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My Queer Family

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If you don't know anything about my family, it looks like your basic heteronormative nuclear family. Mother, father, child. If you stop at that superficial glance, then you'll walk away thinking there's nothing different here.

If you look a little closer, you'll see some clues that we're not what you expect. The blue-purple-pink stripe on the front hood of my big black truck. The rainbow grommets in my belt. The "Bi Pride" and "I'm not the one that's confused" buttons, and the bi pride stickers, and the advertisement for last year's Pride In The Park on the visor, right below the ULC Minister parking placard.

Come inside our apartment, and there's a bi pride flag on the kitchen wall, and one of the bookcases has a top shelf packed with books with titles like RePresenting Bisexualities; Bisexuality in the Lives of Men: Facts and Fictions; Becoming Visible; Power, Privilege, and Difference; Bi America: Myths, Truths, and Struggles of an Invisible Community; Microaggressions and Marginalities; and three magazine boxes jammed with copies of academic articles.

My family is one of many LGBT families. It's a mixed-orientation marriage, because I'm bi and she's straight. My child has not declared a sexual orientation; he has not come out as straight or bi or gay, although he has stated he identifies as cisgender male. That's one of the things about LGBT families. Growing up, I was pressured to be straight, long before things like sexual attraction had any meaning to me. But we don't have anything invested in our child's sexual orientation, and because of this, he's free to discover who he is in his own time. He presents himself as an ally, quite proudly, and from both sides he's inherited activism, an absolute refusal to allow injustice to continue if he has any ability to stop it.

There's still more to the equation, though. I use the word "queer" a lot, for a couple of reasons. One is that it's pronounceable, another is that it does not lend itself to the ultimately minimizing and divisive tactic of gluing more and more letters onto it until it's even more unwieldy, and yet another is that I'm using it in the sense of queer theory, inserting the chisel of deconstructionism into the assumptions of dominant culture. OK, I promise this was the only part of the article that will get academic.

Through a queer lens, my family is internally diverse, not only in our sexual orientations but in just about everything.

My partner has a deep family history that goes back to Bohemia and, according to the family lore, ancient Egypt, as well as to the Sac and Fox Nation. I'm adopted, and my knowledge of both my birth and adoptive families goes back a couple of generations at most. (I know that my adoptive father's grandparents came from Germany, that my birth mother was part Cherokee, and that's about it -- my birth father is unknowable.)

My son and I are "Aspies" (on the end of the autism spectrum known as "Asperger's," at least until the new DSM comes out), and my partner is neurotypical (her thought processes are similar to the majority).

We're religiously mixed as well: She's a Solitary Wiccan, I'm a poorly practicing Zen Buddhist and panentheist humanist who hangs out with atheists even though I believe in some form of a God, and our child bills himself as an agnostic.

Until recently I was a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian, while the rest of the family ate fish and fowl -- the demands of our biologies has led us to start eating pork occasionally.

I read a lot of science fiction, some fantasy, some mystery, some nonfiction. My partner prefers nonfiction but reads a little science fiction along the way. Our son is heavily into Lord of the Rings and Roger Zelazny and The Hunger Games. We're all readers, though, so there's a similarity.

In fact, all the differences listed above are really similarities. We're readers, we all participate in social networks and other online activities, we like flowers and tostadas and the sight of an American eagle swooping low over the Mississippi. We have concerns about what we eat that go beyond "what's for lunch?" We have strong views about religion and philosophy and politics. We're concerned with mental health and with how society reacts to people who don't fit the mold, with the importance of all different kinds of diversity. And regardless of how far back the knowledge of our ancestors goes, we are providing the roots for future generations.

My partner and I have similar taste in men (Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch). Even though we're in lockstep, that doesn't mean that our attractions went away when we got handfasted (and, a year later, married, 21 years ago).

We don't have to all be the same to be unified. It's the differences that make it interesting. But the nature of family is such that in spite of the things that look like differences, we're all in it together, and no one can attack any one of us without the entire family coming to our defense.

The LGBT community is a family, too. And one of the primary purposes of a family is to provide for its members the ability to live a life of integrity in a community of mutual support.

I'm proud of my queer family. Any family that I am in will have to be an LGBT family, because I'm filed under "B" in the rainbow, and when people say that my family is not queer, which some do, there's only one thing I can say: "Have you met us?"

This piece previously appeared at BiNet USA's blog.