Rivers adds that when custody or visitation was granted it was often predicated on the denial of fundamental rights:
In case after case, gay and lesbian parents were ordered to sign affidavits agreeing never to have their partners and children in their homes at the same time, to undergo regular psychiatric examinations testifying to their repudiation of their sexual orientation, and to halt all pro-gay rights activist work in order to maintain parental rights.
Mom's threat worked, apparently. My father quickly agreed to turn me over, and within days, she was on a plane to Maryland. Before she left, she met with her parents, who advised her not only to retrieve me but also to reconcile with my father. My grandmother had long suspected Mom was gay, but she exhorted her to save the marriage.
Now in her 80s and suffering from dementia, my grandmother still reminisces about my father. My guess is that her memories of him are indelible despite her flagging mind because they're bonded to powerful emotions. For her, the marriage of my mother and father represented the familiar and familial, an ideal of perfection, social conformity, and domestic bliss. These prototypes are her religion. She still stands by my alcoholic and deeply troubled grandfather, who died years ago.
When I phoned my grandmother recently, she could barely recall my name. But nearly 40 years on, she remembered my father's tall frame and handsomeness: "Your father was such a good man. He loved you," she added. Then, she asked, "Where do you live?"***
My father picked up Mom at the airport in Maryland and drove her to his mother's house. "I walked in, looked her in the eyes, and said 'Where is my son?'," Mom told me. "Those were the only words spoken. They'd prepared a full nursery for you. I plucked you from the crib and walked out."
When I told her how courageous she'd been, Mom replied that she was only scared. "I guess courage is what fear looks like from afar," she said. "On the plane ride home, I cried the whole time with you on my lap. Even then, part of me wanted to give your father what he wanted, which was you, and me. He wanted both of us."
Back in Athens, Mom began to live in fuller recognition of who she was. But it would take years for her to come out completely.
As for me, just like any childhood, some of it was good (I was the batboy for her lesbian softball team) and some of it was bad (a teacher of mine caught wind of my family situation and isolated me from the other students for a time).
Eventually, my parents officially divorced and Mom changed our last names back to her maiden name. The judge asked my father to pay $150 a month in child support, which he paid only once. My mother didn't report it, suspecting that he would retaliate by attempting to take me back through legal or other means. Real or imagined, this is the fear she lived with.