What started with a historic adoption of a baby boy by two gay men has grown to a family of 9! Happy Holidays from our family to yours!
The Unimportance of Mothers by Jon Holden Galluccio, author of “An American Family”
My daughter Madison just turned 15. My baby is now 15, a young lady and a quite accomplished young lady at that! The truth is that most of the time over the past 15 years Madison has basically walked on water. She has always been one of the most caring loving souls on this planet. Ask anyone, it is not just parental bias here. I say that with the utmost humility because I know in many ways I am responsible for it. Michael too of course, but for this piece I’m taking credit because this is about the unimportance of “Mothers”.
Offensive, maybe but read along and hopefully you will be less offended and more enlightened for isn’t that the point of everything I write?
Michael and I, along with raising three children, have always advocated for families like ours, gays and lesbians having and raising children. Recently, someone coined the phrase “growing up in a homocentric household” not sure if it makes sense or not but I like it so who cares, it makes sense to me and I’m the author here!
So in advocating for families like ours we have always been barraged with questions about “growing up in a ‘homocentric’ household”. “What’s it like?” “How is it different from growing up in a ‘heterocentric’ household?” For us, as gay men, there have been two questions asked over and over and over again.
The first question Michael and I resolved very early on and that is “Won’t gay men raise their children to be gay?” Of course, our parents raised us to be heterosexual and that didn’t happen so we knew that was just ridiculous. However, in the beginning we were quoting statistics that proved that to be unlikely etc. Then during one radio interview while we still lived in Maywood (so this was early), after discussing this with Michael, I responded “So what if they turn out to be gay because of us, there is nothing wrong with being gay!” From that interview forward there was no longer a debate on that issue. We have repeated that answer over and over and have yet to have anyone come back on that. Issue closed!
The second question has taken quite a bit longer to resolve and that is something like “Won’t your children suffer without having a mother?” Michael and I have both spoken volumes on this to our friends and foes alike. We have given examples of all the female role models they have. We have probably even over compensated with making sure Madison had all these connections. Last month, at Montclair State University, I watched Madison struggle with the same question as the world in general still seems very concerned about how there is no mother in our family equation. Madison immediately spoke up about how Rosa, her 29 year old sister is “like a mother to her” and the audience accepted it, felt better about it and moved on.
I, however, did not accept it and am only moving on now as I write this. So here’s the truth. The un-sugar coated reality is kids don’t need mother’s, they need nurturers. I swear to you, it is the God’s honest truth but I have never said it before for fear of offending mothers, motherhood, women, etc. While I am at it I will even go on to say that men (meaning at least me) can nurture children as well as any woman can. A vagina is not required to nurture a child. I am just trying to say that our ingrained bias on the whole male/female thing skews people’s view of families like ours. It’s a gender bias that in this day and age has to be addressed. For my lesbian counterparts raising kids in a “homocentric” household I’m sure the same argument can be made for the unimportance of fathers! Again, I do not believe that one must have a penis in order to demonstrate discipline and stability for their children. This probably applies to all the “heterocentic” families with stay at home dads and working moms too!
So I’m not against mothers because honestly my role, my culturally ingrained role, is that of a mother. Not the noun mother but the verb. Ok, maybe it isn’t an actual verb but by now I hope you got my point if not I will share this one more story.
When Madison was 11 (she’ll probably hate me for sharing this one!) she got her period. This is probably the single most important experience for a female in their young lives. When the heralding of her impending womanhood showed up, my mother was visiting and I said to Madison “Oh wait do you want me to get Nana?” and she said “No I need you Daddy”. So for the most intimate female event in her young life she did not need a woman, she needed her Daddy.
Her Daddy who has been mothering her since she was a baby is all she needed.
JON HOLDEN GALLUCCIO, AUTHOR OF “AN AMERICAN FAMILY” WITH MICHAEL GALLUCCIO AND DAVID GROFF, IS A FINANCIAL SERVICES REPRESENTATIVE WITH METLIFE. HE RESIDES WITH MICHAEL AND TWO OF THEIR CHILDREN IN NORTH HALEDON. HE CAN BE CONTACTED AT WWW.GALLUCCIO.COM
Noe Valley Voice December-January 2010
RETURN TO HOME PAGE
Local Author Draws on Childhood to Write a Book on Gay Adoption
By Heather World
Psychologist James LaCroce is not just monkeying around in his new children’s book about a chimpanzee. He also hopes to advance the cause of gay parenting. Photo by Pamela Gerard
When James LaCroce decided to write a book that would speak to gay families with adopted children, while appealing to anyone who has ever felt like a misfit, the Noe Valley psychologist turned to someone who had soothed him over the years, an illustrated chimpanzee he created with a friend in college.
“He was a character that endured a lot of stress in his life, but he was always resilient,” says LaCroce, whose richly colored illustrations match the upbeat theme of his 74-page paperback.
Chimpy Discovers His Family is the story of an orphaned chimpanzee who prefers giving himself banana facials to having banana food fights with his fellow primates. He is shunned by the other animals because of his differences, until he meets Juan and Benji, gay men honeymooning on the island where Chimpy lives. The men love Chimpy for his unique tastes and decide to adopt him. But the three quickly learn that the world finds them odd, and the trio must overcome prejudices and great distances to become a loving family.
“I wanted to write a story that addresses the fact it doesn’t matter what gender your parents are or what their relationship is, so long as they are committed to each other and they can love the child the way they are,” says LaCroce, 36.
The book is targeted to children ages 6 to 12, but it’s great for people of all ages, says LaCroce. The Maryland native has lived on High Street off Clipper Street since 2001, practicing psychology and volunteering at a children’s mental health center in the Mission. He has worked with children adopted by gay parents and gay parents who have adopted children, but he was also inspired to write the book by the shop talk of his partner, an editor with the Bay Area Reporter.
“I have contact from him about news about gay issues, like adoption and marriage,” LaCroce says. “That is a lot of the reason I wanted to do something political.”
He also took a page from his own childhood, which was difficult and awkward, he says.
“I never did stuff the other boys did,” he says. “I gravitated more to art and drama—things seen as more gay.”
The youngest of five children in a Roman Catholic family, LaCroce grew up hiding his sexuality from his family and his peers.
“My coming out was delayed because it would have been really unsafe for me,” he says. He dealt with his stress through drawing, and by college he and a friend were swapping illustrated exploits of Chimpy the chimpanzee.
LaCroce’s book started as a back-story to Chimpy’s life, but the result is something he hopes will resonate with the next round of soldiers in the battle for gay rights.
He has passed the book on to friends for literary criticism, and so far the reviews have been positive, he says.
“They like the angle—it’s not just about getting adopted,” says LaCroce, who looks forward to having children someday. “It’s also about being accepted.”
LaCroce has made part of his life’s work helping “misfits” of a different kind as well. He works at Oakes Children Center on Treat Avenue, which serves mostly students from San Francisco’s public schools who have debilitating behavior and emotional problems. LaCroce interned there while working toward his doctorate degree, and now he trains other interns.
“There’s a lot of behavior that is in your face,” he says. “I’m teaching them to look past that to their needs.”
True to his misfit theme, LaCroce bypassed commercial publishers and published Chimpy himself. The paperback is available at Lulu.com and Amazon.com, but LaCroce says he will also be sending it to publishers in the next few months to see if he can find a “more traditional” home for his beloved ape.
From Chimpy Discovers His Family by James LaCroce
Hey, you! Welcome to my story. I may look successful now, but my life started off a bit differently. I can’t remember my birth family. I grew up on an island where baby chimpanzees who have lost their families live. As far back as I can remember, I was always different from the other chimps on the island. I liked picking flowers. No one else cared about flowers. I also enjoyed lounging by the stream and sipping cold drinks. I even put little umbrellas in them to make them fancier. No one else did this either.
The other chimps used to scream at me. They said that I acted weird. Tears flowed from behind my sunglasses. After a while, I just closed my eyes and pretended that I was far away….
…At night I dreamed of traveling to far-off places. I dreamed of flying into space and visiting distant planets. I loved to dream. I was pretty lucky to have a few nice friends to feed and take care of me. Charlie was a very friendly person. His voice always made me feel happy….
Excerpted from Chimpy Discovers His Family, copyright © 2010 by James LaCroce, Ph.D.
by Mary Ellen McLaughlin, partner at Alternative Reproductive Resources (www.arr1.com)
Fox’s wildly popular “Glee” tackles many controversial topics, most recently, surrogacy. One of the main characters, Rachel Berry, is an aspiring Broadway star and the daughter of two gay men. Her birth was made possible via a surrogate named Shelby Corcoran. The storyline is that Shelby was not just the surrogate but also the egg donor for Rachel’s gay parents, making Rachel her biological daughter. Sixteen years after giving birth to Rachel, Shelby regrets the contractual agreement that prevents her from meeting or speaking to her daughter. Meanwhile, Rachel has been longing to find and meet her biological mother as well.
While this complicated tale makes for great TV, it is far from the reality of a typical gestational surrogacy journey. Gestational surrogates are not biologically related to the child they carry.
Shelby’s surrogacy would be considered a traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate uses her own egg and artificial insemination to become pregnant. However, with as in vitro fertilization has become a standard in fertility treatment, so has gestational surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy ensures that the surrogate is not related to the child through the use of unrelated egg and sperm, either from the intended parents or other donors. If a traditional surrogacy is used and the surrogate is biologically related to the child, she has legal parental rights if she changes her mind about surrogacy.
Stephanie Eckard was a traditional surrogate in Florida, where her verbal surrogacy agreement with the Lamitina family was viewed as an adoption, where Stephanie could decide to keep the baby until 48 hours after the birth. She changed her mind about the surrogacy a few months into her pregnancy, and the Lamitinas had no claim to the child they’d asked Stephanie to carry for them.
ASRM guidelines for surrogacy also state that surrogates should have already given birth to a child. Shelby doesn’t seem to have any other children on the show, making her a highly unlikely candidate for surrogacy in real life.
Another discrepancy between the “Glee” take on surrogacy and real surrogacies is Shelby’s motivation for becoming a surrogate. A desperate young Shelby, who needed money to fund her dream of becoming a Broadway star, decided the pay for nine months of pregnancy was too good to pass up. In reality, most women who become surrogates don’t do it for the money. They are already mothers of their own children, have stable family support systems, and often know someone who had problems with infertility. They are typically motivated by the idea of helping someone realize their dream of becoming a parent, or simply enjoy pregnancy and don’t mind carrying an unrelated child for another parent.
The moral of the story is, of course, that you can’t always believe what you see on TV. Surrogates are far more often mothers who want to help others create a family than aspiring Broadway singers looking for cash.
I have been unsure where to begin for the last hour, so I am just going to dive in with what is on my mind right now…I am so thrilled to have gotten so much positive feedback about our albums this year. I am humbled by such generous compliments from customers who are describing the albums using words such as ‘intuitive’, ‘fun’ and ‘beautiful’.
I have been asked many times if I will be creating albums with specific topics for adoptive parents, single parents and same sex parents. After reviewing some existing albums I realize that there really is a need.
I would love to be able to offer our albums to parents who have experienced the joys of adoption as well as same sex parents and single parents – I just need one thing…help.
I don’t know what you want/need!
I have to call upon the gracious parents out there who are willing and able to share their stories, their wishes and their valuable perspective so that I can complete these new albums with as much attention to detail as I did when I began the first album.
I hope you will think about this as an opportunity to create something beautiful!
I can’t wait to hear from you.
Mass media continues to target hands-on heterosexual dads. CBS News calls them “hip”. Advertising Age says they’re “modern”.
They want to sell handbags to dads. I’ll buy. Actually, I already have.
Ad Age has taken notice of the dad’s brotherhood in a recent issue. The marketer’s authority published a recent story positioned for straight dads. It compares modern fatherhood to the modern motherhood of 30 years ago. You see, back then it was the moms who did all the work, and full-time gay dads were only wishful thinking for many of us.
Recently, the Early Show ran a product segment on diaper bags designed for manly dads. It was also produced for the women-who-buy-things-for-their-men, but we gay guys can get information from almost any shopping segment on television.
Among the bags mentioned:
- Diaper Dude – I bought this one. It comes complete with padded changing pad, and a removable cell phone holder.
- Mr.B Family Bags – The designer/dad is featured as this month’s “Smart Cookie – Fathers of Invention,” in the September issue of Cookie magazine.
Hip, modern, gay and straight. We all love a good shoulder-bag.
Peg Perego 2006 Rose Cube Vinyl Prima Pappa Diner High Chair! That’s quite a name isn’t it?
It’s cute and fully positionable with reclining backrest for infants unable to sit unaided. It also has seven height-adjustable seat positions. A large tray always remains level, even when seat is reclined. Adjust or remove the tray with “one hand use”. It’s easy to clean because of vinyl fabric. Rear brakes and the 5-point restraint belt (with adjustable shoulder straps and harness loop) help parents keep control. Lightweight aluminum frame folds compact, for travel and storage. No assembly required. Designed and made by those sexy Italians. JPMA (safety) certified.
“Zack’s Story: Growing Up with Same-Sex Adults”
This book is an excellent resource for same-sex parents about to explain their sexuality to their children. It’s an autobiographical story told by a teen named Zack about his very well-rounded life with his lesbian parents. It includes family photographs.
Zack’s Story: Growing Up with Same-Sex Adults, written by Keith Greenberg. Lerner Publications, 1996
Walt Disney Records has created the perfect background music for play dates with their release of Playhouse Disney Music Play Date. This must-have for preschoolers and their parents features a collection of favorite songs from Disney Channel’s popular preschool shows.
Playhouse Disney says it wants to promote “Learning Powered by Imagination” with this musical compilation. Kids can sing along with their favorite songs long after the TV programs have ended.
Music Play Date features 29 tracks – including previous favorites from Playhouse Disney albums.
Playhouse Disney Music Play Date songs include:
- Handy Manny Main Title Theme Handy Manny
- Hop Up, Jump In Handy Manny
- Playing In the Sun Handy Manny
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Hot Dog! Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Mickey’s Mousekedoer Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Imagination Movers Theme Imagination Movers
- Puppy Dog Imagination Movers
- Kick It Imagination Movers
- The Happy Little Monkey’s Song Ooh and Aah
- What’s Monkercise Ooh and Aah
- Freeze Dance Choo Choo Soul
- Move Like a Chicken Choo Choo Soul
- Special Agent Oso Theme Special Agent Oso
- Johnny and the Sprites Theme Johnny and the Sprites
- My Friends Tigger & Poo Theme My Friends Tigger & Poo
- Nothin’ Can Bounce Like a Tigger My Friends Tigger & Poo
Look for Oh The Things Mommies Do!” this summer, on Amazon.
A press release for the book says: “‘Oh The Things Mommies Do!’ is a bouncy, and playful look at the joys of a two Mom family. With its catchy rhymes and vibrant illustrations, it is a pleasure for children and parents alike.”
Excerpt: “Mommies ride bikes and conquer the flu. They keep on the fridge the things that you drew. Mommies jump on trampolines and plant gardens too. They sing your favorite songs with you! Oh the things mommies do! What could be better than having two?”
Coming June 2009 to Amazon.com; Early Readers: Ages 1 – 5; 28 pg picture book; 8.5″ Square Paper Back
Meanwhile, Publisher’s Weekly helps us find significant books for gay and lesbian parents. Blogger about books, Elizabeth Bluemle, writes: “Happily, there are some new offerings in the mix this season from sensitive and savvy publishers aware of the huge gap in the marketplace. I wish the editors at Tricycle Press could have seen my face when I opened their package containing two bright, glossy board books: Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me, by Lesléa Newman; illus. by Carol Thompson (Tricycle, June 2009). Suffice it to say, I beamed. Then I got a little teary, thinking about how nothing like this existed when my nephews (with two moms) were born.”
“A picture book for slightly older children – Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Calef Brown (Atheneum, February 2009) – presents Gertrude Stein in all her salon glory as a literary figure and an arts afficionado, and also as a companion to Alice B. Toklas. Their relationship isn’t spelled out; it just is, the way the text mirrors Steins circuitous style without first explaining it.
“And finally, one more notable mention: Patricia Polacco’s In Our Mothers’ House (Philomel, May 2009). This is definitely a book intended to introduce a traditional audience to alternative families, and it does so with tenderness and love. Having a writer/artist of Polacco’s stature take on the topic will do a lot to reassure teachers and librarians who are on the fence about bringing books with gay or lesbian parents into their classrooms. It’s also an open-armed celebration of mixed-race and adoptive families; the two moms, called Marmee and Meema, have three kids, all ethnically varied and equally adored.”