Today is 'Family Day' here in Ontario. It's really an excuse to have a day off in February, and all of us who get the holiday are thankful for it. I remember the debate leading up to the creation of the holiday and the decision to make it 'family day'. Initially I was disturbed by the designation of the day, 'family' not being a universally treasured experience.
During the height of the anti-gay movement and the very apex of violence against LGBT people, the term 'family values' was being tossed about. Like hate and discrimination and violence were core 'family values' . I began to hate hearing the term and resent the irony that the biggest attack on 'family' as I understood the word were depraved 'values'. Family, in its idealized form, is a place of safety, unconditional love, and unceasing welcome. Yet in families there is so much hurt, so much violence, so much purposeful meanness. Gay teens tossed out for difference, the front door key ripped forever from their hands. Disabled children abandoned by parents with unfilled promises of 'I'll visit soon' in their suitcases. Vulnerable children hurt, victimized, abused, by women who expect lacy cards at Mother's Day and by men who become fathers who define fear as respect.
Yet through all this the family survives. It even thrives. In places where there is a 'value' placed on the experience of 'family'. A value of love and acceptance, a valuing of difference and diversity, a valuation that determines that worth is calculated by love and nothing else. We have these families, or we make these families, or we strive for these families. Families where blood matters less than relationship. Families where ties are tied intentionally if not genetically. Families where anyone at any moment, can be daddy, can be mommy, can be child. Families where power flows freely back and forth, landing only ever in gentle hands. Families where the wick to anger grows longer with every day, where the 'boom' of temper grows daily less terrifying.
I have seen the faces of men and women with disabilities who wait expectantly for a visit that all, but they, know won't happen.
I have seen the faces of men and women who wait expectantly for a phone call announcing a decision of acceptance that never comes.
I have measured the bruise on a face, for a report, while wondering who will ever be able to measure the bruise on the heart ... their's and mine ... as I try to answer the question, 'Why was mommy so mad at me?'
But I have also seen the faces of men and women who are loved by their parents. Of adult children who know that their difference is embraced both by parental heart and arms.
I remember still the stoic face on the woman who stood alongside a protest, with signs that stated, 'God Hates Fags and So Do I'. She stood there with quiet bravery with her own sign, 'I Love My Gay Son.'
I remember always the face of a mother in a meeting saying, 'My child will go to school, my child will walk these hallways.' I remember realizing that I was seeing something much more than determination, I was seeing prophecy.
I remember bandaging a little girls finger and then wiping her tears. I still hear a small voice saying, 'You are a really good mommy.' I loved that, in a word, she made me family.
And I believe that is what I celebrate today. I celebrate that, in a world wherein family has come under it's most serious attack by those who would defend it, I am still family. I am still loved and included. I am still respected for my difference, desired for my diversity. I am thankful that, rather than having family torn from me, I found family embracing me ever tighter as I grew older.
I value family.
All of my various families.
Including my family, here, on this blog.