This “Lesbian Foster Moms Dress Boy in Girl Clothes” Story is Totally F*cked

TRIGGER WARNING: this post references extremely violent child abuse.

Today’s most special top story comes from the illustrious Daily Telegraph and is regarding a “lesbian foster couple” who allegedly dressed their six-year-old foster child in girls clothing and then posted the “humiliating pictures” on their facebook page, thereby destroying the boy’s understanding of the gender binary and causing 6-7 earthquakes.

This is one of those ridiculous/sad stories I generally avoid, but this morning we were short on content and I had a doctor’s appointment so I figured I’d write it up quickly and be out the door.

Not so fast, apparently! This story is a little bit fucked on a few levels and I was unable to finish it pre-doctor’s-appointment but I was also unable to resist digging into it to assess the precise levels of fuckeduppery upon returning home.

"this is f-cked"

For starters, this story has no tangible impact on any of the involved parties and is logistically irrelevant. Why? Because this whole shebang (allegedly) — which barely makes sense/seems real to begin with — happened in 2009. The six-year-old boy, named “Campbell” in court records, was taken away from the The Monster Lesban Parents and placed with new caretakers on May 1, 2009.

His New Parents have been an excellent match and are currently in the process of adopting Campbell.  “Campbell has blossomed in their care and this is very evident in his happy, expressive and confident presentation.” Case closed, right?

Well — yes. In the courts, the case is closed. Everyone involved has moved on to different things, and the only reason this situation is attracting attention at all is because Campbell’s Birth Parents recently applied to regain custody of their son and, in doing so, dredged up all the old records of their past court visits. Apparently The Daily Telegraph found something in those documents about The Lesbian Parents that I myself could not find from reading every word, which is the aforementioned tale about the gender-bending Facebook picture.

But first, the verified facts! Campbell and his seven siblings were put in foster care in 2006, and Campbell and his 12-year-old sister, Abby, were placed together. The children had been living in an abusive home with The Birth Parents. Actually, they’d been living in the most horrifying home to ever house children in the history of the housing. From court documents:

 The environment of abuse [living with their mother] was characterised by an excessively rigid disciplinary regime, involving shouting, yelling and unsparing physical punishment including face-slapping, kicking, biting and spanking on the bare bottom; callous and cruel force-feeding; long and uncompromising periods of ‘time-out’; and episodes of public humiliation, including sending children to school in pyjamas. There is evidence of food-hoarding, forcing children to eat vomit, and hair-pulling.”

So, after being removed from The Birth Parents, Campbell and Abby were initially placed with The Lesbian Parents (although, as the news delightfully reveals, “one of the women was preparing for a sex change to become a man at the time,” so is that really a same-sex couple? Because I feel like it isn’t). “The placement did not work out for Abby,” says The Herald-Sun. Court documents reveal that Abby was removed for her own behavior problems (unsurprising considering the horrific abuse she suffered all her life), unrelated to the couple’s care-taking skills or gender theories.

In the aforementioned court papers regarding Campbell’s Mom’s custody case, Campbell’s prior custody situations are described. The detail about Campbell’s removal fromThe Lesbian Parents is limited to:

“Overall, [names not published] impressed as a young couple who have had quite a turbulent period through the course of Campbell’s placement. This period has included a separation and reconciliation, ongoing difficulties with Abby resulting in a subsequent breakdown of her placement, a large wedding and honeymoon, fertility treatment and preparation for gender transformation for [name not published], as well as a current house move. …”

Ms Lindfield recommended that Campbell not be placed with this couple on a long-term basis.

Furthermore:

“It should also be noted that throughout the 2 years in [name not published] care Campbell was somewhat emotionally deprived, was not managed consistently, and was confused, however he was not abused.” 

So, clearly The Lesbian Parents were shitty parents and it’s good Campbell got out of that home. Needless to say, if the story ended here we’d still have five hundred reasons to be furious, namely in that the singling out and highlighting the sexuality of these caretakers seems to be an attempt to question same-sex couple’s fitness to raise children in general. Meanwhile, Campbell’s Heterosexual Birth Mom made her children eat Weetabix for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three weeks straight and often bashed their heads against the wall for no reason. Just saying.

SkyNews says,“The boy’s story was revealed in last month’s Children’s Law news compiled by the NSW Children’s Court.” I read it and I’ve still got no clue where The Facebook Story came from. Even if it’s true, it doesn’t seem to have played a role in Campbell’s removal from the Lesbian Parents’ home.

Obviously, the first source of this information comes from bastion of journalistic integrity, The Daily Telegraph:

So, Janet Fife-Yeomans, who’s that? According to Penguin Books Australia:

Janet Fife-Yeomans is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist who has worked in newspapers and television in Australia and her native England. She is a leading writer on crime and legal issues and followed the incredible case of Daryl Suckling to its conclusion while working for The Australian newspaper. She became a deputy editor at The Australian and subsequently joined executive management at News Limited. She is now chief reporter at The Daily Telegraph in Sydney.

So maybe Janet Fife-Yeomans has some solid sources somewhere that we’re not privy to. For example, with no mention of where these comments were made, Janet reports the following in her “story”:

The boy and his 12-year-old sister have since been moved but former Children’s Court magistrate Barbara Holborow yesterday called for a full inquiry into the decision to put them there. “Oh my God, what are we doing?” Ms Holborow, who has fostered eight children, said.

Families Minister Pru Goward has demanded a full explanation from child welfare service Barnardos, which had recruited the couple.

“I am seeking advice from Barnardos to confirm that care arrangements were appropriate and the well being of the children was paramount,” Ms Goward said yesterday.

This story has since been repeated, syndicated, and commented upon by numerous websites, both LGBT and mainstream sites like The Daily Mail and The Herald-Sun

a boy in a dress?!!!! what's next, aliens?!!!

Today, Janet Fife-Yeomans threw another log into the fire with an editorial in The Daily Telegraph. It opens:

THERE is nothing wrong with same sex couples, gay or lesbian, having children, raising children or fostering children.

Where it goes wrong is when they politicise the children or use them to make gender statements.

This has to be the same rule for heterosexual parents or foster parents as well. Children are not belongings.

It goes on to say:

The lesbian couple who dressed up the six-year-old boy they were fostering, photographed him and posted the pictures on their Facebook page were irresponsible and immature…

Yes, kids like to dress up but that is beside the point. He was six years old and a foster child who had a background that is one of the saddest you will ever hear. He deserved not only love but respect…

Whatever the couple wanted to achieve has backfired. By seemingly using this boy to make a gender statement, they have actually done their case more harm than good. People who might otherwise think it’s fine for same sex couples to have kids will look at this and be appalled.

A fantastic journalist at PerthNow says:

This gross example of child abuse is a wake-up call that everything about the gay movement isn’t acceptable.

At last we’re now at the part of the post where I discuss what I assume has been your number one feeling since the first paragraph — we’ve got no reason to assume Campbell was unwillingly put in women’s clothing by The Lesbian Parents or that he himself considered the photographs “humiliating.” Why is wearing girls’ clothing inherently humiliating, exactly? Kids play dress-up all the time. Even if I wasn’t about to launch into a diatribe re: gender roles, a boy wearing a costume in a photograph is not weird, let alone appalling or a “gender statement.”

example of an actual gender statement

This year, Shiloh Panic (aka Tomboy Panic) levels have remained medium-high but Princess Boy Panic is basically on red alert. As you may or may not know, the phenomenon of boys donning dresses undermines the patriarchy and all the capitalist power structures upon which our government and culture is based so this is very scary for some people.

From the legendary princess boy book to the JCrew ad depicting a toenail-painting boy toRaising Rainbow to the viral blog post about a mother whose son dressed as Daphne for Halloween, this year has been particularly tumultuous because the parents/supervisors involved have dared to love and protect and defend their children instead of “fix” them. It’s no surprise that this story about The Lesbian Parents caught on, inspired vicious comments, or that Janet has such strong feelings about it.

The Lesbian Parents were irresponsible to take on a foster child at such a rocky and event-filled time of their life. But letting the kid wear what he wanted to wear? Possibly one of their smarter parenting moves.

Janet is right about one thing — Campbell “deserved not only love but respect.”  If only she could’ve brought herself to give it to him instead of writing this obnoxious article.

Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1721 articles for us.

30 Comments

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    When I read the Daily Telegraph article this morning, my mind temporarily blanked out in sheer fury. Absolutely disgusting. I then made the greater mistake of going on to read the comments. Holy shit. To quote one of the commenters, “what is the world coming to” indeed, that people can be so awful and hurtful to other people that they don’t even know, and that some “journalistic institution” can write a piece of biased, ridiculous crap like this and still pretend to be a newspaper.

    Thank you Riese for articulating that anger so well. I was looking forward to reading AS’s take on it all day.

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    I am so confused with Janet’s argument: “Yes, kids like to dress up but that is beside the point. He was six years old and a foster child who had a background that is one of the saddest you will ever hear. He deserved not only love but respect…”

    Sooo…restricting his play in dress-up is respectful? Sharing the adorable innocence of a child exploring the world around him is heinous and humiliating?

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    I was a nanny in an extremely conservative neighborhood for a very long time. Last summer the mom took the kids on vacation & when she went to get a pedicure her youngest son, 5 at the time, went with her & ended up getting blue toenails. Honestly, the father was not overly pleased, but he never said anything when the son went again & got “the cool dark blue” toenails.

    About a week later I picked up the son from soccer practice & on our way to grab his sister from ballet he took off his cleats & shin guards, as he did every other week before, and put on his flip flops. We went into the ballet studio & the second we walked in he ran to the glass window to watch his sister finish up & I watched the horrified looks on the mother’s faces. Then as he was two feet away from me I fielded questions like “is that nail polish!?” and “oh my god does his father know about that?”

    When we got in the car I asked him “are you ok?” and as I was preparing to go into my full on “those moms have no right & you do you” lecture, he simply said “yeah, kids don’t care. none of the kids care…not even at gymnastics. it’s just the moms”

    I always think of that statement, made by a 5 year old, when I read these stories.

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      When my son was younger (about 3-4 at the time) he liked me to paint his nails occasionally when i did mine. He had his own sparkly blue polish that he picked out and loved, and I noticed that while other kids didn’t notice or care, some adults would just fall over themselves in shock, and I even had a friend who kept him one day and actually removed it before she would take him out in public!! Needless to say he finally got a complex about it and rarely wore it after that, although even now at 7 he occasionally wants them painted for fun!

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    Of all the things a news outlet can make a fuss about, a kid playing dress up seems to rank pretty low. I went to the original source and read it and I was given way too little information to even know if the parents were really abusive — the thing about crossdressing just doesn’t sound like abuse to me. Was this couple really abusive? Who knows based on that article. They are described as abusive, but all that’s specified is the gender-bending part. One thing we know for sure: They were lesbians… and one was transgender too! Maybe it was abuse… but all I see is sensationalizing trivial aspects and ignoring anything that might actually be important. This reporter, Janet Fife-Yeomans, is a joke.

    “The children’s story, described as one of the saddest in the state, has been revealed in a Supreme Court judgment posted last month in Children’s Law news compiled by the NSW Children’s Court.” – I have a huge problem with this sentence. First, what does it even mean? The children’s history of abuse? The children’s story of crossdressing? The abuse at the hands of the parents who did the crossdressing? Huh? Because it definitely makes it seem like the actual crossdressing is the saddest child abuse the state has seen… which is insane. And then who described it that way? A homeless guy on the corner? Police authorities? Can she name them? If not, can she explain why they sought anonymity? Described by who??? I have to say, this is really shitty reporting. News articles put the most pertinent info at the top with the least important at the bottom. Why is the bit about one of the parents being a pre-op FtM rank as the very second sentence, before we even establish the timeliness news peg (i.e. why is this being reporting now? Did something just happen?). The reporter fails to address any other potentially relevant issues surrounding the case, but honestly, why is this news? Sometimes I think of the news as the competition of suffering — a child was abused and it’s sad that it happened and now the abusers want custody again, but is it news? All this article really tells me is Janet Fife-Yeomans’ feelings about homosexuality.

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      “The children’s story, described as one of the saddest in the state, has been revealed in a Supreme Court judgment posted last month in Children’s Law news compiled by the NSW Children’s Court.” –

      they were referring to the child’s birth family as one of the saddest cases in the state, not the temporary lesban foster parents

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    “One of the women was preparing for a sex change to become a man at the time, while her girlfriend was undergoing fertility treatment.”

    Seriously? That offensive and inaccurate statement got published? Wow.

    Also, this story is just so confusing and like Riese said, not even all the proof for the facts is there. Ugh.

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    One of them was a trans guy. “Straight Couple Are Kinda Shitty Parents” would be a more appropriate title. But of course, no journalist type reads AP standards guidelines, apparently.

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    I’ve got to say, I think this story is fantastic, in that it exists at all.

    Queer rights are juuuust starting to appear on the Aussie political radar. This joke of story smacks very much of ‘people are starting to support this, we need to do something to discredit them!!!’

    It’s deeply offensive and deeply sad that the kids had to suffer like that. The fact that journalists feel the need to write it at all though? Encouraging.

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    The thing that always gets me about adults making a big deal over young children dressing in “opposite” gender clothing, or boys wanting to wear nail polish, etc is the implication that it means something for the child’s future. Namely that it means the child is going to grow up to be gay and omg that would be horrible. Young children have no concept of sex or sexuality, and it’s actually kind of gross that adults attribute sexuality to 5-year-olds just because of what they like to wear.

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      I always find it amusing to a point that they make these assumptions that if a child acts or enjoys things that are associated with the opposite gender it means they will become gay… I remember growing up, I was a girly girl who loved pink and dolls and wore a skirt every chance I got, while my closest cousin was a total tomboy,hated anything girly and stated to me around the age of 10 that she would “Never kiss icky boys when I grow up.” Guess which of us is straight and which is gay??

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    Is there any way to call out this journalist and force proof? If she provides, fine but…when I saw this story yesterday I couldn’t, and still can’t, even begin to wrap my head around it. Riese your comments have helped a little, but I just…I’d like to hear from said “lesbian couple” really.

    Also, why can’t it just be “Foster Parents” blablah instead of “LESBIAN FOSTER COUPLE”

    *gasp* I’m so shocked.

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    I suspect that, if one of them hadn’t been a trans guy, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal. I’ve always been under the impression that it’s not really that uncommon for young boys to wear girls’ clothing or young girls to wear boys’ clothing. My cousin has an older sister, and I remember that when he was a kid they used to dress him up in girl’s clothing all the time; she said she would rather have a sister. There are photographs, and as far as I know, the international media has no interest in them.

    Also, I’m really bothered by the fact that that journalist called it a “gross example of child abuse.” Dressing a boy up in girls’ clothes, even if we assume it was against his will, has nothing on forcing a child to eat vomit. That’s just awful.

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    One of my best friends when I was growing up was a boy who lived right next door to me. I took dance classes at the time, and he’d come over after kindergarten, and he’d dress up in my dance tutus. He chose to do it. In fact, sometimes, I’d dress up in his boy’s clothes.
    Just saying, it’s common enough for kids to play dress up in both women’s and men’s clothes.

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    Very well written article Riese. And you were right..from the very beginning my thought was “Who says this boy was being dressed in “girls” clothing against his will?” Maybe he was curious to explore the more diverse lifestyle that his new foster parents were living and asked for those things.

    Even if the lesbian foster parents are in the wrong, it shouldn’t matter what their sexuality is. They could be terrible parents! But there will always be terrible parents….whether they’re gay, straight, lesbian, transgendered. It’s so annoying how the media has picked on the sexuality as if it is the reason for their bad parenting – it should be obvious that the heterosexual mother was the worst!

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    I hadn’t heard of the J Crew toenail painting “scandal” (because it happened in the middle of senior year finals/cross-country moving) so that was the first time I read the article about Jenna Lyons & her son. It made me really sad, because my 4-year-old son LOVES to have me paint his toenails. Sometimes they are red on one foot and purple on the other. Right now they are all blue. It hurts my heart to know that he’ll probably stop doing it someday because some jerkface kid or parent will make fun of him for it. :(

    Then again, I also just found out that one of my most awesomest (also totally straight and married) regular customers paints his toenails/goes to get pedicures to this very day. :)

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