I've been a fan of yours since 1984, when I first saw your wonderful film debut in Another Country. At the time I was a young gay man and had recently come out to my parents. I was attempting to find identifiable versions of myself in the larger LGBT world and was using cinema, literature, and the arts as a starting place. You, as your character was depicted in that film, represented an ideal gay man to me, which I had yet to see, in either real life or reel life. Your character was everything I aspired to be. You were smart, droll, handsome, and seemingly secure with your sexuality. (Plus you got to snog the ever-adorable Cary Elwes, which scored points in my book.) Call it youthful naïveté, but at that time I assumed that you yourself were much the same as your character, given that you continued to live your life off-screen as an out gay man.
But being out doesn't necessarily mean one is secure, does it, Rupert? Being out doesn't necessarily mean that a person feels whole and worthy. As you and I both know, being out isn't the same thing as being enlightened.
Your recent comment on gay parenting was a rude awakening for me, making me realize that all this time I'd given you far more credit than warranted. While you may have played the gay father to Madonna's child in The Next Best Thing (likely leading to endless sessions on the couch with your therapist), does that mean you're qualified to speak out about LGBT parenting, or any kind of parenting? Not really, but here I sit, staring at your quotation in the Sunday Times, in which you say, "I can't think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads." Given the lives we've both led, I can't help but think, "Really, Rupert? WTF?"
In all the world's endless possibilities, Rupert, you can't imagine anything worse than a child being raised by gay men? How about a child being born to a father who is in jail for attempted murder? Whose mother sees fit to pierce the ears of her then-6-month-old son but cannot find the time to fix his club feet? Who later takes this same son to a crack house, which is then raided by police, leading to a year and a half of foster care? Are you saying that child would've been better off left in the other household instead of being adopted by my partner and me? Which life truly is worse, Rupert?
When we first met Marcus, he was sullen, uncommunicative, and distant. Upon bringing him into our home, where we showered him with much-needed love, shelter, attention, medical care, and a whole host of other things 24 hours a day, he is now a thriving, joyful, and active 10-year-old. He loves playing with Mason, his non-biological 12-year-old brother, whom we also adopted as an infant. But you seem to think he'd be better off in the home in which he was born.
Rupert, I'm sure that if we actually were talking face to face, you'd say that, when quoted, you were just speaking facetiously. Seriously, to any sane, objective person, given the alternative, our home is infinitely the better choice, right? So why would you say that? Do you truly believe that, or were you instead hoping for headlines?
Like everyone else, I'd heard ill-considered remarks from you before, such as when you suggested gay actors remain closeted, based on your belief that your own career was harmed as a result of coming out. But, quite honestly, I chalked up such nonsense to your being British. After all, it seems that you, Elton John, and George Michael can't skip a day without such pithy nonsense running from your mouths. However, in this particular case, you weren't complaining about Madonna, or your lackluster career, or other things that, in the grand scheme of things, don't really matter. You were talking about me, my parter, our kids, and all the other LGBT families out there, just trying to make it through each day and create better lives for our children.
I'm a gay dad. I've wanted to have children as far back as I can remember. I always knew I'd make a great parent, though society kept telling me otherwise. Over the years I've read books, taken parenting classes, babysat my nephews, and changed a helluva lot of diapers to get me to the point where I knew I was ready to have children, and then passed all the tests in order to prove it. Despite all this, and the amazing kids we now have as a result, you couldn't imagine "anything worse."
Rupert, there is a big difference between what happens on the silver screen and what happens in real life. There are worse things, far worse things than even our son endured, than having two dads -- one of which is living without love.
I'm wondering, Rupert, exactly how you feel about yourself as a gay man. Yes, I know you've been "out" since an early age, but at what cost? Were you built up to believe that your sexuality was a good thing -- a badge of honor -- or something with which to struggle and fight against? Long prior to your fame, in your youth, you were a male escort. I have to wonder, what effect did that have on your sense of self? Did it expand your worldview or contract it? Later, you landed in the arts, but the fame you found seems not to have offered you contentment but bitterness.
Now, I'm not your shrink, Rupert, so I'm not qualified to psychoanalyze you, but the statements you make lead me to believe that, at your core, you're unhappy being gay. While I can't do anything about that, I can tell you that I myself feel incredibly fortunate to be gay. While my sexuality is but one element of my personae, it informs my every move in life and is central to my being. I see it not as a curse but as a blessing. I'm sure you've likely done some work around these issues, Rupert, but I can tell you that coming to peace with your sexuality might just open up a whole new world.
Until that time, Rupert, why don't you visit my world? Come visit me and my family. In the article you mention that your views of LGBT parenting come from your mother. Well, I invite you to come meet my mom, Dottie. She was born in southern Georgia, a very conservative place. While I'm sure she'd prefer that her only son be straight and raise biologically white offspring, Dottie has come to embrace this odd dichotomy. Two of her grandchildren are African-American boys, being raised by white gay dads, and she treats them the same as her white grandchildren being raised by my sister. While Dottie may, late at night, wish for something different, she has chosen to seize the reality of the situation and take these grandchildren as her own. Do you think Dottie would prefer, even for one moment, that these kids be anyplace other than where they are? No. She knows the reality of the situation, what their lives might be like in their families of origin, and embraces the life in which they now live.
Rupert, our family life is not perfect by any means, but we are gay dads, doing our best to raise our children better than they might have been raised. We're not asking for accolades or awards from you, or from anyone else, for that matter, but simple respect would be nice. Because you are a public figure, the things you say matter, not only for us raising kids but for the kids who come from families like ours. You are essentially saying that, there being nothing "worse," kids raised in LGBT homes are at the bottom of the barrel. I don't accept that. The unfortunate thing is that as stupid as your comments may be, they will be repeated, again and again, by both the press and those angling to put a stop to LGBT parenting, as a sign that we are "less than."
But here's the thing, Rupert. We're not going away. We're not going to cower to you or anyone else. We know that what we are doing is right, both for ourselves and for our kids. We are making a better world, and you will not stand in our way.
Your words have meaning, as ill-considered as they may be, and I hope to talk this over further when you come for a weekend. Bring your mom and anyone else you think could benefit from seeing LGBT parenting in action. You can spend the weekend running with us from Trader Joe's to Target, spending hours on the football field (where kids are judged not on who their parents are but on their talent), going to church, and engaging in a whole host of other activities, all specifically designed to make you see just what terrible parents we make.
Like it or not, Rupert, you are a role model. Although I'm sure you were speaking off the cuff, in sound bites, hoping for a bit of press, your words do, ultimately, matter. If you can't be the person I once thought you were, honorable and secure in his sexuality, then at least do me the favor of shutting the fuck up and letting me parent.
Check with my kids 10 years from now and let me know which they think is worse: where they were born or where they're headed.
P.S. I wrote another note to one-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum, following a similar statement he made about gay parents. But here's the difference, Rupert: He was a conniving right-wing candidate pandering to his base. You, on the other hand, should know better.
Follow Kergan Edwards-Stout on Twitter: www.twitter.com/edwardsstout