Happy Holidays?

During the holiday season, folks are supposed to be “merry and bright,” right? For many of us, that isn’t very easy.

Let’s talk about the US holiday Thanksgiving, a celebration of colonial oppression and overconsumption. For me, Thanksgiving is a mixed bag.

When I was 13, my parents announced on the Sunday after Thanksgiving that they were getting divorced. My mother had made strides to create a huge family tree for my grandmother. She had traced photos of five generations of my stepfathers’ relatives onto fabric that she then made into a quilt for my grandmother. It had taken her over a year to complete the project. It was my parents’ turn to host the family reunion, and they had chosen Thanksgiving as a way to have a one-day celebration, rather than the week-long camping trip that was a family tradition. After all of my mother’s hard work, it was very traumatizing to hear that we were being kicked to the curb. It’s hard to be thankful for a stark reminder of family trauma. [Read more…]

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Family is About Love

Toni Nielson and Bronwyn Grant NielsonJune 1st was National LGBTQ Families Day. Last week I talked about my own definitions of the word “family.” Family can be genetic, but family is also about choice. Two people who have helped me form my own definition of the word “family” are members of my chosen family, Bronwyn and Toni. I have been lucky enough to know them for sixteen years. Despite our NFL rivalry (I like the Niners, they like the Cowboys), we’ve leaned on each other for support. I love having Toni and Bronwyn in my life. I caught up with them to ask them what family, marriage, and parenthood mean to them.

How did you meet?

Bronwyn: Dixie College debate team in St. George, Utah (1997). I was the debate team president. Toni was by far our best debater, but she didn’t come to class much. Lol. Spring semester we finally recognized each other. She was so funny, sincere, genuine.

Toni: We met on the debate team. Bronwyn was the team president and I was the team’s “bad child” (assuming they even thought I was on the team). I had a habit of showing up on my own schedule, but always the week of the tournament so I could go. In the spring semester, we went to a tournament together and I got a chance to watch Bronwyn in one of her events. It was a theater piece on modeling. At the end there was a section where each person spoke about their perspective on beauty. Bronwyn said she had a complicated relationship with beauty. What she said was deep and powerful. I needed to know if it was scripted, or is these were her real thoughts. I marched up to her and asked. Once she said the thoughts were her own, I felt like I had to know her. She wasn’t the Mormon preppy president I thought she was; there was more to her. After that night, we spent a ton of time together and have ever since.

When did you get married?

B: October 8, 2000; later legally recognized July 26, 2013; legal partnership happened shortly after the wedding.

T: To add to Bronwyn’s account, we had a domestic partnership in grad school, probably around 2003. We don’t know the date because it wasn’t emotionally significant to either of us. We registered with the government because Bronwyn worked for the county and they decided to offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners. I was in grad school and needed insurance. We have been through every phase of gay marriage together. Honestly, I’m not sure what the date of the legal wedding was. The legal wedding felt like a triumph and we treated it as a celebration, but our wedding was on October 8, 2000. [Read more…]

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Gearing Up for National LGBTQ Families Day

Historically, “women’s work” has been defined (in America) as being a stay-at-home mother who packs the kids’ lunches for school; cleaning the house; running errands; making sure that dinner is ready by the time Mr. Familyman comes home fro work; and putting the kids to bed at night. This definition has been critiqued since the 1700’s (at least from an upper-class, heterosexual, white perspective), but it still the cookie cutter image that comes to mind, even in the 21st century.

American suffragists started to deconstruct this definition in the 1800’s. One example is founding suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She told women to stop having children so that they could start petitioning for the right to vote. Women’s work was redefined even further in the 1940’s when women were recruited to help with the Second World War (think Rosie the Riveter). However, when the (primarily male) troops came home, Rosie and her sisters were told to go home so that the men could have their jobs back. Second wave feminists of the 1960’s and 1970’s started rabble rousing, demanding that women be allowed to work outside of the home. This struggle is still active today. Women as a whole are still paid 78 cents for every dollar that a man is paid. The gap gets even wider for women of color. Age is also a factor.

Economics aside, raising a family is still considered to primarily be “women’s work.” This definition is problematic on several levels. The economic reality is that most households need more than one income provider. When you consider additional factors, such as race and economic class, the definition of women’s work becomes even shakier. When sexuality gets added to the mix, the definitions of “women” and “family” get even more complicated.

June 1st is t2015lgbtqfamilydayhe annual Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day. Bloggers from all over the worldwide web will be writing articles about queer families. I will be focusing on the same topic throughout the month of Jun. I hope you’ll join me in the discussion, either in the comments section or on Twitter. What does family mean to you? And how did you develop this definition? I’d love to read what you have to say.

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