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Thursday, January 28, 2010

'Gaybies'? It's complicated.


There was an article last week in the NY Times about children of same sex parents.

'Gaybies' they're called. That's not what the NY Times article called them. That was a term used in an article by John Blevins in Religious Dispatches. More on that later.

My, my, my, how things have changed since we started our family thirty-three years ago. Today, according to the NY Times article:
In 2008 about 116,000 same-sex couples across the country were raising a total of about 250,000 children under age 18, according to an analysis of Census data by Gary J. Gates, a demographer of the gay and lesbian population at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, law school.
Can I just say? This absolutely blows my mind.

I mean, I remember being pregnant with our youngest child. Very Pregnant. I mean, I was huge. One Friday night, late in my pregnancy, I wanted to go dancing. So, Ms. Conroy took me to our local gay bar - aptly named 'Rumors'.

I think we lasted less than an hour. That's about all we could stand. It was awful. The looks we got!

Indeed, later that year, when our daughter was three months old, we packed up all the kiddos (I think there were six at the time) and went to the New England Women's Music Festival. It was there I got my button that said, "How dare you presume I'm straight?"

I wished I had had that button that night at 'Rumors'. I didn't need it for the straight people as much as I did the Lesbian and Gay people (We not only didn't talk about bisexual people, there was open hostility toward them. And Transgender wasn't even a word in our lexicon yet).

That was 1981. We've come a long way, my friends. But, apparently, not far enough.

The NY Times article focused on the testimony given last month in the New Jersey State House in Trenton by the 'Gaybies'. They reported:
In recent years, an increasing number of these children — ranging in age from 10 to nearly 40 — have taken active roles in campaigns organized by Colage (formerly known as Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), and civil rights groups like Lambda Legal and Glad (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders). Their involvement is helping to change the narrative of same-sex marriage to a story about families from one about couples.
Many of these kids, like our own, know well the anxiety LGBT families who don't have the civil and domestic benefits of marriage.

They will tell you that it really isn't about the 'stigma' of being gay. Most of their friends don't give two figs about what makes up a family. It only matters that there is a family.

Our families may not have "the values" of the Religious Right - everything in 'order', starting with the man on top - but we have many 'traditional values' and place a very high value on what it means to be family.

It's about the anxiety of their parents not being able to provide the safety and security of other parents because they're not able to marry.

Again, quoting from the article:
Zach Wahls, a freshman at the University of Iowa whose mothers married this summer in Iowa, one of the few states where same-sex marriage is legal, said in a recent interview: “At the end of the day, it’s really about separate but equal. This isn’t just about lesbian and gay, it’s about tolerance and acceptance.”

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based organization that advocates for legalized same-sex marriage, said: “There is no good reason to punish children raised by gay parents by denying parents marriage and its protections. It harms kids rather than helping them.”
I know. It boggles my mind but this is actually controversial stuff for some people. It seems to simple and so obvious to me, but apparently, it's a HUGE threat to some.

I'm not sure what that threat is exactly, or how our family is "ruining the fabric of America", but apparently, that's what we've been doing for the past 33 years.

Meanwhile, our kids have been going to school, graduating from college, being gainfully employed, getting married, buying homes, having babies . . . real radical stuff, right?

Except, of course, it's complicated. Or, getting even more so.

A recent article in Religion Dispatches revealed just how complicated it has become.

The adults in our family yearn for the legal protection that same-sex marriage would offer. And yet, our family consists of four adults. It is a relationship, though one without a simple term to define it.

While we are not the least bit interested in securing any legal recognition akin to marriage for the relationship among the four of us, we have struggled to have that relationship recognized when we petitioned the courts for legal recognition of more than two parents in regard to our children.

While the courts in our home state of Georgia were willing to grant parental rights to two people of the same sex, they were not willing to grant parental rights to more than two people—even though all four of us are involved in raising our sons. We consider ourselves parents, have made personal and professional decisions that have put our children’s interest first, and are named by our children as their parents. Sounds like a family to me.

And yet, since marriage presumes two in the context of children, this means that parenting presumes two as well.

Well, I can hear the people on the Right starting to spin out of control. See! They cry. See what's happening! "They" (the nefarious Evil 'they') are changing the definition of 'sacred institutions' like marriage and family. We're all going to hell in a hand basket.

And, I confess, they have a point. The world IS changing. Some LGBT people I know are concerned about families like these as well - might they hurt our efforts to 'ape the cultural stigmata' and obtain civil rights 'just like everybody else'?

I understand the political implications - the political process is a strange beast with a finicky but demanding appetite - but I don't see it as being part of a pernicious plot to bring about the end of the world as we know it.

Like it or not, the world IS changing. Families like mine have been part of that change. It is what it is. So, of course, the language we use and our definition of marriage and family will change accordingly.

John Blevin's family is clearly a religious one. He writes:
In the case of my sons, their own lives speak both to gay families and life in Christian communities. Three of their parents are seminary graduates. One parent is ordained and a full-time minister; I am a licensed minister and have served on the faculty of a seminary; all of us have taken our sons to worship in Christian communities.
This is not a family to be easily dismissed as some wack-a-doodle counter-cultural hippie freaks. They sound pretty mainstream to me. And, they sound like a family.

They do not fit the definition of family - not even the one we've worked so hard to establish - but it sure looks and acts and sounds like a family.

And, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . .

I've always heard these words which Jesus spoke from the cross to be a heartbreaking plea from a dying man to those he loved and those who loved him:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27).
But this wasn't just any dying, condemned man. These are the words of a man who was to die and be resurrected on the third day. These are the words of a man who had come to change everything - to turn it upside down and make it right again - including, or perhaps especially, how we understand the way we are in relationship with each other and him and to God.

Instead of seeing change as a threat - as I was seen in that gay bar in 1981 - perhaps this kind of earth-moving, soul-shaking, sometimes confusing and confounding change to the foundations of our systems of belief and all that we hold dear is all part of the on-going revelation of what Jesus did on that cross.

Instead of seeing it as an Evil, could it be that even the false idol we have made of marriage and family are being torn down so that we might get closer to the truth of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and the way God ordered the cosmos at Eden?

There are times when I yearn for the simplicity of life. I wish all things in life could be a lot more simple. Things like mercy and kindness. Acceptance and tolerance. Equality and justice for all - not 'just us' - justice.

It's not. Apparently, it's complicated.

11 comments:

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Ok, I am laughing at the image of the looks on people's faces of a hugely pregnant you, dancing. I'm wondering if everyone was afraid your water was going to break and you were going to deliver on a cocktail table right then and there!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It was 1981. It wasn't so much that I was a very pregnant dancing woman, it was that I was a very pregnant dancing woman in a gay bar. I 'troubled' the stereotypes.

It was 1981. And, it was a very odd site for a gay bar. Now, not so much.

Okay, and I admit that a very pregnant me dancing is a fairly startling image. LOL.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

In our parallel universe, 1981 was the spring my college buddies and I (I was a college senior) went to Mardi Gras. We were in this bar while the band was on break, when the band started back up, we suddenly realized we were in a gay bar.

Imagine a half dozen rural NE Missouri/Southern IA college kids in 1981, dumb as dirt, suddenly realizing they are in a gay bar! We were all educating and getting educated that year!

Geeklet said...

Why should anyone get to define what a family is? We know in our hearts who makes up our family - be it via biological connections, or emotional ones.

The legal definition of my family would say that my family is a particular set of people who share particular DNA...whatevers. Or which family I marry into.

Regardless, *my* definition of who makes up *my* family is radically different, and much broader than the world of legalities would or could ever accept.

Quite frankly, same-sex marriages and polygamous marriages don't bother me. The whole concept of same-sex marriage somehow "leading" to polygamous marriage...well, why should that bother me, so long as all the individuals involved are consenting adults participating in their relationships of their own free will?

Somehow, I think we destroy the sanctity of both marriage and family by trying to fit either in a box.

hazeldoodle said...

I love what you wrote. I am a Christian and a partnered lesbian. I've recently watched the latest season of the HBO series 'Big Love' about a polygamous, Mormon family who are trying to live out their beliefs. They express the belief that they are called by God into the relationships which make up their family as much as they are called into a relationship with God. Now I have plenty of major theological disagreements with Mormonism, but this fictional family's struggle resonates with me in a way that a show like 'The L word' can't (I actually couldn't bear to watch that show after the 1st season). I have to admit that I do believe that I had been 'called' into a relationship with my partner in a similar way that I now experience a 'calling' to the priesthood. Unfortunately I'm living in the middle of one of the most conservative dioceses in the country! Being able to read blogs like yours encourages me greatly-thanks!

Suzer said...

I'm not quite sure I understand the quote about the four parent situation, but it seems to refer to a polyamorous relationship?

If that's true, and without saying yea or nay about polyamory's moral or legal status, how is the four parent situation described really any different from two heterosexual parents who have divorced and remarried other heretosexual spouses? In that situation, there are two biological parents, and two step-parents, all of whom typically have a parenting relationship with the child or children. Most step-parents have enough guardianship rights to, for instance, take a child to the hospital for treatment if necessary.

Is it really that much different than the extended families of prior years, before the "nuclear family" became the prevailing definition of family? Grandparents often lived in the same house with parents and children, and helped raise the grandchildren. Some still do, in fact, even if living in a different house. How come our definition of family can accept that (in which some parties are biologically unrelated), but cannot accept other biologically unrelated parenting structures?

That said, all children need structure and stability as they grow. Not all of them get it, whether in a "traditional" family structure, or a non-traditional - for example, polyamorous - structure. Our society should be focusing on whether a child is loved, cared for, safe, given appropriate boundaries, educated, etc., rather than who is providing all of that for the child. Of course, those things being difficult to quantify, society focuses instead on the sexual orientation of those involved, or the number of parents in a relationship, etc. The "best interest of the child" is too often overlooked in favor of religious or societal prejudices, I fear.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

No, Suzer, it didn't say, but since they are all lesbian or gay, I suspect the relationship among these four parents is strictly homosexual. OCICBW, but that's my hunch.

Mark Delcuze said...

Hey, I've seen Mother Elizabeth dance and while our lives didn't intersect until a year or so later than that scene, I am here to testify that she can shake a leg as effectively as she can a congregation!

Bless all those who bless the children of our land with homes and love, especially the Quarter Million kids with same gender parents. That stat is going in a sermon somewhere soon.

"We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind ..." (It's in the Hymnal 1982, look it up)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark, I do remember 'gettin' down' wid y'all in the Kirkland St. courtyard in seminary housing. We set up speakers on both sides of the "U" apartments and we was gettin' our Mo'town on. Hard.

We didn't know it then, but those were the good old days.

MarkBrunson said...

Wait, that's what "gaybies" is?

I always thought it was the homophobes were afraid of catching.

e. g. -

"We're taking the kids to get their yearly gaybies vaccinations."

"We had to have the dog put down; he'd gone gaybid."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I know, Mark. I'm not very fond of it, either.