Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More on the award

Mungos_Mom writes regarding my Mystey Award post:

I don't mean to deny the presence of implicit homophobia (as a fellow resident of The Big Red State, I know it's everywhere), but isn't it possible that this is just a result of the chaos of producing one of these evenings? Our department has a banquet every year, and people are so caught up in figuring out various details that our award winner announcements always end up being pretty half-a$$ed. Last year the person doing the announcing forgot that we had two outstanding graduate award winners, and the person doing the announcing forgot to mention one of them (who had spent a LOT of money making sure her family was there and had given many of us thank you cupcakes). I was so embarassed that I'm still upset about it--still, it wasn't an intentional screw-up, just the result of flakiness. It seems like foster care agencies aren't necessarily the most coordinated organizations around. Either way, I'm sorry that your moment to be honored was unsatisfying.

What I think happenned, at the individual psychological level, was that the young woman who was handing out the awards did not think in advance about what she wanted to say. She found herself in front of 100 people needing to hand out an award and did not know how to phrase it. Had she planned in advance they might have said, "Yondalla has been doing some research on biological children of foster parents. [Hubby] has given presentations to school officials to help them understand the needs of some of our kids, and both have been leaders in community organizations that also support the youth of Our State."

Hubby thinks that they couldn't identify the issue because they don't want to have us identified as "the family who takes the queer kids." This not because we or any of our kids would care, but because it presents challenges for new kids. They would like to give us kids who are questioning or kids who are just getting picked on for not complying to gender stereotypes regardless of orientation, but if every time we go to an agency-sponsored event people assume that the kids with us are all gay, that will be a problem. (Notice that it would be a problem because of our heterosexist society. If we had a commitment to working with teen moms, any teenager girl who was with us might be assumed to be a mom, or mom-to-be. It might be frustrating for a girl who was not a mom. She might sigh and say that she got tired of telling everyone that no she didn't have a baby and wasn't going to have a baby. But it wouldn't be the same, at least not today.)

And I get that. Recently I did an interview with a local publication. I told her she had to choose between using my first name only and talking about the gay issues, or having my name and family photo and leaving it out.

We are working in an area in which there is real danger of harassment and what we say about ourselves affects what people will think about others.

I've learned over and over that being out is not a simple thing. One is not either in or out. One is out at work, with family, friends; or everyone who knows you personally. You can be out in all those ways and still decide not to hold hands on the subway. Being out, or outed, to an organization who will use that information to judge your children, current and future, is a different thing.

So I don't think it happened out of malice, and I don't think that the "right thing to say" was obvious. I can be understanding/forgiving with the social worker who blundered.

At the same time though I also think it was a blunder. I think the fact that it is difficult to agree on what should be said is a clear indication that heterosexism is alive and well. And though I don't feel the need to be outraged with the social worker, I do think she should have thought about what she was going to say so that she could have said something that made sense.


  1. As usual, you said it better than I could have - I think you're right that it was poorly handled and that it can be forgiven, but the root cause of the poor handling (not knowing what to say because it was an aware for working with gay / questioning kids) is bad, bad, bad


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