The personal is political.
Despite having just come through a bitter election season in America, about which I had very strong feelings, this blog has not been a platform for political discourse. My vision has always been to dedicate this space to sharing stories about the struggle of coming and living out; about the hard work of co-parenting and single fatherhood; about embracing the non-traditional family that grew out of a traditional divorce; about the difficult but often humorous path to finding love as a gay dad; about standing tall as a proud parent of a gender-variant child; about how we all fall short as parents, partners and people.
In pondering my efforts to remain apolitical here, I realized that there were stories that I have hesitated to share–stories where political identities are often embedded between the lines of personal struggle and triumph. Stories about the difficulty navigating family relationships as a progressive gay man with roots in a largely conservative, working-poor family. Stories about coming out to my Republican Marine father, whose heart is usually in the right place, but whose ideas about romanic love and family structure sometimes feel more 1947 than 2017. Stories about how hard, even infuriating, it can be to engage with loved ones who take or support politcal positions that are a direct affront to my and my children’s rights as equal citizens. Does my family love me and my children? Absolutely. Do they understand what it’s like to fear holding your lover’s hand in public, or worse–fear for your child’s safety when she publicly identifies as a girl although she was an assigned male at birth? Absoluely not.
As the election of 2016 unfolded, with lines being drawn between “us” and “them” in every corner of America, the familial divide I had long felt became more stark. But nothing struck me more than when I returned from supporting the Women’s March on Washington–elated by the massive demonstration of community–to find social media rants from exasperated male family members, and even a few female family members who derided the protestors and demanded to know “what rights we lost overnight.”
On that Saturday morning (January 21, 2017), I had packed up my six year-old twin girls and headed to the March. We joined a sister event, small in comparison to the immense demonstrations in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. We were among 7,000+ people — folks of all genders, races, and walks of life — marching in solidarity to loudly proclaim their support for women’s rights, reproductive freedom, diversity, inclusion, and basic human dignity. It was somewhat surreal. Here it is 2017, in one of the greatest democracies on earth, and I felt compelled to collect my small children and take to the street to march in support of such simple human rights. Meanwhile, some members of my family were simply outraged that such protests were even occurring, my own father decrying the gal of these “crybabies” — his own baby and grandbabies among them.
Why did I feel the need to attend the Women’s March? There are many answers. I am a progressive who supports gains in social justice and greater equality across the board–for everyone. I am a lawyer whose profession has historically propeled the careers of (mostly white, straight) men over those of equally or more qualified women and people of color. I am a father of girls who I want to have every opportunity that I have enjoyed as a man. I am a gay man who believes that there is real beauty in diversity, and that one minority group (like mine) must support progress for all minority groups, because we only rise by lifting one another up. But perhaps the biggest driving force: I am the proud parent of a gender non-conforming daughter, and I wanted her to see the strength of community that will stand with her, protect her rights, and make her feel welcome, especially when she feels at odds with the body she was born in to. And she saw exactly that. As we were nearing the end of the March, her little legs grew tired, and she stubbled a couple of times. There I was, hands full of signs, and trying to managing two tired children alone. Except I wasn’t. Time and again, the women around us–women I never met and will likely never see again–literally lifted her up and cheered her on.
Like a lot of America (and the world), I worry about where our turbulent politics are headed. I think about how we ended up in a state of such division, and how so many LGBT people fear for their safety and the sanctity of their rights. I also understand how people can be suspect of and even fear what they don’t know–those things that do not fit with their personal experience and their concepts of tradition. My family is no different. They expect love to take a certain shape and children to be raised a certain way, and they sometimes look askance at how I live my life and parent my children. But, an important part of my job as member of this community and as a parent to children whose nuclear family doesn’t look like all the other kids’, is to loudly defend the progress that has allowed me to proudly live my best life. And in those moments when I feel defeated, as I inevitably will given this unprecedented upheaval, I will think of those women who lifted my daughter up. They lift us all up.