There are several reasons why I earned the moniker of Mommie Dammit; chief among them is the fact that I have no patience with stupidity and will strike like lightning to yank my offending child up by the short ‘n’ curlies. My poor, suffering drag-children stuck me with it long ago and it has grown on me until I now wear it as a badge of honor. But I sometimes think that the unknowing observer would mistake it as a sign that I’m some kind of sadist, or fallaciously think that I don’t like children. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mommie Dammit loves children – all children, big and small – for they are crunchy and go well with asparagus and brie. No, seriously! A little cornmeal breading, dipped in egg white and roast at 425 degrees for … Gawds, you are so gullible.
To be honest, my “parenting” track record could be traced back to when I was very little and would rock my much younger cousin to sleep (thought I’d forgotten that, di’ntya Craigers), to be followed shortly thereafter by changing my little brother’s diapers and protecting him from our mother’s insanity. Remember the crayon mural on the bedroom wall, Matt? I do, and for all the wrong reasons. Later I became Godfather to two little girls, only to become their father-by-default when their biological father died from cancer. He was a good man, a terrific father, and a good friend – and I still miss you, Chuck. Now that my “heathens in hair-ribbons” are grown, they’ve made Chuck and I into avô five times over. From my teens to the present I have loved, supported, nurtured, counseled, disciplined, nagged, fed, diapered, bathed, bandaged, tutored, worried over, and gained far too many white hairs and whiskers for dozens of children. Most of my adult life I’ve been blessed (?) with re-raising other peoples’ kids… hence, “Mommie Dammit.” I’ve fed them when they couldn’t feed themselves, taken them into my home when either circumstances or their own family has thrown them on the street, sat vigil at their bedside while AIDS prepared its final blow, held them in my arms while they cried, and stood at their side to celebrate their union with another. All of it done not so that I could blow my own horn now, on these pages, but because that’s what a mother does. I learned it from the best example anyone could have – my Gram.
Gram taught me how to cook (and I’m damned good at it), keep house (good at it when I want to be), garden – although Gram FARMED, as that’s the only accurate description for that 6 acre monstrosity she nurtured – and I still think it’s the best “therapy” you could ask for, and she taught me a multitude of other things that have all stood me in good stead. She also taught me the immeasurable depth of love in a mother’s heart, and I have tried – with both success and failure – to honor that love by giving it back to others throughout my life. Throughout my adulthood, I’ve had dozens of what I call my “A.W.P.” kids (adopted without papers). From toddlers to teenagers, and not a few in their twenties and thirties… it just didn’t matter to me how young or old they might be, didn’t matter if they were boys or girls, didn’t matter if they were straight or gay, didn’t matter what color they were or if they had ten toes or twelve. They needed a mom, and I “adopted” them. They’re my kids, and – wherever they are now – I love each and every knot-headed one. Yes, even you, Barry. And Beth, too, especially now that she’s stuck with you. Ahem.
So what’s all this long-winded drivel about, you ask… Yes, Mommie Dammit, what’s it all about? Tell us! … it’s about the fact that November is National Adoption Month, and that there are thousands of same-sex couples in this country of ours who have opened their hearts and homes to foster and adopt children… the kind with papers. These couples – and let’s not forget those brave souls who have done so all by their lonesome as single parents – are real heroes in Mommie Dammit’s eyes. They have waged a private war against unjust laws, bigoted bureaucrats and prejudiced judges because they had that same immeasurable depth of love in their hearts and they wanted a child to give it to.
This is no easy feat. With adoption laws, and fostering regulations, changing from state to state – even in some cases, county to county – there is no single, viable course of action for those who choose to take a child into their lives. As LGBT parents, we know that we face near-insurmountable obstacles – both before and after the judge signs-off on the paperwork. This is why Mommie Dammit sometimes thinks that our children are just that little bit more precious to us, as LGBT parents, than to our heterosexual differently-sexed counterparts – our children never happen by “accident.”
While November has been ticking all-too-rapidly by, and I begin preparations for my first Thanksgiving alone in more than a decade, I’ve been thinking a lot about my kids and grand-kids… splattered all over the country, and too far away for me to bring home for fattening. In the midst of all this maundering I’ve come across a handful of articles that bring home the difficulties that face single and coupled LGBT parents. Not that there’s anything in them that’s “news” to Mommie Dammit, nor should any of it surprise you – if you’ve been paying attention. But each shines a close, personal light on the injustices and inequality facing us – trials that our heterosexual counterparts never face, and things that they take for granted that we must fight (often fruitlessly) to achieve.
In “The Economics of Same-Sex Parenting”, by Yimou Lee, the difficulties of same-sex couples with children in Texas are illustrated by two families that Lee interviewed for his article. One family faces enormous financial difficulties brought to them by their battle with cancer, the other … well, I’ll let them tell you…
Because they are denied the 1,138 legal protections that come with marriage — like property rights, social security benefits and taxation — the Lutes-Stein family bought some of the most basic rights, among them, will filing, which costs $720 for both parents; directions for disposition of remains, $180; and designation of guardian before need, another $180. They spent $1,325 on legal costs associated with obtaining partner documents to gain the power of attorney, health care decision-making and inheritance rights granted through legal marriage.
“All the rights we bought come with a $50 marriage license,” Lutes said.
… like I said, nothing new to me there. I’ve known this kind of inequity exists for years, and have seen it play out for many couples in my former position with one of the world’s largest tax services companies. Until DOMA is repealed and the IRS regulations are changed to recognize legal same-sex marriages, LGBT married couples are forced to file separately for federal income taxes even when their state revenue service allows them to file jointly. I’ve witnessed where this has cost some couples additional tens to hundreds of dollars just to file – this doesn’t even take into account the hundreds or thousands of dollars in federal income taxes they end up paying that our heterosexual married counterparts never will. And if there are children/dependents involved, the tally goes up considerably. To Mommie Dammit’s eyes, however, these inequities – though daunting – come in a distant second to the risks foisted upon our children.
One of my most-favoritest sites to visit in the morning, while hosing down my first gallons of coffee, is Mombian, which labels itself “A resource for lesbian moms…” OK, so I’m a drag queen and not a lesbian – but as the marvelous woman at Mombian’s helm, Dana Rudolph, states this site is a resource for all LGBT parents, and I thank her for it. So, my urchins and waifs, get off your butt – go there – and learn sumthin’. It’s good for ya. Mommie Dammit will spank if you don’t, and the pervy amongst you won’t like it.
Recently Dana has produced two articles that illustrate exactly what I’m talking about. The first, “New Birth Certificate Suit in Iowa” redirects you to the original article on the Keen News Service. It details the legal fight Heather Martin Gartner and Melissa Gartner are waging to have Melissa listed on their two year old daughter’s birth certificate as co-parent. The fact that Melissa was not originally included on the birth certificate has already put their daughter in jeopardy because Melissa, as the stay-at-home parent had no legal rights to make decisions on behalf of their daughter’s health. Iowa statutes use gender-specific terminology regarding parents listed on a child’s birth certificate, and because of this Melissa’s name could not be recorded at the time the certificate was issued. Lambda Legal has taken the case before the Iowa courts and expects a ruling in a few months, but expects that – whatever the ruling may be – the losing side will appeal.
The second article Dana brings us, “Blogging for Adoption: There Are No ‘Alternative’ Families” gives us links to a couple of recent additions to the resources available for LGBT families. It also outlines the statistics facing both LGBT adoptive families, and those of children still waiting for loving homes. Over 115,000 of them in the United States, hundreds of children here in my state of Missouri alone – poor, shriveled, blackened thing that it is, these numbers make my heart bleed. And yet, as Dana points out, over two million LGB people are interested in adopting. Dana and I both presume that this applies to Trans-persons as well, but the statistical research just isn’t there to indicate it.
While I consider myself as one of those two million, and even as I look out over the dozens that I’ve already “re-raised” over the past 25 years, there is one statement that Dana made in this article that I agree with wholeheartedly – “…I firmly believe that there are no “alternative” families. If it’s the family you embrace, there is no alternative.”
Amen, Dana. Amen.