Defining Families

Don’t you all feel like we are living in an episode of The West Wing this week, only with more Facebook profile changes, and less beepers? My life is like one long walking-conversation between CJ, Sam and the gang, discussing the cases before the Supreme Court about marriage equality with everyone in town.

Marriage Equality

Most of Olive’s little friends at church have same-sex parents, which she accepts completely, with no questioning or fear. In fact, she is even a little jealous of her buddies, and one day recently in church she turned to me and said, “I have two mommies AND two daddies.” I said, “Oh yeah? Where’s this extra couple? When are they going to start pulling their weight?”

Later that week, one of the moms from church who had been sitting in the pew in front of us emailed me about something and I took forever to get back to her, which I apologized for. “That’s okay,” she said, “I know you’re struggling with a one-mom household.”

It made me laugh for days, because it totally flipped the conventional ideas about heterosexual vs. homosexual families, and it also struck me as really true. For the years that my husband and I lived in community, I loved having extra women in the house so much that we often joked about the viability of sister-wives, as long as we didn’t also have to share sexual partners. I could really use another mom around here, although I feel less enthused about the idea of a second dad. We’re pretty happy with the one we’ve got.

Anyway, I think it is extremely powerful that Olive’s main interaction with families who have same-sex partners is at church. There’s something about her making those connections in the very place that she worships and learns that God is love that is beautiful and prophetic to me.

Holy Innocents Marriage Equality

We have a picture from our wedding on her dresser, and she often asks to hold it, and wants to hear the story of why we are all dressed up, dancing, in the photo. She says, “Mama and Papa are getting married? Because they love each other?” We say yes and tell her some details from that day.

She’s only two and half, but she knows marriage is more than a piece of paper. It’s a special day, and if I told her that Cora’s Papas or Christopher’s Mommies aren’t legally allowed to get married, THAT’S where the confusion and fear would come in. The fact that anyone would think they are any less of a family than ours would be totally baffling to her.

Joel and I on our wedding day.

Joel and I on our wedding day.

We are lucky to have found a church that welcomes all people, all kinds of love, and supports marriage equality. I hope that soon we will be blessed enough to live in a country that from the highest court in the land also says, “We recognize all families. We will not stand in the way of two people committing to each other, in the form of marriage.” Maybe as adults, we don’t need recognition from church and state to live any way we want to. But think of the impact it could have on our children, to grow up in a place that honors all persons, all kinds of love.

Our family is a queer family too, since I identify as Bi, and the government can’t stop me from being both queer and married. They don’t get to define my sexuality or police my identity. However, since I chose a man instead of a woman to commit myself to eternally, I get to say “I’ve been married almost ten years” with pride. I want that for my GLBT brothers and sisters, too. I want that for our country. So I’m living on pins and needles until June, praying for justice, and liberty for all.

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6 thoughts on “Defining Families

  1. I love that your daughter is growing up in such a loving, church community where seeing other examples of family is part of the norm. Maybe it’s just where I live, but it’s been hard to come by down here. I came from a Conservative Evangelical community (of which there are plenty around here – including family members), and I am not wanting to go back to the intolerance, the judgment…just no. I don’t want to raise my future children in fear or ignorance, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I keep praying we’ll find a community similar to yours soon…

    • Natalie, For a long time I stayed away from church, because I didn’t want to be involved with any place that was exclusionary. I feel so blessed to have found Holy Innocents, and I’ll be praying that you find a church like ours as well — maybe writing about it will help people dream of it, ask of it, and make more churches like ours exist.

  2. Yes, yes! I’m hoping this will be one of the great civil rights advancements of our lifetime.

  3. I love this, Rhea! Yesterday Claire stuck two ballerina stickers on a page and announced that she was drawing a party because the ballerinas were getting married. What struck me (and made me a little teary) was that she wasn’t saying it with any sort fanfare. In her world, parents come in all sorts of combinations and a family is a group of people who love each other. I haven’t had the heart to blow her mind by explaining that our world doesn’t treat all families the same yet. My hope is that by the time she loses her innocent perspectives, the world will have caught up with what she believes.

    • Thanks for telling that great story about Claire. I think we all need more stories like that one. Why isn’t that front page news? I hear about too much hate. And yes, I hope that once she gets older she’ll be SHOCKED that the ballerinas were once discriminated against and couldn’t marry, just like Olive will be when we explain to her that her parents marriage would once have been illegal, because we are different races.

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