Paul Perry joined COLAGE’s board of directors in 2010 and is pursuing his doctorate in Educational Leadership at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. In honor of National Adoption Month, he shares his story as an adopted COLAGEr.
I took home a word.
At 5 years old, I took home that word. Bouncing along down the street with my Batman backpack, inside it my Ninja Turtles lunchbox, inside that my X-men thermos. I wasn’t supposed to have to deal with that word. I watched the look of pain wash over my father’s face when I told him. He had heard it many times before in many other places. But his fervent wish was for such a word to never be directed at his beloved child.
After all, I was already a very unlikely child. Born to a drug-addicted mother who was pregnant with me while she was in prison, I was saved by her inability to feed her addiction behind bars. She had already been through five abortions and the doctors did not think her womb could support life. But I was a “fighting fetus.” I was determined to get born! Once I was, I was adopted by my father and his partner. Their families shunned me initially because of my race and difficult background. My father thought about how—with a story like that—I had enough challenges in store for me, and he did not want me to have to answer for his sexuality too. Deep down though, the pit in his stomach told him that it was inevitable.
When asked who our heroes are, many of us mention one or both of our parents. For me, this question and my answer to it take on a deeper meaning given my life circumstances. My father and his partner rescued me from being another abortion or another statistic in the streets. Despite the clouds gathered around my initial entrance into this world, they gave me a wonderful childhood. I learned my numbers on the cash register working in our family store–my first job. I played baseball and climbed trees. I became student council president in high school. And I did what no one in our family had done before: I graduated from college. All the while I was taught by them to persevere and move beyond the discrimination we faced as a family. I never had a community like COLAGE growing up and our work now is to ensure that children with LGBTQ parents who are isolated, as I was, realize that they are supported by a strong and vibrant community of peers.