I followed, with interest, the debate surrounding the Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP). The outcome of that debate was disappointing. Administrators at the University of Notre Dame accepted poorly conceived allegations lodged by a group representing LGBT interests against a group representing “children’s” interests. As a result SCOP was denied recognition as a student group.
As the queer son of a lesbian, who was raised by a lesbian couple between the ages of two and 19, I see Notre Dame’s action against SCOP as a slap in the face—not, as you might presume, an act in defense of LGBT people. LGBT activists across the globe have repeatedly claimed that their demands should be met in the name of, and for the good of, children in their custody. These children are, in 100 percent of such instances, not actually related to both adults in the gay household. Think about that: Gay activists look at a household where two same-sex adults have control of someone else’s child, and instead of worrying about the child’s loss or the child’s grievances, their first instinct is to make sure that the two same-sex adults get even more benefits and privileges.
Is this really for the good of those children? No. The anti-SCOP group referred to social
science research that has ostensibly shown positive “outcomes” for children raised by same-sex couples but those “outcomes” are really just measurements of what adults want from children so the adults look good: Does the child have good grades? Does the child look happy in photographs that we can send to the Huffington Post? Is the child well-adjusted, healthy, a good athlete, well liked by his peers, likely to get married and have a stable family too? In other words, all that research has really asked a central question that has little to do with the child’s humanity: Do children in same-sex couples’ homes turn out the way gay people want them to, so that gay people look good to straight people?
Over the years I have worked with many adults who were raised by same-sex couples. I have collaborated with them, interviewed them, heard their stories, recorded their testimonials. I encourage you to go to English Manif, the website I edit, where these are archived. They are their own people. They are not extensions of gay people. They are not trophies or laboratory mice to study and inject with experimental drugs. Generally they are respectful and grateful to the adults who raised them, but they are also keenly aware of the extent to which such adults may have used, abused, and manipulated them for their own selfish purposes. They can love and feel fondness for a guardian and still know the person was self-absorbed and callous to their personal hurt. And many of them are mad about what happened.
Many do not care if the adults raising them are married or not, or receive proper respect from the world at large. They have peers raised by single mothers, grandparents, or divorced parents and do not see such peers as any less worthy simply because their guardians are not in a legally recognized sexual relationship. If the gay adults get married, it will mean that children will simply have more pressure from the legal system to obey the commands and meet the emotional needs of one or two people who aren’t really their parents.
Every child has a mother and father. Those two people are human beings with a face, a name, and a heritage; even if the parent was simply a sperm donor, a gestational carrier, someone who abandoned the child, or someone who was thrown out of the house by the other parent. Making gay marriage legal changes none of that. And we know it.
The beauty of SCOP is that it is not strictly focused on same-sex parenting. The group asked me to deliver a keynote at their April 3 conference. The gay students who expressed outrage over SCOP did not come to my talk, as far as I know. I have placed the slide show online so that people who could not attend that event can understand that children’s rights isn’t about gay people, because it isn’t about what adults want from children.
Children raised by gay people have a great deal in common with adoptees, children of divorce, abandoned children, abused children, orphans, and children conceived through third-party reproduction. Sometimes the transfer of the child’s custody to a non-parent was justifiable, but in many cases it wasn’t, and in all cases it was hard for the child.
In all of these situations, helpless human beings are robbed of half or all their heritage, when they are too young to consent to such a loss, or even understand it. Sometimes the emotional violence of being severed from a mother, or father, or both, results primarily from the malfeasance or neglect of the lost parent(s), and sometimes it results from the selfishness and contrivances of the replacement “parent(s).” Sometimes, in the worst of cases, this emotional violence is the result of both. For instance, in surrogacy contracts, one mother sells her child to a couple that buys her child. The child must contend with having been sold by his own mother, who is absent, and then raised by the two people who engaged in human trafficking and chattel slavery.
Did you get a chill up your spine when you read the word “slavery”? Harsh words like that get adults on the defensive. People think of “slavery” as whippings, racism, and physical deprivation. But let us engage in an imaginary exercise. What if the myriad societies that practiced slavery in world history barred slave owners from whipping their charges, made sure race was not a factor in identifying human chattel, and forced estates to feed and clothe their subjects well? It would still be slavery. Slavery is the problem with slavery, not all the other terrible ills that are symptoms of the main crime.
The violation of three pillars of a child’s humanity—the child’s right to be born free rather than sold, the child’s right to a mother and father, and the child’s right to origins—is a serious human rights issue. It could escalate into something as ugly as slavery, even if right now it does not seem that bad to us yet. How would mankind have benefited if, in the 1490s, when Christopher Columbus landed on a new continent, there were groups that formed with the strict goal of advocating for the rights of people who were being treated like chattel, instead of advocating for the rights of the people treating them like chattel?
Recently both the Vatican and the United Nations Human Rights Council convened to discuss family and the rights of children, revisiting earlier declarations in order to update them and safeguard children against the abuses fostered by trafficking, bad adoption practices, abandonment, divorce, same-sex parenting, and third-party reproduction.
Largely launched in France, “children’s rights” is a new human-rights movement bridging the concerns of adoptees, children of divorce, children of same-sex couples, orphans, abused children, and children conceived by third-party reproduction. This summer some of my comrades from the US, the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Canada, and China are launching the International Children’s Rights Institute, in order to give children’s rights a real home on American soil. Notre Dame would be on the cutting edge if the university acknowledged SCOP. It would make the campus a leader in a new field of human rights rather than a dupe of powerful lobbies that have turned children into products. The choice is up to you.
Robert Oscar Lopez is an associate professor of English and Classics at a California university.