Manual TypewriterEssays, Reviews, and Commentaries

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

All of our Families

Posted By on June 30, 2009

All of our Families
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

These are heady times to be in queer families. Both locally and nationally lesbian and gay couples, same-sex marriage, gay adoption, transgender civil rights, are making the news.

Perhaps it is easy for those without children to ignore issues like the recent controversy regarding Postcards from Buster. After all, what does children’s television programming have to do with social justice and queer politics? Perhaps it is easy for those of who are not transgender or transsexual to ignore the local and national politics regarding transgender civil rights. After all, what does sexual reassignment surgery have to do with gay issues or parenting?

Some of you may have watched the episode of Post Cards from Buster Sugartime a few months ago. It is certainly good to see families that look like mine, and interesting to see what the Secretary of the Department Education Margaret Spellings thinks is inappropriate programming for young children to watch. I was proud to be involved in The Family Pride Coalition project to have the Buster episode available on the Internet so that all families could view it, even if their local affiliates refused show it. It is no small thing that we received an email from a women in Estonia (my partner, incredulous. says, “Astoria, as in Queens”? No, Estonia, as in the former Soviet Republic!!). The woman, a new lesbian mother, thanked us for making this episode available to her and she expressed surprise that we here in America still deal with such bigotry.

Also in the news recently, the Illinois Court of Appeals denied a Chicago transman custody of his 12-year-old son, despite the boy’s request to live with him. Sterling Simmons has been living as a legal male his entire adulthood. He married a woman 15 years ago, and together they started a family. Their son was born 12 years ago through donor insemination. Simmons filed for divorce because of his wife’s drug use and three therapists that evaluated the family for the court found the mother to be unstable and recommended custody be placed with the father. Sterling Simmons, however, lost custody of his son because the judge decided that their marriage was invalid and therefore his legal rights to his son are in question. Why was his marriage invalid? Because they court decided this was a “same-sex” marriage. Although, Sterling Simmons is a legal male and clearly should’ve been recognized for that, if same-sex marriages were legal Sterling Simmons would have custody of this son. Why is sex even listed on a marriage certificate? Once upon a time, not even 50 years ago, race was listed, and those with “unmatched” races couldn’t marry.

The judicial system does not seem to understand our families, and despite their rhetoric, decisions are not always made in the best interests of our children. Yet, the opportunity to educate communities about our families is stifled when the government blocks the media from accurate representations of our families. We need to stand strong and together to battle the repressive trend of our government and to support the civil rights of ALL LGBT people.

One of the great struggles as a parent is how to do all the work that politically needs to be done to protect our families, and still have enough time and energy to give our children the attention they need to become whole and conscious people.