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(Photo taken by the Statesman Journal at the Domestic Partnership rally at the Oregon State Capitol in February 2008)

This is a lesbian couple.

But they are so much more than that. They are my parents, and I love BOTH of them with all my heart.

My family was never what you call "traditional" in any way, shape, or form. I grew up in a household where politics were always discussed, no matter who's ego it hurt. My parents were always of the opinion that talking about politics fosters a critical thinking environment and that ultimately it would prepare us for life. So every night, no matter what, we would gather around the kitchen table and watch the nightly news and discuss the worlds most pressing political and social events. These discussions would often get heated, as I did not support the Iraq Invasion and my mom did. We are all democrats, but my mom is more prone to support war than I am, but I digress.

What was important is this: I grew up learning how to ask questions and analyze critically due to my parents good judgement and knowledge of what I was going to face in the outside world. We did not grow up "weird" or "abnormal" because my parents were lesbians, quite the contrary, I grew up to be the well-balanced individual I am today. All thanks to them.

I hate it when the wing-nut religious right tries to cram the anti-gay/lesbian family agenda down our collective throats. It makes families like mine seem out of the normal and crazy, but surprisingly there are families out there just like mine. Families who just want to be left alone, families who just want to raise their children in peace just like everyone else, and families who love their children all the same despite their sexual tendencies.

The right wing would have you believe something else entirely. They want you to believe that myself and others like me turn out to be some kind of sex hungry child molester, out to get your children at the turn of a back. They would have you believe that, because I was raised by a lesbian couple, that I am so screwed up in the head that I will have to spend the rest of my life in an asylum. They play off other people's fears and lie to them just to advance some kind of religious message, but what they don't realize is that they are playing politics with my families life.

I would like to give you a little glimpse at my upbringing to, perhaps, clear the air. I want to prove that it was not my parents sexuality that made it hard to live, but the rules against our lifestyle that kept us down. I want you all to see what this right wing legislation banning gay equality does to a family. Although Oregon has made some steps recently, we still have a long way to go.

My mom and dad, to me (at the age of seven) always had a loving and caring relationship. Those times were always happy, I suppose, although I don't really remember it. I was just a happy-go-lucky seven year old, but, of course, I didn't know what was lying right underneath the surface of my mom and dad's relationship.

My mom and dad (from what my mom has told me) constantly fought. My father was an unemployed drunkard. He bankrupted our family with his addiction to spending and alcohol and my mom had to declare bankruptcy. We moved into low-income (Section 8 housing is the technical name for it in Oregon) in West Salem. That is where my parents got the divorce. It still kind of hurts me to talk about it, but it lead to one of the happiest times in my life: the formation of my new family.

I remember the exact moment my mom left. I was watching Karate Kid (ha) with my dad, and out of the corner of my eye I see my mom leaving with two suit cases. I asked her where she was going, and I don't quite remember what she said but I do remember the emotion behind it. I am leaving. I saw the tears in her eyes, and I didn't quite comprehend what was happening, so I accepted it and moved on.

From there my memory gaps a little bit and my next memory of that era is my mom coming out of the closet to us. It was interesting because I don't ever remember questioning my mother's decision. It seemed to me, in my seven year old mind, to be a right fit. With this we went from a family with three kids to a family with five. It was awesome because my brother Andy was my best friend at the time and until you have a best friend turn into a brother, you'll never understand the our elation.

Our family was tested time and time again, and we passed with flying colors. We went through extreme poverty, my father kidnapping myself and my sister (and the counseling that happened afterward), and other problems. We saw it through as a family, but I suppose the biggest problem, at least for us kids, was the ridicule that we experienced in school because of our lifestyle.

It started when one of the kids at my elementary school found out that our parents were lesbians. I distinctly remember my sis being completely made fun of for it. I remember one incident on the bus where I particularly mean girl put a sign on my sis's back that said QUEER in big block letters. That experience was traumatizing for all of us. Most of us had some time in our lives where we were made fun, but most have not been made fun of because of their family. Through it all, though, we never doubted the love we had for each other.

At about the age of thirteen I got extremely ill. I had a condition called Necrotising Fasciitis which is a flesh eating virus. It requires immediate medical attention. We waited four days before seeing a doctor because I have always been a neurotic person, but this time it was bad. I ended up spending 4 days in the hospital and racking up a huge medical bill (somewhere to the tune of $6,500). We did not have medical insurance because my mom worked at a place that would cover some of our family but not all, and Rosanne, my mom's partner, was a day care provider so she didn't have medical insurance. My mom, Rosanne, my brother Andy, and myself ran a paper route for 3 years to work to pay off the medical bills. Even this stressful time in our lives we did not falter as a family, we simply worked through it like we always had.

My mom worked at a non-profit company that prepared mentally disabled people for the work force. She started out as an attendant and rose her way through the ranks to production manager, and all throughout her journey at this company she faced so much hate and discrimination it almost tore apart our family. My mom and Rosanne met each other at this company, and from the way my mom tells it, she immediately fell in love with Rosanne, but when the leadership at this company found out they fired both my mom and Rosanne. They eventually hired my mom back, but Rosanne never went back. My mom lost her tenure and her pay, and she was paid minimum wage at this company for about 3 years until a series of promotions. She ended her 15 year tenure at this company making 13 dollars an hour. When she left this company to go to the place she is currently at, this company nearly collapsed without her leadership. They offered her health insurance, but she didn't want it on the principle that 1)It was way too expensive because the company offered no discount on the health insurance itself, and 2) On the principle that it did not cover all of her kids, just the kids that came out of her. This "health insurance plan", if it covered both of my "real" sisters, would have been so expensive that we couldn't pay rent. That is how bad it is.

We tried so hard to be normal people, and it was always other people who brought up my moms sexuality. It was always people who brought up ignorant points about why my family shouldn't exist. We never said ANYTHING about it. I would try to explain to them that I just wanted to be left alone about it, that our family has the right, like any other family, to love each other. They just couldn't wrap their heads around that. We never wanted anything special, and we didn't want extra rights. We just wanted to be free like every other family. We wanted the government assistance that given to straight families given to us. We wanted to see our loved ones, even though they were not our "blood", when they were sick or hurt. My mom wanted the right to pass on her property to Rosanne (or vice versa) if one of them passed away.

No matter how hard we worked people clung to their perspectives as if they were dying. It hurt me emotionally. It wasn't growing up in an alternative household that screwed me up, it was the ridicule I received from my classmates, teachers (yes, teachers), and general population that screwed me up. My parents loved me, and that is a lot more than some kids who come from straight couples can say.

I would say that though we had a ton of problems that the world presented to us, it made us grow stronger together. We are not as tight knit as we used to be, and us older kids have moved out and started families of our own (I, myself, have a beautiful fiancee and a wonderful home) but we still remember our roots. We are all gay/lesbian rights activists, extreme liberals, and critical thinkers. There is not one stupid person in our family. Not one. The point that people forget to recognize is this: We are all tax paying members of this society, and not one of us is 'screwed up'. We have all had our own unique journey, yes, but we are essentially normal.

I have never understood the war against equal rights for gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgendered people. It just makes no sense to me. Why, for the love of god, would you not afford someone a right that you enjoy yourself? What makes you think that you can judge my family? I can't help but take this extremely personally. It is the very right for my family to exist that you are taking away.

At the same time I can't help but feel sorry for the ones who feel the need to rally against gay equality. They have not had the education to help quell their fears about families like mine, and it is my opinion that education about our community falls strictly on one party: the school system. We sit here and we talk about prayer in school and yet there is no conversation about educating acceptance of the GLBT community. We need a program or something that teaches acceptance. I mean, for god's sake, we have an abstinence education program that pressures kids into signing some meaningless card that says that they wont have sex before marriage (the S.T.A.R.S. program), why can't we have a program that eliminates hate among students? Once again the government has failed in its duty to stop hatred and division amongst its populace.  

We love each other, and all we want is the right to love. Thats all. We are not trying to propagate some gay agenda, we just want the equality that each and every one of you had. If we had had those rights maybe we wouldn't have had to run that paper route. Maybe if there was some education about the gay/lesbian/bi/transgender lifestyle maybe we wouldn't have experienced so much hate throughout our lives. Maybe is not close enough, and it never will be.

We want equality now, not just for gays/lesbians but for people like me. We want equality for people like my mom and Rosanne who have been together 15 years. We deserve equality just like everyone else, and in fact, we demand it. It is our responsibility as human beings to see measures like California's Prop 8 fail miserably. It is also our responsibility as the next generation of people to ensure that measures like Prop 8 do not even get proposed.

So, I pledge to you readers of dailyKOS, and to everyone else around the United States that I will not give up. That I will not falter and that I will continue fighting for equality. I challenge each and every one of you to take up the fight and

DEFEAT HATRED! DEFEAT IGNORANCE! DEFEAT THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT!

Thanks for listening to me rant. I feel a little better.

Originally posted to word. on Tue Dec 16, 2008 at 01:28 AM PST.

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