How the Hate for 8 Hurt my Child…
by Melanie Nathan, First Published November, 2009,
Tagged with: anti-gay California California Supreme Court family and children Gay Marriage Kids and Teen LGBT Children Marriage Equality Prop 8 prop 8 decision Prop 8 Fighters Proposition 8 school age children Schools two mommy family two mommy household Yes on Prop 8 Supporters
The fate of California’s same-sex marriage hangs in the balance, as the Justices prepare their ruling on the challenges to the validity of Proposition 8.
In my house of two married moms, we remain overtly safe from this decision as long as it is not declared invalid retroactively. How will I explain that to my children? If the result is not favorable, I am faced with having to inform my children that gay and lesbians are no longer allowed to marry under the law of this State.
The unfairness of being placed in this bewildering wait triggers memories of the pre-Prop 8 fight and my quest to protect my daughters from the worst pain imaginable “your family is not a family!”
My daughter, HC, is as well adjusted as any child; she has been around the world a few times, hence her sophistication belies her short twelve years. She is engaging and endearing and born to lead. Kind, loving and perceptive, when a toddler she earned the name “little Buddha.” A keen, astute student, each year she adores her assigned teachers and tends to hold them in the highest esteem. They are her heroes and in turn she is their delight. This is a kid who never wants to miss school. She loves it!
When the California Court first ruled favorably for same-sex marriage we were the first lesbian couple to be married by our Rabbi, at our congregation temple. My kids had a great time and together with twenty other kids all dressed in white walked down the aisle toward the ‘Chuppah’ in most traditional fashion. It was a big event for our community and family came from around the world. My children were so invested in the wedding as for them it presented a validation and celebration of our little family of four.
Three months of gay marriage and then enter Proposition 8 together with the egregious advertisements facilitated by the millions of hateful dollars sent from Utah’s Mormon community to California, intent on promoting the proposition that would serve to outlaw same-sex marriage. The very idea of it, least of all a yes vote, served to insult our recently acknowledged family.
About two weeks before the November 2008 election and the impending prop 8 vote, HC and I were driving our route to school. We noticed that overnight what used to be one lone “No on Prop 8” on Central Avenue had morphed into a “NO on 8” at each and every home down our neighborhood’s main street. Later we found out that the lone sign outside the home a lesbian mom, kept getting torn down; day after day she would restore the sign until eventually overnight the entire neighborhood put up the NO sign in support of their neighbor. I remember remarking how amazing it was to see everyone in our midst against prop 8.
As we drove through the reasuring tunnel of “no on 8’s,” our comfort was short lived as we exited the micro and entered the macro – yes that nasty world at large reared its beastly head as amidst our usual morning tussle between Stephanie Miller and Radio Disney, an advertisement popped on the radio.
“……and your children will be forced to learn about homosexuality and gays it will be taught in the schools; ….. your churches will be forced to marry them… blah..”
I glanced at my child and noticed an odd expression on her usually placid face, one which I will not easily forget, and she asked, “Mom I don’t get what is wrong with other kids learning about my type of family?” I was stunned! The advertisement had placed a perspective calling for this very question; but why my child? We have lived our lives so openly and relish the good fortunate of our supportive community, where our ‘same-sex-ness’ is the least of our day to day issues.
It was as if HC had received a slap across her face. The advertisement had clearly hurt my child; its viciousness was not something she had been subjected to before. What could be worse than adults lashing out like that at children? It was direct and personal and having heard it before, was not personally outraged as when I realized the irresponsibility and how damaging those lies were to my babies. Now I had to come up with an answer to this ferocious fanaticism. I explained, “Hun, we live in a world where peoples are often the subject of fear on the art of others and so when they are afraid, usually because of ignorance, they lash out in this way. What you heard on that ad, was unfair and contorted, but that is how the people who are against the idea of same-sex marriage think they can get other people to join their way of thinking.” I provided more reassurance as best I could. A few more questions and answers later we arrived at school, and went on with the next two weeks, during which time HC and my four year old accompanied me to various “NO ON 8” rallies; “no on 8, no on 8,” a battle cry still performed by my 4 year old whenever she sees the number 8, whether in the market, at school or in the movies.
So came the vote: The “Yes” win was a shock and a huge upset; I had a lot more explaining to do; “mom is our marriage okay are we still married? (Our marriage is clearly viewed by my kids as a family event!) Then came one of the saddest moments in my life, on the day after the election, when HC came home from school and told me that her class teacher had told the group she had voted for John McCain. Living in Marin County California, I do believe the kids found this quite odd, and I explained we all have the right to vote as we choose. But then she announced, “Mom it is sooo weird Mrs. Ray also told the class that she voted “yes” on Prop 8; but I think she must have been just joking!” Well long story short, she was not joking – and my child was completely and utterly shattered. Trying to hide her emotions for the next three weeks, I noticed a big change. She was not so keen about school. In fact after a week with a substitute teacher she came home devastated that he was leaving. I realized it was less about the loss of the sub teacher and more about Mrs. Ray’s return.
Despite my promise to HC to keep hush, “I flew like a bat out of hell” to see the Principal, who, ironically an “out” lesbian, was not surprised to see me show up on the issue; she mentioned that I was the fourth parent to complain about this lack of discretion on the part of the teacher. I explained that my child was extremely conflicted in trying to reconcile her respect and admiration for her teacher with her love and pride for her family. My child moved classroom and she adores her new teacher.
Fortunately, HC is back to being her happy self, but a deep and profound wound has been inflicted on her free and safe spirit. If proposition 8 is upheld by the pending judicial decision, I truly believe that my child will suffer more emotional harm, through the perceived aberration of her family. It is so unjust and so unfair. Our children do not deserve to be the political pawns of the divisive and fearful bigots and religious right in our country. We are family values and we are entitled to equality. My children are facts of life and they cannot be relegated to some second class category that diminishes us as a family. As a Mom I vow to carry on fighting for the sameness my babies, by virtue of their very existence deserve.
I have to show my child that our family is worth fighting for and that anything short of complete equality is simply not good enough. I think this story illustrates the far reaching effects of de jure disqualification and the de facto reality of inequality. Whether we receive equal rights or not, nothing will derogate from the fact that we are here; us, our wives and our kids and nothing can or will ever change that simple fact.
Until such time as DOMA disappears, Prop 8 ditched- every US State allows gay marriage -our children will be marginalized as my daughter was when her teacher basically told her –‘You are not the same – you are not entitled.’