Finally, it comes to this: It’s nice to be included. It’s nice to believe that we matter. That’s the sense of worth that so many of us struggle to find throughout our lives–if we didn’t get it in early years, it’s an uphill climb to claim it later.
This week, I’m aware of many friends who have been at the White House egg roll with their kids. Their beaming photos are posted throughout my facebook page and meetings here in DC are punctuated with adorable tales of things done and said by cute kids on the White House lawn. Everyone who went was delighted to be there, but for the glbt families, being specifically invited was something like breaking a spell. One family I read about at home flew here from Minneapolis just to go! Looking at glbt family photos on the White House lawn brings up both joy and grief for me—my daughter was four years old in 2000, when George W. Bush came into the White House. He immediately eliminated the White House liaison to the glbt community, and told families like ours in every way possible that we weren’t welcome as part of his country. (The proposed federal amendment to the Constitution that he advocated, which excluded us from “We the People” was the most direct statement, but all the smaller things hurt, too.)
The reason that I knew my 12 year old could not miss the Inauguration festivities was so that she could see that her country wanted a President who wanted us to matter again. Every family wants that simple acceptance. Now, the egg roll, she would not be caught dead attending, of course. But I’m delighted to see other kids who are the age she was in 2000 having such a different experience of belonging in their country.
Meanwhile, we struggle with a pre-teen issue around exclusion: As I posted recently, ever a counter-cultural family, we are actually acquiring a few items in this “Shopping is Dead” time. Last week, to reward my daughter for making it through a very tough time, we bought her a Kindle, the electronic book created by Amazon. It was her most desired item; she is constantly hauling heavy books in her backpack and who can argue with a kid’s love of reading? So when the tax refund arrived, that was our splurge.
I have never shopped at Amazon.com in my life. Ironically, the women’s bookstore in Minneapolis is Amazon Books, and I order all of my books through them…support your local bookstore! So, how bizarre that the very week that I give Amazon.com a huge chunk of change, they would publicly act out in a homophobic manner. (NOTE TO UNIVERSE: You think this is funny perhaps?)
I am wrestling with whether or not I even mention this to my daughter. At age 12, here’s the deal: If she loses a treasured gift because her parents care about justice, her anger will not be directed at Amazon.com’s homophobia. Rather, it will be directed at her lesbian parents, and the fact that once more she doesn’t get to have the easy, privileged, life of her friends with straight parents. (Never mind that I will tell her that straight friends who share our values are also telling Amazon.com where to get off—at 12, all anger defers to parents.) And I feel whiney about it myself: Couldn’t we just enjoy SOMETHING without homophobia contaminating it?
So this is how family values really sort out. The dozens of conversations we navigate or don’t choose to have, products we buy or return, events we get invited to or don’t, legal privileges we count on or can never acquire—all of these create meaning out of the otherwise random events in our lives. I suspect I’m going to vent my spleen at Amazon.com and keep my mouth shut about it at home. The mantra of every parent of every sexual orientation: Choose your battles. Meanwhile, how bout those cute kids on the White House lawn?