A critical element of your adoption or second parent adoption paperwork are letters of reference from people who presumably know you well and can attest to your outstanding character and fitness to be a parent. These letters can be important tools that sway social workers and pregnant women to consider you as suitable parents. And let’s be frank: you need letters from straight people.
Straight people belong to the same tribe and speak the same language as the people you are trying to impress. No matter how elevated and prestigious your gay friends may be, their letters will never have as much credibility as the letters from upstanding straight people who write on your behalf.
These straight references can be work colleagues, personal friends with access to their impressive corporate stationery, and high-profile acquaintances who haven’t been tied to a scandal yet. And at least one or two of these references should be parents themselves.
Endorsements from straight people prove that you are already integrated into the straight world. They reassure skeptical social workers that you basically already have a Green Card and are willing to memorize the Pledge of Straight Parenting Allegiance to earn full citizenship rights.
Typically when asked for such a reference, straight friends and colleagues are flattered—after all, your request indicates great trust in them—and they take the assignment very seriously. In a few instances, however, and despite their good intensions, your intended reference does not possess the self-awareness or highly developed writing skills to craft a message that effectively articulates his or her unqualified confidence in you. While attempting to help you, he or she actually does more damage.
Be on the look out for dangerous subtexts in the reference letters you receive. Vet all letters multiple times before including them in your completed home study package. If you anticipate one of your needed straight references may not be quite up to the task, consider offering to draft a letter they can sign—“to save them time.”
How do you know what red flags to look for in your reference letters? The sample letter below provides examples of six cardinal sins your straight letter writers must avoid.
6 Mistakes Straight People Should Avoid When Writing a Reference for a Gay Prospective Parent
|#1 Never trumpet your heterosexuality. Readers will immediately wonder if this writer is latently gay. The writer has just lost credibility. |
#2 Avoid signal words that weaken your message of support. This writer (perhaps unintentionally) acknowledges a belief that most gays wouldn’t make good parent.
| To Whom It May Concern,|
I am a happily married heterosexual man with two children, and I have known Bob for five years. Although he is a homosexual, let me assure you that he is otherwise >an incredibly normal person.
|#3 Never mention sex. At this point any astute social worker is wondering what kind of fantasy life this married heterosexual has. Now she is reading to find out about the writer, not the adoptive parents.||Bob has never tried to kiss me or fondle my private parts, and my wife and I never cease to be amazed at his ability to converse about things that matter to us: the spike in gasoline prices, the war in Iraq, global warming, and who will be eliminated from competition on the next episode of Dancing with the Stars.|
|#4 Avoid making gay people seem like a different species. What “needs” do hospitalized straight people have that gay ones don’t?|
#5 Never betray that you have entertained private doubts about the gay person. The unspoken message here: Even your gay friends need to be watched carefully. Can they really be trusted with children?
|In his job as a male surgical nurse, Bob ministers to heterosexual people day in and day out, and he is always sympathetic to their needs. Bob has also helped my wife and I with our children. Once, during a family emergency, he watched our children for five hours. During that time, nothing untoward happened. (We have a nanny-cam at home, and we reviewed all five hours of tapes carefully upon our return.)|
|#6 Don’t offend the people who will be reading your letter. They have devoted themselves to working in a relatively low-paying field so that they can help needy children by matching them with people who will love and care for them.||For all of these reasons, I am confident Bob will make an exceptional parent. Other straight people may question his worthiness, but I am sure some unfortunate special needs or Third World child who doesn’t stand a chance of getting adopted by a straight person would be only too grateful to have a gay dad like him.|
© 2008 by Carrie Smith. All rights reserved.