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Love is not
violence

Love is not
violence

Weinstock

Amid the multitude of information written about the reign of the late pope, one item lodged itself in my brain. In 2003 a Vatican document written on behalf of John Paul II by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger--now Pope Benedict XVI--declared, "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in [same-sex] unions would actually mean doing violence to these children."

As a lesbian mother of an adopted child living in a 14-year marriage (to a woman), I was incensed by that statement. I had to go for a run to calm my boiling blood. Did the spiritual leader to a billion people really tell the world that simply by loving my partner and daughter I am doing violence to my child?

When Rachel and I first adopted our daughter, she was living in an orphanage in rural China. She was underweight and infected with scabies--and she was one of the healthier babies! Some of the others were so undernourished or ill that they died before we arrived. Our daughter was 8 months old and could not sit up. She had never been bathed in a tub or held a toy. She would entertain herself by moving her hand from side to side, held high above her head, like a mobile.

The first time we held her, she smiled ecstatically. It was as if she knew that she had found her family. We felt the same way. For seven years we have loved our daughter. She has doting grandparents, cousins, relatives. She has a life of possibility ahead of her. Although her mamas are far from perfect, we encourage her to be and do whatever she aspires to. We do not hit or abuse her in any way. We do not call her names or allow anyone else to do so. We are fiercely protective of her well-being. How can the pope tell her that living with her mothers does her harm?

Staying in the orphanage--though her caretakers did the best they could--harmed her. Not having enough to eat? No one to comfort her at night? A lifetime of stigma for being an orphan? That is violence--to her body, mind, psyche, soul.

Patriarchal traditions and government policies in China cause biological parents to discard their girl children by the millions so they can try to have sons--95% of the babies in China's orphanages are female. This is violence. Welcoming these babies into our hearts and loving them is not. Forcing lesbians and gay men into the closet, where we must deny our love and identity in order to adopt--as Rachel and I did in China--is violence. This closed-minded bigotry is what harms our children. Being gay does not.

States that don't allow adoption by gays? Violence. Parents who disown their children for being gay or acting too butch for a girl, too fem for a boy? Violence. Teachers who underestimate children because of their race or class or gender? Violence. Lesbian- and gay-headed families who love their children unconditionally? That's love.

It's challenging to raise kids, no matter what kind of family you have. If your child is pressured daily to conform to a world that devalues her family, your challenges are multiplied. We gay parents strive to expose our children to an alternative world where their parents and families are valued and affirmed, not vilified. That is the antithesis of violence. Maybe it's not too late for the new pope to learn the difference

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