80 How dare you try to ‘repair’ me! Am I not fine the way I am?
LGBTQ individuals and individuals with disabilities face legal barriers in becoming and
remaining parents. LGBTQ individuals face legal barriers to adoption, foster care, and child
82 and persons with disabilities must also confront limits on child-rearing, including
involuntary sterilization83 and termination of parental rights.
The barriers faced by persons with disabilities and LGBTQ persons are so similar that,
when one is both, the force required to overcome those barriers is multiplied. If a gay male with
a disability overcomes all of the social forces aligned against his sexuality, he still must overcome
all of the social forces aligned against his disability. Although the communities should be natural
allies, that is not the case. Ableism exists in the LGBTQ community and heterosexism exists
among persons with disabilities. Yvon Appleby explains this in concrete terms, in ways that are
both practical and attitudinal:
Lack of access to information, ramps, signers and braille material, together with
a lack of awareness of the needs of women deemed to have mental illness or
learning difficulties are some of the factors that work to exclude disabled lesbians.
Unfortunately ablebodied lesbians are not free from the privileged dominant ideas
that disabled women are somehow “other” and nothing to do with them.
generally Kristin Bumiller, Quirky Citizens: Autism and the Anti-Normalization of Politics, 33 SIGNS 967 (2008)
(discussing goals and challenges of autism self-advocates and other advocates).
80 Karolyn Ann Hicks, Comment,“Reparative” Therapy: Why Parental Attempts to Change a Child’s Sexual
Orientation Can Legally Constitute Child Abuse, 49 AM. U. L. REV. 505, 513–19 (1999).
81 See Wade, supra note 72. For a probing discussion of the similarities of the attempts to “cure” children from
autism and “cure” them from homosexuality, including a common intellectual ancestor – Ivar Lovaas – see Michelle
Dawson, The Misbehavior of Behaviourists: Ethical Challenges to the Autism-ABA Industry (2004),
http://www.sentex.net/~nexus23/naa_aba.html; George A. Rekers & O. Ivar Lovaas, Behavioral Treatment of
Deviant Sex-Role Behaviors in a Male Child, 7 J. APPLIED BEHAV. ANALYSIS 173 (1974); George A. Rekers et al.,
The Behavioral Treatment of a “Transsexual” Preadolescent Boy, 2 J. ABNORMAL CHILD PSYCHOL. 99 (1974).
82 CHILD WELFARE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, supra note 2, at 11 (stating that “Child welfare agencies should not
discriminate against prospective or present foster and adoptive parents based on their sexual orientation or gender
identity.”); GETTING DOWN TO BASICS, supra note 1, at 41–44 (discussing efforts to combat misguided efforts to
ban lesbian and gay adults as foster and adoptive parents). See PATRICIA A. CAIN, RAINBOW RIGHTS: THE ROLE OF
LAWYERS AND COURTS IN THE LESBIAN AND GAY CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT 144–52, 156–67, 244– 75 (2000); GIGI
KAESER & PEGGY GILLESPIE, LOVE MAKES A FAMILY: PORTRAITS OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER
PARENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES (1999) (personal narratives and portraits of LGBTQ parents and their children). See
generally PHYLLIS BURKE, FAMILY VALUES: A LESBIAN MOTHER’S FIGHT FOR HER SON (1993) (personal narrative
of a custody challenge involving a lesbian mother).
83 See, e.g., In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Kennedy, 845 N.W.2d 707, 708 (Iowa 2014) (collecting cases
from other jurisdictions and allowing involuntary sterilization of persons under guardianship with court approval).
For the most notorious case on this topic, see Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927) (repudiation is recognized by Fieger
v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 740, 750 (6th Cir. 1996)). For a discussion of this infamous case, see Mary L. Dudziak, Oliver
Wendell Holmes as a Eugenic Reformer: Rhetoric in the Writing of Constitutional Law, 71 IOWA L. REV. 833 (1986).
84 See, e.g., Rosemary Shaw Sackett, Terminating Parental Rights of the Handicapped, 25 FAM. L.Q. 253 (1991).
See also Yvon Appleby, Disability and “Compulsory Heterosexuality,” in HETEROSEXUALITY: A FEMINISM &
PSYCHOL. READER 266 (Sue Wilkinson & Celia Kitzinger eds., 1993), reprinted in part in BALOS & FELLOWS, supra
note 26, at 76 (“Indeed for many disabled women the right to bear and raise their children is denied them and if they
do then it is monitored and controlled by external forces.”).