To all who have taken interest in this case;
On November 23, 1998, I was served with a court-approved document notifying me that my child was now under the legal guardianship of her paternal grandmother and step-grandfather due to the fact that I had been found to be unfit by Judge Ken Turner after he viewed a copy of MTV’s “Sex in The 90’s Part 11”. In that particular episode, my family made it’s national coming out to the world and discussed the details of our alternative lifestyle, known to the world as polyamory. The state of Tennessee had taken it upon themselves to deem polyamory “immoral” without any investigation into my household, my relationship, or any other factor that would have given them at least a smidgen of fact about how our family structured itself. I felt that my civil rights had been horribly ignored.
In a panic, I did what I felt was right. I typed a plea for help, and e-mailed it to the national masses. I wanted the world to know that a government-approved tragedy had taken place in our own backyard. Immediately, a response called back from a few individuals whom I had never met: “Loving More Magazine”. The founders of this magazine reached deep within their hearts and proposed something I saw as a miracle. They began a legal defense fund to help my family obtain legal representation so that we could battle this injustice properly. They utilized their own resources of advertisement to get the message to hundreds of polyfamilies that our case had indeed taken place, and helped warn thousands of parents of the possible impending dangers to their own custodial rights if this judge in Memphis, Tennessee was allowed to continue snatching children out of homes just because he disagreed with the family structure within.
For the last year and a half, I have been a civil-rights activist shouting about being a parent. It’s time for me to be a parent shouting about civil rights. Many of you who heard about my situation via e-mail, TV, newspapers, and the radio only tuned in to a marathon in the middle of the race. Many of you were not aware of a plotline that had been occurring for years before my child was removed from our home. Some of you, who contacted me in private, were given details of a three-year battle between the paternal grandmother and me over decisions about my child, her life, and even my life. I would like to believe that I was in the right on most of those arguments, and that I was always looking out for the best interest of my child, but in looking back, I can admit that I was not. The mere facts are that I had my child at a very young age. I was ill prepared to raise a child on my own, yet I was stubborn and prideful about accepting help from those around me. I wanted to be independent and make decisions on my own. I made a lot of bad decisions, and never considered how the consequences would affect my child. Deciding to use my child as a crash-test dummy in a civil rights movement was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.
As an individual adult, I support and back the movement of alternative lifestyles and equal human rights to all American citizens 100%. I am more than willing to step forward and be the voice that cries for justice. It would be my pleasure to be amongst the ranks of those that have flung themselves before the eyes of scrutiny and helped propel us all a step further towards equality. I will NOT, however, volunteer my child to do this for me or anyone else. I have, unfortunately, done this already to her, and thus caused enough emotional pain to last her a lifetime.
For the last year and a half, I have been at your mercy. I have received so much support from all of you that I feel an immense amount of guilt for not being able to accomplish what I know we need to have done. I fully realize the impact that the ripples from my case will have on anyone whose children are removed due to their lifestyle. I would love to be your poster child for this cause, but it’s not that simple.
Perhaps wisdom is a grace that comes with age, along with the power of observation. For three years, I stood in stubborn denial that I could provide the best life for my child compared to the life that was being offered by others. My daughter’s paternal grandmother made every attempt possible to shed some light on the facts that proved me wrong. I mistook her efforts to be malicious, oppressive, and manipulative. Even as I sat in a dark apartment with no electricity, in sub-zero temperatures heating stolen baby formula over a candle flame, I thought that I could provide better for my daughter than she could. After three years of this denial, my child’s grandmother used the only sure thing she had to help reality crash my little tea party: The fact that alternative lifestyles are still frowned upon in courtrooms. Using this cover, my child was taken from me, but given a better world than I could ever provide for her. It is a tragedy that words will never be able to describe that polyamory got dragged through the mud to help provide a better life for just one child, but the fact that it is MY child makes all the world of difference to me. I can never, however, expect anyone else to see it this way.
Recently, I was presented with a series of events that helped me realize that polyamory was never really the issue with my child’s custody. I became very ill, as did my daughter. I suffered without medical care, but my child was provided with the best of doctors here in the city. I realized that if the courts had returned her to me, she might have suffered along with me. Looking back on how long this case has lasted, I realized that my daughter was going to turn 5 this year, and begin Kindergarten. I was shocked by the fact that I had no way of providing her with a safe, adequate education. I live in a school district with such a high crime rate, I’d fear for her life if she were sent to public schools. I have no degree in education to justify homeschooling, and there is absolutely no way to fund a private education. With her grandparents, she has already been enrolled in one of the best private schools Memphis has to offer. With her grandparents, she has begun to play the violin, learned to swim, dance ballet, and is about to get her own private speech tutor. In essence, my child has been given the life of a princess. How could I ever, in good conscious, take her from all of that, doom her to a life of poverty, and still think myself a good parent? This is one of the questions that run over and over in my mind everyday.
This brings me to the decision that I feel is the best I’ve ever made for my daughter: She is to remain in the care of her grandparents. As stated before, lifestyle was never really an issue with her grandparents. I feel that they just wanted to provide my child with the best that life could offer, and I know that they were prepared to fight for that even after the courts relinquished a ruling that returned her home. I can’t allow my child to be a Ping-Pong ball. She needs stability. She needs to be anchored down in one place so that she can flourish without the hazards of adults around her being more concerned with adult issues than they are with her. I know that I would have won this case. I know that I could have fought this to the pearly gates of the Supreme Court and walked away with my child in my arms, and my husbands by my side. But whose victory would it have been? Certainly not the child who had spent years in the midst of a ruthless war over some issue that caused her own parents to hold her aside over a fiery pit waiting for the other side to give in.
I am writing this letter because I feel that you all deserve an explanation. You deserve bountiful thanks that I’ll never be able to fully express. I expect harsh feelings and words from some of you over this decision for wasting your time and money, but if you are a parent, then look your child in the eyes and tell me that you could string him or her up as society’s piñata and watch them take the beating while we all waited for the prize to fall into our laps. I should hope, for the sake of your children, that you’d say “no”.
I’d like to add that in no way have I or will I condone the actions taken by the juvenile court system here in Memphis. Cases should be taken on a case by case basis, with each one reviewed with unbiased eyes. Using polyamory as a general reason to determine household fitness is a horrendous crime against citizens in this city. It is a disgusting display of discrimination and bigotry right here within our own government. I feel certain that within time, we will follow in the footsteps along the path paved for us by previous movements. In an ideal world, humans would recognize that we are all the same and that equality is our best effort to help maintain the balance of life. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your time reading this. Most of all, thank you for your understanding and acceptance of the situational circumstances that has brought me to make this decision that I, undoubtedly, recognize the effects it could have on all of you.