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COME OUT, COME OUT, WHOEVER YOU ARE

16 March 2002

Everybody's doing it. Ellen did it. Melissa did it. Now Rosie's doing it.

Rosie O'Donnell's sexual orientation was hardly the world's best kept secret. Perhaps in the heartland of America, among housewives who comprise the bulk of her fans, but within the gay community, it's been well known. There has been a lot of complaint about her remaining in the closet, especially when other stars chose to come out.

(In fact, someone I know today wrote, "You know what? I couldn't care less about Rosie's coming out. First of all, it ain't exactly news. More importantly to me, it stinks of being nothing but hype for her new book. She may raise some awareness regarding gay adoption, and I hope this has good results. But for me, this just seems like typical self-serving crap to further Rosie's career.")

In spite of negative comment, I have to admit I admire her for realizing that she did not owe her public a peek at her private life, and I admire her for choosing to maintain a private life, while working tirelessly for so many causes.

But in interview with Diane Sawyer, Rosie held nothing back. (And her upcoming book was never mentioned.) She answered the easy questions, and she answered the difficult questions. She did it eloquently and she did it with class. She talked of her four year relationship with her partner, and how as far as she is concerned, it is a life-commitment. She discussed being gay. She discussed how she is viewed by some in the gay community. She talked openly and frankly.

She did it for the children

She did it because of the bigoted and short-sighted laws of the state of Florida which would remove an 11 year old boy from the only home, and the only parents he has known since he was 9 weeks old, simply because his parents are a gay couple.

She did it for the children who are languishing in foster care and group homes because there are no heterosexual couples who are willing to take on the problems of an older kid who may be ill, who almost certainly will have emotional difficulties, who will be no blonde curley headed moppet with a sunny disposition and dimples.

I think of my friend who adopted one of these throw-away kids. The child had been in several foster homes, had been ritually abused in two, and had endured horrors I can't even begin to imagine. At age 8, the child was labeled "unadoptable" and doomed to languish in a group home, with no parents and no love until age 18, when the system releases these children into society. Fortunately there was someone out there looking for a child to love. I've watched the difficulties of dealing with this child--and it has definitely been no picnic. Yet the parent has hung in there through the tantrums, through the endless psychologist and psychiatrist visits, through the anger and the testing, through pills for ADHD, through the problems that come with fetal alcohol syndrome and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The child is now about to graduate from high school, knowing love, knowing a family, knowing a home. In Florida this child would have been denied this home, this parent, because my friend is gay.

Will Rosie's interview have any effect? Not if the Florida court has any say in it. They refused to even hear the case of Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau, who are trying to prevent 11 year old Burt from being removed from their home.

Not if the politician (whose name I did not get because I as so furious listening to him) has any say in it. He seemed to feel that a child is better off with no family than to be raised in a gay family. He seemed to feel gay parents are unable to provide a stable environment (never mind that Steve and Roger, who have been together for 18 years, have a more stable relationship than a lot of married couples).

He even reluctantly admitted that "maybe" these men had done something good for the throw-away chidren in their care. "But they will never be adoptive parents," he said, through tight, thin lips.

Once again, I shake my head at a society which feels that institutionalizing children is better than allowing gay people,who are ready and eager to give them a loving home, to adopt. Does homophobia run so deep that we are willing to sacrifice children for its sake?

Apparently so.

The state of Florida would have the public believe that the solution is to place these children in heterosexual families. Perhaps. But there is not exactly a crowd of heterosexual couples lining up outside the doors of adoption agencies. Yet here are two men who have nursed their children to health, who have given them stability, who have given them love, and who only want to legalize the relationship so the kids can know they have real parents. But that is apparently too big a step for the homophobic politicians of Florida to take.

I applaud Rosie O'Donnell for choosing to come out publicly in order to shed light on this situation and on the plight of this family.

I believe public figures do not owe their fans any more than the performances they give. They are permitted to leave their public face behind and go home to the private place where they live without inviting the audience to come along to inspect their private life. Coming out for Rosie was stepping out of that private place in order to help the children.

The decision to come out is a very difficult, sometimes painful one. Sometimes it takes something so big, so important that it's more difficult to stay in the closet than it is to step out of it.

Read more about the Lofton family and speak out against Florida's ban on gay adoption by visiting the ACLU site

 

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