A week ago, J and I filled the diaper bag with snacks and coloring books and doodads and trinkets and drove 30 minutes from our hotel in Long Beach to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Norwalk to finalize Olivia’s adoption. I feel like I’m supposed to write a moving bit about how the boring courtroom (looks NOTHING like Law & Order, to my continuing disappointment) and the no-frills signing and the in-and-out-in-15-minutes was really much more meaningful than it would have appeared, and I felt a soaring sense of completion upon exiting the court, a certified copy of the adoption decree in my hand.
But I can’t write that because it’s not true. From an intellectual standpoint, I am SO VERY GLAD that J now has inalienable legal rights to Olivia, rights NO ONE, not even the back-asswards state of Georgia (that does not recognize our marriage) can take away from her. I’m also glad that the adoption order protects Olivia, in the unthinkable case that something happens to J or me, or our relationship.
But emotionally? A whole different story. I’m pissed that we even had to go through the process in the first place. J’s name appears as “Parent B” on Olivia’s birth certificate, which is good enough for every straight couple out there, but not, apparently, for us.
Aside: Ok, given the recent repeal of DOMA, maybe it would have been good enough for us, if we were 10000% sure that California was our forever state of residence. But we, like tons of other Americans, have and will most likely again relocate for better job opportunities, for more money and better real estate, and I don’t think it’s either plausible or fair to expect J to walk into her employers office and say, “Hey! That awesome opportunity in Georgia? Not gonna take it, because it compromises the security of my family.”
Aside to the aside: the way the repeal of DOMA works, from what I understand, doesn’t make me as happy as one might think on the surface. Gay couples living in states where gay marriage remains illegal aren’t reaping any of the benefits the repeal offers. We’d have to both be MARRIED IN and RESIDE IN a state with legal gay marriage for any of these benefits (the biggest one being filing taxes jointly), and Georgia, being NOT ONE OF THOSE, still does not have to recognize our legal Canadian marriage. This creates a gay ghetto in the states with gay marriage, and if something doesn’t change REAL QUICK, the fed is going to find itself in a total quagmire come April, when gays in Massachusetts are filing jointly, while gays in Nebraska are still shit out of luck. Two flavors of gay! It’s the American way!
Ok, I’m done with my asides. Fine, so J has to adopt Olivia for an added layer of protection, and I am “happy” to shell out her hard-earned money to do so, and glad we have the means to fly all three of us across-country for a 15 minute court appearance. Not everyone is so blessed, and I can’t spend too long thinking about other gay families who aren’t so lucky.
But this blog is about me, so here’s my side of the story. In the courtroom, I had to sign a paper (for the third time), giving my legal permission for J to adopt Olivia, which I did. But then, while J was trying to keep Olivia from climbing, monkey-style, over the stadium seating in the audience, the judge leaned over the table, and looked me in the eye, very seriously. “Do you understand that by signing this document, you are giving up your 100% rights to Olivia?” WELL SURE, FUCKER, OF COURSE I UNDERSTAND, BUT WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY… well, I suppose I should be ashamed, but my stomach dropped. “Yes, I do,” I said, and signed the paperwork.
Like a lightening strike, it became obvious to me why I’d been a pretty rancid companion for the past few days- that’s a hard thing to hear, even when you’ve already BEEN doing just that for as long as Olivia’s been alive. J and I have been partners and cohorts in parenting since we first spotted the enlarge follicle that was to become half of Olivia. She’s been my support and my steady, my equal partner, my biggest fan. So my reaction makes me an ass, and I recognize that. But it would be dishonest to say otherwise, so there you have it.
Of course, a week later, I’m over it. OF COURSE I will share my parenting duties with J. OF COURSE she is as much Olivia’s mother as I am. And OF COURSE we will continue to be a family, legal paperwork or not. I’m glad that now I, too, can stop thinking about it, just like all straight parents. We’re covered.