Co-Parenting Equality: Lessons from NOM

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My munchkin lives in two houses.  His father and I (look, some of us lie to ourselves a little longer than others), no longer romantically involved for some years now, co-parent.  That means we’re sharing information, talking daily, acknowledging the feelings and opinions of the other, and trusting one another to be responsible parents.  Our dedication to this formula has paid off tremendously.  Munchkin is happy, healthy… and has rarely, oh so rarely, dared to play one of us against the other.

The way NOM played the LGBTQ and Brown communities.

Dad and I get along so well that strangers think we’re married and casual acquaintances who know that we’re not married think that we’re at least sleeping together (and by casual acquaintances, I mean the people who don’t know me well enough to know that I’m gay and gay married).

It’s not nearly as easy, or lovey dovey, as it sounds.  We get on one another’s nerves.  We have misunderstandings.  And honestly, there have been days when I’ve wanted to ignore Dad and his opinions and do it all my own way.  I’m sure he’s felt the same way.  But most people wouldn’t know that.

More importantly, Munchkin doesn’t know it.  Dad and I  made a commitment to one another that we were in this together.  A commitment that is strong because it is based upon our individual, yet common, goal of not being the parents our parents were.  We have promised to ourselves and to one another that Munchkin will not be scarred by our inability, or, more accurately, unwillingness, to love one another for his sake.  The ugliness, pettiness and downright nastiness that defined our parents’ relationships and thus our childhoods, will not define this one.  As stressful and difficult as this relationship may be and as tempting as pettiness always is, we don’t give in.  Our son is worth so much more than any temporary satisfaction that might bring.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign broke the previously confidential documents behind NOM’s strategic campaigns to prevent and/or dismantle marriage equality in the U.S.  Shocking, to some, was the unabashed manner in which NOM sought to pit minority groups against one another.  This was more than just driving a wedge or building upon misunderstandings.  NOM’s “Not a Civil Right” Project was down right puppetry.

And we, the LGBTQ and Brown communities, made it all possible.

Lying there, side by side, on the bottom of society’s shoe, we ignored one another.  We tricked ourselves into believing that we had nothing in common, that our similarities were superficial or non-existent.  We told ourselves that we were fighting two different evils, waging battles that left one another under piles of rubble.  We were being bad parents.

Raising a child isn’t really much more than molding him or her into a loving, intelligent and respectful citizen.  My son’s father and I are molding Mars together.

And molding is exactly what we’re trying to do as minority groups — mold our country, states and cities into loving, intelligent, and respectful places.  We live in the same world,  have the same pieces of clay.  And, believe it or not, we have the same goal: equality.  But since we aren’t talking daily, sharing information, acknowledging opinions of the other or trusting one another, most people wouldn’t know that.

I realize that our leaders are, in fact, making an effort in this regard.  For example, NAACP President Ben Jealous gave a wonderful keynote address at the 2012 National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change.  His landmark speech does much to encourage commitment, interaction and joint action – co-parenting – for equality.  His speech also highlights a very personal and individual moment in his own life that provided the foundation for his own investment in the LGBTQ fight for equality.  A moment during which the vulnerability of his transgender brother, much like their shared racial vulnerability, was painfully visible.  It was the moment he committed.

As meaningful as Mr. Jealous’ experience was, I believe that the experiences and “commitment moments” of everyday people are what will truly make this co-parenting relationship work.

Not everyone is as fortunate as Mr. Jealous to have “commitment moments” when love for a person renders it nearly impossible for their individual struggles to remain invisible to us.  Or, rather, to have such moments handed to us.  Because in 2012, the moments that we experience are much less about opportunities given than they are about opportunities taken.  An opportunity to see those who were once invisible — A gay man?  A white man?  A lesbian?  A transgender man?  A black woman?  — and commit to them is an opportunity that must be taken.

One such opportunity is coming back to Columbus.  On April 5, (8pm) there will be a special screening of Pariah presented by the OSU Multicultural Center, Stonewall Columbus, and the Gateway Film Center.  As I’ve written before, the film is an amazing debut for lesbian director Dee Rees who manages to make so many people — a black family, a closeted teenager, a lesbian — visible.  It is not a film that deserves to be stuck in a corner as a niche independent project, successful only in DC or Atlanta.  It is a “commitment moment” waiting to happen.

I believe that the LGBTQ community and communities of color are both committed to creating a world that is not our parents’ world.  Both communities strive to see the ugliness, pettiness, and nastiness of days gone by left in the dust of progress, love and respect for all humanity.  We’re both good parents.  But if our striving is to not be in vain, we must also disentangle ourselves from the familiarity of our own experiences.  We must cross the superficial barriers, understand one another and work in concert , not in spite.  Not because it’s easy or natural or fun.  But because it’s right.  And if we did so, if we co-parented, would hate groups like NOM ever dare to play us against one another again?

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  1. Pingback: (In)Visible « bhanvoyage

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