Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Broken Youth: Why Gay Adults Should Be Able to Adopt

(I wrote this for my English class. I liked it so I decided to post it here)

A Broken Youth: Why Gay Adults Should Be Able to Adopt

The glass dish slams against the wall barely missing his face. The sound of the plate shattering breaks the screaming of the house. More then dishes are being broken tonight. A fourteen-year-old boy begins to run from his family. He runs with only one thing on his mind: an escape. He did not believe his family could hold so much hate. He cried and began to pant as his bare soles hit the pavement, and blood trickled down his face. He held onto his heart in sheer panic and collapsed next to the freeway entrance. It may sound unrealistic, but this situation is real for thousands of children. I know, because I am one of them.

When lesbian, gay, biseuxal, and/or transgender (LGBT) people come out to their families loosing everything is a real possibility. The state should allow LGBT parents to foster and adopt young people in need. According to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on LGBT youth, “over twenty six percent of youth are forced to leave their home when they come out,” which is incredibly daunting (Ray). We are dealing with thousands upon thousands of children who become homeless. Young LGBT people who come out do not have a lot of options and there is a basic right, even for LGBT children, to have a safe place to live. Adults in the gay community become foster parents to give back and provide a safe place for these young people to live. Unfortunately, many do not think LGBT people are suitable parents (Rekers). In this paper I will use academic evidence and a personal example to disprove the position which proposes LGBT parents are unfit. If these young people do not find a safe, supportive place to live they can fall into the problematic foster care system, the criminal justice system, the homeless system, or even death. America is failing our young people, and we must increase tolerance and understanding if we expect to save our most vulnerable.

George Rekers, from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, claims that “homosexual people are not fit to be parents.”His number one claim in his paper is that “homosexually behaving adults have more stress in their lives then heterosexual people and thus would be more damaging to young people in care” (Rekers). This claim exposes biased research because he claims LGBT people should not be parents because of the stress of an LGBT parental unit, while never addressing why they may have more stress. LGBT people have more stress in their lives, and in their family structures, because of society’s stigma, institutionalized discrimination, and rejection of LGBT people. They do not have more stress because gay people inherently have more tension in their lives. The APA, the American Psychological Association, agree by stating on their website,

“The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination, and antigay violence are major sources of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (APA).”

Rekers also exposes his own bias with how he identifies LGBT people as “homosexually behaving” adults. The term used by Rekers is rejected by mainstream scientific organizations like the APA, as evident with the removal of homosexuality as a disease in 1973 (Bradly). He minimizes gay people by claiming that being gay is a behavior, that can be corrected, not an intrinsic identity. He also compares gay parents to “households with a pedophilic behaving adult, households with practicing criminals, households with drug dealers and drug abusers.” The irony in his statements is that no matter how he much he argues, LGBT people are not sex offenders, drug dealers, or, since 2003 (Lawrence vs. Texas), criminals of the state.

Rekers continues to infer in his paper that gay people can change their orientation and that the behavior is socially damaging to society. Rekers seems to be scapegoating gay people as carriers of destruction, disease, and wickedness. His statements are a reflection of the organization he represents and the organizations it aligns itself with.
I do not agree with Rekers research and conclusion and I have a personal example here to be shared within the context of this academic paper about the success of parents happen to be to be gay. LGBT people should be able to foster and help young people because LGBT adults may have gone through similar situations in their youth. They can accept, and support this specific group of young people on a different level then a heterosexual parent. I ran away when I came out because my family did not want anything to do with me anymore and it is interesting to note who exactly I lived with when I ran away. I lived with a lesbian couple.

There were a couple places I could have gone, but I decided to live with this specific couple because of the love they accepted me with. The reason I found support, acceptance, and love is because they were able to understand me. I wanted a family to cherish, nurture, and love every part of me, not cherry pick what they found acceptable and what they believed to be distasteful, especially an identity. I wanted a family who would not question if I had antagonized the bullying at school, or if getting spit on while I rode the bus was my fault. I longed for a family to stand up for equality, justice, and fairness, not just pass by with the status quo. This couple became my family. I lived with them because they were able to support me on a whole different level then my heterosexual rejecting parent. I believe this is a personal story that many young people hold to be truth when raised by a family member of similar characteristics. It helps to be able to connect with the youth you are caring for.

But it is not always this positive, it is disappointing that many people who provide a home for homeless youth, or youth in care, but do not recognize their own bias for getting involved in the foster care system. Many youth, as evident from the Task Force’s study on homelessness, happen to be LGBT. Between 20-40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT (Ray). Many conservative faith based institutions and families discriminate against LGBT youth who happen to wind up on their doorsteps. A youth who was rejected from their family may be further traumatized as another rejects them (CWLA). We need to make sure this does not happen by not only allowing all eligible and stable adults to be foster parents, but also invest in culturally competent and accepting adults to help our young people. Not all heterosexual adults are good parents, and neither are all LGBT adults, but that does not mean we should exclude an entire minority because of cultural bias.

Popular science further supports the fact that LGBT people are suitable parents and refutes the idea Rekers and other conservative organizations promote. The APA released a study in 2004 solidifying research from the 70’s that homosexual parenting is normal and suitable to a child’s development (APA). They found no evidence to suggest the contrary. The APA also stated that stress in LGBT homes are likely caused by external factors like society refusing to recognize LGBT people as legitimate members of society, then anything else (APA). They state that the rejection of the child’s family “sends a signal to the child and society that their family situation is unacceptable and subject to ridicule. “ This statement directly refutes the claim made by Rekers.

The APA expands on past research that LGBT parents raise healthy children on their website:
“Studies comparing groups of children raised by homosexual and by heterosexual parents find no developmental differences between the two groups of children in four critical areas: their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, and popularity with friends. It is also important to realize that a parent's sexual orientation does not indicate their children's.”

So we know there is an overrepresentation of LGBT homeless youth but the question is what do we do now with this data? This academic paper exists to promote an end to bans on LGBT people being included in the general pool of foster parents. Research by the APA, scholarly journals, and respected researchers confirm that LGBT adults are capable of raising children into healthy and productive members of society (APA). LGBT adults may even be more likely to relate to specific groups of young people from similar situations, like gay youth and help them grow into productive members of society (CWLA). With bans on gay people adopting and being foster parents in states such as Florida, Mississippi, Utah, and now Arkansas, it seems the battle is heating up (Ruggeri). As American citizens it is our duty to respect everyone and to recognize that impartial scientific evidence must trump public opinion, otherwise we may as well live in a Stone Age theocracy minimizing all minorities and those who disagree. That is not a democracy. America was created on the principle that “all men are created equal,” and like Harvey Milk, a gay leader, said “no matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words from the constitution.” I believe in the constitution.

I conclude with a poem named London by the poet William Blake. It reminds me of the challenges facing our young people. In this poem Blake describes London with desolation and how it is infesting thoughts with negativity. He describes a London that is ignoring its civilians and turning a horrible situation even direr. London may not specifically be about LGBT youth in care, but it does represent a feeling that many LGBT youth find themselves in. The emotion they often feel is one of hopelessness. LGBT youth have daunting statistical data suggesting that they will break, fail, and die faster then other youth, but it is not just mind-forged manacles that Rekers suggests with his flawed data, but factual data of society’s intolerance and what it causes. LGBT youth should be provided safe, stable, accepting homes and LGBT adults should be able to foster and care for these, and other youth. Parents who can relate to these young people will be able to help them grow when no other adult would. Let us not neglect our most vulnerable.


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