May 01, 2009

What Would I Say

Image: Marlith, via Flickr

My friend Jenn (who is going to start blogging SOON, I hope) has been asked to speak at a gay-themed event this weekend, and asked me what I would say if asked to speak on the topic of gay parenting and/or marriage.

Of course my first thought was of our son. Mr. D has been Star of the Week at his school this week, an honor that rotates through the entire class, one student at a time. Mr. D was the final episode. As part of his star turn, he filled out a poster about himself ("I am super because I am funny, energetic, and funny") which he shared with the class in anticipation of their comments and questions. In the "who lives in my house" section of his presentation, Mr. D's two-mom status went virtually unremarked; it was his pet puppet dog "Mr. Flappybobs" who got most of the attention.

But just before bed the other night, he shared with my partner that kids occasionally think of her as some kind of "substitute." (His word, and theirs.) Telling his Tama this story, our boy was simultaneously annoyed and dismissive: "Of course you're not a substitute! You're just... a parent!"

He gets it. Most of his friends get it, too. As the white lesbian mom of a first-grader, I feel sometimes like I'm in a giant game of "Beat the Clock."

Can we teach our boy enough about the primacy of love before someone plays the, "Your moms aren't even married!" card? Can we teach our boy enough about the long shadow of discrimination before he has his first recognized encounter with racism? Has he already fully internalized the fundamental truth that girls can do anything?

~ ~ ~

If you are an American citizen, here's my question for you: When in your life have you felt fully American?

I remember the first time I felt that way. I was watching the US hockey team compete in the 1980 Olympics. Their improbable win pulled me in, and I felt part of something larger than myself. The next time was in 1987, at the second national March on Washington in support of gay rights. I held hands with my then-girlfriend in full view of the White House, and something shifted in me. I began to dream of a different world. In 2003, when the Supreme Court overturned Bowers v. Hardwick with its Lawrence v. Texas decision, there was a news story about businesses in San Francisco's Castro district flying the US flag for the first time, after having previously flown only the rainbow flag. One of my African-American friends waived an American flag for the first time when Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee.

It is hard to count the cost of exclusion. I can't tell you what the economic impact or wider social implications of legalizing gay marriage would be. (Although I'm sure people are studying just that.)

I can tell you that my partner, our son, and I are a family. That neither my partner nor I are a "substitute" in our son's life. And that something changes when we feel acknowledged for who we are. We pay first class taxes. We'd like to feel like first-class citizens.

Whatever the cost of disenfranchisement, it is too high. And I guess that's what I'd say.

LinkImage: Elaron via Flickr

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