An important thing to note is that Everett wasn't misquoted. He went on TV to defend his views this week where he said, "I’m not against anybody doing anything. I think the reason that’s great about living in England, is we can do more or less what we want. Just I, personally, feel like that. But it doesn’t mean to say,…I have lots of gay friends with children, I have lots of gay friends who have got married, I’ve been to lots of gay weddings, but I’m not big into marriage straight or gay to be honest."
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and as I said earlier, this blog isn't really about Everett, it's about his view; a view that is shared by many people around the world. A view, that for many reasons, I feel is ignorant and quite offensive to gay parents and children of gay parents.
In 2011 the number of children in care in England increased from 64,400 to 65,520 from the previous year. The majority of these children were living with foster parents, but almost 8,000 were in some kind of residential care. Now I'm not sure if you're shocked by those figures or not. I can't really say what my guess would have been before seeing those numbers to be honest but whichever way you look at it, it's pretty clear to me that there are a lot of children in England (and throughout the rest of the world) who are growing up outside of a loving home with a family who take care of them, love them, ecourage them and ultimately shape their futures.
There are various reasons why children are taken into care, but shockingly out of those 65,520 children who were living in care during 2011 in England, 40,410 were doing so because of family neglect or abuse in their family home. A further 8,930 were in care due to 'family dysfunction'. I couldn't find figures that broke down how many of these families were headed by gay parents but my assumption (and I'm open to discussion about this) is that most of them didn't. I base that assumption on the sheer number of 'traditional' families with straight parents than those with gay parents. I guess it doesn't really matter, my point isn't that straight parents are worse than gay parents, that would be ridiculous. My point is that there are many parents who for whatever reason, are unable to care for their own children, so much so that a huge amount are removed from the family home and placed in care homes and residential units.
I have friends, a couple who adopted their daughter and they do a great job looking after her, loving her and showing her right from wrong. It took them two and a half years from their first communication with the adoption agency to the point at which they were given custody of their daughter and this time was filled with interviews, observations and judgements being made as to whether they would make good parents. They obviously passed the relevant tests and it was decided that they were suitable to take care of a child. My friends are a straight couple by the way. No one could disagree that this little girl is better off in their care, growing up in a loving and caring home. So then, what if my friends were gay? What if they were two men? Again, I suggest that the little girl's home with her two dads would be a much more stable environment for her to grow up in rather than a care home. "But she won't have a mum", some people will say. "The poor thing will get bullied at school", others will claim.
The fact of the matter is that the little girl, if adopted by two gay men who were in a loving, stable relationship, who had passed all the same tests as any couple going through the process, would be growing up in a safe, nuturing home rather than an under-funded, resource-stretched care home with no mother OR father figure to speak of. As for the bullying at school issue - children get bullied for having the wrong trainers, it doesn't mean we should ban cheap brands of footwear does it? In my experience as a youth worker, schools want to do their best to stamp out any kind of bullying and so the reason for the bullying is not really important. We can't deny a child a loving home just in case some of their classmates may have an issue with it years down ther line.
I would hope that the majority of you would agree that a child placed in a loving home with gay parents would be emotionally better off than if they were to be raised in the care system. If you don't then I'm happy to hear your argument. There's a comments box underneath for a reason! However, this brings me on to the crux of the entire debate I guess - Is having gay parents worse than having both a mum and a dad? The answer? It depends on the parents. It's as simple as that. I could use the argument that most gay dads or gay mums who have kids would have made the conscious decision to do so which would suggest that the child would be wanted. But it's not always the case that unwanted pregnancies in straight couples produce unloved children. I could use the argument that in my job I've met some truly awful mothers and fathers who beat their kids, abuse them and show not an ounce of love towards them; straight mothers and fathers. But we know these parents exist. I could start talking about children who grow up in single parent families without a mum or dad and play devil's advocate in suggesting that these children will somehow grow up damaged due to having an absent parent. I find this suggestion offensive. I know many single parents who make it their life's goal to give their kids a good life and the lack of a second parent does nothing to shake that.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that people who share Rupert Everett's view that children being brought up in families with same sex parents are somehow predisposed to a less enriching life than those in a 'traditional' family, should stop and consider what it is their suggesting.
In an ideal world Dad wouldn't take heroin in front of his kids.
In an ideal world Mum wouldn't be an alcoholic and forget to pick her kids up from school.
In an ideal world Dad wouldn't beat the crap out of Mum with the kids listening from upstairs.
In an ideal world Dad wouldn't have an affair and leave Mum to raise their kids on her own.
In an ideal world Mum wouldn't die of cancer leaving dad to raise his three young daughters.
We don't live in an ideal world Rupert, we live in the real world where bad shit happens. Having both a mother and a father isn't a magical recipe for a golden childhood, it can be, but that's dependant on the quality of the parenting, the love they have for their children and the relationships they work on forging with their children.
Parents should be judged on their parenting not on their sexuality. Kids are tougher than we give them credit for sometimes but one thing I'm certain of - I'd much rather have two dads who wanted me, loved me and worked two and half years to prove to some strangers they could care for me, than a mum and a dad whose lives I was simply a part of.
Founder of RUCOMINGOUT
Figures taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-15091270
Read about Rupert Everett's comments on gaystarnews http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/rupert-everett-defends-controversial-comments-gay-parents190912