By Rob Watson | The Next Family
When my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them. Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them. Since my sons are “almost twins,” only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.
Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating. As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves. They were becoming their own people with personalities.
This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe. On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was the biggest thrill I could imagine: seeing my two sons emerge and become who they would be. I could not wait to meet and know, and love them.
I remember one morning when the boys were three years old, a cold Sunday, when I was orchestrating activities with them. Jesse, for no apparent reason, came over, grabbed my face, pulled it toward him, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My partner happened to be snapping pictures and he caught the moment. I look disheveled, and the lighting in the picture is bad, but to this day, it is my favorite photo of all time.
Jesse, the generously affectionate young man he was becoming, had emerged for his first moment from the blond little toddler. Knowing who he is now, it was a thrill to see the glimpse of him then. Watching my sons develop from babies into the men they will be is my greatest life’s honor.
Not all parents relate to this joy of children developing into themselves as I do, particularly when those parents are homophobic and the child’s emergence is indicating that he or she may be either gay or transgender. In those cases, things can get very ugly, very fast.
The “American Family Association” founder James Dobson declared that starting as early as age five, children might show some sort of inclinations, and he prescribed parental actions to make the children change their instincts.
One such parent was Oregon mom, Jessica Dutro. Her little boy Zachary was not reacting to things in as masculine a way as she expected. She thought he would become gay. “He walks like it and talks like it. Ugh.” She wrote to boyfriend, Brian Canady, and she instructed Brian to “work on him.” They both worked on Zachary. Until Zachary was dead.
Jessica Dutro is an abusive woman. Her behavior towards her other kids shows that fact. The blend of homophobia with those abusive tendencies made her deadly.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a requiem to Fred Phelps, a man who personified hatred. His life was a failure, and my final message to him was one of pity. Today, I write a requiem to Zachary. He was not hatred, he was sweet and energetic. He was killed by hatred. There is no pity in this message. I am angry.
Goodbye. We, the world, have failed you little one. You came to us, bright and full of promise, and we left you in the hands of one who did not appreciate your brightness, and in fact, she sought to make you suffer for who she thought you might be.
I am sorry. I did not cause the force that killed you, and in fact, I fight it daily. You are dead, however, and for me, that means that I did not fight hard enough, not nearly hard enough.
You were killed by homophobia, my child. It came through the hands of parents, through the very hands and arms that should have been there to grab you, and hold you and love you. It was the force of homophobia that killed you however, not just those physical blows that delivered it. While your parents embodied that hatred, it was not created by them, it had been given to them in many ways from the world around them.
I am sorry you were born in a world where too many voices tell you not to be you. No one should have to fight for the right to be themselves, least of all, a 4-year-old child.
I am sorry you were born into a world where so many feel that the ability to physically make a child is more important that the ability to love and nurture one. Where people are writing court papers vilifying parents who do not physically procreate, they should be writing briefs condemning parents who do not love. Birthing a child is merely bringing it to life. Loving a child is truly giving it a reason to live.
I am sorry you were born into a world where people believe in misinterpreted Bible passages and tired dogmas. They hold onto them only so they can rationalize hating something they don’t understand. Something they see in you, even in your innocence.
I am sorry for all the beauty, magnificence, talent and life that you represented that is now gone. I miss the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. I mourn the children you did not get to raise and the better world you did not get to help build.
A man named Fred Phelps died a few weeks ago, two years after you did. He lived his life being hateful, trying to get people to be more homophobic. He failed and his efforts made people not want to be like him. Homophobia lost. You lived your life being loving, and your efforts made two people hate you. Homophobia still lost however, because I will never ever forget you.
I pray that your short life is held up as the horrible cost of the homophobic mindset. That mindset is not an opinion. It is not a right to religious beliefs. It is a deep and ever-present danger that kills the innocent. I pray that your life robs homophobia of its glory and helps shame it into non-existence.
Nothing will replace the life we lost in you. You were our child and we allowed our world to inspire your fate. You deserved so much better.
With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better. We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder. We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.
We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace. You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them. We owed it to you. We will not fail again.
Writer Bio: Rob Watson is a writer for The Next Family and Evol Equals and lives with his husband and children in Santa Cruz, California.
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