Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.
The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.
All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at email@example.com.
--David Dodge, Managing Editor
Guest Post by Jay Bostick
As a gay man who has fostered six children, and adopted two with my husband Joe, I am used to catching shade. Subtle shade in the form of, "It must be so hard for two working men without a nanny to take care of two growing boys." Sometimes full on shade, "Is that your real son?" (while pointing at my oldest son who is black; side note, what does that even mean – "real son"?). To the straight up crazy shade, "Children need a mother and father period. Two men shouldn't be allowed to foster children." (thanks Uncle Mike and Aunt Kari – glad to know where you stand).
I think that I have learned to take most of this in stride, usually laugh it off, occasionally clap back, but as my two sons grow older (both age 8 now) and become aware of when someone is condemning our family (for example the protestors screaming at us and them while entering the Pride Festival in Houston, TX this weekend), I become less tolerant. And I certainly become less tolerant when someone from my own community, who I rely on for support, decide to question my decision to become a father (even if under the guise of "reflecting upon themselves").
So imagine my confusion when I woke up this morning while on a business trip, Facetime'd my sons to say good morning, and then started scrolling Facebook while having my morning coffee at the hotel, only to find an article on Gays with Kids with the subtitle, "Do we have a biological right to parenthood?" Here is why this struck a chord with me.
Joe and I have talked to countless gay couples who would love to foster and/or adopt but are scared. Scared they don't make enough money. Scared they don't have enough time with busy work schedules. Scared that the things they hated in their parents will come to the surface in themselves as parents. Scared that they will face additional scrutiny from society. Scared that the adoption agency won't choose them for a child. Scared they won't have the resources available to foster or adopt a child that may have (insert issue here).
The last thing we need is another gay man listing all the reasons why we may not have a "biological right" to fatherhood. Kids need love, support, and consistency. Period.
Being 100% real, none of my kids have come to our home without their own set of baggage. But guess what – I didn't come into fatherhood without my own set of baggage myself. And that's just it – being a gay man and having gone through tough times (lack of acceptance, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, workplace discrimination) made me more empathetic to their plight. And so yes, in that regard, I think I do have a biological right to fatherhood – maybe not through my own DNA, but through helping someone who needed a hand in life. Not everyone is cut out for fatherhood – and I applaud this author for figuring that out, but I don't need to visit Gays with Kids to hear some story on all the reasons you aren't equipped to be a father. I need to visit Gays with Kids to lift me up on days when I am feeling low and reinforce me on days when I am feeling good.
I would be remiss if I didn't end this with some facts on children in foster care (source: National Foster Youth Institute):
- Almost 400,000 children in the U.S. are currently in foster care; over 58,000 of these children are in group homes or institutions due to various issues including lack of avaialble foster families.
- 100,000 children are eligible for adoption, every year – on average only 7,000 will be adopted.
- 32% of children in the system will be in foster care for at least three years before they are even eligible to be adopted.
- 33% of foster children have attended 5+ elementary schools (in just 6 years).
- 23,000 children will age out of foster care at age 18 this year, and instantly approximately 4,600 of them will be homeless.
- 70% of young women who age out of foster care at 18 will be pregnant before the age of 21.
In finality, if you are questioning whether you are good enough for fatherhood, and whether you have a biological right – let me end any self-doubt right now for you – you are good enough and if you want to do good, you will. Parenthood isn't easy for anyone, but with love and patience the reward far outweighs the sacrifices, for everyone involved.