Thursday, August 9, 2007

Love Makes A Family

I read in the alumni magazine that the partner of one of my college friends passed away suddenly in February. I sent a message to her and her family including my email address, so that they would know that I am thinking of them, though Janice and I haven't been in touch since graduation. I think it's important to be a member of community and I think it is important to include people in my communities, in this case, as a former classmate, as a former student of the same college, and as a member of the LGBT community. My community is very large, and I have a lot of communities.

I received an email from her today with a link to her family's website. Janice and Lisa were one of those couples you hear about: The queer couple who foster and adopt special needs children; the queer couple who are separated when something terrible happens to them. They are both of these couples. This wasn't in the magazine but Janice gave me the link to the whole story, in which she relates how poorly she was treated by Miami hospital staff because she "wasn't kin" to Lisa.

When Zirpu had his heart adventure, I didn't even need a name, I was "the wife" for the whole six weeks, occasionally called by Zirpu's last name, which isn't my name. I didn't have to brandish papers or insist on anything; I said I was his wife, and they believed me. We wouldn't have been asked outside California, I'm sure. Meanwhile, Janice had to have Powers of Attorney faxed from her home in Washington state and was delayed in seeing her wife (and their children their mother) for over three hours.

As a bisexual person, I am really clear that this distinction is arbitrary. It's almost arbitrary that I'm married to a man rather than partnered with a woman. I'm not married to a man because of heterosexual privilege, I'm married to one because Zirpu is the person I wanted to marry. We have paperwork, but we don't need it to protect our rights to visit each other in the hospital or make decisions for each other.

I believe a family can include the best friend of one of the children, or a niece or nephew of the parents. I believe a family can include more than two adults and no children. I believe a family can include stepparents, step-siblings, half-siblings, random aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Former lovers, and former stepparents. I believe family can include friends who have been friends for so long they may as well be siblings, aunts, uncles. Married to Zirpu, and with my own sister-in-law with her own family, I believe that in-laws are a family. Adopted children, foster children, adults of the same gender, adults who used to be one gender and are now another. That's all family.

My family value: Families, however they are defined by those who are in them.

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