Pride and Parades: A Reflection on Queer Family

This post is by K.

This past June, most of the world celebrated pride month. In our city, the pride parade and celebration always happens in July. Pride is something special for many of us. It has gone pretty far off the path from its radical roots. Some question the co-opting of pride by corporations and the assimilation of LGBTQI people into the mainstream by participating in such events. Some have organized other subversive events for queer and trans* people who oppose the commercialization and commodification of pride.

1st Annual Gay Pride March 1970

First gay pride march in NYC, 1970

I certainly wonder what pride means in 2014, with ticketed entry and parade registration fees and a whole generation between Stonewall rioters and today’s glittered and rainbow-spackled parade. It is much more party and much less political. To some degree, this is a marker of success. As with many activist movements, radical dissent dies down once discrimination becomes more subtle. It’s easier to celebrate marriage equality than to deal with the real issues we still face. Health disparities, violence, homelessness, poverty, discrimination… Many would be surprised to know that the murder rate of LGBTQHI people is on the rise and 90% of LGBTQHI people murdered are people of color–not good material for a float.

I have lots of thoughts about pride.  However, W and I still enjoy pride because it still brings us together with our larger community. There is still a feeling of comradery when hundreds of folks take to the streets, a feeling of liberation in walking through the city in nothing but your sparkly underwear. There is value in honoring the legacy of gay and queer and trans* rights activists, for those of us who know our history, or lived it. It is important to celebrate what we have–in other countries, being queer or trans* is illegal and people are arrested and worse for being out.

Growing up in a rural area, I never could have imagined something like pride. Many queer & trans* folks remember their first pride fondly. Or their first trip to the gay bar. There is a startling, overwhelming sense of familiarity and excitement the first time you step into a crowd of people with whom you share a deeply personal identity. It’s like coming home, except you didn’t know it was home until you got there. It’s why we call our communities our “family.”

As in, “Oh, her? Yeah, she’s family.” Or to a newly out person, “Welcome to the family!”

We create real queer families, too. In college, W and his former long-term  partner were often referred to as “mom” and “dad” by younger queer friends. And they did “raise” many of those “kids,” counseled them through coming out, drove them to the gay bar, loaned them books and movies, listened to their breakup stories, gave fashion and drag tips. Queer families are kinship through love, not blood (something that makes sense to me as an adoptee). For many of us, our queer families kept us alive in our hardest times.

One of the things I miss most about being in college was that queer family was, literally, down the hall or across the quad. It was easy to find each other, if you wanted to be found. It is harder now, in our 30’s, to find and nurture queer fam relationships.

Queer family is at the core of gay and lesbian movements, historically, too. In the 60’s and 70’s, many gay and lesbian folks were abandoned by their bio/legal families when they came out. Or were not out to their bio/legal families at all. Folks flocked to San Francisco and NYC (and still do) to find queer family. Lesbian separatists created all-woman collectives that disrupted heteronormative family structures. During the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, gay men relied on their queer families when, quite literally, no one else was there to support them.

Today, though we have made huge strides in terms of social and cultural equity, there are many folks who are still left out. Within LGBTQI culture, white white-collar gay men have taken the lead, with white white-collar lesbian women right behind them, in terms of who gets the most representation and access to community. For people of color, for trans* people, for bi people, for poor queer & trans* people, and others who don’t fit the mainstream picture, there is a need to form queer families within the larger LGBTQI community. Queer family is ever-more important in a culture where we are being pushed to conform to a “safe” notion of what LGBT looks like.

As W and I embark on adding a kid to the mix, I think about what it means to look like a “traditional” family, in the most conservative context–a dad, a mom, a baby, two cars, and a mortgage. As it has been important to both Waffle and me to be openly queer in our relationship, it is important that our family is not “the new normal.” While some LGBTQI people want to be “normal,” I really do not. As I venture into the tricky world of parenting, I will need my queer family more than ever. It is the reason we started this blog. It has been a joy finding other queer parents and queer parents-to-be. It has also been amazing sharing this process with our current friends, including many who are childfree.

This year, at pride, I’ll be thinking about queer family, who has access to it and who does not, what it means. I’ll be thinking about my own queer family members who have nurtured me along the path to where I am today. I’ll be thinking about future-kid and our little queer family, the one they will be born into. And I’ll be thinking about the extended queer family I hope they will be exposed to and loved by, as we have been.

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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.

Meet the W

This post is by W.

So, you have met the K and the furkids.  Well, I am the W.  K is the writer and she speaks for the furbabies…much like the Lorax speaks for the trees. She was a writing arts major in college and I don’t write or read often. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of both and I often rant on issues that perturb me on Facebook but it’s just not my jam in general. So why would I do a blog you ask?!? Well (aside from the pleading from K), I think this is an important issue. Not only the idea of parenting and families, but also the lack of resources out there for the T and Q in LGBTQ. After the initial shock when K told me she would be willing to do the baby thing, the first thing I did, like many other people, is to try to find applicable books or websites for me. That was less than successful.  It is great to see all the resources out there for gay and lesbian people. It shows me that the world is changing, but it also exemplifies the problems of inclusively of trans and queer people. So like many queer trans people I picked up a book on lesbian pregnancy  and “adjusted” the language and situations to fit my own. That makes this blog relevant and important for me. There needs to be more K and W stories in the world.

Another reason you have met the adorable furkids before me is simply because, although I love them, they are a bit of an open book. I on the other hand am that book-that-you-want-to-read-but-it-went-out-of-print-several-decades-ago-after-a-limited-print. I grew up in a family that didn’t communicate well or get along much at times. I am shy and guarded and hesitant to open up to people I don’t know. That carried over to my adult life, unfortunately. I get along great with my parents now and they have always accepted me for who I am, but looking back I had what would have been classified now as an abusive childhood. It fundamentally shaped my adult personality.

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