Actor Terry Crews is walking back tweets he posted over the weekend, claiming that children raised without both a mother and a father are “severely malnourished.”
The controversy began when Crews criticized an op-ed in the New York Times in which human rights lawyer Derecka Purnell asked, “Why Does Obama Scold Black Boys?” Purnell observes that former President Barack Obama does more to castigate young black men instead of interrogating the systems in place that create systemic inequality.
Crews’ criticism was that Purnell, as a woman, could not lend advice on “how boys should be taught to grow into successful young men.” Eventually, this devolved into an exchange in which Crews said, “I’ve reiterated many times that same sex couples and single parents can successfully raise a child. But I believe paternal AND maternal love are like vitamins and minerals to humanity. No matter where you get that paternal and maternal love. MY purpose is to give paternal love.”
When a Twitter user challenged him, posing that “love is not gendered...a child will not starve with only one gender loving them,” Crews responded, “But they will be severely malnourished.”
Crews eventually did apologize Sunday and deleted his original tweet. “It was the wrong choice of words,” he said. “I apologize.” The activity on his account for the last day has been full of his own defensive responses and retweets.
There’s plenty to be disappointed about here, particularly given Crews’s outspokenness about the prevalence of sexual abuse and his recent comments acknowledging that his friend, comedian Kevin Hart, was being too defensive after some of his old homophobic tweets led to his ouster from the Oscars hosting gig this year. Though he has made other problematic statements in the past, Crews has been generally considered a thoughtful, lovable entertainer and artist whose humbled demeanor and public statements decrying toxic masculinity seem to upend his “masculine” stature and NFL career. In the wake of so many “bad men” finally being held accountable across our society’s various pillars of power, Terry Crews emerged, triumphantly, as one of the “good guys.”
Now, however, it’s as though his own thoughts on toxic masculinity are voided by the very idea that children would be disadvantaged or “malnourished” without both male and female parental love in their lives. He also seems to further imply that two parents of the same gender wouldn’t think to make sure their children have positive role models of all genders during their upbringing. This was an offense not just to same-sex parents, but also to all of the single mothers and fathers out there.
Luckily, we know that what Crews says isn’t even the scientific truth. In a Cornell University survey of 79 studies on the matter, all but four studies concluded that children raised by same-sex parents fare no worse than children in other family structures. (Those four studies focus on children whose parents had split, which can add a layer of instability in homes.)
According to the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank, more than 114,000 cohabitation same-sex couples across the US were raising their children. Still, attitudes like the one perpetuated by Crews can lead to public policies that put families with same-sex parents at risk of losing legal protections. “Our findings highlight the importance of laws and policies that encourage and support adoption and fostering by same-sex couples,” lead author Shoshana Goldberg, PhD, visiting scholar at the Williams Institute, said in a statement last July. “Without these policies, a qualified population of prospective parents may not have equal access to government-funded child welfare agencies and services.”
Most recently, the Trump administration has allowed adoption and foster agencies to discriminate against prospective parents through religious exemptions. Rights for LGBTQ+ parents are not set in stone in the slightest and are, at best, a patchwork of laws and court rulings that vary from state to state.
Now, the American Psychological Association has long debunked the idea that a child with same-sex parents is at some sort of disadvantage for development. But the kicker? The real disadvantage comes from those who don’t accept their relationships; from laws that prevent families from functioning safely; from those who bully these families. And with Crews’ words, apology or not, he’s only enabled more of the same.