Beyond the Artifice of the Nuclear Family: Creating Change Preview
While messaging on marriage and child rearing has often centered on a heteronormative model, LGBTQ families come in infinite varieties. Increasingly, people are willing to discuss relationship and parenting arrangements that do not fit into a traditional mold. Alternative family models confront issues of race, legal protections, working with straight allies, and non-traditional parenting.
Additionally, there are lingering issues with stigma surrounding transgender individuals in mixed orientation relationships and even just coming out again as not just LGBTQ, but as being in a relationship that doesn’t fit within societal expectations while raising children.
At the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Denver we (Andrew Solomon and Julie Childs) will be hosting a panel on Friday, Feb 6 at 3pm titled “The Artifice of the Nuclear Family” , which is a storytelling session where we explore alternative family models and non-traditional parenting. The inception of the session is rooted deeply in the anguish you experience as a queer person navigating through a world clinging to the ideology of two-parent marriages as the only acceptable ideal.
Here is a little preview:
“When I was growing up, I believed I had to make a tragic choice between being true to myself (by acknowledging that I was gay) and having a family (which gay people mostly didn’t or couldn’t do then). Time showed me that this was a false opposition. But even as I understood that, I didn’t imagine how many new possibilities there were—not merely that my husband and I could be parents, but that we could enter a more complex world. He has two biological children with some lesbian friends in Minnesota; I have a daughter with a college friend; my husband and I have a son who is with us full-time, of whom I am the biological father.
So we have four children in our orbit, all of whom call us Daddy and Papa. As I sometimes say, we have five parents of four children in three states. The liberation from a narrow idea of family into a sweeping and encompassing one has been the revelation of my life. Love does not have to occupy the narrow parameters with which I grew up. We can instead benefit from the quiet radicalism that has allowed us to invent family anew, which has, for all its challenges, allowed us to come to a fresh definition of joy itself.”
“When I came out to my father in 1996 he was openly disappointed that I would not get married or have children and that my life would be hard, because I am queer. I manifested his outlook on my future and applied it to my life.
In 1998 Matthew Shepard was brutally killed and the incident further endorsed the idea of a life of turbulence and upset for young queer people. Ironically, that same year I met someone that I admired. Someone with deep passion for the values I held dear in the world. He and I decided to have a child together in a non-romantic relationship.
And so we set our course, but like most plans that we make in life the universe would shift. I met my wife shortly thereafter and together the three of us started a family. We parent our two daughters with their father in a partnership. The beginning of our journey was marred with skepticism and even outright negativity from family and friends who destined our definition of family to fail. In 2004 we welcomed our first daughter and two years later our second and then we got married, striking two things off my dad’s list.
Our family is not built around the premise of hetero-normativity. Yeah, we look different. And we are. We are happy together and raising two amazing children that have three parents, supported extended family and an abundance of friends. Life is messy, imperfect and can’t be compartmentalized into neat little boxes. We are pioneers on a mission to show the world that the possibilities of are limitless and something as dear as family is for YOU to define. It’s okay to be unconventional, be you.”
For more information about the Creating Change Conference and to download the program, please go to: http://www.creatingchange.org
by Julie Childs, Special Assistant to Executive Director Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force