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Old 02-22-2013, 02:04 AM   #1
christwriter
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Question: Shoot if inapproprete

Let me preface this by saying that I'm straight, and I'm putting these issues in my writing because I think the way straight people treat gay people is unfair and wrong, and that these issues at least need to be mentioned.

I'm working on a serial fantasy novel, and I've kind of wound up in a tangle. I'd like to know if I've dug myself into a pit and should get out of it, or if I should keep running the way I'm going. The VP character is straight, but two members of the supporting cast are gay and are in the process of adopting a kid. The novel is set in Texas.

There is a breif mention of sexual assault.

In the last book the VP character asked them how the adoption process was, and we had a (short) conversation about the circumstances (In short: stranger adoption fell through, so one character is now fighting to adopt his sister's unborn kid. It's the product of a sexual assault and she didn't want to abort, so she's fine with the process, but a rapist's parental rights are protected in that state and the "father" is fighting the adoption.) and I just laid everything out, that this is what they're going through, and left it there.

My intent was to show that our treatment of would-be gay parents is that hideously unfair. Now I'm not sure if this is problematic or not. Is it?

And a second question: in the second book I've planned the following: one member of this couple (the brother) was seriously injured and the other character mentions to the VP character that he's realized how much he loses if anything happens to his partner. That if the adoption goes through and something happens to the brother, the partner might lose the kid, that he doesn't even get to marry--which is a touchy issue for the VP character because she's dealing with fallout from her own marrige and there will be an undertone of "at least you got legal blessing to be with him" during this conversation--and I plan to have it end with him saying something like "This isn't about you (straight people) and the only reason that you've got anything to do with it is you won't let us fix it."

Would it be more wrong to have the VP character try to say something, or to end the scene without having her say anything?

(...and is it wrong for me to be writing this at all?)
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:20 AM   #2
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I won't speak to the second issue, but I see the first more as 'why the hell does a rapist have any say in this matter?'.

But I don't know the specifics. If both mother and father were okay with it, could the gay couple still not adopt the kid? Or is it just that the mother's consent is not enough? If the second scenario is the case, this is a women's rights issue.
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:35 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satsya View Post
I won't speak to the second issue, but I see the first more as 'why the hell does a rapist have any say in this matter?'.
Dunno how it is elsewhere, and I'm Not A Lawyer, but yeah, I can see this happening in some states. In VA, the biological father has to willfully sign over his parental rights. I don't know if the circumstances change if the child is a result of rape, but I can definitely see a shitty lawyer getting that guy his day in court.

To the OP: From where I'm sitting, you've created a very realistic and gut-wrenching situation that, far as I can tell, you've done your homework on. Nothing is coming across as problematic to me--at least, the situation sucks, but it doesn't sound like you're handling it offensively.
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satsya View Post
I won't speak to the second issue, but I see the first more as 'why the hell does a rapist have any say in this matter?'.

This, to me, is the single biggest outrage in the way our system handles rape. Many, many rapists who impregnate their victims receive reduced sentences and/or non-sexual-offense sentences (i.e., assault instead of rape) because our legal system allows them to use the baby as leverage: I'll waive my parental rights if you'll reduce the charges against me.

What kind of choice is that for a woman? Know that you're allowing your attacker to escape justice, including all of the restrictions that a sex offender conviction would bring, or know that your attacker will be a major part of your life due to a child that you have been forced to raise because he opposed adoption?
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:22 AM   #5
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I second the "gut-wrenching situation, but it seems like you're handling it sensitively" impression. (And presumably you want it to be gut-wrenching within the story.)

To answer your questions:

1 - Is showing the unfairness in the adoption process problematic? Not at all, as long as you do your research and get all the facts about Texas law right, which it looks like you are and then some. In fact, I would say it's good to have this sort of situation in fiction, because if it's something that could happen this tragically in real life, having it in fiction is a Good Thing.

2 - Whether the VP character should say something in the second part -- I'm not 100 percent sure I followed your description of the conversation. It sounds like your handling of the issues is nuanced, though. I'm not worried about your portrayal from reading your post, at least.

3 - Is it wrong for you, a straight person, to be writing about this? My opinion is absolutely not -- it's great for more light to come to these issues no matter who's writing about them (as always with the "as long as they're handled respectfully and accurately" caveat, and it seems like you've gone to great lengths to do that).

tl;dr: From what you've said in your post, it sounds like you are doing your research and writing nuanced, nonstereotypical portrayals of your queer people, and you are telling the story of a tragic situation in a sensitive way that will touch your readers and provoke thought in them. If your story is as well-characterized as your post, I wouldn't worry.

p.s. -- Kudos and thanks for writing about these issues.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:00 AM   #6
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I'm in agreement that there's nothing wrong about writing these issues. I don't see the first one as even an issue of the couple being gay, unless that's specifically why the birth father is refusing to give up his parental rights. As for the second, is it not possible for the partner to also get parental rights? I'm not sure about the law here, and it may vary from state to state, but if you haven't already researched that, it may be worth looking into. I will say the legal marriage issue is very sensitive, so step lightly into it. Not because you're straight but because it's a tough issue to navigate, and that kind of conversation can cause damage to a friendship.

For the overall concern for being straight and writing about lbgt issues, just make sure you write them as people and not as gays. I've seen too many gay characters that are defined by their sexuality, but they're people like anyone else.
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Old 02-23-2013, 03:46 AM   #7
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The situation you are describing does sound very unfair, and like you did your research.

I had a baby born via a sperm donor who I know, and my wife adopted him as a co-parent. We did have to have the sperm donor also waive his rights (but in our wills we put that he would get custody of the child of something should happen to both me and my wife).

I think that people of all types should write about a variety of people . . . we need more stories that show the true diversity of the world.

As far as your second question, if you want your character to respond that's completely up to you. I'm not sure how the sweeping "this isn't about you (straight people)" statement fits in, really. What response were you thinking of?
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:30 PM   #8
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Speaking to the biological parents' rights question: Here in Massachusetts, we recently had a case where the father of a three-year-old girl was taking the mother to court to gain visitation rights and possibly attempt to gain shared legal custody of the child. (News reports were a bit unclear on that.)

The mother is 17 years old. When she was 14, she was raped. The three-year-old child is the product of that rape; the father, who was 18 at the time of the assault, served jail time. (He may still be in jail, I wasn't clear on that either.) And yet Massachusetts law allowed him to seek parental rights to the child who was born as a result of a CRIME he committed.

So yeah, I can definitely buy into a rapist fighting to block the adoption of a child he fathered during the rape. And there are states in which it would be perfectly legal for him to do so, even if he was convicted of the crime.
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Old 02-24-2013, 12:01 AM   #9
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To be clear, I wasn't wondering about the believability of the rapist holding legal sway. I was raging against horribly sexist laws.

I do agree, it sounds as though the gay rights issues are being handled with thought. However the whole first problem the OP gave seemed to me like a set-up to tackle women's rights as much as gay rights. Luckily, speaking about one doesn't prevent or take away from speaking about the other.
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Old 03-14-2013, 01:20 AM   #10
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I won't speak to the second issue, but I see the first more as 'why the hell does a rapist have any say in this matter?'.
Because in some states, rapists have paternity rights, and also have more rights than LGBT folks.

Disgusting, but true. As for why this is the case, there is a group of politically powerful people in this country who are trying to convince everyone that rape is 1. Something women make up in order to ruin the lives of men, and 2. Something women often ask for by not behaving in an appropriately timid, circumspect and feminine manner (aka politician's comments about "legitimate" rape and all that).

To them, the majority of accused, and even convicted rapists, are merely poor schmucks who either pissed off some vindictive woman or who understandably "misinterpreted" some woman's dress, demeanor, choice of location or whatever as an invitation for sex.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:43 AM   #11
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Yeah, a politician saying women's bodies prevent them from getting pregnant in "legitimate" rape are sickening.

I think it also ties into the belief of some that everything that happens is God's will, even pregnancies which come from rape, which of course, the rape may or may not be "legitimate" and etc. etc.

I can't write about it anymore, it's too much imagination for me!
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Old 03-27-2013, 01:08 AM   #12
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As a queer identified woman I don't have an issue with that scenario at all, by that I mean you writing it. I think it's important to highlight issues like this, and the more that can do it through a variety of media formats, the better. I do agree with what others have said though, make sure you know the laws of the area you're setting it in. And also, and this is just my own personal opinion, pet peeve, as a straight person try not to soapbox on our behalf. By that I mean just write your scenario, show the way it effects the characters, the impact on their lives and so on, but don't have them dragging out the proverbial microphone and start giving lectures. I don't know about anyone else, but when I read stuff like that in Queer lit works that I know are written by heterosexual people, my brain tends to automatically go 'Oh great, now they're trying to usurp our communities struggles and telling us how we're supposed to be responding to these issues'. I'm not saying that's necessarily the right, or even a good response, but it is a, let's say a 'knee jerk' response I do get. Basically your characters don't have to give lectures in order for you to get your point across in an effective manner.
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