Friday, April 09, 2010

You Gotta Take the Hetero Out of It...Like This

Yesterday evening, 3 classmates and I presented to our class for an hour on GLBT families, more specifically, Gay Men Wanting to Become Dads and Gay Women Wanting to Become Moms. Each of our slides had various rainbows throughout, they were very colorful. We began our topic with the video below, I’ve Got You by Mélange Lavonne:

We touched on the roles within gay/lesbian families, which come with tremendous amounts of turmoil because currently our vocabulary is based off heterocentric language. What do we call two mom’s? Who is the mom who didn’t give birth? How do the dad’s refer to themselves? To each other? Are they step-father’s despite them being an original ‘contributor’ to the child’s conception? There are so many facets to sort through and because most research on parenting is done on heterosexual couples, it leaves homosexual couples floundering through uncharted territory. Though same-sex couples make up a very small segment of the overall U.S. population, that doesn’t mean they should be left out or their experiences should be lumped in with those of heterosexual parents. Some issues, like what to call themselves, are entirely unique to same-sex couples.

Such ineptness in our patriarchal-heavy language reminded me of Hélène Cixous who suggested we scrape away at the limitations and begin again, this time including women. She said women do not have the ability to adequately tell their story through the use of language primarily because it caters to the singular male, e.g. fellowship, man, woman, guys, etc. (Sexist language anyone?)

Seemingly innocuous to those unaware, the words we use in every day life, like ‘history’, are based from the male perspective, created at a time when women were not taught to read because we were thought of as the weaker sex (and men wanted to keep us that way). Perhaps most importantly, Cixous stated women have a distinct inability to claim our own sexuality because words do not exist that are not related to the male and that allow adequate expression. Simone de Beauvoir said very nearly the same thing in her book, The Second Sex.

But I digress.

At the end of our presentation, one of my classmates had trouble understanding the concept of defining roles in homosexual relationships; she was attempting to create a definition based on heteronormative behaviors and ideology. I was proud of my groupmates as well as another classmate sitting directly in front of the one who spoke because they answered, “It’s how they define themselves, not us.” As clinical social workers, it is not up to us to define anyone but instead to help them define themselves, if this makes any sense.

The classmate referenced the above video and asked that because Mélange referred to her significant other as “wife” in the video, she wondered if it meant Mélange was a husband.

Here is where I internally sighed and rolled my eyes.

Then she asked something in relation to lesbian moms and what defines them as “mom” when only one has given birth to the child. Keep in mind that during our presentation 2 of my groupmates went into great detail about this particular topic and how difficult it can be for women to navigate specifically because we don’t have the appropriate language.

This is where I interjected and said, “Two mom’s, two wives, two parents. That is very often how they are spoken of but not always so it’s not safe to say this is the norm.”

We went around and around for another 5min or so, my teacher (who is marrying her partner in May) getting involved as well.

Eventually I stopped the conversation because I had a hunch it was going to keep pestering my classmate despite what we said and quite succinctly stated, “You’ve got to take the hetero out of it. You cannot look at gay/lesbian families through a hetero lens. You’ve got to let all that go.”

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