Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crisis of Conscience

Note: Before this entry is published I’m going to talk to all the people involved and I’m also going to change all the names. I don’t usually do this, but when dealing with minors you can’t be too careful.

This entry has been rolling around in my mind for a few weeks. On May first, I went to Pride. Those of you who know me know that I always go and have a booth there. This year, I was also on a mission to find teenage appropriate clothes for someone with two moms who is not embarrassed about it. This is because two of my beloved activist friends have adopted a 14-year-old girl. One of my greatest joys in life of late has been buying and sending things to Jane. It’s lovely being a virtual auntie. You get to spoil someone else’s kid and you don’t even have to babysit.

When I saw the teenagers from Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE) sitting across from me selling t-shirts, I thought that I would get her one. Knowing, as I do, how much she seems to like bright colors and rainbows, the white rainbow t-shirt that said ‘I LOVE MY FAMILY’ with a heart where love should be seemed ideal from my ultra-femme honorary niece. However, when I had someone take over my table so I could go over there, they had sold out of the shirt I had wanted. All that remained was a gray shirt with orange writing that said ‘YOU KNOW WHAT’S SO GAY? MY FAMILY.’

Being bisexual and in a wheelchair, I’ve encountered my share of bigots because I wear activist t-shirts and have liberation stickers on my wheelchair. For a moment, I considered not buying this very obvious shirt. The last thing I would ever want is for some middle school bully to harm Jane. I sat there for several minutes while the teenager who showed me the shirt waited expectantly for me to do something, namely take out my wallet. In the end, I rebuked myself for having these giving in sort of thoughts. Jane lives in a nice place with progressive people and young people today are much more accepting than when I was growing up. I was sure she would have no problems. Moreover, I thought this was much more of a Pride festival shirt than a wearing-to-school-on-a-regular-basis shirt.

I put the shirt in the mail the next day along with a shirt I got her from ADAPT, a disability rights group I belong to. About one week later, I got a message from one of her moms saying the package had arrived and not to worry. She was not mad at me despite the impression I may have gotten from her Facebook status. I hadn’t checked Helen’s Facebook status that day, so I didn’t even know what she was talking about. Of course, the curious person I am, I went and checked immediately.

Apparently, Jane had insisted on wearing the gay family shirt to school. Helen, being a protective mom, was concerned about people teasing her. But anyone who knows Jane will tell you that once she gets her mind set on something, good luck getting her to change it. Finally, the pair reached a compromise. Jane could wear the shirt I sent, but she had to wear another shirt over it. Now that Jane was successfully off at school, Helen confessed to feeling a little guilty. She said “Have I betrayed my community, my family, myelf?”

I felt amazingly guilty at causing my friend to go through all those emotions merely because I bought her daughter a gift. It really made me think. On the one hand, I was very proud of Jane for not being afraid of what people would say and being proud of who she was—the daughter of two awesome lesbian activists who loved her to bits. On the other hand, I was afraid as her mom was that some hotheaded teenage bigot might give her a bloody nose or something.

This made me think about when I have my own kids in the future. Will I be nervous if they want to wear a shirt saying they have two moms in my case is, as far as I can estimate, is about a 70% likelihood. Will I try to shelter them from the misguided bigots of the world? Is this even good for them? What does my sexual orientation have to do with their growing up in the first place?

Of course, I don’t need to figure any of this out right now. At the moment, I’m so hopelessly single, it’s pathetic. There is no partner. Therefore, there will be no kids. My mother was a single mother and I respect her for it. A lot of my friends are single mothers, so please don’t think I’m bashing single motherhood. It’s just not for me.

In the end, I’m glad, in a way, that this incident happened. It gave me some clarity around issues I fully expect to struggle with when I become a mother. Although, I also hope that the world will become more accepting by then. Somehow, though, I’m sure we’ll have a bit to go. I think that’s always going to be the case.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whty Local Elections Matter

I voted today. It was local election. We visited for two Selectman, a housing authority member, and a few board of health members. I know it was only a town election, but town elections ensure that Belchertown pays its community transit fees, has good housing programs, and a really good school system. Therefore, town elections are vital to every citizen’s well-being.

Sadly, not every member of my community sees it that way. I voted at just past 12:30. According to the election worker, I was voter 115 in my precinct of about 2,300! That’s a 20% return My good friend Ken Elstein, who is even more of a political animal than I am, who was at the polls today garnering support for Dave Sullivan, a Democrat who’s running for District Attorney told me there have been years where the total voter turnout was 800 for the entire town!

I’m fanatical about voting. While I will allow a lot of political divergence between myself and any romantic partner I have, I can’t imagine myself being happily attached to a committed “non-voter”. Bring a disabled, person of color who happens to be a woman, too many people have tried to separate me from that ballot box and democracy. I’ve never, in my life, missed an election in which I was eligible to vote. I don’t plan to, either. It just isn’t part of my character.

By the time I post this, it will be about 6:45. If you live in Belchertown, you’ll have 1 hour an 15 minutes to do your civic duty at the high school at 142 Springfield Road. If you don’t live here, make sure you vote in your own local election. Democracy, even just local Democracy, doesn’t just ask us to participate everyday. Election days are special and we should rejoice and participate therein.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Thoughts and a Bit of Activism

It’s nearly Mother’s Day and we are all getting numerous e-mails about ways to honor our moms from flowers, to memberships in various clubs, to gifts of electronics, clothes, or what not. I, myself, bought my mom a Mother’s a present in December (when the after-Christmas sales were on). I am writing here to discourage Mother’s Day presents or Mom honoring. Moms deserve it!

But I’m disturbed by one site and one e-mail I received today. The site is an elder care residential locator website. Nowhere on the site is home care mentioned, even through studies indicate that most moms would prefer to get daily living activity support (DLAS) in their homes. All that is featured there are sugarcoated stories of institutional living and sweet pictures of adult children and elderly parents.

When my mom gets old enough to need DLAS, she’ll have support services in her own home, as I do now. Hopefully, the Community Choice Act (CCA) will be passed by then, which means she will be able to get services wherever she wants. If not, she’ll live with me until she can get her own services in Massachusetts. This situation will not please either one of us. We are very different people, with very different ideas and ideals. I don’t see that changes as either one of us ages. If this situation occurs, it will become priority one on my personal list to get my moved into her own house with services and out of my personal space.

I’ll be a Daughter from Hell to MassHealth, let me assure you. In my mind, the aforementioned organization (that doesn’t exist yet) grew out the Mother’s from Hell (a group of radical activist moms who tirelessly advocate for their children with disabilities). In my mind, the Daughters are the adult children of such moms who advocate for their moms to get independent living services as they age. One hand washing the other across generations.

In e-mail that disturbed me was from the lovely people at Care 2. They send daily e-mail exhorting people to undertake certain electronically based political action. I’m on their list. Today people were asked to send an e-mail to a “homebound, hungry mom”. I’m not discouraging community interaction with such moms in anyway, but I do have a question. If I undertaken such action, will it cause anyone to eat? The petition doesn’t tell me what good I'll do.

So, why should I, who have a busy life, the action that doesn’t seem to have positive outcome. Instead of encouraging readers to write to these hungry moms, why aren’t they advocating that readers prepare meals for their neighbors or harass their Congress people to increase funds to elder feeding programs or for more homecare services, as homecare workers could make food for these women daily and
eliminate the problem?

Just a few political thoughts from a non-mom, although I do hope to be one someday, as Mother’s Day nears.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Food Justice for EBT users!

re you a food stamp user? Did you know some farmers’ markets take EBT? They do. Better yet, you can double your food stamp benefits if you shop at the markets! Just give the market registrar your card (you can ask where they are) and they will give you tokens for a value of $2.50.

You can buy vegetables, meats, breads, or even vegetable plants! In Northampton yesterday, I brought a small block of feta cheese, a small bag of salad (good for 4-5 bowls), and a dozen organic eggs for $8.75 in benefits. Not bad, especially when I plan to buy big groceries (including ethical meat) next week when I get another installment of food stamps. I'll have a very happy belly on Tuesday. I'm thinking of spending $50 in tokens, that's $100 at the market, yay! Maybe I'll just get $30, because I don't want freezer burn, as my assistant pointed out.

Find out farmer’s markets in you’re area that take EBT, by clicking here. The website says it’s only for Western Massachusetts, but you can find any city by changing the town search parameters on the site. So, find your local participating market and eat some local, fresh food this season!

This news made me so happy. I love farmers markets, but can't always go because of the food stamp issue. This is easy access to fresh food. My body is screaming, "Oh Yay!"