The narrative that a child only needs love and safety to thrive is being challenged by Katy Faust, founder of Them Before Us, a nonprofit organization that promotes social policies to protect the rights of children.
In her new book “Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement,” Faust argues that a child needs a stable home with love from both a mother and a father.
Faust joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to share her story and why it’s critical that the needs of the child play a key role in debates about same-sex parenting, divorce, sperm- or egg-donor children, and so on.
Also on today’s show, we discuss Disney’s Lucasfilm decision to cancel actress Gina Carano, and Carano’s recent appearance on “The Ben Shapiro Show” to tell her side of the story.
Plus, we share Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James’ recent conversation with the Network of Enlightened Women. James discusses how we can balance life’s many demands and what it means to be a strong, conservative woman.
And as always, we’ll be crowning our “Problematic Woman of the Week.”
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am joined by Katy Faust, founder of Them Before Us and co-author of the brand new book “Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement.” Katy, welcome to the show.
Katy Faust: I am so happy to be with you. You are my first post-book release interview. It came out yesterday. And so I’m so excited to be able to talk with you and your audience about it. So, thanks for having me.
Allen: Oh, it’s such a pleasure to have you on. I want to begin a little bit with your story.
Your book takes on the challenge of proving why children need both a mom and a dad, not just a safe and loving home with one parent or same-sex parents. But you actually argue that kids are wired to require love and attention from two married parents, a mother and a father.
This is a topic that’s personal to you. So, before we dive into the arguments of the book, could you share some of your own story?
Faust: Yes. So, my parents—I talk about this briefly in the intro—my parents were married until I was 10, divorced. My dad dated and remarried. My mom re-partnered with a woman and they’ve been together ever since.
I love them both. I don’t claim to have two moms. I have a mom and a dad like every kid.
But I can tell you that the reason I got into this whole thing is because back in 2012, right after [then-President Barack] Obama evolved on the topic of gay marriage, to me, it felt like there was a sea change in the media, where now that they had the president, they could now label everybody who disagreed with gay marriage as bigots, or haters, or homophobes.
So, that was the first thing that got my attention because just like every other traditional marriage supporter, I knew I loved lots of gay people.
My support for traditional marriage did not stem from hatred or phobia, because that’s really what my experience growing up taught me, … I love gay people. I love people who identify as LGBT. There’s nothing that is contradictory about being a supporter of traditional marriage and loving your gay family and friends.
The other thing that got me into this was that the other side was claiming the kids don’t care if they’re raised by two moms or two dads. But what that means is they have lost their mom or dad.
And my husband and I had been doing youth ministry for a couple of decades. I had never met a kid who did not care that they had lost their mom or dad. In fact, that tended to be the most painful part of their story. That is the thing that wounded them the most for the long term.
So, that’s why I got into this initially, was around the same-sex marriage debate—this lie that, honestly, that if the adults are happy, the kids will be happy.
But then once I got into it, I realized every matter of marriage, and family, and parenting revolved around that central claim, that if the adults are happy, the kids will be happy, which pretty much means if I wanted, I should have it and the kids should suck it up and be OK with it.
Allen: As you got older and you began to kind of process through your own childhood and what you experienced with your parents getting divorced, and then your mom partnering with another woman, what were some of those things that you faced on the journey of like, “OK, I’m processing through this”?
And then as you began to process through your childhood, what stories did you begin to hear of other individuals who had experienced the same thing as children and were now processing that as an adult?
Faust: Yeah. So, thankfully, my mom and dad remained friends and I did not have to lose contact with my father or my mother. They did a good job of remaining in [the] same proximity.
I did have to deal with the typical ups and downs of divorce, but thankfully, not the mother or father loss that a lot of children have to experience post-divorce, or who experience [that] through these other avenues of family breakdown.
But it was really when I started doing this work, writing about marriage and why marriage is a social justice issue for children, that the stories started to pour in.
That’s where I started to connect with children who had same-sex parents or who were raised by same-sex parents exclusively, and realized that these kids had nowhere to share their stories. There was no place for them to be honest about the kind of pain that they had experienced.
Then I realized, well, you know what, it’s the same thing with children of divorce.
Even the kids of divorce who are 45, [they] still don’t feel like they can be honest about the kind of pain that they experienced in their own childhood because they’re still trying to balance two Christmases, and they’re still trying to be the go-between for their mom and dad who are still at war.
The kids of sperm and egg donation who are so loved and wanted, supposedly, they’re in hiding in a lot of ways. They can only share their stories often in anonymous forums because of the pressure by the world, and sometimes by their own parents, to repeat the lie that, “Well, you’re so lucky that your parents paid so much money for you. Look how much they wanted you. Why aren’t you happy?”
That’s when I realized, and honestly, during the conversation around marriage, what I discovered is, the pro-family side of this conversation has always had the best research. They’ve always had the best statistics. But we’ve never had the stories and the other side has won the day because statistics don’t change hearts and minds, stories do.
And the other side has always told a better story. They’ve always humanized their perspective more than we have. And that’s because these stories of kids are so expensive to tell.
Any one of these kids, whether it’s a child of divorce, a child of abandonment, a child who was created through sperm donation or surrogacy, a child with a parent who has transitioned from male to female, a child who was raised by two moms or two dads, these stories are very expensive to tell because if they do, not only are they going to be hated by the world, but oftentimes they may be rejected by their own parents.
So, that was one thing we started to do when we developed Them Before Us—them, the children before us, the adults—is we put the stories of kids right on the front page of our website.
Because once you actually look at the lives of these kids and the way their whole lives have been impacted when adult desire is prioritized above their right to be known and loved by both of their parents, there is no way to look at these questions and go, “Adults are the victims.” It’s always the kids are the victims when we get to questions of marriage and parenting wrong.
Allen: We’re talking with Katy Faust, co-author of the brand new book “Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement.”
Katy, you mentioned sperm donation, egg donation, surrogacy. That’s a topic that is talked about some, but probably not nearly enough, and it’s definitely not talked about as far as, how is it affecting family life? How does it affect a [child’s] life to be conceived in this way?
Faust: Yes. What we realized once I started doing this marriage, family work is, I realized that all of these different conversations that we are having about marriage and family—whether it’s the definition of marriage, divorce, cohabitation, open marriage, polygamy, same-sex parenting, who goes on the child’s birth certificate, whether or not gays and lesbians have a right to adopt, reproductive technologies—they’re not different conversations.
All of these conversations really have to do with, are you honoring the rights of children to be known and loved by their mother and father, or are you disregarding those rights?
So, when it comes to all these topics, what we find almost without exception is that the conversation almost exclusively focuses on the desires of adults, and now we see that very clearly in the debate around reproductive technologies.
My guess is most of the people that are listening to this podcast have seen or understood or heard a heart-rending story of somebody who cannot have a child on their own, who desperately longs to be a parent, who’s struggling with infertility.
You’ve seen the GoFundMe campaign for the gay couple who has so much love to give, if only they could raise $100,000 to hire a woman’s womb for nine and a half months and to gestate a child.
So, we’re very familiar with the adults’ side of this conversation, but the fallout for kids created through reproductive technologies is serious and completely, for the most part, untold, again, because these are really expensive stories to tell.
So, what is the fallout of kids created through reproductive technologies? Well, the first one is that a lot of these kids never make it out alive.
Only about 7%, according to one study, of children created in laboratories will be born alive. Most of these kids are going to spend their life forever in a freezer, be thawed and discarded, be sex-selected or deemed nonviable and discarded. They’ll be selectively reduced in the womb if too many take.
So, it’s not a child-friendly process.
Now, for the kids that are born alive, if you’re created through sperm or egg donation, you are intentionally separated from one of your biological parents.
What we’ve seen is that these kids disproportionately struggle with identity issues, the genealogical bewilderment that many adoptees have faced throughout their life.
These kids deal with feelings of commodification as if they were bought and sold because they were bought and sold. Most of these kids were literally selected from a catalog of sperm and egg donors, where you could shop for the kind of genetic material: I want this ethnicity. I want this education. I want this eye color.
These kids are very aware that some aspect of their physical being was prioritized and worth more money. … Their parent was shopping for some specific genetic aspect of their identity.
A lot of these kids have to deal with the reality that they have dozens to hundreds of half-siblings, and then the mixed feeling of longing to know who they are, but also the overwhelming reality that they probably will never know because many of their half-siblings weren’t even told that they are donor-conceived.
There’s a eugenics aspect of this as well, that a lot of them struggle with recognizing that this has an aspect of eugenics, white sperm and white egg cost more and are more desirable than the egg and sperm of dark-skinned people.
… There’s no aspect of this, really, that allows the child to be burden-free. What’s going on here really is the parents said, “I desperately want a child. I want a biological connection to my child.” Otherwise they would adopt, right? But there’s something that matters to them when it comes to a biological connection.
But what they’re really doing is they’re just passing the burden to the child. Their desire to have a biological connection, which they value, really transfers the burden, and now the child wants a biological connection, a connection with their missing biological parent.
That is what we see in so many of these conversations, that the adults are not willing to do the hard thing in whatever situation they’re facing. So, their solution is to force the child to do the hard thing and they transfer their burden to the kid.
Allen: Some of the language that you use around this subject that I found really fascinating is biology versus intent in parenting. Could you just explain that a little bit further?
Faust: Yes. So, we have typically defined parenthood in this country and in many places throughout the world on two bases. The first one is a biological connection, right?
Parents care about which kid they take home from the hospital. There’s something distinct about the child you gave birth to and that you’re genetically connected to.
We have recognized throughout history—and we go into it in detail in the book—that biological parents are, statistically, the safest, most connected to, most protective of, most invested in children.
Also, those two adults are the ones that grant children something that they long for, which is their biological identity. We know that because of the waves of adoptees and donor-conceived children who are scouring the internet in search of their biological parents.
So, it makes sense to have biology as the basis of the parent-child relationship because of the natural right that parents have to their own children because, statistically, they are the safest adults in a child’s life and because they’re the only two people that grant children biological identity.
The second way that we have defined parenthood in this country is through adoption. And adoptive parents like me rightly have to undergo vetting, screening, background checks, training, supervision, post-placement reports because social workers are not fools.
They understand that placing a child with any adult that just wants a kid is putting that child at risk because, statistically, nonbiologically-related adults pose a statistical risk to children. Thus, all of the adoption best practices we’ve developed over the last couple of decades.
Now, because of the coupling of reproductive technologies and the redefinition of marriage that demands that same-sex couples be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples in all situations, that’s part of that constellation of benefits that Justice [Anthony] Kennedy laid out in his Obergefell decision. There can be no difference, no distinction between how we treat heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Well, when it comes to parenting, that means the law must accomplish what biology prohibits, and that is making two adults of the same sex parents of a child. This idea … of, for example, the wife of a woman who gives birth to a child must then adopt that child they feel is discriminatory.
That means that we have to introduce a new standard of parenthood, not a biological basis, not an adoptive basis, but rather an intent basis of parenthood.
I intend to parent this child, therefore I should be able to leave the hospital with them, right? I intend to parent this child, therefore I should have parental rights to them.
So, we spend some time in Chapter 4 of the book talking about how dangerous that is because many of these adults, most of these adults who are acquiring children through reproductive technologies, they’re not going through any of the background checks or screenings that adoptive parents have to undergo.
And we contrast these two nonbiological relationships in Chapter 9, where we talk about adoption and how adoption is an institution centered around the rights and needs of children and where reproductive technologies are a marketplace that are centered around the desires of adults.
So this intent-based parenting in essence says, if you’ve got the money to acquire sperm, egg, and womb, you can become the parents of a child, even if you are not biologically related. And there is no amount of screening ahead of time or post-placement supervision afterward.
It really is the closest thing that we’ve seen to the buying and selling of humans since we abolished slavery in the Civil War. And that’s how many of these children themselves feel, is that this is a form of child and human trafficking.
Allen: We are talking with Katy Faust, co-author of the new book “Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement.”
Katy, as you began really diving deep into the research, into looking at what the data shows, I want to ask you, from a psychology perspective, from a data and statistics perspective, what were some of those things that really stood out to you in your research?
Faust: Well, we break down these stories, … what we call desire-based losses. So we’ve been familiar with mother-father loss. Our species has experienced mother-father loss since the beginning of time, oftentimes on a mass scale.
Due to war, for example, you’ll have generations of fatherless kids. We used to have mother loss during childbirth much more routinely. Thanks to modern warfare and modern medicine, we don’t see as much parental loss due to tragedy.
Now, parental loss is taking place on the most part because this is what adults want. It is they’re prioritizing their own desire to escape a marriage that they are unhappy with, or to become a single mother by choice, or for two men to become parents through surrogacy, or to have an open marriage, or whatever it is.
Now, children’s right to their own mother and father are not taking place through tragedy. They’re taking place intentionally, and often in the name of progress.
So we categorize these desire-based losses in three different groups. The first one is children of divorce. The second one is children with LGBT parents. And the third one is children created through reproductive technologies.
Each of those categories has their own kind of distinct flavor of struggle and pain, but what is fascinating to me is that all of them share one similarity. And that is that, when children lose their mother or father because adult desire was prioritized above their rights to be known and loved by the two people responsible for their existence, a strange dynamic takes place.
And that is that typically we would expect that adults, we should expect that adults are the mature person in the relationship, that they are going to be sacrificial, accommodating, understanding. I mean, they are the ones with the fully formed prefrontal cortex. They are the ones that have the volition. They’re the ones that are making the choices, right?
So we should expect that the adults are going to do the hard things and be understanding, accommodating, and sacrificing for the sake of their kids.
But in all of these scenarios—whether it’s the child conceived through sperm donation, whether it is the child whose parent transitions, whether it’s the child who’s raised by two women, whether it’s the child who has to deal with the fallout of a no-fault divorce and the ongoing transition and instability that almost always goes along with divorce—all of these kids have to act like the adult.
All of these kids are expected to be understanding, supportive, and accommodating of their parents, and often to endorse the choices that their parents are making.
What I find fascinating is in all of these desire-based losses, the kid has to act like the adult and the parent gets to act like the child.
We break down in the book kind of all the distinctives of each of these categories of losses. But across the board, kids in all of these categories will say, “I had to do the hard thing because my parent refused to.”
Allen: So, ultimately, the kids are the ones who lose every time?
Faust: That’s what we’ve found, is that, in all of these conversations around marriage and parenting, if we get the answer wrong, it’s the kid who has to pay the price. So we try to paint that very clearly through all the chapters of the book, that if you get the answers wrong, it’s the kids who are the victims.
Allen: How does that have a broader impact on society as a whole, when kids don’t have that stable, loving home with a mom and a dad?
Faust: In Chapter One, … we have a section called “Why Democrats Should Care About Children’s Rights.” And we go through kind of all the different issues that my friends who are on the left care deeply about—reducing child poverty, reducing child homelessness, increasing academic scores for kids.
My friends on the left are volunteering with at-risk kids, manning the suicide prevention hotlines, working in the homeless shelters.
And the reality is that you can keep doing those things, but all of those issues, if you drill down, those are all overpopulated with kids who were fatherless—90% of homeless youth are fatherless kids, 63% of kids who commit suicide are fatherless. You’re four times more likely to live in poverty as a child if you don’t have a dad.
I don’t care which issue you are trying to solve with your volunteer hours and with the massive government spending, all of it comes down to whether or not we are protecting children’s rights to their mother and father.
Then we kind of shift gears and we say why Republicans should care about children’s rights. And we go through the massive increase in prisons, like incarceration rates; the massive increase in welfare spending and education spending. And really the massive increase in spending has not put a dent in any of these major social issues that we are spending so much money to try to address.
So we tell our Republican friends, if you want any shot at small government, personal responsibility, lower taxes, then you had better get on board with this children’s rights train. Because you won’t get anything you want unless you defend every child’s right to their own mother and father.
We think that because of the social implications of this issue, that people on the left and the right should be able to unite in this fight to put children’s rights before adult desires. Because the social fallout, if we don’t, is not something we’re ever going to be able to get back and not something that government can ever do. Only a mom and dad can mend the hearts of children and, therefore, mend our society.
Allen: You stress in the book that you’re speaking out on these issues, you want to be a voice for children, but that in so doing, that you have found yourself losing friends in the midst of this debate because it is controversial.
It’s such a sensitive topic, as you point out, so how do you recommend that we actually begin to have these conversations with others?
Faust: I always recommend, first of all, become the expert. I just think people who are conservative, people who are Christians, we need to out-fact everybody. But first, before we do that, we have to be familiar with the stories of the kids, right? So that’s what we do with Them Before Us, is we lead with story.
… You actually hear a child say, “I feel like a designer product. I feel like I was bought and sold. I desperately long for a dad every day,” or, “I walked down the street today, every day, like I do all the time, and I think, ‘Have I passed my biological mother? Does she know that a child was created through her egg? Does she look like me? Does she think about me? I wonder if we have the same nose.’”
I mean, once you read the stories of kids, you go, “Wait a second, OK.” This is something that awakens in you an urgency to address this. And that’s how it is for everybody.
So we have to be familiar with the stories of kids. We have to know the information and be experts. We need to know more about this than anyone else. So begin there. Begin with becoming the expert and being familiar with the stories of kids, then we can get into the conversations.
And it is challenging and it is delicate. I talk this through with my own kids and my own friends and we talk about [how] there are some good reasons to lose friends. And if you lose a friend, you just have to make sure you’re losing the friend for the right reason. And the right reason is because you are standing on truth and fighting for the most vulnerable.
Now, you do, I think, need to have some wisdom and delicacy as you do it, but I think too much of the time in this country we have refused, we have prioritized keeping a friendship above justice for the most vulnerable.
And that’s one of the reasons why we’re in this terrible place where we are right now in America where adult desire is ruling not just the cultural conversation, but courtroom decisions as well.
This is unacceptable for anybody that believes that children have fundamental rights or that believes that we should have a thriving nation.
At some point, we need to be able to stand up and say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you’re in a very difficult marriage. I’m sorry that you’re struggling with infertility. I’m sorry that you experienced the same-sex attraction and are trying to figure out what a family might look like for you. I’m sorry that you experienced gender dysphoria and are thinking about transitioning. I empathize with you. I want to be in this life with you. I want to stand with you. But no matter how you are struggling and no matter what your longings are, none of that justifies severing a child’s right to their mother and father.”
We spent some time in Chapter 1 kind of linking the fight for a child’s right to life and the fight for a child’s right to their own parents because what has worked in the abortion debate must also and can also work in the family debate.
And that is we can empathize with a woman struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, but if that child has a … right to life, no amount of adult longing, suffering, fear justifies snuffing out that right.
It is the same with a child’s right to their own mother and father. We can and must empathize with the adults who are admittedly going through very difficult things. None of that justifies forcing a child to sacrifice their rights for adults.
So become an expert and then be willing to have the hard conversations.
Allen: As far as actually what I can do, getting involved and being a part of this child’s rights movement, is that kind of the prescription that you would give of becoming an expert, really learning the stories, becoming familiar with the topic so that I can have conversations? Are there other ways that I can join this movement?
Faust: We spend all of Chapter 10 kind of going on and on about the incredible people that are in our coalition, and then we do talk about what is it that you can do.
We are about to publish a study guide for the book that will be free and available if you send us a message. We recommend getting a few like-minded friends together and going chapter by chapter through the book so that you can explore this, study it, discuss it, kind of in a safe space.
I think that’s probably one of the best things that you can do is fortify your friends, right? Get them on it so that they’re also speaking the language so that you can kind of sharpen and work out these ideas together.
We also say, “Look, we’ll host your story.” If you’re an adult child who experienced mother or father loss because of divorce, abandonment, because you were raised by two moms, because you were created through reproductive technologies, we want your story. And I will change the world with it, so send it to me.
We encourage people to do it under a pseudonym because we have found that even kids of divorce cannot be totally honest unless they’re sharing under a pseudonym. I mean, that’s how high stakes this is for kids, and yet those honest stories really do change hearts and minds.
Obviously, you can get on our social media page and follow us and kind of keep your knowledge of this sharp. But really, there is a place for you here. …
Sometimes people are like, “Katy, what are you trying to accomplish?” And I’m like, “A global takeover. A global takeover.” All of these conversations, we will succeed when any policy decision or personal decision first begins with, “What about the kids?”
And once you read these stories, once you see the research that’s behind the stories, you will be able to stand unflinchingly, and honestly, I’m so carnal, but you will be able to rule every conversation that you’re having about marriage and parenthood and families because you will have the stories of the real-life kids and you’ll be armed with the best research behind those stories.
Allen: The book is called “Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement.” You can find it on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at thembeforeus.com.
Katy, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for taking on this issue, for being a voice for those that don’t have one. Just so, so blessed by the work that you’re doing. Thank you so much.
Faust: Thank you so much for having me, Virginia.