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The Legal Stranger Project "How do I explain to my child as it grows up that in our state, I am not your mom, that there are people out there who go out of their way to make sure our family cannot be complete? "
posted by chronkite (51 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
How do I explain to my child as it grows up that in our state, I am not your mom...

Whenever I hear somebody argue for or against something, regardless of what it is, with the line "how do I explain to my child", all I can think is "Isn't that your problem?"
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:49 PM on January 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Greetings from one of those states where some shady backroom dealing resulted in this piece of shit ballot amendment.

It's going to be a long fight. I'm bookmarking this project - it looks like a great piece of work.
posted by odinsdream at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"How do I explain to my child" is a particularly poor line of reasoning in this case given the number of times it's been trotted out in opposition to gay marriage rights.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:55 PM on January 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Whenever I hear somebody argue for or against something, regardless of what it is, with the line "how do I explain to my child", all I can think is "Isn't that your problem?"

In this case I think we're taking "how" as polite shorthand for "why the fuck should I have to"
posted by howfar at 4:56 PM on January 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


So, this is like Kickstarter, eh?
posted by Ardiril at 4:58 PM on January 24, 2012


How do I explain Quantum Physics to my child?
posted by LordSludge at 5:02 PM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


How do I explain Quantum Physics to my child?

"When a top quark and a bottom quark love each other very much, they sometimes choose to get entangled."
posted by yoink at 5:11 PM on January 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


How do I explain Quantum Physics to my child?

"It's Adam exclusive-or Steve, not a superposition of Adam and Steve!"
posted by DU at 5:16 PM on January 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Whenever I hear somebody argue for or against something, regardless of what it is, with the line "how do I explain to my child", all I can think is "Isn't that your problem?"

It is my problem to have to explain things to my kids, and sometimes it's a shitty problem indeed. Why can't my friend's moms marry each other? Why does Susie's dad have to go back to Afghanistan? Why are all those people standing outside the soup kitchen in the snow?

And when the answer to all these questions and more is "Because some powerful people not only want it that way, but insist that it MUST be that way", I feel pretty goddamn powerless and would like to go back to explaining the necessary blueness of the sky, post-haste.
posted by padraigin at 5:17 PM on January 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


Which is the state that's preventing same-sex motherhood and neutrally-gendered children?

Sorry, but the quote on the OP is really awkwardly worded.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:18 PM on January 24, 2012


    "Whenever I hear somebody argue for or against something, regardless of what it is, with the line "how do I explain to my child", all I can think is "Isn't that your problem?"
Fuck no, this problem belongs to all of us. Children are raised by a village and this child's village is doing her wrong by refusing to acknowledge her mother for who she is. The construction also has a storied history in this country

I have a hard time taking seriously anyone who hasn't read Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

The relevant section
... We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."...

posted by Blasdelb at 5:23 PM on January 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


They seems as dazed and overwhelmed as any new parents. I see no difference...
posted by jim in austin at 5:24 PM on January 24, 2012


for people so tripped up on the wording they can't bother to click a single link and get unconfused -

Although same-sex marriage is legal in six states and one district, it is not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act.

Through contemporary interviews and verite style footage, The Legal Stranger Project presents a series of personal stories conveying the great disparities encountered by same-sex couples in the U.S.Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman, allowing the federal government to merely recognize these couples as “legal strangers.”

posted by nadawi at 5:25 PM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


"How do I explain to my child" is a particularly poor line of reasoning in this case given the number of times it's been trotted out in opposition to gay marriage rights.

That's part of the point, surely. "How do I explain to my child that sometimes women love women... that way?!" "How do I explain to my child that people like you don't think I'm fit to be a mother?"
posted by No-sword at 5:27 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't. You do what my cousin did in 1943 and you get the hell out of the country that's strangling you and go someplace else where you can be free.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:30 PM on January 24, 2012


It might be interesting to float a petition to require admitted homosexuals to drink coffee or tea from half-size cups, and drive at four miles per hour below the posted limit - not for any reason as such, just to see how deep the vein of petty spite that motivates these ... people ... to inconvenience the LGBT population goes.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:31 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my experience with children (several years working in an elementary school), I've found that the best way to explain things to children is to be pretty frank about everything. Just tell them the facts on a level they can understand, let them ask questions until they grasp what you're trying to convey, and they'll do just fine.

If the question isn't really "how do I tell my child this" but rather "how dare society make me have to tell my child this", then that's something else entirely.
posted by hippybear at 5:32 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having just spent my very first weekend with my 3 year-old adopted nephew and his Mum and his Mummy, I'm particularly sensitive on this issue right now. That child knew abandonment and fear, and two loving parents have, in the last year, given him security and love. Suffice it to say that anybody who thinks denying every type and semblance stability and security to any family for the purpose of their supposed "morality" doesn't know what that particular word means.
posted by howfar at 5:38 PM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


"semblance of" dammit.
posted by howfar at 5:39 PM on January 24, 2012


Remember though, the problem certainly isn't religion; no, it's just us atheists giving religion such a hard time because we're unhappy curmudgeons. It's a complete mystery why some people are so hostile to religion. Look at all the good it does for the world!
posted by MattMangels at 5:56 PM on January 24, 2012


How do you explain it? "Well, Suzy, some people, instead of minding their own business, mind everyone ELSE's business. Feel free to call them 'assholes', to their faces, in polite company."
posted by notsnot at 6:00 PM on January 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


While I think that who someone wants to marry is none of anyone else's business (including my own), it always bothers me when issues like this are presented to kids in the context of us versus them. I understand the reasoning behind it since those against gay marriage play the same game, but isn't it possible to explain this to kids differently?

Or, maybe I just have no clue.
posted by Leezie at 6:11 PM on January 24, 2012


Leezie - how would you explain to your kids why their parents aren't considered their parents according to the law that makes different rules for same sex couples?
posted by nadawi at 6:23 PM on January 24, 2012


Yeah, I was thinking about that - hence the no clue part.

Me, being a lawyer, would explain it in terms of the law and how we need to work to change it as opposed to these people don't want us to be together. But, that just sounds lame and tone deaf, so there you go.
posted by Leezie at 6:26 PM on January 24, 2012


Letter From a Birmingham Jail

I'm straying off the topic, but I go back and re-read this every few years. Completely apart from its historical importance, it's just so damned nice to read the writing of someone so eloquent.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:27 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In reality, it's like "THE SEX TALK", I suspect. You discuss and develop the theme over time, responding to your child and (in this case) doing your best not to make him or her apologetic or apoplectic. But it's a shitty thing to have to explain to a child, that there are oppressors in the world, and that they are one of the oppressed.
posted by howfar at 6:38 PM on January 24, 2012


"In reality, it's like "THE SEX TALK", I suspect. You discuss and develop the theme over time, responding to your child and (in this case) doing your best not to make him or her apologetic or apoplectic. But it's a shitty thing to have to explain to a child, that there are oppressors in the world, and that they are one of the oppressed."

My solution to both of these issues would each be a multi-decade long lecture/seminar/workshop series.

For the sex talk it would be called, There is No Condom for the Heart but There Are Condoms.
For this I would call it, Well We Can At Least Bless Their Hearts
posted by Blasdelb at 6:52 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


While I think that who someone wants to marry is none of anyone else's business (including my own), it always bothers me when issues like this are presented to kids in the context of us versus them. I understand the reasoning behind it since those against gay marriage play the same game, but isn't it possible to explain this to kids differently?

My sample size on this matter is two, plus the kids of my friends who share my values. It turns out that when they're little and don't ask a ton of followup questions, you don't need to present things as "us versus them", you present them objectively. So you say "Well, some people don't think that Julie's dads should be able to get married to each other". And the kid says "That's STUPID" and the conversation pretty much turns to something else, because what else is there to say about it to a four year old?

But then they turn six or seven and they want to know WHY Julie's dads can't get married, and then what? You have to explain that there's a THEM out there trying to stop it from happening, and a WE who do everything we can to make it happen. You don't name names, but it's a matter of time before they figure out who They are.
posted by padraigin at 7:17 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, you could move to another state where same-sex marriage is legal - I'm sure that would ensure that your child is never harassed by classmates for having two moms. Not.

Making same-sex marriage legal is a necessity - it's a sign that the society is growing up - but legal won't prevent your children from being picked on for having same-sex parents; I know, because my granddaughter grew up in this situation. We simply taught her that every day, in every place, people of all ages are being harassed, disparaged, ridiculed, attacked for something - it's just part of life, and when you stand strong and refuse to be cowed by stupidity, you make it better for the generations coming behind you. You can consider yourselves pioneers, if that helps your child's concept of the situation, but it wasn't half as hard as we thought it would be to get her through school with the respect of her teachers, friends and families. She has been a consistently happy overachiever, Student Body President, etc., all the way - and everyone knew her Mom was gay - and that her Grandma drove an old purple van named "Pearl" (probably just as embarrassing). Kids adjust very well. Don't just blame, blame, blame society; recognize that you've chosen to live together as partners - with children - and that simply means you have one more thing to teach your wonderful children. Teach them to be strong.
posted by aryma at 7:20 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I think that who someone wants to marry is none of anyone else's business (including my own), it always bothers me when issues like this are presented to kids in the context of us versus them. I understand the reasoning behind it since those against gay marriage play the same game, but isn't it possible to explain this to kids differently?

The other option is that it really, truly, for realsies, is us versus them.

That this is unpalatable doesn't make it any less true.
posted by odinsdream at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have nothing whatsoever against the idea of two women being together as life partners. Or two men. I also have no problem, personally, calling it "marriage." And for what it may be worth, I am not a religious person. But I admit I get confused over where this leads, as a logical proposition. Isn't the problem with the definition of "marriage"? To the extent "married" is purely a legal status, like citizenship (not a de facto status, like having blue eyes), you either have to fit the definition of the status as it already exists, or change the definition of that status. Otherwise, it's like suddenly declaring you're Jewish, or Canadian, just because you want to be.

I ask in all seriousness. If you open "marriage" up to two women, how can you deny it to three women? Or one man and five women? Where does one draw the line? Is there even a line to be drawn? Perhaps there isn't.

What about one person who is alive, and another person who has died, but is still loved?

You might well say, "That's preposterous—marriage is only for the living." And I'd probably agree. But then again, isn't that just as arbitrary as saying marriage is only for one man and one woman?Aren't we the ones who get to say so? What about marrying a robot? Again, it sounds preposterous. But probably no more preposterous than the idea of a white person marrying a black person once sounded in the US. My point is, once we say we're changing a definition, well, the whole ball of wax becomes fair game, not just the bit that interests you, or benefits your personal situation.

The concern I hear people express over unconventional marriages is rarely (in my personal experience) expressed in terms of any sort of anger or hatred toward the LGBT community. The concern is over such a broadening of the definition that the definition becomes essentially meaningless. And that freaks people out. I think.

This is slippery issue for people to articulate because marriage is a manufactured state of affairs to begin with, and not an absolute empirical fact. That is to say, marriage is entirely a construct of convention, made up by humans. No one is married unless society says they are. Indeed, that's the only way to BE married. You have blue eyes no matter what anyone says, but you're only married to the extent some social structure comprised of other humans (e.g., your church, your state) says you are.

As such, I think it's the wrong approach, in this instance, to argue "We should have this granted legal status because others have this granted legal status." That makes no more sense than, "I should have a license to practice medicine because my neighbor does." The approach should be to lay out precisely how one proposes the definition of marriage should be broadened, and why, and start from there.
posted by azaner at 7:37 PM on January 24, 2012


it should have never been narrowed in the first place and the only reason to narrow it to one man/one women is bigotry. now we understand better than ever that gay people aren't damaged goods, they aren't mentally ill, and they aren't going through a phase. removing the gender requirements from marriage actually makes it make more sense - two consenting adults enter into a marriage contracts that affords a certain number of liberties. this way you don't have to have a lot of weird laws about "what's a man" and "what's a woman". i've never understood the argument that this will open up marriage to dead people or kids or multiple partners. why would it? it used to be in the US that a black person and a white person couldn't marry. marriage opened up to include them and i didn't see a rash of cats and dogs marrying each other.

"we should have this granted the legal ability to marry because others have it" is far different than "i should have a license to practice medicine because my neighbor does." in the doctor example there are actual reasons to prohibit mechanics from practicing medicine. what are the practical reasons for denying gay people the right to marry? is it because they're gay? how is that anything besides bigotry?
posted by nadawi at 7:47 PM on January 24, 2012


Comparing a marriage to a medical degree. A-yup.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:51 PM on January 24, 2012


I ask in all seriousness. If you open "marriage" up to two women, how can you deny it to three women? Or one man and five women? Where does one draw the line? Is there even a line to be drawn? Perhaps there isn't.

Why do people who ask this question never ask the same one about straight marriage?

"If you open marriage up to being between one man and one woman, how can you deny it to one man and 3 women? Or one woman and five men?"

It's ridiculous on the face of it no matter how it is framed. Marriage is a consenting adult contract between two (TWO) (2) adults saying that they want to form a household unit which has certain benefits and liabilities between the two (TWO) (2) adults who agree to be so contracted.

Where does this "how do you stop it from being between more than two" argument come from, anyway? It's just ridiculous, and I wish it would stop.
posted by hippybear at 7:53 PM on January 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


You guys who are hung up on the wording are really, really missing the point.

How do I explain to my child as it grows up that in our state, I am not your mom, that there are people out there who go out of their way to make sure our family cannot be complete? that she can't visit her dying mother in the hospital?

My own moms never did find a good answer to that question. Here's a hint: THERE IS NO FUCKING GOOD ANSWER.

It's rhetorical.

Until it isn't.

May it never be non-rhetorical for you.
posted by BlueJae at 7:59 PM on January 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yes; azaner's slippery slope argument draws an arbitrary line itself and is therefore not effective. Personally, I would be in favor of opening legal marriage to more than two people, if there was demand for such-- but that's not the issue on the table. Personally, I'd rather the government divest from marriage period-- I'd rather see a system where I can accord any one person such benefits, whether that's my lover, my partner, my dad, my sister, my frat bro, my bus driver, or a Belarussian blogger I found on the Internet. That's also not the issue at hand, though.
posted by threeants at 8:04 PM on January 24, 2012


Serious question: Are there countries that will accept USians for asylum on the basis that our federal government will not recognize our intimate partner rights? Because I'm pretty sure "get out" is not a very useful thing to say. I used to look into what it'd take to emigrate. More money than I'm apt to have in the next twenty years and a job offer at a time when jobs are in short supply in... well, pretty much everywhere that would be better than here, yes? So, yeah, 1adam12, if you can get my partner and I out to a country where we can have all of these rights unquestioned, despite the fact that I'm an impoverished grad student and she's a retail wage-slave, by all means, let me know.

Azaner, I don't think it has to be any kind of a slippery slope. Giving spousal rights to a dead person or a dog would just be meaningless because they can't exercise them. Giving spousal rights to multiple people would be impossible because they would conflict. These things are not true of giving spousal rights to one particular other individual, regardless of whether that person is your best friend or your sexual partner or your bus driver, but you already can marry your best friend/sexual partner/bus driver as long as they're of the opposite sex. There are real distinctions to draw which are not just trivialities.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:44 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you say "Well, some people don't think that Julie's dads should be able to get married to each other". And the kid says "That's STUPID."

This is, almost word-for-word, how the conversation went with my five-year-old the other day when we were discussing Washington's impending marriage equality bill. She has a kid in her preschool class whose parents are both male, and on Mother's Day when she came home with a Mother's Day card for me, she said "Ellie made a card for her grandmother instead because her dads are both dads! Did you know a person can have two dads who are both dads? You can, because Ellie does." So when I told her that right now, we don't let Ellie's dads be husbands in this state, she said "That's DUMB."

(of course, while she was shrieking at me for not letting her eat candy canes for lunch or something, she shrieked "I WISH I DIDN'T HAVE A MOM! I WISH I HAD TWO DADS! LIKE ELLIE!")
posted by KathrynT at 8:50 PM on January 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


azaner, your question can be answered very simply: the gender binary is a myth. Laws restricting any activity to only Males or only Females are flawed because Intersex people actually exist. Consider a person with XY chromosomes who has androgyn insensitivity. This person may well have been assigned female at birth, be raised female, and only during puberty learn that they have no ability to bear children. Whom should this person be allowed to marry? The question is ridiculous. To use some oddly narrow definition of male and female and require this female person to marry only an opposite-chromosomed individual would end up appearing like a normal female female marriage.

Ultimately what you're asking for is a stringent definition of male and female, which doesn't actually exist, you may be surprised to learn.
posted by odinsdream at 9:02 PM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


But probably no more preposterous than the idea of a white person marrying a black person once sounded in the US. My point is, once we say we're changing a definition, well, the whole ball of wax becomes fair game, not just the bit that interests you, or benefits your personal situation.

Funny: when we actually did change the definition of marriage to allow interracial couples, not that long ago, nothing like your chaotic redefinitional free-for-all ever materialized. To this day human beings can't marry turtles, Loving vs. Virginia be damned!

If huge numbers of people ever pop up trying to marry the dead, my bad.
posted by gerryblog at 9:18 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point is, once we say we're changing a definition, well, the whole ball of wax becomes fair game, not just the bit that interests you, or benefits your personal situation.

This is so painfully untrue. You can change the legal definition of something in minor and specific ways without having to consider an infinite possible number of changes.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:35 PM on January 24, 2012


It's pretty fucking offensive to read that someone in this day and age is actually putting forth the argument - well, if we let YOU get married, what's next? DEAD PEOPLE MARRIAGE?

Yes. Because ending discrimination is exactly the same as fucking a corpse.

We have so much farther to go than I thought we did, and it fucking breaks my heart.

I guess I do say fuck a lot.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:36 PM on January 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


"How do I explain to my child" is a particularly poor line of reasoning in this case given the number of times it's been trotted out in opposition to gay marriage rights.

My best friend is married to another woman who has a 5 year old daughter from a previous marriage. When the kiddo was told they were going to get married, she didn't seem too happy, and when asked why, she replied "because you can't have babies and I want a little sister!" When it was explained that they COULD have babies, she replied "Oh! OK!" and said no more about it. Kids have simple cares, you see.

(Addendum: the same amazing kiddo asked the other day "how many moms do I have? One, right? (...pause...) No! I have two!" Great kid.)
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:01 PM on January 24, 2012


For a good example of the real life damage this does, I recommend listening to Charlene Strong's contribution on the Moth podcast. It fucking breaks my heart every time I listen to it, and I wind up weeping at the injustice that continues to hold that some stupid notion of what a marriage can dictate who we are allowed to love and care for.

Equality now, every minute we delay is too long.
posted by arcticseal at 10:19 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a lesbian mom, and it's kind of weird but my kid barely knows it, and she's 9. Recently I got some mail from some LGBT organization and she asked me what the letters stand for! I told her and when she looked kind of blank, I asked if she knew which one of those words was what I am, and she didn't know. Like, she doesn't actually know the difference between gay, lesbian, and bisexual. I am not in any way closeted: I'm butch, most of my friends are queers and trans folks, we've gone to marriage equality marches, we go to gay family camp every year, I used to live with a partner, but I think it's all just so normal to her that she doesn't actually realize it's something to think about at all.

I don't actually have any point vis-a-vis this post. Overall, I think most of us queers do pretty well these days, but when some people in any society lack the legal protections and privileges as everyone else, well, that doesn't just harm those people, and it doesn't just harm their kids, it harms the society as a whole.
posted by latkes at 11:55 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am getting an error when I try to look at the page. anyone else having issues?
posted by pointystick at 6:11 AM on January 25, 2012


It's giving me an error message, too.

A friend of mine commented recently on an aspect of same-sex marriage in the US that's far less emotionally fraught than this one, but had not occurred to me as yet another petty obstacle thrown in the way of same-sex couples: it's complicated to figure out your taxes when your state recognizes your marriage but the federal government doesn't.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:05 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, site is busted for me, too.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2012


I sent them a message that the site was borked..hopefully it'll be fixed soon.
posted by chronkite at 9:02 AM on January 25, 2012


Gay marriage as the top of a slippery slope that ends in necrophilia? Really?

Perhaps you might be interested in exploring the possibilities of one-person marriage, marrying yourself, and then consummating that marriage. If you catch my drift.
posted by Zozo at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whenever I hear somebody argue for or against something, regardless of what it is, with the line "how do I explain to my child", all I can think is "Isn't that your problem?"

The law says it isn't, because that's not her child.
posted by gingerest at 2:29 PM on January 26, 2012


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