Unless you live in Connecticut or read the right-leaning press, you probably haven’t heard this story. Two men in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a couple who adopted nine children and lived in a fabulous remote Victorian, are accused of abusing at least two (and maybe more) of their boys.
Let me get this on the record: If true, this is nothing less than horrifying. I’ve written enough, here and elsewhere, against the sexual abuse of children that I hope I can leave that reaction as is, for now.
Instead, I want to write my relief that—for the most part—this has not been used to indict gay men at large. In fact, I first heard about this story from a social conservative who got in touch to ask what I thought—and who wanted to be careful not to say anything, publicly, that could be accused of being “homophobic.” (I put it in quotes because I don’t use that word.)
That’s an enormous advance. As recently as a decade ago, the fundamental libel against lesbians and gay men in general—and gay men in particular—was that since we can’t “reproduce naturally,” we recruited through pedophilia. That’s part of what’s behind the Boy Scouts’ refusal to allow adult gay men as troop leaders: the fear that they’re more likely to be pedophiles than adult nongay men. Even ten years ago, the Connecticut story would have been widely used—not just in the Daily Mail and New York Daily News, where I found it—to “prove” that gay men could not be trusted around children, or as another acquaintance suggested to me privately, that children need mothers around to protect them from men, period.
But I just can’t see it that way. I regularly hear many abuse stories. Because I have covered some forms of wrongdoing in international adoption, unhappy adoptees often send me allegations of cruelty and abuse in adoptive families, including credible allegations that the children were specifically adopted for this purpose (cf: Masha Allen and Matthew Mancuso). Yes, some adoptive parents are horrible. Of course they are. Some human beings are awful; therefore some adoptive parents will be.
I also regularly hear and see allegations of bio parents harming their children, boys and girls, as young as one and two. Or I hear of bio parents who use their children for abuse and pornography chains. And of course, there are the usual father/stepfather/uncle abuse stories. My wife is a prosecutor, often weighing in on cases of child rape and child pornography, so I hear horrible sets of circumstances, some of which I could never have imagined. I have heard some truly terrible mother stories, usually involving alcoholism or addiction. Sometimes the women were themselves abused as children and, as adult addicts, pimp out their children for drugs, or abuse them in some awful rage, whether that involves chaining them to radiators, locking them in a basement for days without food, using them sexually, or some other horror. I wish I thought women were too superior for all this, but I know too much. Women can be as bad as men can be.
Given all this, it's hard to imagine any world in which some gay family would not be involved in child abuse. Gay men and lesbians are no better than people as a whole. and We grow up in circumstances just as varied as the rest of you.
We emerge from every demographic and every zip code in the country. Some of us grow up brilliant and loving. Some grow up twisted and horrible. If some characteristic is true of at least some humans, then it’s probably true of at least some gay men, some bisexuals, and some lesbians.
I'm hardly surprised by the Juliet-and-Juliet story out of Florida, in which a 17-year-old girl got involved with a 14-year-old girl on her basketball team. First of all, I’ve heard plenty of friends’ coming-out stories, in which they talk about being freshman chasing the senior girls (or college girls!) on local sports teams. But more important, of course some girl got involved inappropriately with a girl too young. If boys do it, then of course girls would do it too. And to flip the story, if some 14-year-old girls are quite aggressive at seeking out older male sexual attention—and I knew such girls—then of course some would aggressively seek out older female attention as well. It may not be appropriate, but of course it happens.
Does the Glastonbury case—if the allegations are true—indict male parenting in general, or gay male parenting in particular? I don’t see the evidence that it does. Here’s where I come down: Every family—gay or straight, adopted or bio, single-parent or dual-parent—has to be evaluated on its own merits. There is no ideal family. There are myriad families, some good, some bad, almost always in their own special ways.
But to make it clear, let me say here what I would say of any serial child abuser, from pedophile priests to Jerry Sandusky to violent moms: If the Glastonbury couple did what they’re accused of doing, may they rot in jail for the rest of their lives.
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