Terrance Heath

"Children Do Better..." With White Parents?

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 29, 2008 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality

In the wake of the news that Florida’s gay adoption ban was ruled unconstitutional, I made this observation about the right and adoption.

I can tell you, though, after marriage the right will come after our families next. What some people don't know is that there's an undercurrent of anti-adoption sentiment in the movement against marriage equality.

It comes right out of their bizarre reductionism in "defense" of heterosexual marriage.

It may be a little bit of a stretch to say that opponents of marriage equality are also anti-adoption, but it's not too far-fetched when you consider their arguments, which have gotten more extreme following the California ruling. It starts with the "marriage is for making babies" argument that formed the bases of earlier court decisions. From there it's a short jump to defining "real marriage" based on a penis going into a vagina. It's a slightly longer jump, but not much, to determining the right to marry based on the ability to produce unadulterated gametes, with which to make a baby.

Well, it turns gays aren’t the only ones the right would ban from adopting. They have some heterosexuals in their sights as well.

In this case the undercurrent of racism on the right overrides the undercurrent of anti-adoption sentiment, because at least one expert witness in the Florida case would ban Native Americans from adopting too. [Via Box Turtle Bulletin.]

Gay men and lesbians have two to four times the likelihood of suffering from major depression, anxiety or substance abuse, based on several national studies, Rekers testified. Gay men, he said, are four times more likely than straight men to attempt suicide.

Depressed people, Rekers said, "are less consistent in their parenting, less positive [and] have higher rates of neglecting child needs." Gay people, he added, "would have less capability of providing the kind of nurturing and secure emotional environment for children."

The lives of gay people can also be stressful to children, Rekers testified. The children may experience teasing and bullying from other children who don't approve of their parents' orientation. And children with gay parents are likely to suffer from repeated separations because gay people are more likely to have multiple failed relationships.

Rekers said he would, in fact, favor banning anyone from adopting who had more than 18 "sex partners" during a lifetime. "I think that would be a very good social policy," he said in a deposition.

He said he would also consider banning Native Americans from adopting because research shows that they are also at much higher risk of mental illness and substance abuse. "They would tend to hang around each other," Rekers testified. "So the children would be around a lot of other Native Americans who are ... doing the same sorts of things."

As usual when it comes to the right, Rekers completely ignores social homophobia has been identified as the main reason for depression among gays.

Dr Ilan H. Meyer of New York's Columbia University has researched the area of LGBT health. His work has shown that the stress of living in a homophobic environment can lead to high rates of depression and suicide. Examples of homophobia cited include discrimination and harassment as well as anti-gay initiatives by governments. The pressures of belonging to a religious community that officially condemns homosexuality were also noted.

A more insidious problem is that of 'internalized homophobia', a condition where gay people develop a negative self-image because of their sexuality. Dr Meyer found that 70% of "mostly out of the closet" gay men have some degree of internalized homophobia.

Various other factors have been identified as reasons for higher-than-average rates of depression amongst gays. The gay community tends to value youth and beauty, often excluding those who do not possess these qualities. For some gay men, acceptance within the community has become focused on having a lean, muscular body. This 'ideal' may lead to poor body image among those who feel themselves to be over- or underweight.

Isolation is often a root cause of depression among older members of the queer community. For many younger queers, a sense of gay identity is gained from visiting gay pubs and clubs. Older queers often avoid the scene, feeling it doesn't cater for them, and may consequently become isolated. Gays belonging to ethnic minorities face additional problems. The huge pressures of dealing with discrimination in mainstream society, within their own communities and within the gay community can often lead to depression. Those suffering from HIV and other diseases are also at high risk of becoming depressed.

And that the rate of stress and depression among gays is directly related to discrimination and the very policies that people like him promote, defend and perpetuate.

The research, "I do, but I can't," at the National Sexuality Resource Centre, in San Francisco, found that denying same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals created "the mental distress of second-class citizenship." They claim bans increases depression and isolation.

One of the authors, Gil Herdt told the Agence France-Presse, "Marriage denial creates what experts call minority stress, the psychological effects of constant discrimination that bars individuals from the legitimate means of achieving goals that are valued by the society in which they live."

"Lesbians and gay men work just as hard as heterosexuals do in creating and maintaining committed relationships, but they do not get the same tangible benefits."

The report comes just when Christian groups, lawmakers and residents in several parts of America are debating gay marriage issues such as in Boston, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Ed put it pretty well.

Imagine how difficult it must be, especially on a gay teenager struggling with their identity in the face of societal disapproval. Imagine how unsafe it must feel to walk around school or the mall and hear constant refrains of "faggot" thrown in their face. Imagine how dehumanizing it is to be constantly denigrated as a sissy in a school full of jocks. Imagine the fear of social interaction that must develop in such an atmosphere.

But hell, you don't have to imagine it. Ask any gay person and they can tell you all about it, as my friends have told me time and time again. Faced with all of this, what does the American "Family" Association do? Do they react with the compassion of the Christ they claim to follow and say to the bigots and the bullies, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me also"? Of course not.

They use it as an excuse to encourage more bigotry and discrimination, to portray all gay people as mentally ill and emotionally unstable. They use it to justify denying to all gay people the same protection for their long-term relationships that straight people already have even when they know that forming such relationships can be of enormous emotional benefit to all of us.

They use it to rail against laws that prevent discrimination against them, reinforcing the very conditions that lead to the depression. They use it to justify attempts to prevent the formation of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in schools so that gay teenagers can find the kind of emotional support that might help them overcome that depression and avoid suicide.

Discrimination in the workplace is another stress factor that also decreases productivity. (Thus, it's bad for business.)

Being gay in a straight society is a difficult task, as rejection comes from all sides. A new research made on over 500 American gay, lesbian and bisexual employees discovered that "fears about disclosing a gay identity at work had an overwhelmingly negative relationship with their career and workplace experiences and with their psychological well-being."

"These findings were both striking and disturbing; those who reported more fear of the negative consequences of full disclosure had less positive job and career attitudes, received fewer promotions, and reported more physical stress-related symptoms than those who reported less fear.", wrote the authors from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and Rice University in their article published in The Journal of Applied Psychology.

Being gay and working in a perceived non-supportive environment comes with great costs. "Those who feared more negative consequences to disclosure reported less job satisfaction, organizational commitment, satisfaction with opportunities for promotion, career commitment, and organization-based self-esteem and greater turnover intentions than those who feared less negative consequences. They reported more (job) role ambiguity, more (job) role conflict, and less workplace participation. LGB employees who feared more negative consequences also reported greater psychological strain than those who feared less negative consequences.", wrote the authors.

Psychological strain was defined as stress-connected job issues like work-linked depression, and work-linked irritation. "Other research show that more accepting work environments are associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees being healthier and more productive. The research also provides some additional facts concerning the need for public policies protecting against job discrimination," said Robert-Jay Green, executive director of the Rockway Institute, a national center for LGBT research and public policy affiliated with Alliant International University.

Basically, Rekers would ban gays from adopting based on statistics he completely misuses to emphasize a problem that's caused by people just like them. The solution, then, isn't to ban gays from adopting, but to stop people like him from reinforcing social homophobia.

As for depression among Native Americans, Rekers completely removes statistics from a historical perspective. Why would Native Americans have substance abuse, mental illness or depression? Well, I was depressed after an afternoon visit to the National Museum of the American Indian. Every other exhibit talked about the numbers of Native Americans who died and/or were killed during the colonization of North and South America. I remarked to the hubby that it wasn't a holocaust museum per se , but if you kept reading and adding up the numbers, it kinda felt like one.

In fact the same arguments Rekers makes for banning gays and Native Americans from adopting could apply to African Americans as well. Since the average African American is more likely to suffer depression that white Americans.

And if you are an average black person in America, you are more likely than an average white person to suffer depression.

You don't have to remain depressed, however. Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, a psychiatrist who has worked extensively in the African-American community says not nearly enough blacks who are depressed seek professional help. "Most either believe that depression, or the "blues," is a necessary condition of life and must be endured, or they fear being labeled as insane and therefore do no seek professional help," says Dr. Lewis-Hall.

In addition to dramatic changes in sleeping and eating patterns, Dr. Lewis-Hall says symptoms of clinical depression include "changes in energy level, so that there is a lack of energy; not enjoying things that were previously enjoyed, like you've gone to church every Sunday, but for weeks you can't get up and go to church. You just feel so depressed."

A survey by the National Mental Health Association revealed that only one-third of all persons with major depression ever seek treatment. According to the study, African-Americans and persons over 65 years old are the least likely to seek professional help for depression.

And that depression has been linked to racism.

You know about the dangers of smoking, obesity, fatty foods, unprotected sex, and environmental pollutants. Now chalk up another health hazard to that ever-growing list: Racism.

It plays a key role in the development of illness -- and countering it should be considered a public health issue, says a psychiatrist in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal. "Considering racism as a cause of ill health is an important step in developing the research agenda and response from health services," writes Kwame McKenzie, MD, a psychiatrist at Royal Free and University College Medical School in London.

Despite general agreement that racism is wrong, he says there is little evidence of concerted initiatives to decrease its prevalence.

The health effects of racism are well documented. One British study of 4,800 people finds that those who felt victimized by discrimination and forms of racism were twice as likely to develop psychotic episodes in the next three years. Meanwhile, a group of Harvard researchers documented that a mere 1% increase in incidences of racial disrespect translates to an increase in 350 deaths per 100,000 African Americans.

How? Being on the receiving end of overt or subtle racism creates intense and constant stress, say some experts, which boosts the risk of depression, anxiety and anger -- factors that can lead to or aggravate heart disease. Some research also suggests racism can also manifest itself in respiratory and other physical problems.

In fact, taken to it's logical extreme, Reker's thinking could be used to justify taking Native American and African American children away from their "natural families," and placing them with families less likely to have depression linked to historic racism and present-day discrimination.

It was, long ago, in Canada and Australia.

The Stolen Generations (also Stolen generation and Stolen children) is a term used to describe those children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. [1][2] The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1869[3] and 1969,[4][5] although, in some places, children were still being taken in the 1970s.[6]

The extent of the removal of children, and the reasoning behind their removal, are contested. Documentary evidence, such as newspaper articles and reports to parliamentary committees, suggest a range of rationales. Motivations evident include child protection, beliefs that given their catastrophic population decline post white contact that black people would "die out" [7], fears of miscegenation[citation needed] and a desire to attain white racial purity.[citation needed]

...One view suggests that the motivation and purpose of the laws providing for the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents was child protection, with government policy makers and officials responding to an observed need to provide protection for neglected, abused or abandoned mixed-descent children.[18] An example of the abandonment of mixed race children in the 1920s is given in a report by Walter Baldwin Spencer[19] that many mixed-descent children born during construction of The Ghan railway were abandoned at early ages with no one to provide for them. This incident and others spurred the need for state action to provide for and protect such children. [20]

Other 19th- and early 20th-century contemporaneous documents indicate that the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their parents related to different beliefs: that given the catastrophic population decline of Aboriginal people post white contact that they would "die out", that the 'full-blood' tribal Aboriginal population would be unable to sustain itself, and was doomed to inevitable extinction.[21][22][23] Ideas of eugenics and fears of miscegenation with a desire to maintain white racial purity were related to the ideology that mankind could be divided into a civilisational hierarchy. This supposed that the civilisation of northern Europeans was superior to that of Aborigines, based on comparative technological advancement. Some adherents to these beliefs considered any proliferation of mixed-descent children (labelled 'half-castes',[22][24] 'crossbreeds', 'quadroons' and 'octoroons'[25]) to be a threat to the nature and stability of the prevailing civilisation, or to a perceived racial or civilisational "heritage".[26] For example, in the 1930s, the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, Dr. Cecil Cook, perceived the continuing rise in numbers of "half-caste" children as a problem. His proposed solution [27] was:

"Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.[28][29] "

Similarly, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia, AO Neville, wrote in an article for The West Australian in 1930:

" Eliminate the full-blood and permit the white admixture to half-castes and eventually the race will become white.[30]

Rather than eliminate homophobia and the stress and depression it causes, people like Rekers simply seek to eliminate gay parenting. Rather than eliminate racism, people like Rekers would ban certain races from adopting. It not that far from policies of times not so long past that, instead of eliminating racism, sought to eliminate certain races.

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Hey now, get with the program!!! Don't you know that racism is officially 'dead' in the good ole U.S. of A.?
I mean us white liberals voted Obama into the white house now, didn't we?
I mean if that doesn't prove racism is dead, what will?

Just because among some he is reffered to as 'uncle Tom', and 'plantation n*****' doesn't mean a thing.

As always, a very well researched and written article. The relevancy of the rights attempt to control the dialogue on family and present those who oppose their encroachment on our personal freedoms as dangerous to children and the well being of society in general, is something that we need to bring to light for all people. It is really a very small step from sexual to racial or gender bigotry after all.

Rather than playing catch up all the time, maybe we should start bringing the fight to them. What about research showing the damage that obsessive 'faith' and religious belief does? What about the problems that arise from delusional beliefs in a supernatural being which leads some to opress and deny women, children, and men of their basic freedoms of speech, association and choice? This country is full of little sects and cults that deny people many of their most basic freedoms just because some charismatic psychotic decides that god has spoken to him and if people don't do what he says they will burn in hell for all eternity.

There are people living in religious slavery out there. Where is the right's concern for them?

Re taking Native American children away from their families and putting them up for adoption -- this has already been a huge issue in the U.S. The fact that not many people know it happened shows how easy it is to sweep huge discrimination tragedies under the rug in this country.

From the 1930s till well into the 1970s, it was official government policy that Native American children were better off being raised off the reservation, away from tribal culture. The goal was for the tribes, and their languages and non-Christian cultures and spiritual ways, to wither away with the loss of their young people.

Children's Services felt free to descend on any reservation family and look for the flimsiest of excuses in their home environment (broken windows, an outside toilet) to remove the children and put them up for adoption with white Christian families in another part of the country. Navajo children were shipped off to New England, Alaskan children sent down to Florica. The idea was to get the children so far from home that they couldn't find their way back to the rez if they ran away.

This practice enraged the tribes, but as wards of the government they were unable to get any redress or attention to the problem via the usual "democratic processes." It became one of the issues that fueled the emergence of the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and into the 1970s, with attacks on federal authorities right on some reservations. The federal government finally had to agree to allow tribal oversight over Children's Services' incursions onto the rez.

However, today, Children's Services has generally gone out of control. While they are forced to be more circumspect about the tribal children they seize, they have broadened their reach and now are seizing children from an enormous range of families, for the flimsiest of reasons. Indeed, taking as many children as possible is the best way for them to expand their power, because their federal funding is contingent on the number of children in the system at any given time. I wrote about it several years ago in one of my A & U pieces.

Perhaps with Obama in office, he will be a President who will "listen" on this issue. Children's Services' wings need to get seriously clipped, so children are taken only for the most legitimate of reasons.

I realize that it was not your intent, Terrence, but your post was itself depressing. With info like this amply at hand, I hardly need to go visit the National Museum of the American Indian.

And as someone who admittedly has suffered from clinical depression chronically during my adult life (up and down in episodes that span years, if not decades), I am enraged by the notion that conservatives (such as my immediate family) first psychologically abuse us (me), and then use the consequences of that abuse to attack us further. This is like criticizing Jews because the wards of the WW-II German concentration camps were often weak and lazy, while ignoring that they are being fed only 400 or 500 calories a day.

diddlygrl makes a further valid point about how this abuse is based in religion --- insulting and condemning the queers is so often considered to be a part of God's Work. Ignoring the fact that Jesus himself never engaged in such behavior, they rationalize and justify their attacks by telling themselves that they are keeping the world from going to Hell.

Which leads to a conclusion I have arrived at recently: While racial prejudice is, at least, out of style and now devoid of popular justification, American society continues to nurse its prejudices regarding religion as part of our "religious freedom." Unfortunately, the right of someone to hate their fellow American, especially for religious reasons, is difficult to attack using civil rights and civil liberties arguments. The Bible speaks of the virtue of loving thy neighbor, but the Constitution does not. Thus --- and this is the conclusion I recently found enlightening --- the Constitution alone cannot bring about a world, or an America, that is peaceful and harmonious. Some higher philosophical thread, whether it be Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism or secular humanism, is still needed.

Tina Berkley | January 29, 2009 5:13 PM

Thank you for your refreshing feedback. Your comment is exactly what I have been looking for in order to back up my own theory. I was adopted from Washington state in 1959 to white people who were very unstable and abusive. I might add that they also lived in Texas, far away from my native birth place. As you can see, I am now 49 years of age and I still litteraly find it imposible to find my birth parents. I was told by my adopted parents that I was indeed of Native American descent (and it is apparent in my facial structure), and I also am African American descent, (which is also apparent). Number one, it is hard for me to understand why a liberal State like Washington would still insist on keeping adoption records sealed, but they are. I have gone through the Washington State Reunion Movement (W.A.R.M.) whom I paid a sum of 400.00$$ to and waited three years from, only to hear " we have found your birth parents and they do not want to hear from you". OK, I can live with that, but when I asked the intermediary (via email) what my heritage was, she conviniently never reconnected with me. I have reason to belive, because of my experiences, that my adoption may have indeed been part of the government conspiracy that you touch on here in your comment. If you have any more information on this particular subject, I would be very gratefull to you for sharing it with me. My email address is Tberkleyseattle@aol.com Thank You.