV ward at Miami Hospital. When their story starts, kids born to crack mothers were dying by the age of two, and these guys had to go in to work everyday and watch the children die one by one. One day one of them picks up a kid and takes him home. “We’re going to foster care this kid,” he tells his partner. “OK, says his partner.”
Well, one thing leads to another and now they’ve got five kids. They had six, but one died. Bert, the oldest, has a story which tells you how screwed up child welfare is in Jeb Bush’s Florida. Because he’s HIV positive, and black, nobody wanted to take him in, so the state decided these gay guys could take him. But then, over the years, it turns out Bert turned out not to have HIV. By this time Bert has two loving parents and a tight relationship with his four siblings. Now that he’s no longer HIV, though, he’s adoptable. Not by his daddies, of course, since they’re gay. They live under the threat he could be taken away at any time. There’s no shortage of righteous men pontificating on the need for children to have a mother and a father, and justifying it all. Fortunately, as Bert gets older, fewer and fewer people want this black kid, so he may just make it to eighteen.
To show you what it takes to buck the world of the self-righteous do-gooders, there’s a scene where they show three white, obviously gay, men with three black kids in the back of a van. (The third man comes in to “uncle” his friends’ kids.) People come up and ask, “What are you guys doing with these kid? Where’s their mother?” The answer. “She was a crack whore and she’s dead.” People back off. Shows you when there’s a challenge, some people learn the skills to meet it. The film is called We Are Dad.
And if you still have some tears left in your tear ducts you can watch yet a third film about Rosie O’Donnell called All Aboard Rosie’s Family Cruise. Rosie hires a cruise ship and loads it up with gay families and cruises the Caribbean. Both families mentioned above figure in.
Three films to own and haul out with regularity.