Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
March 23, 2012
Changing From What Was To What Is
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
An Asian lesbian told us that when she came out to her father he said that she still should get married to a man. She was indignant: marry someone she doesn’t love? Spend the rest of her life with someone she does not care about? Yes, her father said. Go ahead be attracted to other women and even fall madly in love with one, but marry a man. Is this irrational? Is this a contradiction? Alarm bells were ringing in our heads. Is there something here we hadn’t considered?
What Was Old Is New Again
Words have meaning. You know that. But stand still for a while and think of a word. Now ask yourself: what all does that word mean?
Take ‘marriage’ (we were going here all along). What does it mean? Two people so much in love that both want to fuse their futures and share all their tomorrows. What else? It means a wedding to bear witness to the world. It is love between only two people, not three, not five. For many still, it is love between one man and one woman. There will be children, watch them grow, bask in their success, and then spoil grandchildren. There are over a thousand legal rights conferred upon those who marry. All this enclosed by one word, a word few think about much, but a word that smoothly evokes the path of life and order in the universe. Until the time, that is, when people realize that what actually happens violates the prevailing social perception.
We have friends who started living together, had children, and are together still. No wedding. We know a man who passionately asks why only two people? Why not three people in love, five? Someone so close to us we call him uncle grew up in an orphanage for boys. When society’s clock told him it was time, he proposed marriage to a woman from an orphanage for girls. He barely knew her, but promised to be a husband; she promised to be a wife. Where was love? Is love only possible between one man and one woman? We know better. Then why does marriage not include other pairings? In fact, marriage only recently has come to mean what we think it means and by now it does not even mean that. Before now, marriage took all the forms people today find so objectionable. It even used to be a mere business transaction. Before long, its meaning will be different again.
Different Beliefs, Different Notions, Same Old Clashes
We doubt the Asian father who told his lesbian daughter to marry a man anyway believes marriage is about love. He is likely to think that to marry is a duty owed the culture that tells him and the long chain of ancestors before him that is how the world works. People marry for security, for protection, for not being alone, for procreation and, yes, for love. Of course, his daughter, raised in a value system different from his, believes marriage must be preceded by love. A clash of expectations, both an outgrowth of explaining the world differently.
Among the emotions that assail a parent when a child comes out, is the disappointment that there will not be the normal path of life, no grandchildren, maybe not even happiness. An oft-heard question parents ask their LGBT children: “How can you be happy?” But there is no such thing as irrational and there are no contradictions. Those parents, who work it out soon realize that their expectations are not grounded in any universal truth, and upon reflection are merely an artifice that suited different times, but not these.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org