Rudy Espinoza Murray

Rudy Espinoza Murray

My whole life, I’ve been hearing many stupid things that people, for some reason, think it’s OK to say. I get it, sometimes we see things, and we wonder, and we’re curious, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to say or ask it out loud (or write about it). And some things are just hateful and mean. 

Last week, my husband and I visited a museum. I was pushing the stroller with our 6-month-old baby girl. When an old man comes up to me and asks, “where is her mother?” I responded, without hesitation, “she doesn’t have a mother; she has two dads.” Which he then proceeds to tell me, “she needs a mother.” I just turned around, and while walking away, I said, “she has two grandmothers.” It’s the only thing I could think of that didn’t involve expletives. 

Unfortunately, it’s only one of many similar experiences. Before Avery Elena was born, I was in a Zoom meeting with colleagues and the head of a marketing agency. During the initial awkward small talk, while waiting for everyone to join, she asked me, “who’s the real father?” It felt like forever — the awkward silence filled the virtual room, and no one moved or made a sound. It was like a game of chicken of who would break that silence brought on by ignorance. I broke the silence. “She has two real fathers,” I said. At that moment, the last person we were waiting for logged in, and we started the meeting. 

Avery Elena was born in Atlanta, Georgia, this past April. She’s a beautiful COVID baby — her smile can light up any room. My husband and I were so happy to finally have her in our arms that we cried tears of joy. That incredible moment will forever be tainted by one hospital staffer — the woman who was supposed to help us get our baby’s birth certificate. She decided not to accept our paternity order and refused to include my husband and me as the fathers on the document. The staffer told our surrogate that she had three options for the birth certificate. One option was that the surrogate could be the only one on there. The other option was to have her and her husband as the parents, and Avery would have her husband’s last name. And the third option, if the surrogate denied being on the baby’s birth certificate, the hospital staff person would hand our baby over to the state.

Two capable and loving parents were sitting in that hospital room who waited three years for this moment, and a staffer tried to deny us because we were two men. But the hospital staffer messed with the wrong folks. Our surrogate is an elected official in Georgia, and she made a few phone calls that got the legal counsel and even the hospital CEO involved. Long story short, the outcome was satisfactory for us. We were othered, denied our rights and treated less than straight parents. We were lucky to be adjacent to power, which solved our dilemma. 

I want to go even further back in time — back to my college years. I went to Auburn, Alabama, to visit one of my best friends. We were walking on the sidewalk to get to our car when a guy driving by in a pickup truck yelled, “f—ing Mexican!” We looked around, and we were the only people on the street, so no question that message was for me. I looked over at my friend, and his face was a different color. He was embarrassed and more perturbed than me by what had just happened. 

I don’t have enough space in this opinion piece to continue sharing anecdotes like these. But my message to you — sometimes it may be better to withhold comments or questions. My experiences have been filled with racism, bigotry, homophobia and othering because people thought what they had to say or ask was more important than how it could make me feel. I share this with you to better understand that our life experiences shape how we view and interact with the world. 

So when you hear me speaking up for a need for more people like me in power, it’s for a pretty darn good reason.

Rudy Espinoza Murray is a Redwood City resident and community organizer on housing, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ+ and Latinx issues. He is a co-founder and lead of the San Mateo County Farmworker Affairs Coalition.

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(23) comments

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Hello Rudy,

My son is openly gay. He is well known and beloved by the community in which we live. No doubt, there are some ignorant people harboring peculiar notions about matters of sexuality and ethnicity as well. After reading about your experiences, I thank God we moved into a community of loving conservatives. I hope you slay the dragons set before you and congratulate you on the arrival of Avery Elena. For me, parenthood and grandparenthood is a blessing without equal.

Rudy E

Thanks for sharing. It’s a true blessing. 🙏🏽

Ray Fowler

Hello, Rudy

Matt Grocott's column earlier this week suggested a re-emphasis of the role of fathers in raising boys and how such a re-emphasis could positively impact some of our societal ills. I agree with Matt... and I would add that other parenting models are just as valuable to our society and those models can certainly positively impact our world as well. I have never met you but I know your daughter is blessed to have two loving and nurturing fathers.

Sadly, you have not heard the end of mean-spirited and thoughtless comments, but keep fighting the good fight. Your living example is the best way to change uninformed perceptions. Have a great weekend with that baby!

Rudy E

Thank you, Ray. As I’ve said before, I always appreciate your comments. 🙏🏽Have a great weekend!

willallen

"So when you hear me speaking up for a need for more people like me in power, it’s for a pretty darn good reason."

You already have the power - in the mass media and that is where power is today.

pheebkat

[blink]

Terence Y

Mr. Murray – thanks for sharing. However, you’re mistaken when you say your child doesn’t have a mother. She has a mother. You may not want to acknowledge her mother, but without her, you wouldn’t have your new addition. Actually, without a mother, none of us would be around. So much for acknowledging women’s equality. I guess your child won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day. Is there a Surrogate Day? As for your experiences being filled with whatnot, guess what, this whatnot was here before you and will be here after you. I won’t even get into the part about the mother (yes, a surrogate, but also the mother) pulling some strings. So much for equity, since others don’t get the same treatment. BTW, people may be offended that what you have to say is more important than how it makes them feel and so maybe it’s not okay to say it out loud (or write about it). So when these people speak up, it’s for a pretty darn good reason, too.

HFAB

Good lord. Celebrate Mothers' Day? How many mothers in the world have been abandoned by the men who fathered their children? Here are two men who, with intention, want to be good fathers and have made that commitment. How other people feel about my family is best left unsaid. What's that expression? If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all? You have no idea what other people's shoes are like, so don't talk about what you think they are like. This baby girl is so fortunate.

Tommy Tee

Exactly! Talk about stupid stuff people say!

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Tommy,

Are you talking about HFAB or Terence? I know how much you dislike me using quotes, but you and HFAB should think about this one.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Terence Y

100%, Wilfred. 100%

Rudy E

I’ll save those comments for my part two of Stupid S**t People Say.

Terence Y

Rudy E, thanks for taking the time to respond. Unfortunately, it appears you’re not following your own observation that sometimes things aren’t OK to say. They may be considered hateful and mean. Or your message to us that sometimes it may be better to withhold comments… So you say one thing but do the opposite? Maybe you can address that in your next column. BTW, so that’s a firm no on your child celebrating the second Sunday in May?

Tommy Tee

Rudy-Just follow Terence and you'll never run out of stupid s**it people say.

100%, Rudy, 100%.

Terence Y

Et tu, Tommy? It sounds like Tommy, like Rudy, isn’t paying much heed to Rudy’s or HFAB’s advice. One has to wonder whether Tommy had a compassionate motherly influence in his life or whether bar soap was a fixed item on the grocery list.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Why Terence! How could we be so gauche and indelicate? 🤣

Gamergirl

Thank you Rudy for this open letter. I spent the weekend with a friend who raised his daughter as a single father. He did an amazing job and proudly sent her off to college this year. So here’s to all the dads - single, double and every other iteration who raise their children with love and devotion. You are role models for all of us.

Rudy E

Hi Gamergirl! Thanks for sharing this. It’s important that we remind folks that there are so many different kinds of families!

thomasjohnbauer

Thank you so much for your story and congratulations on the addition of your daughter. My husband and I adopted a teen out of the foster care system in San Mateo County. We too have endured stupid comments from the unintelligent and under informed. We are proud to say that Jon has two fathers but I also throw in that he has a mother too - me! My maternal instincts are strong! You should see their faces when I say that!

craigwiesner

I loved your response! Thank you!

Rudy E

Ha! Brilliant! Jon is a lucky kid!! ❤️

craigwiesner

Thank you! There are folks who read this paper (print and online) who think that we shouldn't share the lens through which we see the world, just our opinions. I'm grateful whenever someone does share their history, their joys and wounds, because that helps me understand the stands they are taking on issues, and, knowing the history, joys and wounds behind the opinions helps move me. Congratulations on being a parent, a family of three now, and doing one of the most awesome things we humans can do, loving unconditionally and raising a new generation!

Rudy E

Thank you, Craig. I will keep your words in mind when writing because we’re all human and our experiences impact our views, interactions, and decisions.

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