My partner and I have not travelled abroad in quite some time. Both of us have at one time or another wondered out loud why that is; why we didn’t spend as much time as possible travelling while we had only ourselves to manage. It’s not that we made any sort of decision to stay close to home. What leaves me scratching my head is that we didn’t have any sort of plan at all.
Before motherhood, we spent our vacations camping or cottaging in Algonquin Provincial Park, or further afield in Québec’s national parks, Mont-Tremblant or Saguenay; hiking as much as possible and loving every minute of it. Thing is, other than an amazing trip to Panama shortly after we got together, and a foray or two into the US for political events, Em and I have stayed relatively close to home – Ottawa, Montréal, Québec City, and any piece of wilderness we could rest our souls in. And for the most part, it was without incident – the overtly homophobic kind (well, except for Huntsville).
It’s all different now. Deciding where to go requires thought and planning, as well as anticipation of every need our children might have on the road, in the cottage, in the boonies. Kids need stuff, and moms need to know that they can provide safety and well-being along with food, shelter and fun. So, without any conscious effort, we’ve stayed close to home and have yet to test that particular boundary.
I have to admit, the idea of taking our kids across an international border makes me very nervous. It’s one thing to be mistaken for my kids’ grandmother or aunt or even nannie on this side of the border; I have their birth certificates and a heaping abundance of indignation to wield in any situation where it might be necessary, and I’ll have the law on my side. My name is written on those certificates and there isn’t a corner of this country we could find ourselves in that wouldn’t have an obligation to recognize that right of parenthood. Unfortunately, my rights seem to end where the border begins. I can choose to stay on this side of it and never experience the loss of those rights – a line, drawn in blood by a total stranger that would erase my motherhood in the blink of an eye.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission publishes articles about their work around the world and it’s a sobering read for LGBT folks of all stripes. So what is it like to be a queer in Russia or Uganda or Cameroon or Iran? What is it like to be a queer non-birth parent in any country that defines parenthood as a genetic right? A proposed bill in Russia could deny both non-birth and birth LGBT parents custody of their children by arguing that these relationships spread “homosexual propaganda” amongst minors. I can’t imagine the level of fear experienced within queer families who have to face this level of ignorance and hatred everyday. Children who are old enough to know that their happiness and sense of security within their families can be eradicated by the power of legalized bigotry and without any basis in fact, have to live with the possibility of this bill passing into law.
What was it like for queer families just a few short years ago, raising kids, dealing with schools and hospitals and…scouting clubs… right here in Canada? It’s easy to forget that as recently as 2006, just months before my Rosa was born, I would not have been recognized as her mum without jumping some very significant and expensive hurdles. It’s easy to forget, but I don’t. I may have the documents and legal right in hand, but life takes place outside the clean, neat lines of officialdom; there are teachers to deal with, fellow parents to convince, and no doubt down the road, there will be travel arrangements to make. The moms and dads who raised their kids in Canada pre 2006 must know first had what it feels like in a society that practices legalized homophobia. Em and the girls and I benefit every day from their struggles.
I know there are a multitude of good people in each of the countries that are currently attempting to, or have succeeded at demonizing their LGBT communities; good people fighting daily for the simplest of human rights. I know there are many straight individuals and families standing beside their queer neighbours in their struggles. I know that homophobia is often right there beside misogyny and xenophobia, and I have no illusions about Canada, where successive governments have targeted immigrants, refugees and youth as scapegoats for all that ails us. I know there are international organizations fighting to save lives and change closed minds, and I will support them in any way I can. But from afar.
In the mean time, if the opportunity arises to take our children abroad, I would much rather head to New Zealand where news of gay marriage passing into law was met with song. All the world is changing, slowly, and I hold much hope for my daughters’ future.