I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately—how I define it and what each different family I have means. At my day job, I represent a book called Counted Out: Same-sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family. The title is pretty self-explanatory.
A few choice statistics from the book are that more Americans count pets as their family than lesbian or gay couples who live together. However, more and more Americans are also moving toward accepting as families not only straight unmarried couples who live together, but also queers who co-habitate. The book supports underlying reasons for and opinions about marriage equality. I won’t rehash my beliefs about that particular topic, but it’s an interesting read, and I’ve talked to a lot of friends whom I consider family—as well as blood relatives—about what and who they count as family.
I know that in the queer community much of our family is made up of friends and not necessarily blood relations, though for some, biological families figure prominently. My family of origin is part of my family, but they are in the background rather than the foreground, except for one of my sisters whom I speak to every morning and who visits me in Brooklyn every Thanksgiving.
In fact, mine and my girlfriend’s “communist thanksgiving” gathering is infamous among our family of friends. We bring to the table sisters (and brothers) who are part of that family of friends who, for whatever reasons, don’t have anywhere else to go on a holiday I think is totally bogus based on the true history of Native Americans and—well, let’s just leave it at the fact that I’m glad for two days off from my day job.
We got the reputation for our so-called “communist thanksgiving” from a friend because last year our holiday meal was almost totally vegan, and certainly completely vegetarian as a courtesy to veg family members. And, we talked about things like the political imprisonment of Native American activist Leonard Peltier and the massive waste of money the Macy’s parade is—NYC sanitation workers gets paid overtime to clean up afterward. We talk real talk, about our lives, what our daily reality looks like who we really are, stuff we likely cannot, or don’t want to, talk about with our biological families. Last year we bought the ingredients for the bulk of the meal fixins’ on food stamps because we were both long-term unemployed.
This year, my biological sister will again be with us on Thanksgiving in our new apartment in Brooklyn. Another kind of sister, a random acquaintance-turned-friend, will be with us for the month of November. My girlfriend and I both have jobs, for the moment, our larger family of friends will be with us at our Living in Sin party later this month; we both, my girlfriend and I, celebrate our birthdays in September. A smaller group of intimate friends—our family—will gather with us for our annual communist thanksgiving and we’ll talk about what’s real, what’s important, what’s hard—and how to find a balance between doing our art and supporting ourselves financially day-to-day.
Blogger Bio: Stephanie Schroeder is a dreamer, wanderer and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She likes to exchange apartments with artists and other interesting folks from around the globe and travel in search of new friends and singular experiences. She makes purple a way of life and also fancies green, purple’s complementary color on the color wheel. (stephanieschroeder.com)