ADDED ON: 02/28/2021

The Untold Story of Queer Foster Families

2/28/21 | The New Yorker

When Don Ward was a child, in Seattle, in the nineteen-sixties, his mother, each December, would hand him the Sears catalogue and ask him to pick Christmas gifts. By the time his parents filed for divorce, the catalogue had become a refuge, for Ward, from their shouting matches. Eventually, instead of looking at toys, he began turning to the men’s underwear section, fascinated by the bodies for reasons he didn’t really understand. Soon, he started noticing the tirades that his father occasionally launched into about gay people. “I think all those queers ought to be lined up and shot,” Ward remembers his father saying. “It was a bit of a lonely childhood,” Ward told me. After the divorce went through, he saw his parents under the same roof only twice. The first time was in court, when they fought over custody of Ward and his two brothers. (Ward’s mother won.) The second time was at a youth services facility, after a close acquaintance outed Ward to his parents, and, unable to tolerate a gay son, they mutually signed him over to the state of Washington. Ward was barely fifteen. It was 1971, and the state of Washington didn’t know how to handle an openly gay teen-ager, either. The Department of Social and Health Services tried sending Ward to an all-male group home run by Pentecostals who were committed to exorcising the “demon of homosexuality” out of him. Ward didn’t get along with his roommates. The state placed him with a religious couple, who gave him a basement room that had only three walls; the lack of privacy, the parents said, would help keep his homosexuality in check. Ward left that home six months later, after a fight with his foster mom about chores. Then he was placed with a childless married couple, who seemed perfect, and who accepted his sexuality. Within a few months, they began to physically abuse him, Ward told me.


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