There is no such thing as a “traditional family.”

K had a great IRL conversation with a friend recently about family, what a traditional family means, what queering a traditional family means. We realized that the idea of “shamelessly queering the traditional family” needed some…explanation. First of all, “traditional” should really have airquotes in our blog’s tagline. Why? Because there is no such thing. Families are diverse. Families are weird. Families are not static–they are always changing and growing. Families are unique–like special snowflakes. (Aww.) The idea of the “traditional family” is a myth and one that has no place here.

“Shamelessly queering the traditional family” is not meant as a dig towards two-parent households or heterosexual parents or anyone else. It’s a dig at the idea, and the perpetuation of the idea, that there is such thing as a traditional family, as “traditional family values,” any way of talking about family that leaves people feeling less-than. Our intention was never to leave our own peoples feeling less-than or not-queer-enough or not-liberal-enough.

Let’s consider this the companion piece to our very first post, What is a queer family?

This is an actual picture from the Stepford Wives website, an org devoted to “traditional family values.”

First of all, there is no such thing as a traditional family. It is not even a thing! It’s a buzzphrase that was, literally, made up for political gain by the GOP. So what is meant when we typically discuss traditional family or traditional family values (usually from right-wing, religious extremists)? Usually, what is meant is a 2-parent household with 2 cisgender parents–one male and one female–with 2.5 children and a male breadwinner and a subservient wife. Of course, this describes many families, including many very non-traditional families. What is different about the “traditional family values” rhetoric is that it implies that this family configuration is the only kind of family that matters, that it is the right kind of family. “Traditional family values” rhetoric tends to be anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-single parents, sexist, racist, classist, and based in dangerously conservative religious beliefs. In other words, traditional families are actually the minority–the very vocal minority. Most families couldn’t fit this rigorous moral standard if they even wanted to. This is the type of “traditional family” we want to “queer.”

The reality is that most families today (and always, really) are not “traditional.” We have no close friends that we would put in that category. Our friends are generally pro-feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ rights, and politically and socially progressive. Regardless of their family demographics, even if it is one cisgender dad and one cisgender mom with the 1.5 kids and picket fence, our friends are not “traditional families.” Not in the loaded, close-minded sense of the word anyhow.

Our families wouldn’t shame single parents. Our families wouldn’t shame poor people. Our families don’t look down on multiracial couples or multiracial kids. Our families wouldn’t shame our kids, relatives, or friends for coming out as gay, lesbian, bi and/or transgender. Our families think gender norms are meant to be broken. Our families work really hard to be inclusive and want our kids, nieces, and nephews to grow up in a world where folks are treated equally. When our families do seem to line up with the plastic picture of the “traditional family,” it is by choice or circumstance, not because it is the right way to have a family or the best way to have a family.

So to  readers who may not identify as a “queer family,” we by no means intended to imply that you are a traditional family, or that all families that are not super-progressive and super-queer are bad. Unless you are a bigot, you are welcome here.

We also didn’t mean to imply that family traditions are bad. We love family traditions. We love celebrating holidays with our families. We love the traditions around food and culture and the passing down of family things. We talk about the things we want to pass down to our future kid from our childhood. We talk about the family recipes that no one else can replicate. We love our non-traditional traditional families, both which fall into the 2-parent cisgender heterosexual category. W’s family that was welcoming of a lesbian and then trans offspring. K’s family that adopted two kids from the other side of the world. We both grew up with family values that racism and sexism are wrong, that you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up, and that we’ll be loved unconditionally forever.

In an ideal world, “traditional family” wouldn’t be a term co-opted by the religious right. Maybe there wouldn’t need to be a distinction at all. There would just be families.  Families would have their own traditions and values specific to their own beliefs and cultures. And wouldn’t try to press them on anyone else.

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Honoring Trans* Families on Transgender Day of Remembrance

238 trans* people were killed in the past year, according to Transgender Europe’s 2013 report.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we mourn the beautiful people we have lost.

It is also a day to celebrate the lives of trans* people, to support each other, to demand that the rights and lives of trans* people be affirmed and treated with dignity, to acknowledge that trans* people are often multiply marginalized, to stand up and say that trans* communities are resilient.

Trans* folks know that relationships with their legal and biological families can be challenging. And wonderful. They know that the families that we create in trans* and trans*-inclusive queer communities are just as real as the families who raised us.

Here’s to all the beautiful queer and trans* families in this world. Here’s to a future world where all of our families are affirming of gender non-conforming people, where we can send our trans* kids out into the world without fearing for their safety, where we don’t have to worry about the legal system treating us differently because of our gender identity and gender expression, where everyone matters.

A Kid Who Looks Like Me

This post is by K.

I’m adopted. I was born in South Korea and abandoned as a baby.  On my official adoption paperwork, they wrote that I was a “foundling,” which means I was neither abandoned by family or taken from my family. I was left somewhere and luckily, found by someone who took me to an orphanage. It’s kind of interesting to be a “foundling,” but I’ll save the birth story thing for another post.

babypicnaturalizationpapers

On June 15, 1984, I arrived via plane and was placed in my parents’ waiting arms. I was 17 months old with a thick head of hair pulled up into a topknot. My parents took me home to a small town in Western New York that was predominantly agricultural and rural. My parents were not farmers. They were public school teachers. They just wanted a country house, both hailing from a city.

When I was 4, we adopted my younger sister. She is also South Korean. She was 13 months when she arrived, so she is 3 years younger than me. Growing up, we were pretty much the only Asian kids in our neighborhood and at our school. My mom is a blond Swedish-German woman. My dad is 100% Italian. They are both 2nd generation Americans. My sister and I are technically immigrants. I have always felt very much like an American, whatever that means.

There’s the saying, “blood is thicker than water,” and I agree with the sentiment. I have uttered it myself before. Of course, our family is not drawn from blood. But my family is important to me.  We are a family, a close family, with all the things that come with family–both awesome and challenging. Love is unconditional in my family and I’m lucky to have two parents who very much wanted to have me–so much that they spent tons of moolah and went though lots of paperwork and stress and a home study in order to hold me in their arms. I value my family so much, even though none of us are blood related.

I have never felt that my family was any less because my sister and I are adopted. It was always and continues to be hurtful when well-meaning people ask if I know my “real parents.” My response is always that my real parents are my parents, my mom and dad, the parents who adopted and raised me, fed and sheltered me, clothed and spoiled me, angered and challenged me, loved me unconditionally. And no, I don’t know my biological relatives, nor do I plan to.

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Privilege Check: The Right to Parent and Queer Communities

This post is by K.

W and I are both 100% in support of reproductive rights and health. I worked at Planned Parenthood for half  a decade. During my time there, I got into reproductive justice. I got in deep. I learned a lot from others in the movements. I also spent a lot of time helping others, especially those deeply rooted in pro-choice activism, to “get” what repro justice is. Pro-choice and repro justice aren’t synonyms. Here’s a definition of reproductive justice from SisterSong:

The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color.

It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.

Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.

Repro justice takes the conversation beyond birth control, abortion, and sex ed and makes us ask questions like:

  • How do class and race play a role in reproductive rights work?
  • How are trans* and gender non-conforming people accessing sexual and reproductive health care?
  • How do the issues of education, literacy, and language access play into sexual and reproductive health outcomes?
  • What are the points of connection between taking care of the environment and taking care of our bodies?
  • How can we repair tensions between the disability rights communities and the pro-choice/repro justice communities?

I could write a whole post about any of those topics. There are lots of questions to raise. The question I want to address is this one: Who has the right to parent?

We can go on for days about the right now to be a parent, the right to make a personal abortion decision. We don’t talk as much about the flip side. What about the right to be a parent? Is there such a thing? Many would emphatically say, “Yes. Of course. Everyone should have that right.” But let’s get real. We don’t all have access to that right. And if you add some other factors in, you may start to feel more unsure. Continue reading

I really don’t want to be a mommy blogger. Even a queer one.

This post is by K.

I always thought if I started a blog, it’d be about sexual justice. Or rape culture. Or sex-positive sexuality. Or feminist rants. When I’ve dabbled in guest blogging, it’s been on those issues. I never ever, ever though it would be about parenting. In fact, the thought still kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Not because I’m not excited about being a parent, but because I have worked SO HARD to be seen as more than the stereotypes of my gender.

Children assigned female at birth are generally socially conditioned to care about things like weddings and babies and home-making. And pink. All things pink. Even those of us that don’t follow the social script know that we are supposed to. My parents never pushed that girly stuff on me, but I got the message anyway through TV, peers, and subtle social cues.

I remember my older cousin asking me once, when I was a pre-teen, what I imagined my wedding would be like. I had never really thought about it before. So I made up a scenario that sounded fun. My supposed “dream wedding” included a waterfall, silk bohemian skirts, black tank tops, and flip-flops. It sounded more like a trip to a fancy hotel pool than a wedding. Looking back, there was some truth in my made-up story. I did end up having a very casual, affordable, and unique wedding that involved flip-flops and non-traditional apparel. Sadly, there were no water features.

Fancy wedding stuff never appealed to me. Being someone’s wife never appealed to me. Being someone’s mom never appealed to me. When I was little, I couldn’t articulate why I wasn’t into these things. I just wasn’t.

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What is a queer family?

The first blog post is always the…awkwardest. So let’s start with this really basic question: What makes a family queer? What is a queer family?

When we think of LGBT families, we usually think of two moms or two dads. More specifically, we think of two cisgender lesbian moms or two cisgender gay dads. When the acronym “LGBT” is used, the “B” and “T” are often silent. The “Q” isn’t even there. LGBT is often used as a catchall acronym for our communities–it’s pretty common. But LGBT organizations, service agencies, and media outlets often focus primarily on cisgender gay men and lesbian women. That’s also pretty common. There’s nothing wrong with two cis moms or dads and those families could certainly be queer, but these representations are not inclusive of all queer families.

It carries over, we found, into the parenting realm. Parenting resources are already overwhelmingly heteronormative and gender-normative. The specifically LGBT resources that are out there are mainly geared towards gay men and lesbian women. By resources, I mean books, websites, social networks, “mommy” sites. So we decided to join the blogosphere, where there are some awesome LGBTQ* parents out there (see our blogroll) doing awesome stuff. There’s still a lot of room to grow. To my knowledge, there are few resources for parenting as an openly bisexual person. Few resources for parenting as a transgender or gender non-conforming person. For QTPOC (queer trans people of color), for poor queer folks that want to have kids, for anyone that wants to buck the norm of the traditional heteronormative family, there just isn’t much support or advice out there.

But I know queer families are out there. I know more than one seemingly-hetero couple where one or both parents are bisexual. I know single queer parents that are raising awesome kids. I know families where one or both parents are trans*. Some of those trans* parents are stealth. Others are not. I know lots of queer people who want to have kids in the future (and plenty who don’t).
In fact, such a large number that it’s inevitable that more people will eventually start writing and talking about queer parenting.

So what’s makes a queer family? The answer is, I don’t know. Or, rather, I can’t define it for you. People who identify as queer tend to want to be…queer. We don’t want to disappear or blend in. We want to change the systems, not conform to them. We want to check ourselves, check the systematic advantages we have and own our privilege. We want to be inclusive of diverse experiences across race, class, sex, gender. We want to be included in convos we’ve traditionally been left out of. We want to thoughtfully participate in “traditional family” or queer “traditional family” or throw “traditional family” out the window.

A queer family could certainly be a family with or without kids. Queer families can have two moms or two dads. They can have one mom and one dad. They have have one parent. They can have more than two parents. They can also include one or more people who identify as trans* or genderqueer. They can include bisexual, omnisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual, or queer people. Queer families have kids by marriage, kids from previous relationships and/or pregnancies. They can add kids through foster care, adoption, surrogacy, sperm donors (both on and off the books), and good old-fashioned P-I-V intercourse. They can include beloved furbabies (our pet children). They can include supportive queer family relationships that came about out of kinship or necessity in place of or in addition to our legal/bio families.

This blog is about our queer family–a queer power femme, pansexual, Korean-American adoptee, vegan, feminist, cisgender woman and a label-wary, fashion-forward, queer, trans* boi. With lots and lots of furkids. Looking to add 1 human kid to the family. We will blog about our baby plans, our furkids, our personal views and lives, social and activist issues pertaining to queer parenting. We will try to raise larger issues about queer parenting and welcome the perspective and feedback of others. We are excited. A little scared. Let’s do this.

– K & W