Internets, I have heard your request for Bean photos, and I am helpless to resist them. I have such a 50-megaton photo-dump post in the works, your interblag tubes will be clogged for a week. (This is why I don’t do photo-dump posts: zero self-control.) It will be up this weekend, maybe even before our home study on Saturday, because the social worker said not to clean and hell, we are certainly paying her enough to ignore a few dust-bunnies. Plus, she doesn’t get paid until the adoption goes through, which isn’t a conflict of interest At All.
But today is, besides the Bean’s fifteen-month birthday, Mombian’s Blogging for LGBT Families Day. It’s a bit of a fluke that I remembered in time, but I did, so I thought I should scribble something out.
…okay, it’s been all day. I meant to write about North Carolina — my home state and the most recent to pass an anti-marriage equality amendment to its constitution — but that hasn’t happened. So…have this. (Hope you like parenthetical comments.)
Tomorrow is our second-parent adoption home study, wherein a social worker to whom we will pay an enormous amount of money will come to our house and decide if we are fit to parent the child we have been parenting for the past 15 months.
On the bright side, she seems nice, but really. What is the point of all this? If the state decides Sugar is not fit to adopt, the Bean will still be my child and will continue to live with us. That’s extremely unlikely to happen: not only is Sugar pretty obviously the superior parent in the relationship, but second-parent adoptions are all-but automatic in our area, the all-but referring to the huge chunk of change we will probably-but-no-promises get back from the IRS as an adoption tax credit. (Nice of you fellow tax payers to kick in for these costs, but really, I think the lawyers will find a way to scrape by without the subsidy. I tend to think the adoption agencies would, too, but that’s a soapbox for a different day.) Since we all know this is essentially pro forma, it pretty much amounts to a tax on being gay. Kind of like that $450 we had to pay to be offended by the psychologist at the Baby Factory, back in the day.
It’s important, I think, to note that this is not about genetics: if I had conceived using anonymous donor sperm but were married to a man, his legal parentage would be automatic in every state. Husbands are presumed to be the fathers of their offspring, even if said offspring have the postman’s ears, because these laws are at their core about the inheritance of one trait only: property.
I know what I’m supposed to say right now is how grateful I am that we live in a state that not only allows second parent adoption by same-sex partners but one where they routinely go through without comment. (Unlike in NC, where once again, some crazy divorcing lesbian ruined it for everyone. People, can we all agree that once someone does something like this to our community, that person — even if hot — gets no sex again ever? Call it Operation Lysistrata.) In a limited way, I am grateful, or at least I am aware of how much worse things could be. I don’t mean to sound to those living in states with awful laws like a spoiled brat, but neither do I feel inclined to do a lot of sucking up to the powers that be just for being allowed the basic piece of human dignity that is having my child’s relationship with his parents recognized by the law.
Before I got involved in this TTC and parenting lark, I had some sympathy for the “people should be screened to be parents” kind of argument that springs up in conversation, usually about some abysmal behavior on the subway or, less forgiveably, in the context of parents in poverty. I didn’t exactly agree, you understand, but there was something appealing about the idea of a test, because, I realize now, I was so blindly comfortable in my race and class privilege that I never dreamed such a test would be given to me. Even if it were, it was obvious I would pass (see: race, class, education), and tests you know you’ll pass are kind of fun, amirite?
No, as it turns out, they aren’t fun. They are enraging. Moreover, sometimes the standards get changed even after you took the test (see: NC second-parent adoptions revoked in wake of nasty case mentioned above). Being informed or reminded that an external authority has control of — or even and opinion about — your right to reproduce and/or parent is galling and frightening and in no way conducive to good parenting. Even knowing that no one is the least bit interested in taking our child away from us, I feel under surveillance, nervous of any perceived misstep.
We in the privileged quarters tend to talk more freedom from reproduction, via birth control, abortion, etc., than freedom to reproduce. Yet, as a wise friend of mine once remarked to me, the eugenic impulse is strong in American thought; tiptoe out of the world of the white, the middle-class and above, the able-bodied, the straight, the sane, and it’s right there, not just disapproval, but policy, ranging from the kind of nuisance barriers I’m complaining about here to real bodily control, sterilization, confiscation of children, and so on. (Do you think, as I did, that forced sterilizations of, for instance, welfare mothers was a thing of the past? Read this.)
I don’t mean to draw false equivalencies. However bad my attitude about tomorrow’s hoop-jumping, I am not so self-involved as all that. Being gay in this time and place has its inconveniences, but being white and educated and middle-class sure does help out. (So does not looking different — when my white, middle-class, educated aunt and uncle brought their baby daughter to the ER, was it the cut she’d gotten on the shower door track that triggered the suspicions of abuse and the subsequent nightmare of temporary custody loss, or might it be possible that their Muslim dress had something to do with at least the severity of and contempt behind the official reaction?) But it is true that having our right to parent scrutinized has made me think differently about the right to reproduce, which is about as basic a biological drive as you can name, and how — and for whom — that right is limited. (Overpopulation exists, but our system isn’t China’s, seeking to control absolute numbers. We are quite proud of that, of not telling rich, white, healthy people how many children to have.) I expected to learn things from motherhood, but I didn’t expect this would be one of the lessons.