THE BLOG
13/11/2013 07:07 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

'Gay' Is Just an Adjective

Are children born homophobic? Of course not, but some are born with parents who can't, or won't, look after them.

There are 93,000 of those children in the UK. Imagine Wembley Stadium filled to capacity; that's how many currently live in the care of local authorities. While some will be returned to their parents, the rest languish in care homes until suitable adopters are found.

That rarely happens. Just over 4,000 children, less than 5% of all those in care, were placed for adoption last year. This is despite few real barriers to serious applicants. Prospective adopters must be over 21 but there is no upper age limit. Being single does not prevent a person from adopting, either does having a low household income or being unemployed. Even a criminal conviction does not automatically rule a person out. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) isn't supposed to create barriers either.

Evidently, it still does.

The dust is only just settling on a case in Northern Ireland where the Health Minister, Edwin Poots, appealed a high court decision to allow gay and unmarried couples to adopt. This is the same elected official who recently tried to institute a ban on gay blood donors; he spent over £100,000 of public money between the campaigns.

Same-sex adoption also touches a nerve in Scotland. Last week, St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society was shortlisted for the prestigious Voluntary Adoption Service of the Year Award; the same Glasgow-based charity accused of unlawfully discriminating against gay people by refusing to accept applications from unmarried couples.

So barriers still clearly exist for prospective LGBTI adopters, but that's hardly ground-breaking news, is it? Whether we like to admit it or not, LGBTI discrimination is ingrained in the fabric of society and washing it out will take a long time.

Personally, I think that LGBTI couples are as capable as anyone at giving a child, who would otherwise languish in care, a secure home with material wealth. I believe that two full-time parents are better than the foster-care system, whether you call it a 'family' or not. I despise the argument that children raised by LGBTI couples are more likely to be gay. That wrongly assumes that being gay is somehow 'wrong'. Conversely, if religious adoption agencies would close rather than allow gay couples to adopt, then already low adoption rates would further decline, leaving more in the unsatisfactory care system. That is not in the best interests of the child.

However, that's not the point of this article. I'm not another rectitudinous straight male having a self-aggrandising tirade about gay rights to impress my gay friends or to appear 'modern' and 'progressive'.

My argument shouldn't need to be argued at all. It is almost comically simple. I believe that adoption debates should be about adoption. They are neither a vehicle to push marriage equality nor a platform to push thinly-veiled homophobia.

It is telling that we call it 'gay adoption' or 'same-sex adoption'. The terms 'gay' and 'same-sex' are adjectives. They are merely descriptive words preceding the noun. That's where we're going wrong in the same-sex adoption debate. We argue about the 'gay' more than we focus on the 'adoption'.

Unfortunately, it is usually the people who know least about adoption who most vociferously oppose same-sex adopters. Anyone who is informed knows that adoption is not about finding children for families, it's about finding families for children. No child is a commodity to be traded. They are not possessions.

Whether they are gay, straight, bi-curious, oversexed, undersexed or celibate, adopters must be special, almost selfless people who are driven purely by the desire to raise a child for the child's sake.

More importantly, anyone who grasps the issues knows that the adopters are not (normally) the cause of the child's trauma. The most devastating trauma stems from the splitting of parent and child. Adoptees are afflicted by separation trauma. There is no such thing as 'given-to-gays' trauma.

Separation trauma ensures that adoption is traumatic even before the adoptee meets their new family. The child is torn away from its biological mother, placed in the arms of strangers and left with no explanation and no way to express their feelings. This is a terrifically terrifying experience for an adoptee of any age. In the midst of this terror, do you think any children really stop to consider the sexual orientation of their new parents? No. Children are not homophobic unless we teach them to be.

We must remember that adoption brings tremendous challenges, not the sexuality of the adopters. No matter how it happens or who is involved, it is a challenge for the child. It is a fundamentally life-altering event. It is a monumental manipulation of destiny. 'Gay' is just an adjective.