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06/02/2008

My bi-familial orientation

by Jeremy Hooper

 Images 2008Familyday120X240It's completely coincidental that this year's Blogging For LGBT Families event falls on a Monday after which this gay writer spent a weekend ensconced in quality family time. It's not an accident, however, that the young kids with whom I was lucky enough to spend this time accept my partner and I for exactly what we are: a "normal," loving, vibrant part of the family. Their unadulterated instinct sends them this message; their unbiased upbringing confirms it.

"Uncle Andrew and Uncle Jeremy." No asterisks. No qualifiers. No differentiation between our love and that of their heterosexual aunts and uncles. To the nephews born into my partner's biological clan (3-years, 6-years, and now a new one at only 2.5 days old), Andrew and I are simply one couple within the family dynamic. They haven't yet encountered any of the sort of societal nonsense that can skew even the most liberal of minds. Fortunately, there is nobody in these kids' immediate world who is going to deliberately put such short-sighted mental roadblocks into their heads.

Unfortunately, I haven't been so lucky with the little ones on my biological side of the family. My brother and sisters' kids have never even met Andrew. In fact, my finding love is the reason why I haven't even seen those children for almost six years, as my coupling was deemed an inexplicable hardship over which my biological family members have been unwilling to overcome. The "gay thing" was a discussion that was too hard for either of my siblings to have, thus forcing them to choose not seeing me at all over seeing me happy. They've forfeited their chance to provide for their children a portrait of a loving, stable same-sex-headed couple, and have instead fostered the same sort of nonsense that had plagued our childhoods.

So what I get to see are two very different dynamics: One filled with non-controversial acceptance, and another filled with unnecessary strife. I get to see how much time my genetically-linked side wastes on their unclearly defined definitions of acceptability, and how much time the family I've married into dedicates to embracing our peaceful reality. I get to experience what it feels like to be seen as both a familial asset and a familial liability. It's a weird world in which those who should know and trust me better than anyone in the world have decided that I could never have a relationship worthy of recognition, while those who've known me less than a decade never even skipped a beat in incorporating my life into their fold.

Two broods with two drastically dissimilar "culture war" positions. The common thread? Me. The love of my life. My own little LGBT Family. The actuality of my coupling varies not between the two sets of relatives. The only variance is their willingness to open their hearts and minds. It's frustrating, both the lack of understanding within one position, and the lack of transmittability of the other.

So on this third annual Blogging For LGBT Families day, I want to remind everyone that every single member of this society plays a role in fostering the well-being of LGBT families. Brothers, sisters, mothers, father, teachers, guiders, mentors -- if you have a role in anyone else's life, then your mentality regarding the LGBT people who truly make up this world can have some bearing on how future generations will view their LGBT peers. In my case, I have it on a very direct level. However, even when there is not such a clearly demonstrable example of the unfortunate chain of homophobic succession, there is always a negative effect that is wrought by the propagation of prejudice. If you are sending messages of anti-gay hostility to your children, then you are damaging LGBT families. And when you damage LGBT families, you are damaging a vital part of humanity's picture.

Blogging for LGBT Families Day: Contributed Posts [Mombian]

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Your thoughts

Hi, Jeremy,

I would be so proud if you were my brother or my son - I'm so happy that you are such a well adjusted guy and happy that you are part of Andrew's family. This past weekend I was at a fund raiser dinner here in Vermont for RU12 (I just love that name) an organization that offers services to our youthful gay population. I don't know how a family can NOT be all-inclusive.

Posted by: tom | Jun 2, 2008 5:01:12 PM

I'm in a similar situation Jeremy. The unfortunate thing is that it makes me want to pull farther away from my biological family because they don't accept my relationship with my partner. I want to be with them on the holidays and other occasions but I hate myself for every hour I leave my partner home alone. It's a tough situation.

Posted by: GayMormonBoy | Jun 2, 2008 6:27:55 PM

I didn't see yours up there. I do think you should post it. So moving ... so frustrating and I am not even living it, just too empathetic sometimes.

I was so please by a patient who felt she could share with me that she (at age 74) was going to visit her older brother (76) ... who had had a partner for over 40 years. They were loved by family, but not usually discussed outside of it.

It may have helped that I have a PFLAG bumper sticker on the back of the notebook I take in to patient visits.

6, 3,and new...all great ages for nieces/nephews. Remember Christmas is coming.

Posted by: LOrion | Jun 2, 2008 6:33:57 PM

Jeremy,

How wonderful that you have Andrew and his family in your life. And how sad that your bio-family has abandoned you. It sickens me that the self-proclaimed Godly "pro-family" crowd would applaud your bio-family while condemning Andrew's family for their attitudes. So, who is pro-family here?

My partner and I have had a different kind of family experience that slowly evolved over our nearly 27 years together. When we met in 1981 the prevailing default was to be closeted, so for many years the gay thing just wasn't mentioned at all. Kind of a don't ask don't tell. We would occasionally appear together at family events.

Now this has evolved to the point where our families have had dinners together. I think the highlight was my partner's 50th birthday surprise party at a gay restaurant with both our families in attendance.

It helps that neither of our families are involved in the Fundamentalist Christian lifestyle. I'm going to guess that your family is trapped in a geographical area under stifling Fundamentalist influence.

You are to be congratulated on having the strength to escape and make a wonderful life for yourself.

I hope your family can evolve on the gay issue.

Posted by: Richard Rush | Jun 2, 2008 7:37:09 PM

Thanks for sharing that. Speaking as one who hasn't yet met his Him, I'm curious as to how that will play out in my life. Having been out a decade, yet only recently starting to truly reconnect with my parents on a level of semi-seeming-acceptance-ish-ness...yet with a younger straight brother who is, it seems, more pro-gay than ME sometimes (example: that "Stand for Equality" e-mail that's been going around? my BROTHER sent it to ME, naturally...), I can only guess. I know that when my brother marries and has children, I and my husband (whenever he shows up in my life...show UP, dammit) will just be Uncle Evan and Uncle Josh Groban (he stands in for now, in my mind).

But will my parents be grandparents to my children, if and when I have them? What about my husband's family?

I have high hopes that enough hearts and minds are changing that there's a decent chance that our familial lives will be "normal," by which I mean "no more dysfunction than anyone else, really."

Posted by: Evan | Jun 2, 2008 7:41:30 PM

On one hand I am sorry for you Jeremy...it's not great to miss out on your own family's reactions to big events in your life. But I can't help but feeling more happy than sorry that you have found someone you love to spend your life with. Both my husband and I were lucky enough to have family who "get it"...and his is a huge one from Argentina. It matters more to be loved for yourself than to be loved conditionally.

When our wedding announcement was printed in our small town paper, it really was a crisis that made my family re-think what they thought about gay people. It was sort of a watershed moment in my family and town. But you know what...in the past four years it didn't matter so much. I have the same relationship I've always had with them. They acknowledge my husband as my spouse, but I'm not sure they're completely comfortable with my "lifestyle". That has much more to do with living in New York and being a creative, idiosyncratic person than necessarily sleeping with a man. And that's fine with me...because I also feel respectfully distant from their "lifestyle choices."

I hope you get what you want from your biologicals someday, and if not you have plenty of love from the rest of us!

Posted by: Andrew Williams | Jun 2, 2008 11:23:18 PM

Just bring him to the family events where large numbers of people are in attendance, not everyone will feel the same, and the silence will be broken, after a few visits together, people will see it as natural for him to be present.
If my family didn't accept me, I'd be quite tempted to cut them off and replace them with my own family.
As it happens, in my mom's group of friends people are known as uncle and aunt, and by default I was surprise when my mom's friend said she wanted me to be her sons uncle (despite my being young and openly bi.)

People out there are becoming more accepting, but some people have yet to catch up to civilisation and what it means to them.

Posted by: Corvidae | Jun 3, 2008 12:53:28 PM

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