My friends have been my compass for gay rights. I have had the pleasure of watching them get married and build strong families. I wrote about my friends and their journeys in ONE GAY AMERICAN.
I devote a chapter in ONE GAY AMERICAN to two of my oldest and dearest friends. JR and Troy-Skott have been in a committed relationship for almost 20 years. In the spring of 2011, they were certified by the state of Washington to become foster parents with the intention to adopt. Not long after, they welcomed a two month old boy into their home. The baby was born affected by prenatal drug use.
The process of adopting the boy has been bumpy. The mother’s parental rights have been terminated. The father is in jail and his rights will be terminated. Yet blood relatives from out of state have come forward seeking custody. They have not met the boy, nor did they know he even existed until a few months ago.
JR and Troy Skott are devastated and are facing the very real possibility of losing the child they are fostering and desperately want to keep. This child is nearly two years old has grown attached to the only parents he has known.
In a few weeks a judge will rule where the baby belongs. The state will decide who the “real parents” should be: the gay couple who have been raising him or the blood relatives who have never met him.
It’s complicated. JR and Troy Skott have asked their friends and family to write letters on their behalf to help give their case validity. Here is my letter:
A Letter to the CASA and Case Worker for TJ
My name is Dennis Milam Bensie and I have personally known JR Welden and Troy-Skott Pope since 1994.
Like TJ, I was the product of an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy. I was adopted and given a loving home by my parents – my adoptive parents – after a few rough months of being in a scary transition. Despite having contact with my biological mother (and to a tiny degree my biological father), my adoptive parents have always been my “real parents”.
I have my own special bond with TJ. When I see TJ I see myself at his age–the little guy who had a very rough start to life. I am referred to as TJ’s Uncle Dennis, despite not being biologically related to this wonderful family.
After TJ came along, I was given an assignment by JR and Troy-Skott. When the day comes that he starts asking questions about where he came from and who his biological parents are, I have been asked to follow up their explanation with a special, one on one conversation. I will happily explain to him what it means to be adopted. I am ready to tell him first hand how remarkable it is to be wanted and to be raised in a home with loving parents no matter what their biological ties are.
Just like TJ, I transitioned from one situation to another at a very young age. His and my stories are very similar. Family and friends rallied and emotionally supported JR and Troy Skott when they first got him. They had many tough days and nights as they nurtured him, just as biological parents would. TJ was, no doubt, confused for a while living at PICC and then with his new dads. It took awhile for him to accept the love his new family offered, but he came to know the men as his parents. They are the only parents TJ has ever known.
TJ is an exceptionally happy baby now. He smiles and laughs all the time. He – actually the whole family – is full of energy and joy. Their house is a fun place to be. TJ has the best family I have ever seen. He is the luckiest boy alive.
Despite the folks in XXXXXXXX being his biological relatives, I can say from my experience being adopted, that bloodlines make no difference. TJ is where he belongs right now. It would be a shame to break up this wonderful family and for TJ to have to start all over with people he has never met. Asking this child to transition again at this crucial age would leave a lifelong imprint on him. It would be another set of explanations, another reason for him to question his existence, not to mention another detrimental period of adjustment. It will do way more damage to him than good. It would be cruel to make him go through all of that.
TJ is wanted in Seattle. There is already an enormous bond between TJ and JR and Troy-Skott. They have a whole network of fans who want their family to stay intact. TJ has a very secure and happy future awaiting him in Seattle with people who know him and love him like crazy.
Please let TJ stay in Seattle. It is the right thing to do.
Dennis Milam Bensie