Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thanks to Addition Problems for clueing me in about today! This is a thinking-day for me, about life as a lesbian social worker getting married to her partner in just three months (eek!) and trying to become a foster parent. J and I are so excited about our upcoming wedding- it's taken on a life of its own over the last year of planning, and as things start to come together now, and there is less to do, the reality of the cementing of our life into a family is starting to sink in. I'm going to be her wife. And it's exciting and joyous and wonderful and freaks me the hell out!

Occasionally the ugly world sticks its nose where it doesn't belong, though, and I'm reminded that even though we'll be an amazingly strong and loving family and even though we have support from people who care about us, our little family will be an island in many ways. We'll be left out of society's image and protection and have to fight against invisibility and attacks. I experienced a little of both today at work. Though I don't actively talk about myself with co-workers, I don't lie when something about my family comes up. While training a new social worker today, it came up- she was considering Smith College for grad school and my partner had just graduated from that program last year, and had even followed a similar path to it as this new worker- through the Air Force, then to community college, then undergrad through the Francis Perkins program for non-traditional-age students, and finally grad school at Smith. We talked about it for a few minutes and though J's status as my partner was clear, this new worker called her my "roommate" and continued to call her such for the rest of the day. Invisibility can be annoying and in a larger sense, deadly. My family, small and insignificant as it is, should be recognized with respect for what it is- a family.

Later, after getting out of a meeting with DSS regarding the custody of her child, a client got into my car for a ride home and spewed derogatory words about the child's foster mother because she is a lesbian. Followed by the "I have no problem with it, but..." that I so often hear before or after someone says something offensive. As a person with feelings and a life, I hated hearing those words, and it particularly bothered me because J and I will be foster parents in just a few months. Put in a weak or painful position, many parents with children in foster care put down their child's foster parents in order to feel better about themselves- ignoring the facts of neglect, abuse, or substance abuse in their own lives that make them unable to parent. LGBT parents can and do make great parents, regardless of their sexual orientation, but they become an easy target for insults, especially when somebody needs a scapegoat. As a social worker, I usually don't correct or confront my client's about moments like this- I'm there to help people with homelessness, substance abuse, mental crisis, financial ruin, domestic violence and conflict, and struggles in parenting, among many other problems, and I think they have enough on their plates without having to confront their prejudices immediately. Still, it stinks to help people who have such unkind words for others, based on all kinds of stupid criteria, and hold my tongue. I just hope that someday, with my help and the help of many other providers, each one may be able to get to a stable enough place where they don't have to put others down to puff themselves up.

That being said about my clients, nobody else has an excuse for not supporting equality. The world is made up of people who are so diverse in so many ways. To deny the need for equality is to deny the reality of the world. All families deserve to be seen for what they are- families. All families deserve to be able to protect each other and their relationships- through equal protection of the law and economic justice. I should be able to marry J and have that marriage respected everywhere we go. We should be recognized as equal and (I hope) really good parents when the time comes. As we will declare in just a few months at our wedding- we are family!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I'm a former foster child and current child advocate...

I am so sorry for the invisibility and attacks that you have suffered recently.

Children in foster care need a loving and protective home. And, there are too few foster homes available.

Please feel free to visit my blog anytime:

I value your insights as a social worker, and would be interested to hear how the foster care placement works out...