Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Queer Families, Part 2/infinity

So a couple weeks ago, I wrote a thing about my queer family and one small way in which we were creative. I also quoted a long chunk from a blog post by Leslie Feinberg, but I don't think I discussed it enough. So I'm going to quote it again right now and then talk about it more in depth. And then maybe next week I'll get into some other things. So here it is, you can read the whole thing here. I'm going to go paragraph by paragraph this time.

My estranged biological relatives know very little about the decades of my adult life. They are strangers, by my choice, because of their history of bigotry and abusive behaviors toward me.
This is so so so so common amongst people I know. You guys. This is why we need to declare safe spaces on our office doors and why we form our own families. And the thing about bigotry/abuse is that it can be perpetrated by people who would vehemently disagree with the label of "bigot," and often those people think of abuse as hitting and not as the constant requirement that their queer kid Just Not Be So Gay Because It's A Holiday And/Or There Are Children Present. Or as constantly refusing to use someone's preferred gender pronouns or acknowledge that person's gender identity. Cutting these people out of one's life to whatever degree and with whatever permanence is a completely legitimate choice.

Yet the capitalist state often cedes legal power to blood relatives by default. So, I’ve had to struggle to assert legal independence from the white, patriarchal, heterosexually-modeled nuclear family into which I was born.
Oh, the capitalist state. God. What a fucking nightmare. The capitalist state has privileged the nuclear family as a way of privatizing care for each other. Nuclear families are "legitimate" and intelligible. You need help? Ask your family. They have to help you, they're family. The sense of obligation this puts on people is intolerable. It's removing any legitimacy/social sanction for chosen families, and it makes community support optional. It makes community support questionable. It looks like socialism or communism and we have been taught that those are bad things because... I forget why. They're un-American or something? Whatever. I'm probably super un-American. I can live with that.

For four decades I have been forced to create and revise sets of legal forms for every state in the U.S. in which I’ve lived or sought medical care. These foundational documents state in clear language that I have been legally autonomous from my birth family since I reached the age of legal consent.
My documents state that Irving David Feinberg, Betty Vance Hyde, and Catherine Ryan Hyde have no legal rights in my life.

My legal papers also spell out clearly who does have the right to speak for me if I am unable to speak for myself.

Not everyone has to carry their papers around, just people The State considers questionable. Not having to carry one's papers around is a privilege. Having to constantly opt out of the state's preferred system is the particular duty of the oppressed. We shouldn't have to opt out of state-sanctioned relationships constantly.

Minnie Bruce Pratt has been my family, legally and in life, since 1992. As lovers, we have shared a home, life and struggle—in sickness and in health. We are domestic partners. We are civil union’d. Yet the state and federal government discriminate against our same-sex economic family unit by denying more than a thousand of the benefits that recognition of same-sex rights as a civil “marriage” certificate would provide.

Because I am female, and in a same-sex relationship, I have to live and travel with legal documents that expressly state who is, and who is not, my family.
This is the best argument I've heard for gay marriage, but it doesn't convince me to get on the marriage bandwagon. I want it for Feinburg if ze wants it. I don't think ze's looking to assimilate, anyway. I think ze's looking for relief from having to carry around a life's worth of papers with hir when ze goes to Publix or whatever they have in Syracuse. If marriage is an institution that exists, it's an institution gay people should be able to participate in, and this is why.

Even chosen family members who travel with their legal documents intact can find themselves barred from visiting their loved one in an emergency room, while vindictive relatives who are virtual strangers can proceed to the bedside to make life-and-death decisions. I carry a hospital visitation authorization, the new Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST), my domestic partnership and civil union papers, advanced directives, living will and last will & testament. In addition, I carry a copy of caregivers’ rights, and requests for secular-based care.
I have to legally state in paperwork that Minnie Bruce Pratt is my health care proxy, together with my attorney—who has taught issues of law and transgender. They have my powers of attorney. Based on legal documents that I’ve worked hard to prepare, my chosen family would speak for me if I were unable to advocate for myself.

Minnie Bruce and I both have to carry each other’s documents at all times, as well.
See? That's a lot of papers for anyone to manage all the time. I can't keep track of my pets' vaccination records. And it's a fundamental flaw in our social system that anyone has to do this just to be sure they can get the basics of respect.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is attempting to undermine all my painstaking documentation of chosen family relationships, by claiming blood ties give her intimate knowledge of my life and identity, and the right to re-write them.
Catherine Ryan Hyde sucks. Blood ties are useless, y'all. They don't mean anything. It's great if you love your blood family and they give you the support you need, but blood doesn't mean: respect, intimacy, love, understanding, care, communication, delight, home. Constantly having to identify your family through legal work-arounds, and at the expense of people who would like to see their blood status as privileged in your life and who accept no alternative, is a rough road to travel. We need to re-think the way we do everything, is what I'm saying.

The image of Leslie Feinberg is via hir site, which you should all go check out.

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