Family / News & Politics

Living in a Class Bubble

I spent several hours composing a letter to Heather Poe.  As I wrote it I got angrier and angrier (not at Heather Poe per se, but at the entire situation) and by the time it was finished I was fuming.  I asked Kristin to read the letter before I posted it and after she was done she looked at me, appalled.

“This is too mean to post.”

And she’s right.  I don’t want what I write over here to be full of bitterness and sarcasm.  I wish I could be loving and supportive.  I wish I could.  As someone very gently pointed out (ok, a couple of someones) this really is a groundbreaking development.  I mean, lesbian families are infiltrating even the hallowed ground at the heart of the neo-conservative movement.  That’s big.  I should be happy.  Things could change quicker now.  Obviously Mary and Heather want a child very badly.  I can’t imagine the decision-making process that they went through.  So I guess I can be happy for them that they’re getting their child.  I know how it is to want a child so much that you’re willing to alienate everyone around you in order to get one.  I don’t think their decision to have a baby is wrong.  But still, I’m angry. 

I’m angry that someone who has strategized for the people in charge of the political party that has used LGBTQ issues to divide our country by working up fear against LGBTQ people and our “agenda” (you know, that whole “equal rights” thing) in order to push their own agenda (an agenda that, in my opinion, mainly consists of eviscerating the Bill of Rights, war and profiteering, and the gutting of social services in order to pad the pockets of the rich) could just get pregnant and all the queer families are supposed to be supportive and happy because a high profile lesbian is going to be a mommy.  If this were just an LGBTQ issue, then I wouldn’t have a problem with unadulterated happiness – the more LGBTQ people having kids the better as far as I’m concerned.  But this isn’t just an LGBTQ issue.  This is, at heart, a class issue.  This is an issue of people making (or helping to make, or helping to put into power the people whom they know would make) a set of rules and laws that don’t apply to them simply because they have money and power.

I sputtered for hours over this comment from Family Pride Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler:  

 “Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children.”

No.  No he won’t.  In my opinion, if Chrisler is thinking that this grandchild is going to change anything for Cheney, she’s very wrong.  Unlike the supportive parents of lesbian non-bio mothers (LGBTQ parents at all, actually) Dick Cheney will never have someone tell him that that child isn’t his grandchild.  He will never have to worry that if his daughter’s relationship falls apart he might never see his grandchild again.  He will never fear losing access to the child if Heather Poe dies.  There are two reasons for this:
1)      (the obvious one) The child is biologically Mary’s, and thus as his biological grandchild, he has rights through blood.  The grandfather who “will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights” is far more likely to be Grandfather Poe.  Dick Cheney can sleep soundly; he has nothing to worry about.
2)      (the one that gets my dander up) The Cheneys have enough money to make most of these concerns irrelevant.  So many of the worries and headaches that come with legal discrimination and unequal treatment before the law start evaporating if you throw enough money at them.  And we’re not just talking about any rich people here; we’re talking about people with political clout.  Even if Heather was the bio mom, do you think that if the Vice President wanted access to a child that he considered his grandchild (if he was capable of thinking of a child birthed by the lesbian partner of his daughter as his grandchild – a theory that has not been tested and most likely will not) that he would encounter any serious problems?  Even if Heather and Mary were no longer together, even if Heather wanted her child to have nothing to do with the Cheneys?  At the very least the Cheneys have enough money to fund the bitterest of court battles as far as it could go.  All in the best interests of the child, of course.

In truth, I am worried about Heather Poe; she has so much to lose.  And I wonder what she thinks of in the middle of the night and if she ever wakes in a cold sweat thinking about how precarious her place in the family she is helping to create really is.  And I wonder if she thinks about the fact that it is the politics and beliefs of Mary’s family and the people they have surrounded themselves with that have contributed to her precariousness.  And I wonder what class Heather belongs in when she isn’t partnered with Mary.  That’s got to be a lot of pressure on Heather (and Mary, too).  See? I can be compassionate.  Can you imagine living your life surrounded on all sides by such people as what makes up the bulk of Cheney family’s political base? But my worry for Heather is mostly a displaced worry for myself.  I see her and I see myself: a non-bio mom in a hostile state, trapped in a legal limbo and scrabbling for whatever protections the law will stretch to afford. 

But I’m just projecting.  Heather Poe is not me. I am not Heather Poe.  So I shouldn’t be taking this all so personally.  Still.  I am. 

Mary Cheney can work for the benefit of those who would discriminate against us (and her) and dissolve our families because she can afford to.  She can do that AND have a child because she can afford to.  Because she lives in a bubble of money and power and she’s shown herself to be capable of doing what’s necessary to stay there. I’m sure this new family will be fine.  Mary and Heather will use their money to hire the best lawyers they can find and they’ll put themselves together layers of protections that many of us can’t afford.  I would be surprised if they don’t set up a secret second residence in a more friendly state for the purposes of adoption.  And they’ll raise their child in that special class bubble.  And I’m certain that the right-wing zealots around them will be nice to their faces* and venomous behind their backs, as always.  And I doubt the hypocrisy of their situation will bother them one bit.  After all, if you can’t afford to have a child, then you’ve got no business bringing one into the world.
*as long as, you know, Mary and Heather and baby remain discreet and unobtrusive and don’t get all “in your face” about their cough, cough lifestyle.

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  1. Trista, I think you raise a great point.

    While I shudder to realize that I’m about to compare myself to Mary Cheney, and I don’t have the same class privileges that Chaney does, I am acutely aware of the fact that my family would not be where it is if it were not for the class privileges we have.

    We pretty much spent down all of our “regular emergency” savings in the process of adopting Noah. Between the lawyer’s fees and then the insane and unexpected expense of having to move, and then having to pay for a home study we didn’t expect, we were tapped out.

    But we had it to tap out. We had the resources to choose to make our family legally secure.

    And although it’s going to mean making some changes to our budget and operations, by the time #2 exists, we expect to be able to make that choice again.

    Ironically, I think Mary Cheney is actually going to make it more difficult for lesbian families in Virgina to make their families secure.

    When we lived there, the common legal advice to lesbian families was that they should move to Maryland or DC, even if that move was not permanent. I think now that “recent transplants” from Virginia will have their efforts to adopt scrutinized more closely.

    And if Mary & Heather do move to Bethesda or Potomac so they can legally secure their family, I think that scrutiny will increase tenfold — not just for them, for everyone.

    (Plus, I can say from experience, Mary’s commute will utterly suck. If I’d stayed in my original job where she works, she’d be my boss right now, and I did approximately that commute once/month. It.Was.The.Worst.)

  2. I think your points about class are interesting, and very true. It is completely easier for people to be conservative and vote with their pocketbooks when they have the money to pay a lawyer to draft contracts that simulate the rights that are just automatically conferred on heterosexual married people in our society.

    The one response I have is this. It’s much more complicated if you are a lesbian with conservative political values than if you are a lesbian with liberal values anyway. The anti-gay stuff is only one thing the Republican party stands for. It’s not the only thing.

    I think many people don’t find that any one party truly stands for everything they believe. So, they have to make choices.

    For example, I read a great editorial before election day several years ago in a Catholic newspaper I used to get. The priest writing the editorial urged Catholics to consider multiple issues before voting, basically saying you weren’t fulfilling your Catholic duty to vote if you didn’t consider more than one issue. A lot of Catholics just vote for the “pro-life” candidate. (I’m pro-choice, for the record.) He basically was coming from this position. Many Catholics are anti-abortion, and that candidate is more likely to be Republican. Those same Catholics, however, if they really care about “life issues”, should also vote for the anti-death penalty candidate, who is more likely the Democrat. The “anti-euthanasia” candidate is more likely Republican. And then if you’re a good Catholic, you need to look beyond “life issues” and consider “social justice issues”, which are more likely supported by the Democrat. I’m not defending any of these beliefs or choices. I’m just using this as an example of how some people can find their values not aligned with any one party.

    I think it’s much easier when one has liberal political leanings anyway… then one just chooses to be a Democrat. I can definitely see why some people would want to be Republicans, even though they hate that the party does not support LGBTQ issues. For example, they could think that the government that governs best, governs least and could be in favor of smaller government. (You’d never know it from W’s presidency, but that’s a huge part of what the party traditionally stands for.) They may just not want a “tax and spend” government. There are a number other things as well that they could support about the party. If one of the only things about the Democrats that you agree with is their support of LGBTQ issues, then it’s a tough choice to make.

  3. Co, I was actually thinking about you when I was thinking about this post. I was thinking about the family dynamic you raised when you were posting on this subject. You’re right that it’s a complicated issue. And I can see how someone can be gay and still be Republican. And I can also see how the issue is further complicated by the fact that the Vice President is Mary’s father. We don’t know the kind of family dynamics that go on in the Cheney family… what is said and promised and felt behind closed doors. Cheney could be the most loving and supportive father any lesbian could wish for… as long as the cameras aren’t running and reporters aren’t around. So throw conservative politics in general in with strong familial obligations, and I can see that Mary Cheney is really in a difficult position.

    But. In my mind there’s a difference between being a queer person and carefully weighing the issues, and deciding that one must vote for Republican candidates even though you know they’re likely to also work against your family’s safety, and being a queer person who is actively working and stragegizing to INSTALL the leaders of that party into a position of power. On the one hand you’re just making the best choice out of a bad situation, on the other you’re working to limit those choices in the first place.

    My point is that when you’re working to limit choices and options for people, while at the time being in such a position that those limits don’t apply to you, or apply to you only marginally, then you’re acting unethically (and that, of course, is only my opinion). And you’re acting from a place of privilege. And I haven’t really noticed many people talking about the place of class (and, dare I say it, race) privilege that Mary Cheney is operating from.

    I also acknowledge that I may be biased and bull-headed and ungenerous in this.

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