A Little Kitchen Conversation
ACLU of Northern California's Associate Director tells the story of how she responded when her 8-year-old daughter asked if lesbians were going to be banned and what would happen to their family.
Recently, I was at home making dinner with my eight-year-old daughter Kaden. As I cooked, she flipped through the mail on the kitchen counter with the curiosity that only eight-year-olds possess. One of the pieces of mail was from a local LGBT advocacy group, advertising an upcoming event. Although Kaden has two moms, one of whom (me) works as the Associate Director for the ACLU, she doesn't see the word "lesbian" in print all that often in her daily life. She's certainly heard the word plenty and because of my work is familiar with words and phrases many people don't learn until high school or later. Words like equal protection, constitutional rights, and fundamental fairness.
For some reason, seeing the word lesbian in large font on the mailer reminded her of Proposition 8, the ballot measure passed by California voters in 2008 that banned marriage for lesbian and gay couples. Referring to Prop 8, she became visibly agitated and asked me what would happen if voters decided to ban lesbians from California. Would we still be her parents? Would we be safe in our home? What would happen to her and to our family?
I fought back tears and swallowed my disgust and outrage at the fact that my child has to think about such things in the year 2012. I looked Kaden in the eye and told her that no one was going to pass a law outlawing lesbians or LGBT families. I also explained that no matter what laws were passed that we would always be her parents and her family. While I knew that I would die before allowing my family to be torn apart, I also knew that I wasn't quite telling Kaden the truth.
The truth is that in the year 2012 laws are being passed and enforced that discriminate against LGBT individuals, couples, and families, excluding us from the same rights and protections enjoyed by everyone else.
Kaden doesn't know, for example, that her parents' marriage (after being together for 18 years, we hastily got married the day before Prop 8 passed) isn't recognized by the federal government. Or, that her generally fearless moms hold their breath every time we pass through customs, worried about how the agents will react to a two mom family.
She doesn't know about the children of thousands of same sex couples across the country who are denied legally recognized relationships with both of their parents. Or about the fact that in states across the country it's still perfectly legal to fire someone or refuse to hire them simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. She also doesn't know about the LGBT youth and adults who take their lives each year or who are beaten or murdered simply because of who they are.
While I usually tell my child the truth, I didn't have the stomach to in this instance. Instead, after reassuring her about the safety and security of our family, we talked about how one day everyone will look back and wonder how there ever was a time when equal protection, constitutional rights, and fundamental fairness didn't apply to everyone. That's why I work at the ACLU, where every day my colleagues across the country are working hard to make this a reality.
Kelli Evans is a former Associate Director at the ACLU of Northern California.