When Romney Said “Your Adopted Daughter”
This is not about politics. Set that aside for a moment.
People get things wrong from each other’s lives. The details which seem so obvious to us — that define us — are glossed over by others when they speak to us, speak about us. How many people who have lost a child have been introduced as someone without children, as if that human being never existed? How many people have had aspects of their identity erased — their partner described as a boyfriend or girlfriend? So that part of this quote didn’t exactly shock me. It’s part of human nature; as we collect up and file information in our brain that we get bytes of it wrong, misplaced.
What did shock me was Romney’s insertion of the adjective “adopted” when talking with Julie Goodridge, the biological mother, whose partner at the time, Hillary, was not allowed visitation rights in the hospital following the birth of their daughter, Annie. Goodridge was meeting with Romney over the topic of same-sex marriage,
“I looked him in the eye as we were leaving,” recalls Goodridge. “And I said, ‘Governor Romney, tell me — what would you suggest I say to my 8 year-old daughter about why her mommy and her ma can’t get married because you, the governor of her state, are going to block our marriage?’”
His response, according to Goodridge: “I don’t really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don’t you just tell her the same thing you’ve been telling her the last eight years.”
The adjective was wholly unnecessary, and in its glaring extraneousness, it feels inserted as a statement. About what, I have no clue. But when the sentence begins, “I don’t really care…” I don’t think the insertion of that adjective is accidental, non-meaningful. It is a rewriting that is more than a rewriting.
Goodridge was upset that the details of her daughter’s life were completely rewritten by an adjective, but — to me — these recorded moments speak to something so much greater; the way the general public views assisted family building. And it shocks me perhaps most of all because Romney is on the front lines of infertility: his sons have used IVF and surrogacy to build their families. And when we can’t even get a modicum of understanding and sensitivity from someone who is staring down assisted family building six inches away from his face at home, how can we expect someone with no tie to infertility to understand the enormity of being responsible for explaining your child’s unusual origin story to them? And, for that matter, to others when they ask why your child doesn’t look like you or do twins run in your family? How can they understand the enormity of balancing two families for your child in the case of open adoption or an on-going relationship with a gamete donor or surrogate?
We are a generation that more than any other generation is charting a new path through assisted family building, and we’re doing this with only a flimsy framework of support and research in place. Other generations will be able to use the knowledge we glean, but right now, we’re passing it from mother to mother, from father to father, from hopeful soon-to-be-a-parent to hopeful soon-to-be-a-parent. It is all linear, without the benefit of retrospect. And we do this because it is the way we reach parenthood if we want to reach parenthood; the traditional doors to parenthood closed to us either due to physical limitations or circumstance. I am speaking about myself, and I am speaking about you. I am speaking about the millions upon millions of people around the world who cannot build their family without assistance.
The support comes from within, we are shored up with information that comes from within and is used from within. I am still waiting for the day when our strength comes from having billions of points of support coming from outside the ALI community, knowing that every person we bring into the world or raise becomes another member of society down the road, so it is within all our best interests to aid in their creation or existence. That child you ignore today will become the adult who will affect your life down the line. That is why we should care, and why I don’t believe anyone should begin a statement with “I don’t really care…”
Please do not reduce this to a political post. This is not about Romney or Obama or any other candidate. This is about humanity; about asking for a tiny corner of understanding in the general world where family building comes easy. In giving us support when we ask — quite plainly as Goodridge does — please help me. Because what she is saying with her words is that reality is hard enough for families who have come together with assistance without having something simple — such as marriage — withheld to create yet another layer to add to the story. Overcoming the limits of biology is hard enough; we don’t need to add insensitivity to the burden.