18 February 2006

Feeding the Body, Feeding the Political Soul, Plus a Bonus Conversation from CG

Most of this post will be about politics, but let me start with food. A Japanese mother has a fotoblog, minmin's obento, showing the food she makes her children. It's beautiful. It makes me feel peaceful and loved just looking at it. I love serving food to Curious Girl in divided plates--even now--because I like filling the sections with small servings of different things. But this blog shows how even a single container can be a bento box of sorts. Very nifty.

And I needed a little bit of peace for my spirit today because Shannon's incredible post today got me all worked up (and I hope it gets you moved to act, too). She writes about the ways in which lgb families are threatened by the legal structures which generally ignore us, sometimes recognize us, and at worst actively work against us. I don't have any close friends who've conceived having one partner carry a pregnancy that began with the other partner's egg and IVF, and I never realized that such situations can involve one person signing away parental rights. Horrible.

Politica and I are always amazed at what some of our straight friends--even those who study politics for a living--don't realize about the ways American law gives them rights that we don't have ( the right has had some success in labeling the gay rights movement a quest for special rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. In some respects, I don't want rights; I want responsibilities. I want the responsiblity of being Politica's next of kin (which would, I know, mean I want the right to choose my next of kin by marrying, just like all the straight people I know can do if they choose). Earlier this year we had a chance to move to another state, in which our family would have enjoyed far better legal recognition; the move didn't happen, because we couldn't work out two jobs and we decided that overall, the political situation just wasn't worth the risk of moving without a job for both of us. But things progressed far enough that some people we work with here became aware of the possibility we might leave. And it amazed us that some of our colleagues were themselves amazed that we might dream of leaving Our Fair City. After all, we have nice jobs! a nice school for CG! a great neighborhood! (and, my mother amusingly commented to my sister, a great war memorial! does she really think people decide where to live based on the quality of historical monuments around?) Yes, all this is true. There's much to recommend our quality of life here. But we don't have any recognition of our relationship to each other. We've had to fake it, creating powers of attorney, health care proxies, and wills which describe our wishes. And we know that those documents may or may not be honored when push comes to shove, and that our estates will be taxed disproportionately before passing to the survivor (which is irritating, but not nearly so scary as the possibility that we might not be able to be making medical decisions for each other in an emergency.
We are both legal parents to Curious Girl. We live in a state where second parent adoptions are possible (joint adoptions not yet), and we made sure to do that as soon as possible after the overseas adoption. Very few people know which of us adopted, formally, in which setting, because we didn't want to open the door to clueless questioners suggesting that one of us was more or less a parent than the other in the period between adoptions. We each have a secure legal tie to our daughter, and we carry the documentation of that tie with us everywhere, just in case we run into a situation where someone doesn't believe it. (And we try not to go to Oklahoma, which doesn't recognize other state's 2nd parent adoptions. Oklahoma is really not nice.)

But even that situation isn't entirely secure. Our state is one of many in the midst of the frenzy to amend constitutions to define marriage as between only one man and one woman (existing law to that effect not considered enough to ease the threat to marriage). One possible effect of the amendment rattling around the legislature might be to prevent future second parent adoptions, or even to void past adoptions. Our clueless straight colleagues who wondered why we might ever want to leave the happy heartland don't have to worry that the government might someday sever the legal relationship between them and their children. Nor do they have to worry about the psychological effects on us or our children of hearing "balanced" news reports quoting one pseduo-expert spouting unsupported opinions about the threats lgb people and/or families pose to civilization or children. (Note: the research is clear that children of lgb parents are pretty much like the children of straight parents. we cause no harmful effects. gee.) So when my colleagues say "oh, it doesn't matter who you vote for," I think, "well, yes, it does. It's the new Republican majority in our state legislature that is enabling this amendment to tootle along toward passage." It really, really matters to me.

Attitudes are changing. Politica--whom I may try to cajole into guest blogging here if any of you are curious about these sorts of issues--told me this morning that in New Jersey, polls show that more than half of those surveyed now support gay marriage and overwhelmingly oppose putting an anti-marriage initiative on the ballot. Support for civil unions or marriage is growing, and I'm confident that in another hundred years, all Americans will enjoy equal rights to marry. In the meantime, Politica dreams of organizing our world travels by picking countries which support gay marriage. That would mean we might vacation in the Czech Republic. I grew up at the tail end of the cold war and nothing in my 1970s elementary school education prepared me to believe that any of the former Soviet unions would be leading the US in civil rights. Canada, no suprise. But the Czech Republic?

Given all this, I have a hard time understanding how lesbian and gay parents can use this legal setting for their own individual benefit by asserting that biological connections are what makes parenthood. Shannon's post opens remembering a California case where divorcing lesbians ended up in court over child custody and one partner (who had carried the couple's then 7-year old twins) argued that the other partner wasn't a parent to the children at all. Politica's scholarly work is full of such stories. And in our own state there is a case making these arguments now. Politica says lgb people are no nicer than straight people and that if angry divorcing straight people could get away with all this, they would. Maybe so. But I get so, oh so angry when I read about divorcing lesbians who don't consider the wider effects of such arguments. Every court decision that asserts that a non-biological mother isn't a parent hurts all of us. Shame on them.

To end on a happier note: at dinner I was telling Politica about Shannon's post and wondering if she might like to post an entry on my blog. "I want to be in your blog, Mama! I want to be in your blog!" said Curious Girl (obviously unaware that she's already in my blog quite frequently." "What would you like to tell my blog friends?" I asked her, wondering if she might want to fess up to making her own contributions to Airport Week festivities (this morning at breakfast we had to play airplane, which involved someone being a navigator, someone being a "violin attendant" (who served snacks, gave directions about seatbelts, and told people when to go potty) and someone being a "patient" (who drove the airplane and occasionally asked after the flight attendant). But no, such adorable reports where not what she wanted you to know, dear readers. Her big news: "Tell them I bited my tongue twice today." I'm not sure whether she wants your sympathy or your appreciation for her fortitude in soldiering through the bites.


LilySea said...

Post onward, Politica!

Let's get a little ball rolling...

Phantom Scribbler said...

This makes me so mad that I don't even know what to say. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that so many straight people are willing to abrogate what should be your inalienable right to love and form a family. I'm sorry that so many others of us are willing to sit around and do nothing about the first group. And I'm sorry that I sometimes get complacent, living here in Massachusetts. The point about being "trapped" in California really knocked that out of me.


On that lighter note, I'm glad Airport Week is its own meme for the preschool set. Tell CG that we sure hope her tongue feels better.

Scrivener said...

What Phantom said. And add to it that I'm sorry I live in GA, which passed a state constitutional amendment in '04, albeit under false pretenses. I do think the push against gay unions is coming about because the wingnuts know it's now or never.

Mommygoth said...

I live in North Carolina, which should mean I'm up to my ears in conservative exclusionism, but I live in one small area of NC that has become a microcosm, in many ways, of what the US SHOULD be. You know, that whole right to the pursuit of happiness gig? The idea that love is always okay between consenting adults, no matter what?

I agree that it's really hard when people make decisions to better their own lives that have lasting repercussions for hundreds of thousands of other people - fair or not, I expect better from lgb couples who split, because they've had to suffer persecution in so many forms.

The best thing we can do right now is try to raise as much of the next generation right. And fight the ugly when we find it.

Lauren said...

It's a sobering post. Would like to read what Politica has to say.

And love the lunches made my the Japanese mom! Jack had a classmate who is Japanese, and his mom even made gorgeous PBJ sandwiches, triple decker, crusts painstakingly cut off, geometrically dazzling.

Arwen said...

I got waylaid by those beautiful lunches and didn't come back right away; but it just makes me nuts that things are still hard for families in the States, and worries me that our new government might try to set the clock back here. I have this little dream that we could just do a straight (no pun intended) trade of glbt folks in the states for some of our conservatives who'd feel more at home in, say, texas: but I know that I should be pounded with cricket bats for that sort of thinking. After all, Conservatives are Canadians too. Sigh.

I'd also be interested in Politica's guest blogging.

And tell CG I'm sorry she bit her tongue. I bite my tongue sometimes and I don't like the feeling at all.

susan said...

Politica is pondering her blogging options, so she'll have something for us one of these days, and she's happy you're interested in her thoughts.

One thing that should help to safeguard the progress in Massachusetts and Canada is that marriages have been going on for a while and the sky hasn't fallen. In places where there has been a quick backlash against a court decision (in Hawaii, for example, where the state constitution was amended quickly after the court decision that would have permitted gay marriage), there haven't been any periods where marriage was possible. So the fact that the social fabric of these places isn't fraying and where politicians who were pro-marriage didn't lose seats (in fact, in MA some people who opposed marriage lost seats, I think), it's clear that marriage is working out. So that's all to the good.

CG appreciates all the good wishes. And she says to all of you Happy President's Day (she's not too shy to comment at Pilgrim's--on her first reading she wanted to type!)

Scrivener said...

"One thing that should help to safeguard the progress in Massachusetts and Canada is that marriages have been going on for a while and the sky hasn't fallen." I think that is exactly right.

ANd you should have let CG comment at Pilgrim's too! She's welcome anytime.

Yankee T said...

Thanks for this post. I had been over at Shannon's earlier. God help us all, is all I can say!

susan said...

Actually, CG did comment at Pilgrim's, but Haloscan ate it. She wrote "I love you, and happy president's day." except it looked more like xjl;adsfkljl;aeurajl;kfmasdl;kjdao

The bento box blog is really amazing. I love how her comments show why she picked the foods for the days (at least some of the time). What an act of love.

liz said...

Mr. Spock and I are working to get our state to be bluer. At the moment it's still mighty red, but slowly, slowly it's changing.

Hopefully we'll be able to defeat the amendment our mostly red legislature has put on the ballot for this November. It'll invalidate all contracts giving non-married persons any rights normally pertaining to marriage.


I hope we can beat it.