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War, Death and Mamas

7:06 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lisa Russ for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This commentary is part of a Mama’s Day series by Strong Families, published in partnership with RH Reality Check in our Mother’s Day 2011 series.  Follow Strong Families on Facebook and Twitter.

I just walked by the USA Today front-page headline about Osama bin Laden’s death: Huge Boost for America. This is probably the last big media event my son Zach will miss. He is almost six years old, reading cereal boxes, street signs and simple books. With luck and off-switch on the NPR, he’s missed it entirely. Like most six-year-olds, little bits of information about the world leave him asking, “Why? And why not??” This was one conversation I didn’t want to have: “why are people celebrating the fact that this man is dead?”

Six year olds love right and wrong, and clear winners and losers.  We live in Oakland, and when Zach got wind of Johannes Mehserle’s verdict in the trial for the killing of Oscar Grant, that led to a whole string of questions: “Why was he afraid of Oscar Grant? Why would he pull the trigger? Do you think it was an accident?  Why would he lie?”

I heard President Obama’s press conference, and all through his confident words and measured celebration, I was thinking about Barack Obama the dad.  While politically the President hasn’t been all I had hoped (to say it mildly) I have never lost my connection with Obama the candidate, the senator, the regular guy who is the first president I know of who is a hands-on dad.

You probably know like I do that he eats dinner with family most nights, and makes it to all of his kids school conferences: parenting stats that put him well ahead of our family and most people that I know.  And I believe he is engaged with his daughters as growing individuals who are learning at a young age how to navigate their strange and complex world.

I wish I could have been at the table to hear how he answered his daughters’ “Why?”

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When the Politics of Hate Comes Home: A Lesbian Couple Grapples with How Politics Affects Their Critically-Ill Child

6:36 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jaime Jenett for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This commentary is part of a Mama’s Day series by Strong Families, published in partnership with RH Reality Check in our Mother’s Day 2011 series.  Follow Strong Families on Facebook and Twitter.

As Mother’s Day approaches I have been thinking a lot about what life is like as a non-biological lesbian mother of a child with severe medical issues.   Before my wife Laura gave birth to our son Simon, gay marriage was mostly a political issue for me. On principal I wanted me and all other queer people to have the same rights and privileges as straight people.  However, when Simon was born in 2008, and especially when he got critically ill and spent 4 months in the hospital, policies designed to prevent same sex families from having legal protections took on a whole new meaning for me.

I realized that in another state, as his non-biological mother, I could very easily have been denied leave from my job when he got sick.  In another state, I wouldn’t be allowed to adopt him. I could have been denied access to visit him in the hospital by hospital staff.  When Laura was forced to quit her job to take care of him, they could both have been without health insurance because they wouldn’t be legally linked to me.  I realized, on a really visceral level, just how cruel and destructive these types of policies are and what they’re really about.

I’m not hung up on the issue of marriage versus domestic partnership versus civil union. What I am stuck on is this category of policy, that says same sex couples are inferior and do not deserve the same recognition under the eyes of the law.  I could totally survive if gay marriage doesn’t fully pass in California. It feels like a luxury.  We are very, very lucky to live in a state that offers quite a few legal benefits to same sex couples.  But the Prop 8 campaign reinforced for me how many people really do harbor animosity towards families like mine and that they’re trying (somewhat successfully) to shape policies that hurt us.

I walk past this house 3-4 times a week, and every time I see that sticker it hurts.  I can tell they have children by the toys in the yard and their huge passenger van. I can tell that they’re Christian by their Catholic radio sticker.  And I can tell that they have some feelings about queer people.  So I did the best think I could think of.  I wrote them a letter introducing myself and left it in their mailbox.

Here it is:

Hello,

You don’t know me but I walk past your house 3-4 days a week on my break from work. Every time, I’m struck by your “Yes on Prop 8” sticker. I’m guessing this may not be your intention, but every time I see your sticker, it feels like someone is standing in my face, yelling “I hate you and I hate your family.” I wanted to let you know what kind of an impact it has.

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