A reader writes:
I found this piece of yours very moving, and I want to add to the conversation on gay marriage my perspective as a child raised by a gay couple (a "homogenate" as I call us, for short) in the U.S. in the 1980s.
If I had been born in the '90s or the '00s in the right state instead of the '80s, perhaps my biological mother and her lover, Mollie, could have had a civil union. That would have made their relationship simpler from a legal standpoint, for sure. But still, what would I have told my friends who came over after school and asked innocently: "Why does that woman live with you?"
Would I have felt better telling them that she is my mom's "domestic partners" instead of the usual routine: blushing, averting my eyes and blurting out "She's my mom's friend" or "Uhh ... she just lives with us" before frantically changing the topic.
Even if I was a pedantic 9-year-old willing to explain to my friends what a civil union is and how it is the legal equivalent to the (first or second) marriage of my friends' parents, that still doesn't address the fundamental problem in my opinion: Mollie could be my mom's friend, my mom's domestic partner, my mom's lover -- but she could never be my anything. She could never be my stepmother.
Family names are generic things -- mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and all their step-incarnations. It is the possessive that creates intimacy and a sense of family. And while our family would have had the same strains as any step-family even in the best of circumstances, I have no doubt that she and I would be closer today if I had grown up calling her and thinking of her as "mine" in some sense -- even when I was angry with her, or I missed my father, or, yes, when I wished that she was just gone and my family was normal.
Let me add something that I experienced as well. My in-laws have always been supportive and loving and tolerant. They accepted me at Christmas and other occasions and were glad their son had found a partner. But it was not until we told them that we were "engaged" that something suddenly clicked. They finally had a way to understand us and our love because they had the linguistic architecture to make sense of it. I was going to be their son-in-law! With those words. I became family - not Aaron's friend, or roommate or boyfriend or lover or what-have-you. But his husband. And thereby their family as well.
There was and is something about these words - engaged, married, husband - even though they may contain a mountain of different experiences, that made us a family. I think conservatives should favor the unification and mutual love and support of families. And that means they must by definition favor the mutual love and support of the gay people in them.
This is not about creating something new. It is about making a home for people who have been here all the time for centuries. It is about making the human family whole.