Dennis Milam Bensie shares the experience of his gay friends’ raising of their son and their battle to do so.
“Your Honor, I can’t have two gay guys raise my son,” pleaded Otis Barker to the judge.
My friends, Jack and Terry, were fostering Barker’s two year old biological son, Maddox, with the intention of adopting him. They’d had custody of him since he was eight weeks old. That day in court, the child was over two years old.
The judge heard the biological father’s homophobic statement loud and clear and terminated his parental rights. Otis Barker was sent back to county jail where he had been residing for the last several months for assaulting Maddox’s biological mother. Her parental rights were terminated a long time ago for not complying with a treatment plan for her drug use.
Maddox’s biological parents were never married. They left the hospital quickly after he was born addicted to meth and they never saw him again. Maddox’s biological mom already had three other children by three other fathers in the foster care system.
Hey, Otis. you should THANK those two gay guys for doing such a good job raising your son.
After one of her first state mandated visitations, Grandma Barker told Jack and Terry that, “God will take care of everything.”
The Barkers never made an effort to meet Maddox until he was almost two years old. They only came forward and sought custody when they learned that two gay men were raising him.
Jack and Terry were put through the ringer last winter fighting his biological relatives. They said some terrible things about my friends in court. When the gay dads got custody of the baby, they were only domestic partners. It was mentioned in court by the Barkers that the men were, “…unstable …not even married.”
Watching Jack and Terry battle the homophobic family made me very angry. The family member who sought custody of Maddox was from a faraway state that was still far from recognizing gay marriage. Otis Barker’s family wasn’t briefed very well by their counsel. Little did they know that day in court that Washington had just legalized same sex marriage.
Thankfully, the State of Washington ruled that Otis Barker would no longer be Maddox Barker’s father, paving the way for Jack and Terry to adopt the boy.
THE SUMMER OF LOVE
Maddox is now speaking in complete sentences this summer. He has called Jack “Dadda” and Terry “Pappa” for over a year.
I had dinner at Jack and Terry’s house last week. Jack pulled a step-stool up to the kitchen cabinet and I watched Maddox climbed up to help Dadda make some hors d’oeuvre. The boy has his own apron and utensils. Garlic bread is the toddler’s specialty dish.
Later, outside on the patio, Maddox set the table all by himself while Pappa and I enjoyed some lemonade and our grown-up conversation. The toddler proudly carried each plate and piece of silverware from the kitchen and set it in front of us. He dropped his small tray of appetizers on the concrete, but nobody minded. The “five second rule” applied, and after a quick dusting off, we all enjoyed his famous garlic bread.
I asked Pappa about Maddox’s culinary training. “We make it his job to help me in the kitchen with dinner every evening. We want him to be a good husband someday.”
The use of the word “husband” by my gay friend, Terry, does not have a hint of sexuality in it. It is far too early to tell whether their son will be gay or straight. I’m sure that Maddox’s upbringing with his Dadda and Pappa will serve him well whether he is a husband to a man or a woman when the time comes.
WE ARE FAM-IL-Y…
Maddox has two sets of grandparents in the state of Washington. He has spent plenty of time with aunts, uncles and cousins on both Dadda and Pappa’s sides of the family. He also has an ongoing relationship with his biological half-siblings, all living with different families in the area.
I’m family, too: his wacky uncle. Anyone who loves Maddox can be an aunt or uncle and enjoy his homemade garlic bread at their house.
It doesn’t matter to me if Maddox grows up to marry a man or a woman and long as he’s happy and fierce at whatever he does.
I like to push the envelope when it comes to stereotypes. When I babysit my nephew, we have our own special music lessons. I want to teach him the entire canon of Cher songs. Maddox is of mixed race, and we love to clap and sing along to Cher’s song Half Breed.
A “Maddox-sized” toy kitchen set complete with stove, refrigerator and microwave was the perfect Christmas gift from Uncle Dennis. The unit lives in Maddox’s family room where he loves to serve his pretend garlic bread to all of his guests.
Pappa and Dadda approved when I got Maddox a mixed-race baby doll for his birthday. He’ll never be pregnant, but I want to extend the new stereotype of a man allowed to be nurturing in the kitchen. Maddox is too young to understand diversity, but he is the postcard for it.
Don’t worry traditionalists: he still likes trucks and cars and Elmo.
Jack and Terry were married last winter. They are now enjoy being a family with equal rights.
It would be easy for the gay dads to dismiss Maddox’s biological family and never see them again. But Jack and Terry are aware of how important it is for a person who is adopted to know everything about their heritage. Hopefully the Barker family learn to be more tolerant of the LGBT community. Maddox’s dads would like for him to have contact with them when he gets older.
When—and if—he chooses.
Image Credit: kevin dooley/Flickr