Love is not

Love is not

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

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

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.

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.

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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