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I Was Raised by Gay Parents

Photograph by Getty Images

"See this line, mija?" The neighbor was pointing at the sidewalk next to our house while talking to his daughter. "Don't cross it. Ellos son maricones, they're faggots."

I knew the man saw me standing there, broom in hand, while he said those vile words, but I was speechless. At just 8 years old, I didn't have the courage to speak up to such hatred, and so I continued to sweep, pretending I didn't hear him.

Those words stung me, though, and nearly 30 years later, I still haven't forgotten them.

Five years before, my brother and I had officially moved in with our tío (I call him my dad) when our mother, who struggled with drug addiction, could no longer care for us. A year later, his partner joined us, and we'd been an imperfect familia ever since.

I'd learned the lesson early on that we were never to speak about our family dynamics. If asked, we were to say our parents were hermanos and to never, ever tell anyone that they hugged, kissed, shared a bedroom, and loved each other like a mother and father do.

We were terrified that child protective services would take us away and place us in foster care if our living arrangements were discovered.

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It was the 1980s, and gay parents were unheard of; HIV and AIDS terrified the world, and was wrongly attributed as being caused by homosexuality. Being gay was immoral, sinful, a scourge on society. We were terrified that child protective services would take us away and place us in foster care if our living arrangements were discovered.

We were careful, but at times, people figured out our secret. Usually, like our neighbor, they didn't take it well, and if they had children, they wouldn't allow them to play with us any longer.

It took me nearly 20 years to find the courage to speak up about my upbringing. It wasn't because I was ashamed, but rather because I had been taught by society that the people who loved, cared for and sheltered us were shameful.

Now, as a grown woman, with two teenagers of my own, I feel compelled to share my story, especially as our country is still debating the safety of same-sex parent households, and still fighting for marriage equality.

RELATED: My Sister is Latina, Gay and Getting Legally Married

Just like when I was a child, there are still arguments against gay parents raising children, and some of them are just plain silly.

For instance, I've heard people say that children of gay parents are more likely to turn out gay themselves.

This myth seems to rely on the assumption that homosexuality is a learned behavior, not an innate part of a person. While it's not standard for me to out anyone's sexuality, I feel my counter-argument is best stated by sharing that neither my brother nor I learned to be homosexual. While little research exists to explore this phenomenon, evidence shows that the sexual orientation of a parent does not influence the sexual orientation of a child.

Another claim I've long heard is that gay couples are more unstable than straight couples, leading to disruption and confusion for the child.

Gay couples are statistically happier, less likely to cheat, and better able to maintain a long-term, loving relationship than heterosexual couples.

Both of my parents stayed together in a committed relationship the entire time we lived in the home. In fact, research correlates with my experience, indicating gay couples are statistically happier, less likely to cheat, and better able to maintain a long-term, loving relationship than heterosexual couples.

Finally, I've often heard people say it's unnatural for gay parents to raise children, (recently high-fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana, who are both openly gay, made a similar, surprising statement).

While research has clearly shown no correlation between a parent's sexual orientation and the well-being of the children they raise, I offer a more personal example.

RELATED: Study Finds Kids of Gay Parents Are Healthier Than Straight Ones

When our tío took me and my brother into his home, he did so because we had absolutely no one else left to care for us. Neither of us had our biological fathers in our lives. Our mother had abandoned me at 11 months old to pursue a drug stash in another part of the state (dragging my brother along for the ride). A few months later, she left my brother to fend for himself, at just 3 years old, and our tío found him digging in a dumpster, searching for food.

If living with our biological, straight parent was natural, I'm certain that unnatural was our salvation, and possibly the only chance we had at survival. We were allowed to stay together, instead of being broken apart by the foster system, and given a second chance familia.

We spent the next two years moving from one home to another until our tío, who was just 21 years old at the time himself, could take us both in and give us a permanent, loving home.

If living with our biological, straight parent was natural, I'm certain that unnatural was our salvation, and possibly the only chance we had at survival. We were allowed to stay together, instead of being broken apart by the foster system, and given a second chance familia.

Today I am a mother, a wife, a college graduate (with honors), a volunteer and mentor, a writer and an activist. The opportunity I had as a child to have a home, no matter how unusual, set me on the path I'm on today.

In 2012, roughly 400,000 children in the United States were placed in foster care, and an estimated 15% of those children (approximately 60,000) were permanently removed from their homes.

What these children need are loving, stable parents, not arguments about homosexuality being immoral. And just like a straight couples, gay couples are more than capable of raising their own children with love and integrity.

For me, this is a zero-sum issue. It's time we see gay parents for what they really are: An opportunity for children to be safe and to be loved. Nothing else matters.

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