“I am often picked on because of who I am,” 12-year-old Marcel Neergaard writes in a new op-ed published on The Huffington Post. “Sometimes being openly gay is like having a sign above my head that flashes ‘Different’ in neon colours.” The article paints a heart-breaking portrait of what life is like for too many gay youths in America.
Neergaard made headlines last summer when he helped squash Tennessee’s homophobic “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But now, nearly a year later, he claims the law is still being used to trample his free speech and to create a negative learning environment at school.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill was authored by Tennessee Representative John Ragan. Had it passed, it would have forbidden teachers from talking about being gay in classrooms, and required principals and guidance counsellors to call parents if a student mentioned anything about being gay to them. Last summer, Neergaard wrote a petition against the bill that received over 50,000 signatures.
At the time, Neergaard was being home-schooled. Excessive bullying had forced him out of public school. Last fall, he returned to public school for seventh grade. But the bullying persists.
“In chorus we are going on a field trip to King’s Island, which they do every year with seventh and eighth graders,” Neergaard writes. “The other boys in chorus refuse to sleep in the same room as me for fear of being ‘turned gay.’” He continues: “The teacher pulled me aside and explained how the boys didn’t want to be in the same room with me because I’m gay … Then she told me the principal had called my parents to talk about this. It was upsetting. I was mad because if the same thing had happened to a student who was not ‘out’ at home, the principal would have outed them to their parents. That’s just not safe.”
“When it came time to sign up for rooms, all the boys except me were together,” he writes. “The principal pulled me aside to explain that I would have my own room on the trip. He didn’t say why, but I knew… they don’t like me.”
Neergaard also writes about the things other students say to him on a daily basis, including: “Who did you turn gay for?” “When did you turn gay?” “How do you know that you’re gay if you haven’t been on a gay date?” “Do you want to be a girl?” and “You’re gay because you act gay.”
“The protection of the classroom doesn’t seem to extend to me,” he confesses. “One day I was talking with my friends about Zachary Quinto being gay. An otherwise supportive teacher stopped me and told me ‘talking about being gay in the classroom is illegal in Tennessee.’”
The teacher, of course, was wrong. She was referring to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the very bill Neergaard had worked tirelessly the summer before to kill. “I have found teachers are quite confused because of Ragan’s bill (the Don’t Say Gay Bill),” Neergaard writes. “They’re too busy teaching to know if it passed, so they just try to be safe. Meanwhile, I am not allowed to talk about myself with my friends.” Yet despite his daily woes, Neergaard remains determined to create a more hopeful future for others. “I know I am not alone in my struggles,” he writes. “I also know that it’s not okay to be called out for being different.”
“I’m not the only gay youth in Tennessee,” he continues. ”I’m not the only gay kid in Oak Ridge. I’m not even the only gay student in my school, I’m just someone who is standing up. I know I have written about bullying many times, but this is still happening to kids like me everywhere and I refuse to let it continue.” He concludes the op-ed with a challenge to the rest of us:
“We also need people to encourage our representatives, who are supposed to represent us, to pass bills like the Dignity for All Students Act and federal legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I want to make sure other kids do not have to go through what I have.” “This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me,” he writes. “What will you do?”
Earlier in the week, 19-year-old British diving champion Tom Daley made a YouTube video in which he revealed that he’s in a relationship with "a guy." Several reports have since claimed that the guy in question is Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who, at 39, is 20 years older than Daley, a fact that headline writers worldwide made sure to focus on.
Almost immediately on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere came the comments. "He could be his father," one gay man tweeted. "Yuk!" That was just the beginning.
A lot to unpack here:
1. Let’s cut the ageist crap. The "yuk" is a display of nothing but disgust for someone older. Yes, Black is old enough to be Daley’s father. But he’s not. If Black were just a couple of years older than Daley, he could be his brother too. But he’s not. Shocking news for you: You’re all going to be old. And your tastes are going to evolve over time. Some younger people are attracted to older people, and vice versa. There’s even a gay website called Daddyhunt. The famed novelist Armistead Maupin’s 27-years-younger husband, Christopher Turner, founded it. They met on another one of Turner’s sites, HotOlderMale.com. If that’s not your thing, it’s totally cool, but in that case just shut your mouth.
2. Deal with your homophobia, including your internalized homophobia if you happen to be gay. There’s an undercurrent in these comments — the "chicken hawk" charge — that suggests that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse underage teens, the ugliest lie about gay men out there. Hardcore homophobes are predictably pointing to Black and Daley as supposed proof. But many gay men too, so defensive about the charge and deathly fearful of how it’s used, overcompensate by saying "yuk." Look, we live in a world where youth and beauty are heralded, and where 77-year-old Bob Dole appeared in a Pepsi ad in which he had the hots for a 19-year-old Britney Spears. We’ve put an age limit on what we can and can’t do because we live in a civil society and abide by the rule of law. And this particular relationship falls well within the limit. So let’s drop this crap too.
The amendment to the Russian Federal Law, effectively banning the "propaganda" of same-sex sexual relations to minors, what are called "non-traditional sexual relations," makes for chilling reading. Stephen Fry’s likening it to anti-Semitism may not be far wrong; it is aimed at invalidating LGBT people which, in turn, fosters a climate of hate. To highlight this, the text of an "Explanatory Note" published with the Bill and the new clause of the Legal Code of the Russian Federation itself, approved by Vladimir Putin on 29th June 2013, is reproduced below with the words "non-traditional" sexual relationships and "homosexuality" replaced with "interracial" relationships, for its resemblance to Nazi racial laws of the 1930s is among this law’s most terrifying features.
What follows is based on an accurate translation of the original Russian documents. The Explanatory Note would read (with modifications in bold):
The promotion of interracial relationships has sharply increased in modern-day Russia. This promotion is carried out via the media as well as via the active pursuit of public activities which try to portray interracial relationships as normal behavior. This is particularly dangerous for children and young people who are not able to take a critical approach to this avalanche of information with which they are bombarded on a daily basis. In view of this, it is essential, first and foremost, to protect the younger generation from exposure to the promotion of interracial relationships, this being the aim of the present bill….
It is therefore essential to put in place measures which provide for the intellectual, moral and mental wellbeing of children, including a ban on any activities aimed at popularizing interracial relationships. A ban of this kind on propaganda as an activity involving the intentional and indiscriminate spreading of information which may be injurious to physical, moral and spiritual wellbeing, including instilling distorted ideas that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations, amongst people who are incapable, due to their age, of critically assessing this information on their own, cannot in itself be considered a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens.
In view of the above, a bill has been drafted which introduces amendments to the Legal Code of the Russian Federation by making the promotion of interracial relationships to minors illegal. However, it would not be an offense to be a person in an interracial relationship but only to promote interracial relationships to minors.
The bill confers the right of drawing up charge sheets relating to activities carried out in public which are aimed at promoting interracial relationships to minors on officials of the authorities responsible for internal affairs (the police) and of considering any resulting cases on the courts.
The text of the new clause, again replacing "non-traditional" with "interracial," would be as follows:
Article 6.21. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors:
1. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors by spreading information aimed at instilling in minors interracial sexual arrangements, the attractiveness of interracial sexual relations and/or a distorted view that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations or propagating information on interracial sexual relations making them appear interesting, provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles for individuals, from forty thousand to fifty thousand roubles for officials, from eight hundred thousand to one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.
2. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles for individuals, from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand roubles for officials, of one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.
3. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.
4. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.
Clearly this modified version of the law would be wholly unacceptable. But the original text is no less obscene in targeting sexual rather than racial minorities. It has already been used against Russian citizens and foreigners. Legal sanctions also legitimize the victimization of LGBT people, which has led to some horrific violence. Minors are, of course, everywhere, and the law’s provisions are so far-reaching, including all communication channels, as to make any attempt to speak about, defend or demonstrate sexual orientation or trans-gender identity publicly under any circumstances subject to fines and imprisonment. There can be no support for gay teens in schools and even to discuss issues around bullying and suicide would break the law, as would a challenge to the law in the courts or the Duma. This is a step back to the graveyard of state-sponsored bigotry reminiscent of Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa and some pre-1960s southern states of the U.S. [via]
Masturbation doesn’t make you sexual, says sex expert Lori Brotto. She estimates that half of all asexuals stimulate themselves on a fairly regular basis. "People may ask, ‘How can they be asexual if they masturbate?’ I admit the finding did surprise me, too," said Brotto, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Sexual Health Laboratory. "When you talk about masturbation, you may think of it as a sexual activity, but actually masturbation is not inherently sexual. [Asexuals cite] boredom, stress reduction, helping them to get to sleep, etc., as reasons behind masturbation."
Several male asexuals told us they masturbate frequently, some every day, and most used the phrase "cleaning the plumbing" to explain why they do it. One female asexual said that while she masturbates about once a month, she has no idea why she does it; it just feels like something she’s biologically compelled to do.
Though asexuals (or "aces") are often seen as individuals who are devoid of sexual desire, incapable of sexual arousal and averse to interpersonal intimacy, both researchers and asexuals alike say these are largely misconceptions.
In a 2010 study, Brotto says she found evidence that asexual women have a similar genital response to stimuli as sexual women — in other words, a comparable sexual arousal response. Still, despite evidence that sexual desire and arousal are not usually absent in asexuals, current research indicates that aces do have significantly lower sexual desire and arousal than sexual individuals. Orgasmic function also tends to be lower. Several aces even said that while they can experience orgasm (a reflexive response), it is almost always — and this is a direct quote — "meh."
Brotto’s study indicates, however, that these lower levels are not caused by an "impaired psychophysiological sexual arousal response." As one asexual put it, "everything works, we just don’t want to get somebody else involved." Read on…
So called “child porn” is a difficult and touchy subject. It’s obvious that no one wants kids to get abused. But we live in times where people get harsher jail terms for having some photos on their PC than people who actually rape kids. Where 17-year-old teenagers get charged with the production of child pornography because they made a photo for their boyfriend. Where drawings and stories. while never hurting any kid, are considered to be as evil as photos of sexual abuse. Where the copyright lobby admits to love child porn because it makes it easier for them to get their draconian censorship and surveillance laws passed.
In such times it must be possible to have a serious discussion about our priorities. Do we rather put people on trial because they own some comics with drawings of scantly clad teenage characters than going after the people who actually rape real kids? Do we want to pass laws which are being abused to spy on everyone of us without helping a single child in the process?
And now we might actually get to have this discussion thanks to an opinion piece published by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. He is explaining how our current laws are written by religious fundamentalists, how many, many innocent people, both adults and teens, are caught in the process and why we might want to reconsider the laws concerning the possession of “child porn” – which was legal until 1999 in Sweden and many other countries. The Swedish Association of Journalists still is against the ban as the Destroyer blog is pointing out.
This article argues that our current laws on the topic are counterproductive, because they protect child molesters instead of bringing them to justice, they criminalize a generation of normally-behaving teenagers which diverts valuable police resources from the criminals we should be going after, and they lead to censorship and electronic book burning as well as unacceptable collateral damage to innocent families. Child abuse as such is not condoned by anybody, and this article argues that current laws are counterproductive in preventing and prosecuting it.
I urge you to actually read the whole essay before you leave any heated comments. Falkvinge is not arguing for the abuse of children to be made legal in any way. Please keep the discussion civilised, thanks.
In the past few years more and more TV shows have included gay characters, which is a very good thing. Game of Thrones, True Blood, Glee, Modern Family, Smash, Pretty Little Liars, American Horror Story, and many others. But of all those shows, the only one most kids are allowed to watch is Glee.
But if you want to give kids positive role models and the certainty that your feelings and that part of your identity are normal well represented and accepted in our society you’ll need more than just Glee. From a kid’s point of view there’s actually a severe lack of queer characters in the shows and films they get to see. All the Disney princesses marry princes. Pixar movies have married people, moms and dads, all over the place. Even the robots are matched up in obviously opposite-gender pairs. All the preteen sitcoms have girls chasing after boys and vice versa. If there is a character who has stereotypically "gay" mannerisms, that character is used for a laugh and not a lot else.
Those cartoons that actually should have gay characters have been effectively "straight-washed." The popular comic X-Men has had gay characters for quite a while, but when it’s adapted to television, none of the characters is anything but heterosexual. When Mystique and Destiny are included, they are no longer long-term lovers but "best friends." Northstar isn’t portrayed as gay, even though he was one of the first out LGBT characters in American comics.
Even the cartoons brought over from Japan and marketed to children have been "straight-washed" for Western audiences. In Dragon Ball any mention of the orientation of the gay character, General Blue, is censored. And Sailor Moon, which has no less than seven queer characters in the original version, has none in Western version. Some characters’ genders have actually been changed, and the lesbian couples are now "cousins," an old classic. The only LGBT character you could find that made it through was a minor character in Dragon Ball Z.
Many queer adults know what it was like to grow up with no media representation. It created feelings of isolation. It reinforced the notion that they were "other." And many thought that because they weren’t mentioned, they must have been something secret, something bad. Nowadays kids are coming out younger and younger. It’s increasingly common for them to come out at 12 or 13 years old. And what does TV present them? Only Glee.
But maybe that’s about to change. ParaNorman (trailer below) is making a first step at least. It’s a stop-action movie with witches and zombies — all things my kids love. The movie is about how no one is totally what they appear to be….
Spoiler ahead… the chubby, silly kid is the bravest and most courageous of the bunch; the zombies aren’t bad guys; and the big, muscled jock, Mitch, is gay. That character’s orientation is only mentioned at the end of the movie, almost in passing. One of the female characters asks Mitch if he’d like to go to the movies with her, and Mitch says, "Sure." He then adds that he thinks she’d love his boyfriend. The girl looks disappointed, and the movie moves on to other things.
To some people this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Here’s this character, who is basically the stereotypical jock, but in this movie, this kid’s movie, he’s also gay. It isn’t presented with a "very special episode" vibe. It isn’t something hidden. It isn’t something Mitch is in turmoil about. It just is.
While stories of coming out and dealing with bullying are important for kids to see, they are not the only stories for LGBT characters. ParaNorman is a movie about a group of kids, and one of those kids just happens to be gay. I would love to see youth-oriented television and movies follow this example and expand upon it. Imagine what it would have meant to gay adults (who were all once gay kids) to have had a gay character on Saved by the Bell, Facts of Life, or He-Man, a gay character who was just one of the gang and a regular part of the story. Why can’t iCarly or Drake & Josh have a gay kid in the mix? I think they should, because visibility matters.
And of course conservatives in America are already jumping on it because, as Towleroad put it, the makers of the film dared to make the gay character a normal guy, not a twisted, pathological villain or eccentric outsider.
(via Gay Voices)
The night before Susan and Rob allowed their son to go to preschool in a dress, they sent an e-mail to parents of his classmates. Alex, they wrote, “has been gender-fluid for as long as we can remember, and at the moment he is equally passionate about and identified with soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas (not to mention lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows).” They explained that Alex had recently become inconsolable about his parents’ ban on wearing dresses beyond dress-up time. After consulting their paediatrician, a psychologist and parents of other gender-nonconforming children, they concluded that “the important thing was to teach him not to be ashamed of who he feels he is.” Thus, the purple-pink-and-yellow-striped dress he would be wearing that next morning. For good measure, their e-mail included a link to information on gender-variant children.
When Alex was 4, he pronounced himself “a boy and a girl,” but in the two years since, he has been fairly clear that he is simply a boy who sometimes likes to dress and play in conventionally feminine ways. Some days at home he wears dresses, paints his fingernails and plays with dolls; other days, he roughhouses, rams his toys together or pretends to be Spider-Man. Even his movements ricochet between parodies of gender: on days he puts on a dress, he is graceful, almost dancerlike, and his sentences rise in pitch at the end. On days he opts for only “boy” wear, he heads off with a little swagger. Of course, had Alex been a girl who sometimes dressed or played in boyish ways, no e-mail to parents would have been necessary; no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt.
There have always been people who defy gender norms. Late-19th-century medical literature described female “inverts” as appallingly straightforward, with a “dislike and sometimes incapacity for needlework” and “an inclination and taste for the sciences”; male inverts were “entirely averse to outdoor games.” By the mid-20th century, doctors were trying “corrective therapy” to extinguish atypical gender behaviors. The goal was preventing children from becoming gay or transgender, a term for those who feel they were born in the wrong body.
Many parents and clinicians now reject corrective therapy, making this the first generation to allow boys to openly play and dress (to varying degrees) in ways previously restricted to girls — to exist in what one psychologist called “that middle space” between traditional boyhood and traditional girlhood. These parents have drawn courage from a burgeoning Internet community of like-minded folk whose sons identify as boys but wear tiaras and tote unicorn backpacks. Even transgender people preserve the traditional binary gender division: born in one and belonging in the other. But the parents of boys in that middle space argue that gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.
“It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities,” one North Carolina mother wrote last year on her blog, “but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality. More than that, you’re trying to ‘squish out’ my kid.”
The impassioned author of that blog, Pink Is for Boys, is careful to conceal her son’s identity, as were the other parents interviewed for this article. As much as these parents want to nurture and defend what makes their children unique and happy, they also fear it will expose their sons to rejection. Some have switched schools, changed churches and even moved to try to shield their children. That tension between yielding to conformity or encouraging self-expression is felt by parents of any child who differs from the norm. But parents of so-called pink boys feel another layer of anxiety: given how central gender is to identity, they fear the wrong parenting decision could devastate their child’s social or emotional well-being. The fact that there is still substantial disagreement among prominent psychological professionals about whether to squelch unconventional behaviour or support it makes those decisions even more wrenching.
Many of the parents who allow their children to occupy that “middle space” were socially liberal even before they had a pink boy, quick to defend gay rights and women’s equality and to question the confines of traditional masculinity and femininity. But when their sons upend conventional norms, even they feel disoriented. How could my own child’s play — something ordinarily so joyous to watch — stir up such discomfort? And why does it bother me that he wants to wear a dress?
Despite the confident tone of the letter Alex’s parents wrote to the preschool parents, Susan was terrified. She feared Alex’s fascination with femininity would make him a target of bullying, even in the progressive New England town where they live. She felt tortured by statistics that indicated gay and transgender teenagers, either of which she figured Alex might become, were much more likely to take drugs and commit suicide. She began having panic attacks. “The whole thing was vertiginous,” she said. “It’s hard to put a finger on why gender identity makes such a difference to our sense of who a person is, but it does. As a parent, it’s really destabilizing when that’s pulled out from under you. And I worried that if I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around my kid, and I love him more than life itself, then how would the rest of the world react to him?” Read on…
Lenore Skenazy wrote this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last year.
Last week, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Timothy Murray, noticed smoke coming out of a minivan in his hometown of Worcester. He raced over and pulled out two small children, moments before the van’s tire exploded into flames. At which point, according to the AP account, the kids’ grandmother, who had been driving, nearly punched our hero in the face. Why? Mr. Murray said she told him she thought he might be a kidnapper.
And so it goes these days, when almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep. I call it "Worst-First" thinking: Gripped by paedophile panic, we jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant.
Consider the Iowa daycare center where Nichole Adkins works. The one male aide employed there, she told me in an interview, is not allowed to change diapers. "In fact," Ms. Adkins said, "he has been asked to leave the classroom when diapering was happening." Now, a guy turned on by diaper changes has got to be even rarer than a guy turned on by Sponge Bob. But "Worst-First" thinking means suspecting the motives of any man who chooses to work around kids.
Maybe the daycare center felt it had to be extra cautious, to avoid lawsuits. But regular folk are suspicious, too. Last February, a woman followed a man around at a store berating him for clutching a pile of girls’ panties. "I can’t believe this! You’re disgusting. This is a public place, you pervert!" she said—until the guy, who posted about the episode on a website, fished out his ID. He was a clerk restocking the underwear department.
Given the level of distrust, is it any wonder that, as the London Telegraph reported last month, the British Musicians’ Union warned its members they are no longer to touch a child’s fingers, even to position them correctly on the keys? Or that a public pool in Sydney, Australia last fall prohibited boys from changing in the same locker room as the men? (According to the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the men demanded this, fearing false accusations.)
What’s really ironic about all this emphasis on perverts is that it’s making us think like them. Remember the story that broke right before Christmas? The FBI warned law-enforcement agencies that the new Video Barbie could be used to make kiddie porn. The warning was not intended for the public but it leaked out. TV news celebrated the joy of the season by telling parents that any man nice enough to play dolls with their daughters could really be videotaping "under their little skirts!" as one Fox News reporter said.
This queasy climate is making men think twice about things they used to do unselfconsciously. A friend of mine, Eric Kozak, was working for a while as a courier. Driving around an unfamiliar neighborhood, he says, "I got lost. I saw a couple kids by the side of the road and rolled down my window to ask, ‘Where is such-and-such road?’ They ran off screaming."
Another dad told me about taking his three-year-old to play football in the local park, where he’d help organize the slightly older kids into a game. Over time, one of the kids started to look up to him. "He wanted to stand close to me, wanted approval, Dad stuff, I guess. And because of this whole ‘stranger danger’ mentality, I could sense this sort of wary disapproval from the few other parents at the playground. So I just stopped going."
And that’s not the worst. In England in 2006, BBC News reported the story of a bricklayer who spotted a toddler at the side of the road. As he later testified at a hearing, he didn’t stop to help for fear he’d be accused of trying to abduct her. You know: A man driving around with a little girl in his car? She ended up at a pond and drowned.
We think we’re protecting our kids by treating all men as potential predators. But that’s not a society that’s safe. Just sick.
UPDATE: This article was originally posted a year ago but I just found a video about the family described here and thought it’s well worth it updating this. Check it out, it below and if anyone ever uses “family values” as an argument against anything regarding gay families or parents, just show them this video…
It’s 11-year-old Andrew’s turn to set the table for dinner, and he deals out 14 paper plates as if they were playing cards. Marcus, 5, climbs onto a bench and announces, "It smells like pancakes." His brother, 3-year-old Cooper, counters, "I think it smells like chicken." "It smells like Ambrose," says Logan, 7, climbing in between Cooper and their sister Ambrose, who’s 4. She glares at the laughing boys. Actually, it smells like spaghetti. A big pot of homemade sauce is bubbling on the stove.
The six littlest children fit on the 9-foot-long bench along one side of the table. Andrew and the four other big kids sit in chairs on the other side. Olivia, the baby of the family, is in a high chair. Daddy sits at one end, Papa at the other. Steven and Roger Ham are raising 12 children, all adopted from foster care, in Arizona, one of the most unlikely places for two gay men to piece together a family.
The Ham family. More photos.
In Arizona, two men can’t be married, nor adopt children together. In his 2008 run for U.S. president, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who with wife Cindy has an adopted daughter, said he opposed allowing gay people to adopt. "I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family, so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption," McCain said during an appearance in Wisconsin.
That same year, Arizonans approved a ban on gay marriage by 56 percent of the vote. Since 1997, conservative Arizona lawmakers have introduced a half-dozen bills that would keep single people, including gays and lesbians, from becoming foster parents or adopting children in the state’s care, or would move married couples to the top of the waiting list for adoptions. Those attempts – one as recent as last year – failed to muster enough votes. But this year was different. On April 18, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that gives preference to married couples in state and private adoptions, all other criteria being equal. Yet, in 2009, the governor gave Steven and Roger Ham an award for their efforts at keeping siblings in foster care together through adoption.
"As someone who was raised from the age of 10 by a widowed mother, I am well aware that single or unmarried individuals can make wonderful parents," Brewer says. "This legislation merely establishes marital status of adoptive parents among a host of factors to be considered when placing a child." Opponents, however, contend that marriage doesn’t guarantee a stable and loving family. Read on… (Yeah, it’s a pretty long article but it’s worth it)
No other country of the world puts as many of its citizens behind bars as the United States of America, especially minors. There are diverse reasons for this but other than America’s failed “war on drugs” there is one that stands out: The privatisation of prisons. Privatising any part of public service is usually a terrible idea but trying to make a business out of something like prisons is such an obviously fucked up plan that even America’s closest allies are disgusted by it.
And since bad ideas almost always have bad consequences the USA end up with cases like a bill in Michigan that guarantees private prisons a occupancy rate of 90% because less prisoners would be a drag on profits. Or the judges in Pennsylvania who were earning millions of dollars for jailing kids for minor offenses. And things like this are going on to this day, often with the help of American schools where cops are already part of the daily routine. For example in Mississippi were a county is running a school-to-prison pipeline:
An investigation launched last December revealed that “the agencies have helped to operate a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools become entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. Constitution. The department’s findings show that children in Lauderdale County have been routinely and repeatedly incarcerated for allegedly committing school disciplinary infractions and are punished disproportionately, without constitutionally required procedural safeguards. Children have also been arrested at school for offenses as minor as defiance.
And to make this clear, “defiance” can be anything, even laughable offenses like dress code violations. And hardly surprising, it’s mostly queer kids and those who happen to be anything but white who end up in this horrible system. And once they’re in, it’s almost impossible to get out:
In 2009 the Southern Poverty Law Center brought a class-action lawsuit against the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility, accusing it of keeping youths “crammed into small, filthy cells and tormented with the arbitrary use of Mace as a punishment for even the most minor infractions — such as ‘talking too much’ or failing to sit in the ‘back of their cells.’”
Photos by Steve Liss for No Place for Kids