Thursday, November 8, 2012

This is Not Politics. This is Everything.

The election is over. And many of my friends have been posting on Facebook about how now we can all just get along again. I too hope that things calm down and that civility can be restored - especially among the people I count as family and as real friends. But I'm also still reeling a little bit from what went on in the last month or two. I know that my candidate won and there were many victories for marriage equality across the nation on Tuesday but all is not won until we can begin to see beyond "political issues" to the human costs involved.

I was vocal about my feeling that a vote for Romney, especially publicly voiced support for him, was an affront to me as a lesbian and to all LGBT people. Many countered this idea with the argument that they couldn't base their vote on a single issue, and I get that. I really do. Besides MR's staunch anti-marriage equality stance, his ignorant statements about not knowing that same sex couples even HAVE families, and his unwillingness to extend gay people (including gay veterans) the right to visit their significant other in the hospital, I had many other reasons to not vote for him. As you can imagine I disagree with him and most republicans on just about every issue from abortion to gun control to education and the environment. Yes, I have very strong opinions on issues like abortion and gun control. And I'm sure you do too. I'm happy to agree to disagree with you about those things. At the end of the day, we just don't see eye to eye on everything, and that's OK. But none of those issues matter in the same way because they are ISSUES. My family and our right to be recognized as belonging to one another is not an ISSUE. And this is not just about gay marriage.
I know some of you feel you've been personally hurt financially by Obama's economic policies and maybe you have. As someone who identifies as coming from a working-class background and as someone whose family is currently struggling financially, I empathize with your distress over economic realities. Maybe Obama's economic policies have not been good for you or for me or for the country at large. But they do not deny you your humanity. They do not deny you your human dignities or single you and your family out as being worth less than other people in any way.

If you are a friend or family member--if you love me, care about what happens to me, my partner and our son, or if you claim to love and care about another LGBT person in the world then I don't think it is too much to ask you to try to put yourself in our shoes for a minute:

What if your family were being denied basic things that most people take for granted? What if Obama wanted to pass a law that said you and your family were not entitled to the same things that most other families in America were entitled to? What if he went out of his way to make sure that people like you - (people who were Mormon, or Christian, or disabled, or born with a rare genetic condition) could not visit their husband or wife as they lay dying in a hospital or that people like you could not be granted a proper birth certificate for your child?  I know if these things happened to me personally you would sympathize. I know you would care. I know you would worry for me and pray for me and hope the best for me and my family. And maybe you just didn't/couldn't allow yourself to really consider that these things could become a reality for me and my family. But in many ways, they already are.

I am lucky to live in New York State where Gay marriage is legal - and even luckier to live in NYC where people generally don't bat an eye when they hear my son has two moms or when I refer to myself as a lesbian. But every year when Kelli and I drive to the midwest to visit family, we pass through states where not only is same-sex marriage illegal, gay couples have no rights at all in hospitals, in child custody cases, in hundreds--yes hundreds--of other realms.... We pass through towns where being gay is not only widely considered a sin but also considered revolting. In many parts of the country we are feared and loathed, still, and our New York State marriage license means absolutely nothing, legally.

If on one of these road trips we were to, God forbid, get into a car accident and if one of us were critically injured and had to be rushed to the hospital, fighting for our life, any of those hospitals could deny us the right to even be together in an operating room or to make the medical decisions that a legally recognized spouse would make. If I was dead or in a coma, and our son needed medical treatment the hospital could deny my partner the right to make decisions about his  medical care or even to stay with him in the hospital. Most disturbingly, if I were dead and in a coma and our son was fine, the state could take him away from my partner - the only other parent he has ever known - and place him in foster care. And they would be legally in their right to do so. That thought terrifies me!

So please don't shrug this off as though I'm simply getting huffy over politics. This goes way deeper than that.

To have the person who holds the highest office in this country be so outspoken about thinking that these things are OK would be detrimental to all of us. There is a dangerous logic at work here when you seek to deny a group of people certain rights that are granted to others. If it can happen to one group it can happen to any group. Stripping someone of their rights is the first step towards dehumanizing them--it opens the flood gates for other kinds of discrimination, prejudice, bullying and even violence. And it sends a message to LGBT youth who are probably already struggling with who they are--the message that who they are is less than who everyone else is. This is a struggle that all of us LGBT people have felt at the very core of our being at some point in our lives. When Obama came out in support of marriage equality last spring that helped undo a little bit of the damage that's been done to us since we were children. And it made space for some hope in the lives of many LGBT youth.

I have never unfriended someone on Facebook before. I've made it my policy not to. Generally, I feel like it's my duty to represent myself and my tribe here. I know that there are some LGBT people who disagree with this idea, but I want people to see that my family is just like everyone else's in almost every way - that we are in every way that counts, a family. In short, that we are human. LGBT people whether we are partnered or not, whether we are parents or not deserve to have our humanity affirmed.

If Obama were denying you and your family hundreds of things that my family and the rest of the families in the country were entitled to I would not vote for him. I would never show public support for him and I certainly would never trounce you for asking me not to. I would understand your desire and expectation to have ALL of the good people in your life stand with you.

Please think about this from my perspective--as a parent, as a spouse. What's done is done. The election is over and we cannot unpost what has been posted on Facebook. Yet I still feel the need to explain myself and let you know how deeply hurt I've been by the attitude and the assertions that I have been making much ado about nothing. This is not nothing to me. This is not politics. This is my family, my self. This is everything.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reading Gay into Brave

Some people in the blogosphere have recently taken offense to the notion that Merida, the character in the latest Disney/Pixar movie "Brave," could possibly be a lesbian. As a bisexual in a lesbian relationship for almost 17 years I do not understand why this is offensive. More to the point, as a little girl growing up knowing that I sometimes had crushes on other girls (mostly celebrities), I think this question is actually kind of important.  I mean, if there really is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, so what if she is?

But she's not, for the record. I mean, at least officially. There is nothing at all in the movie that overtly suggests Merida is gay. So why are we having this conversation? Why does this conversation matter?

All the feminist mommy blogs have been anticipating Brave's release since Pixar first gave us a glimpse of the movie early last year. It's a big deal to finally have a female lead character in a Pixar film, and it's an even bigger deal that she is a non-princessy princess. Merida is a strong, independent young woman. And girls in our culture are starved for strong, independent characters that we can identify with.

But lesbians will tell you we are starved for positive role models even more. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the first person who posed the question of Merida's possible lesbianism was herself in fact a lesbian -- though interestingly, the only people I've seen writing about this so far are men: Chris Heller in The Atlantic and Andrew O'Hehir at Salon (unsure if they are gay men or not), and of course the post that started it all: Adam Markowitz's piece in EW. Honestly, as I sat watching the movie I had the thought myself.  I thought, 'oh, cool the way she's written little girls watching this who may already have some inkling about who they are might be able to read that into it if they want to.' Postive representations of who we are are essential for human development. But some of us are more represented than others in popular culture. As LGBT people, we look for ourselves all the time! There's a whole field of academic study that is built on combing through pieces of literature looking for subtle cues or signs that may allow us to read a character as gay. This is a human need: the need to see ourselves and our realities reflected back to us in some way.

One of the criticisms that I've come across of Markowitz's argument is that he's basing his ideas about Merida on stereotypes. I see why that is problematic. Of course not all tomboys are lesbians and not all lesbians are tomboys. That's silly. But saying that the question of whether Merida is gay or not is a a ridiculous and offensive question is actually problematically heteronormative. Of course, I think that we should resist the notion of sexualizing everyone all the time. Although, let's be honest: too many people don't seem to have a problem with the marriage plot that exists, well, ALL OVER movies and pop culture targeted at young girls. The fact is - Merida is not a young child. She is a young lady, obviously of marrying age. But most of the audience for this film are young children - young girls. Many of them will grow up to be lesbians or bisexual; some of them already know this about themselves, even if they are young. And wouldn't it be awesome for those kids to have some role models? Nobody here is saying, "oh tell your daughters Merida's a lesbian because she probably is."  But I think whether she is or not is a perfectly valid and interesting conversation for grown ups to have, and to have with a child if the child does happen to wonder and asks.  I wouldn't expect Disney to put out a movie with a lesbian character. That is never going to happen. But, gosh, let a girl dream a little.