By Micaela Kaibni Raen
With so many successes and setbacks for the LGBTQ community, it’s hard to know the legal status of our families. In the midst of ongoing legislative changes, the law protects some of our families; others are held together with frayed shoestrings and chewed bubble gum. Sometimes I feel that I am a mother made of meadow grass helplessly swaying in the wind due to forces beyond my control.
U.S. Legislators did unite to attempt to stop the discrimination of LGBTQ families in 2011 when Rep. Pete Stark introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. The Act would remove legislation that would restrict federal funding to states that discriminate against potential or current foster or adoptive parents on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. It would also make way for more than 400,000 children currently in foster care to be adopted into loving homes including those with gay parents.
Today, my son and I spent a fun filled day with the families from what we affectionately call, the “Gay Mom’s Club.” It is not an official club. It is a group of families that have chosen each other as family. One admirable thing about being queer is that we have this amazing propensity to choose how we define “family” with or without biological relevance. It is very empowering to be able to choose whom we let it in and whom we don’t. Biology is not the GPS of the heart. Having a chosen family creates a safety net for us and for our children, amidst a larger community that does not see our true value or even recognize us as a family.
The “Club” was a natural outcome of a group of friends who were growing older and started having children in a multitude of ways. It is made up of all different kinds of families and our children are growing up knowing each other. Similar to cousins, they will be there to support each other like a large web of interconnected chosen family. My son has learned not to make assumptions about people’s family structure. He has seen his friends’ family structures change over time but love never changes.
Some of his friends have two moms, some have a dad in the picture, some have a single mother, some were adopted, some are in foster care, some live with a non-biological parent or care giver who has no legal rights, some are shared between two parents whose rights are tenuous and the list could go on. He knows that how the family was created is not important but having a stable family built on love is what matters. Most of us have “blended families” and this is often by both desire and design.
Today, he played and laughed with the other children while each of the moms talked about maneuvering their way through their own day-to-day journeys. Parenthood comes with inherent stereotypes that often sound like, “Are you his real mother?” It can be difficult to be a lesbian mom since parenting has traditionally been the domain of presumed heterosexuals.
When discussing the need to redefine motherhood, a local lesbian mother of four, Dee Norwood explains, “I am the real mother. I am the Responsible one. I am the one that Encourages them. I am the one who Accepts them wholly in my heart and in my life. I am the one that Loves them unconditionally. I am the R.E.A.L. mother.”
Currently, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act has yet to be passed and many LGBTQ parents are subject to an incomplete set of laws that comprise multiple puzzle pieces of statutes that do not fit together.
Receiving emotional support from the Gay Mom’s Club is something that renews my spirit and gives me hope in a positive future for all of our families. My son may only be tied to me with a frayed line of torn shoestrings and chewed bubble gum, but our love is real. I may be only one strand of meadow grass powerless to the breeze but I am growing tall, my love is strong and my roots run deep. I know who I am and I know my place. After all, if there is one thing that being a parent has taught me…it is to believe in the power of love.
Micaela Kaibni Raen is an Arab-American author whose work explores cultural, socio-economic and sexual themes that critically impact women and their families. Her work is dedicated to supporting peace, advocating for issues facing the international LGBTQ community and reflects a personal journey as she redefines herself within her various communities and beyond.
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