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Spilled Milk: Crossing The Big Black Line

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This post is the second in a series of Spilled Milk columns by Emmy Award-winning writer and producer William Lucas Walker that chronicle his journey through parenthood. Spilled Milk, which originates in The Huffington Post, appears on these pages every Saturday.

 

I’m six. My mom and I are in the front seat of her very smart 1962 Chevrolet station wagon when she turns to me and asks:

“Have you thought about what you might like to be when you grow up?”

Well, I have been thinking about it. Last night she asked my big brother Jimmy. He said astronaut. How dumb-dumb-stupid, thought six-year-old me. The costume is ugly and everybody knows there’s no bathrooms in space.

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve thought about it.”

“Really? What would you like to be? A doctor, like Daddy?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Maybe you could be a lawyer like Perry Mason on TV.”

“He’s fat and has weird eyes.”

“Then what about a cowboy? Or an astronaut, like Jimmy?

“I want to be an interior decorator.”

She lost control of the car and nearly smashed into a telephone pole. I wasn’t sure what exactly I’d said, but one thing I knew: I’d crossed a line.

It would keep happening throughout my childhood. I found it impossible to keep my little Crayola self colored inside the rigid lines of gender-role conformity. I always seemed to be wanting the wrong things, like Easy Bake Ovens and Prom Night Barbies. I learned early to pick my battles. There were four boys and no sisters in my family, so I knew Barbie was a pale pink pipe dream. But a light bulb that baked a cake? That was science, right?

Under the tree that year I found a sheriff’s costume, toy pistols and a baseball glove.

I grew up in the Bible Belt, where odds are, sooner or later, you end up getting born again. It happened for me at roughly 8:15 on a Friday night. I felt as though God had spoken to me personally, revealing that He had indeed come to earth in human form. And her name was Barbra Streisand. Watching her sing “I’m The Greatest Star” in the network premiere of Funny Girl, it was clear she was channeling the divine. Her voice seemed to seep into my every corpuscle, altering my chemical makeup. It was intense.

And so it continued as puberty bloomed. From Funny Girl to Sun-In’d hair to the Speedo shot of Mark Spitz ripped from my dad’s Sports Illustrated and stuffed inside my Boy Scout manual, I was, unbeknownst to me, a standard-issue homo-in-training.

This fact hit home with a thud a few years later when I moved to the city. New York has a benevolent way of siphoning boys like me from our far-flung hometowns and depositing us into one of the few places we might actually stand a chance. You would think I’d find comfort in that. I didn’t. I was mortified to find myself floating in a sea of me’s, and awakened quite rudely to the fact that I wasn’t the unique wonder I imagined myself to be. What I was, it turned out, was a Big Gay Cliché.

Almost. As I watched from the sidelines, one by one the other me’s emerged from their closets, dancing and jubilant. I was envious of the abandon and release they seemed to find, twirling under the great disco ball of ’70s freedom.

But something held me back. I found it difficult to make the same leap. Watching my freshly liberated brethren turn their backs on the past and eagerly morph into their new bodies and haircuts, I struggled with a stubborn dream I could not seem to let go.

I’d always liked the idea of getting married and becoming a father. My own dad — a real-life Atticus Finch, straight out of To Kill A Mockingbird — set a daily example of the best a man can be for his children, inspiring his sons to want the same for ourselves. But admitting I was gay meant saying goodbye to any such notion of family. Coming out meant crossing a line from which there was no coming back.

So I stalled for years, clinging to the ludicrous hope that out there somewhere was a woman who might change me. But by that time, Barbra Streisand was heavy into Don Johnson.

It was Fernando who brought the change.

Beautiful. Bi-polar. HIV-positive. Addicted. Addictive. His red flags should have sent me running; instead, I gathered them into a bouquet. We met in 1994 on a Los Angeles sidewalk one clear night just before Christmas. I was 38. And love, finally, bottomless and vast, swallowed me whole.

I was terrified of HIV, but adored this shy man in whose veins it swam. An artist, Fernando was always encouraging me to find my Big Work. I had no idea what he was talking about. But love has a way of enhancing vision, and his made it possible to see things ahead for me that I could not.

He had seen other things as well, horrors I could not imagine. Three years prior, he’d nursed a man he loved through an ugly illness to a hideous death. Having caught a glimpse of his own future, he spent each day remaining to him painting like a madman. Larger-than-life canvases of spectacular, dazzling women peopled his living room. Women in boats overflowing with flowers. Women lugging impossible burdens uphill. Women searching the sky for the secrets of flight. Peasants, queens, sisters, the idealized heroines of his native Mexico. They had populated his fevered brain for years, and he was determined to free them before time ran out. One by one, through his gifted hands they rushed in pastels and paint, surrogates taking their places in a world about to be done with him.

There was no way we could have known the drug cocktail that would have saved him was just beyond the horizon. I hoped we’d have five years together. We had 1995.

Suicide devastates, leaving its survivors jagged, in shards. Never again can you be as you were. In the wake of his death, slowly and over time, my life began to clarify. Unnecessaries burned away. I saw rising before me the outlines of a dream I’d long since thought impossible. I set about becoming a father.

Surprisingly, the most vocal opponent of my bringing new life into the world was the woman who’d brought me into it herself.

“Have you lost your mind? You can’t have a child. You gave up that right when you chose to become a homosexual. And you’re too old. You live alone. And what about the child? What if you have a son who turns out to be a homosexual. Or worse… a lesbian!”

I paused, trying to unravel that last one, but she wasn’t finished.

“I’m not finished: A. Child. Needs. A. Mother.”

There it was. The line. I was crossing the biggest, blackest, most sacred one of all. Motherhood.

It occurred to me in that moment that every screwed-up person I know has a mother, but I held my tongue.

Kelly was not expected, never part of the plan. I was not looking the day we met. At church of all places. When he asked me when we might go out to dinner, I told him it would have to be Monday or Tuesday. Why Monday or Tuesday, he asked, as any sane person might. “Because I have an egg donor flying to town on Wednesday, we’re making embryos on Thursday and implanting them in my surrogate’s uterus on Friday.” I held my breath so as not to choke on the cloud of dust any other man would have kicked up fleeing in the opposite direction. But other men aren’t Kelly. Who could have predicted that this amazing, smart, decent, deeply funny and very handsome man would plop into my complicated sphere at that precise moment in time, becoming the surprise love of my life and the anchor of my family?

My journey became our journey. A year-and-a-half later, after two surrogates, three egg donors, several reproductive endocrinologists, and a depleted life savings, our stunning, beloved Elizabeth was born. I was 44.

My mother came around eventually. Okay, quicker than that. The moment we told her we’d named the baby after her. She actually screamed.

“I have a namesake? You don’t MEAN it!!!”

We’ve since added a son to the mix — a dimpled tyro named James, after my dad. From that day till this, my wonderful, evolving mother and these grandchildren she once thought impossible have enjoyed a giddy love affair which shows no signs of lifting.

I found my Big Work, and 11 years later, we’re thriving. Marriage and family. My gut had been right — I was born for it.

Last year, when Elizabeth turned 10, I was recounting special moments from our life together, as I tend to do on her birthday. Suddenly, one surfaced I hadn’t thought about in years. A random, rainy afternoon when, at 2-and-a-half, after a long silence, out of the clear blue and apropos of nothing, she looked up at me, smiled and uttered two words I had no idea she’d added to her tiny vocabulary.

“Barbra. Streisand.”

A few weeks later, I wrote my only poem.

Elizabeth

We met
through the lens
of a microscope

I was much taller
you floated below
eight cells
huddled together
trying to become sixteen

No eyes yet formed
to peer back at me
Just eight cells
floating there
inscrutable

A pinpoint promise
of the life I dared to dream
daring back

Your eyes are fully formed now
They are mine
my father’s
his

They peer back now
beneath downtilt lids
familiar as the nearest mirror

Today you sing for me
beneath a torrent of impossible curls
press your face to mine
and collapse into giggles
and twirl
and twirl
and twirl
awash with possibility

A thousands days
since that morning
we first met
through the lens
of a microscope

Eight cells times billions now
you peer up at me
trying to buckle your seatbelt

“Daddy help you?”

Daddy help you.
There is no line.

* * * * *

William Lucas Walker is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer whose television credits include Frasier, Will & Grace and Roseanne. He co-created the critically-acclaimed Showtime comedy The Chris Isaak Show. Bill and his husband Kelly are the parents of Elizabeth and James, born in 2001 and 2005. The children were gratified by the legal marriage of their parents in 2008, an event that rescued them from a life of ruinous bastardry.

Spilled Milk chronicles Bill’s misadventures in Daddyland. The first recurring humor column by a gay parent to appear in a mainstream American publication, Spilled Milk has regularly landed on the front page of The Huffington Post.

Follow William Lucas Walker on Twitter: @WmLucasWalker, @SpilledMilkWLW or Facebook: “Spilled Milk” by William Lucas Walker.       

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News

Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout

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One week after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled frozen human embryos are “children,” causing several medical institutions to pause their in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs, Alabama and the GOP have seen tremendous nationwide anger, upset, and confusion from the left and the right over the decision, the Christian nationalist chief judge, and the Republican Party that set this in motion.

Now, GOP lawmakers and political groups are trying to regain ground after some Republicans quickly embraced the decision that, as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predicted Tuesday, would cause “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”

“As a reminder,” Jean-Pierre added, “this is the same state whose attorney general threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”

President Joe Biden condemned the Alabama ruling: “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.”

But U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) cheered his state’s Supreme Court, while appearing to not fully grasp what IVF is.

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

“I was all for it,” he said of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, calling young people “our number one commodity.”

But when pressed, Tuberville declared, “I’d have to look at the entire bill, how it’s written, I have not seen it,” referring not to legislation but the ruling.

And when told that women will now not be able to have IVF treatments, Tuberville repeatedly replied it was “unfortunate.”

On Thursday night, speaking to a group of religious broadcasters, Donald Trump denounced the Alabama ruling and vowed to protect IVF. On Friday, the beleaguered Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo directing Republicans to defend IVF. Also Friday, the Attorney General for the state of Alabama, mentioned earlier by the White House Press Secretary, effectively suggested he would ignore the state supreme court’s ruling, promising to not prosecute IVF families, as ABC News reported.

But Democrats are making clear that despite whatever claims or promises Republicans make, the IVF ruling is the direction conservatives are taking the Republican Party.

READ MORE: Smirnov Scandal: Experts Call for Investigations, Warn GOP of Possible Conspiracy Charges

“First Republicans banned abortions so women couldn’t terminate a pregnancy. Now they are coming for IVF so women can’t begin a pregnancy. The GOP agenda is about one thing: government control of women,” observed U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) (photo).

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox reports a new NRSC memo “instructs [GOP] candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF.”

Just hours later, Sen. Murphy responded, saying, “umm the chairman of the NRSC sponsored the bill to ban IVF.”

He added, “newsflash: no matter what they tell their candidates to pretend, when they get power they use it to control women.”

The NRSC’s goal is to help get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. It is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a MAGA Republican and member of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus.

As Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias notes, Senator Daines is an original co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act.

The Center for American Progress’ Colin Seeberger adds, Daines “quite literally has been a longtime co-sponsor of the Lifetime at Conception Act, which would establish legal protections for the unborn just as the Alabama Supreme Court ordered and has led to the suspension of fertility care across AL.”

Meanwhile, Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz notes that the “text of GOP‘s most recent platform claims that ‘the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed’ and calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions — and jeopardize IVF — by granting 14th Amendment rights to fetuses.”

READ MORE: Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

Indeed, as The New York Times reported, far-right Christian conservative Tony Perkins, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ extremist group Family Research Council, called the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a “beautiful defense of life and the Alabama Constitution.”

Friday afternoon Donald Trump followed up his vow to protect IVF with a social media post that claims in part, “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America. Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”

Former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded, asking: “Why would anyone believe this? In 2016, Trump pledged no cuts to Medicaid and then spent four years trying to gut the program.”

And as Axios reports, “House Democrats’ main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.”

“Trump’s call came a day after President Biden’s re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Axios adds. House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.”

See the social media posts and video above or at this link.

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Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

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The re-arrest of Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who allegedly may have provided House Republicans with Kremlin propaganda that was the basis for their efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and attack his son Hunter, raised some eyebrows on Thursday.

Smirnov, once considered House Republicans’ Jim Comer and Jim Jordan’s star witness, was re-arrested even after a magistrate judge ordered him released, and at his attorneys’ offices, raising eyebrows from even national security experts, insisting there had better be a good reason for it.

Now, according to a noted legal expert, it appears there was.

“A California judge seems to be suggesting [Smirnov’s] lawyers are complicit in his efforts to flee, in a remarkable line ordering detention for the FBI source whose lies propelled Biden impeachment efforts,” writes professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney.

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his order wrote on Thursday: “It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

After detailing Smirnov’s arrest and release, Judge Wright ordered his re-arrest, adding: “The U.S. Marshal Service is advised there is to be no deviation from this Order.”

Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld calls Judge Wright’s order “wild,” and adds that Smirnoff’s lawyers released “a terse statement about the extraordinary order.”

“They did not respond to questions about the language in the judge’s order suggesting a ‘likely’ aim to ‘facilitate’ their client ‘absconding from the United States.'”

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Vaccine-Laced Lettuce and Tomatoes? Tennessee GOP Lawmaker Worried

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A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker says he’s worried Tennesseans might overdose on vaccines if they eat too many tomatoes.

State Rep. Scott Cepicky claims vaccines can already be added to foods like lettuce and tomatoes, and to tobacco products, so he has filed legislation to require grocery store items containing vaccines to be labeled.

“University of California Riverside has already perfected the ability to put human vaccines into our lettuce right now,” Rep. Cepicky told his fellow lawmakers Wednesday while discussing his legislation. “Also, tomatoes, has the ability to do that also per UC Berkeley. And then big tobacco, RJ Reynolds and stuff has perfected the ability to put a human vaccine in tobacco products.”

NCRM could find no evidence supporting his claims, although researchers starting in 2021 were studying if it is possible to do so.

Cepicky, who has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), warned, “there is no law, deeming those that when you go into a grocery store, you should know as a consumer, this head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. The head of lettuce right next week could contain a vaccine in it. All we’re saying is if it does have the vaccine in it, make sure it’s listed as a pharmaceutical so people can get the proper dosage.”

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

Facing some pushback from Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Cepicky went on to say, “This is more of a consumer protection bill right here, is to make sure that if you’re going in to buy tomatoes, and there’s a polio vaccine in there, that you are aware of what you’re buying has a polio vaccine. The problem you have is if it’s not treated as a pharmaceutical, being the size and difference between you and me, how many tomatoes do I have to eat to get the proper dosage versus how many tomatoes that you have to eat? And if you eat too many do you get a overdose?”

Asked if his legislation was necessity, Cepicky added, “Well, if you’d have a child that is allergic to a certain vaccine, and it’s not disclosed, when you go to buy that, that vegetable, whatever it is, and your child dies from that, I would think that having place is going to make sure that that is treated as a pharmaceutical so that the consumers know exactly what they’re buying.”

Anti-vaxers gained a foothold during the COVID pandemic, spreading false claims about vaccines. Last year the fact-checking website Snopes deemed it “false” that “mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines has entered the food supply via genetically modified plants bred to contain it or through the consumption of vaccinated livestock.”

“Claims regarding COVID-19 vaccines ‘in your salad‘ have persisted on the internet and recirculated due to misreadings or misinterpretations of several press releases or scientific research,” Snopes added, “Mike Flynn, during a September 2021 podcast appearance, referenced this research, describing it as ‘putting the vaccine in salad dressing.'”

READ MORE: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Flynn, the former Trump U.S. national security advisor, is a far-right Christian nationalist and Trump MAGA activist.

Tennessee lawmakers voted to move Rep. Capicky’s forward.

Watch Rep. Capicky’s remarks below or at this link.

 

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