Pay up

Trigger Warning: heterosexism, cissexism, assistive reproductive technology

If you followed along on twitter this morning, I attended an event organized by California Assembly Member David Chiu this morning in San Francisco about one piece of pending legislation – the Equal Protection for All Families Act. One of the speakers at the event, Polly Pagenhart, spoke about her personal experience as a parent affected by the current state policies on the recognition of her parenthood. The years-long process of making certain that both her and her partner were legally and custodially recognized as such was spurred by a hope to make a potential family disaster (such as an unexpected death) as manageable as possible. That’s what current law is designed to do for families who do not use gamete donation, in vitro fertilization, or other assistive reproductive technologies to have children, but not ones like hers.

Pagenhart spoke particularly movingly about how not only was the process of giving her family security a difficult one, but also a costly one made her her words “insurmountable” when she lost her then current job. In the midst of my liveblog, that prompted me to tweet-

That cuts to the very heart of a number of problems in terms of how even well-intentioned people both within and outside of LGBT communities fail to actually address LGBT people’s needs. A refusal to understand the struggles against heterosexism and cissexism as having economic dimensions is disastrously common. The past talk of boycotts of everything from pizza places to entire states might make that sound strange, but there’s a recurrent pattern to how economics enter the pictures of LGBT rights. The recent announcement of The Economist’s conference on how LGBT inclusivity could encourage economic growth shows how when economic issues are brought up, it’s almost always framed in the other direction – in terms of how LGBT people could benefit others economically, even including how others should accept our business with the implication that we are a community with resources to be tapped if not taken and removed. This runs directly into some of the most toxic aspects of how even “liberal” and “accepting” parts of straight and cisgender dominated culture continue to exploit LGBT people and organizations, with Pride and other community spaces for example framed as places for self discovery and actualization for everyone, not only LGBT people.

This transfer of money for essentially basic respect and of community spaces and resources for the weakest form of tolerance fits a very specific definition: that of material oppression. An essential part of this process before any exchange even happens is the projection of an image of power and wealth to ease the bargaining process. The issue, of course, is that that provides rhetorical cover to those who don’t want to help the LGBT people unable to make whatever payment is demanded of them for their security and stability.

A hearing on this very bill by the California State Senate’s Judiciary Committee saw a hint of this in fact. Cathy Sakimura from the National Council for Lesbian Rights stated (viewable here, after 1:45:00) that

“We receive hundreds of calls from families who are conceiving their children through assisted reproduction and a large number of these calls are coming from families who are doing at home insemination because they just cannot afford the cost of using a sperm bank or a doctor to assist them with the conception […] Unfortunately we have to let these families know that they’re currently unprotected under California law. […] For non-married parents, the non-biological parent is not able to get on the child’s birth certificate and may not be able to put the child on their health insurance.”

This was followed up by personal testimony, which committee chair Hannah-Beth Jackson interrupted (at 1:49:52), saying, “It is my hope […] that things have improved dramatically since then [the time of those personal experiences]. So let us… let us assume that they have.” This presumption of security, safety, and stability is part of the challenge LGBT activism now faces.

lgbt homelessnessThere’s no economic hardships to accessing civil services among those… at higher risk of homelessness? Image from here.

Even with the current bill having passed both houses of the California state legislature, there’s the possibility that a similar line of thought could influence Governor Jerry Brown, motivating him to leave the bill where it is. That’s part of why Assembly Member Chiu held the event this morning, however, to encourage people to write to him directly and discuss how important and relevant this bill is. If you don’t have the time to craft a personal letter, here‘s a petition I’ve put together to urge him to sign the bill. Maybe we won’t have to pay up this time.

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Full disclosure, I was conceived in California by a couple affected by the current law. My mother shared our experiences in the personal testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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One thought on “Pay up

  1. […] a national conversation on trans athletes. I have myself been personally involved in efforts to redesign California state parental laws – which deliberately intended to make them more accessible to both married and unmarried LGBT […]

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