Saturday, October 20, 2007

beam of sunshine

Lots has been written on The Slant about my work at EqualityMaine. I’m a self-proclaimed LGBT rabble rouser and, let’s be honest Michael, while I am clearly NOT the homosexual rights movement, I'm proud of the fact that I've managed to eke out a living doing something meaningful and important to me. Something BOTH Michaels would refer to as working for the radical homosexual rights lobbying group and advancing our so-called gay agenda.

You betcha.

I will say that sometimes this work feels thankless—and that much of the time it feels like an uphill battle with no end in sight. I mean...marriage? Shit, that’s gonna take a lot more than a small miracle, and I’m just hoping I live long enough to see the day Kimm & Jen can say they are married and mean it. Yeah. I want that day for them, very much.

It’s overwhelming sometimes, and I can admit that there are days when I just want to cover my head with a blanket and hide. These kind of days usually follow the nights that I jolt awake at 2 am in a cold sweat and filled with anxiety, certain that I don’t have what it takes to see this battle to the end. I don't always sleep well at night because much of the time my head is just swimming with worry about the work. True story.

But then something amazing will happen, and I’ll get to see first hand how this work makes such a difference in the every day lives of people I may never meet, days when it’s just an absolute privilege to be an insider in the “movement.” I've had a few of those days over the past couple of months, and let's just say it's put a little bit of wind back in my sails.

This past August, the Maine Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex couples have every right to co-adopt. I played no role in that battle. I knew it was happening, but I was essentially a helpless spectator. That major victory in the courts happened thanks to some serious courage and intestinal fortitude on the part of two lesbians who refused to take no for an answer, and it happened because of the tireless work of Mary Bonauto and Pat Peard, among others.

Like I said, I had nothing to with it. But I sure did reap the benefits from it. Since that the ruling came down, I have been in a very unique position to see how it affects people here in Maine. People who have shared their stories with us, who have called us asking for resources, or who have written just to say "we are a family now." And all of it has absolutely blown me away.

There is one family in particular that I know has changed me forever. Two women and their little girl. And I carry the three of them in my heart now. I think of them every single day I go to work. When I'm too tired or too cranky or too filled with self-doubt, I remember them and say to myself, "go to work Huntress."

ain't no mountain high enough.

Let's call the two women Jane and Mary, understanding that for the sake of their privacy I just pulled those names out of the air. Jane and Mary have been together for 19 years. 12 years ago, they decided to have a child, and after two long years of visits to fertility clinics, Jane finally got pregnant and 9 months later they had a beautiful addition to their family, a little girl we’ll call...Annie.

They did everything legally available to them to connect Annie to Mary, drawing up guardianship papers, wills, powers of attorney. But in the eyes of the law Annie was not Mary’s daughter because in Maine, second-parent adoption was not allowed. So Annie and Mary were essentially legal strangers. Period, the end.

Fast forward to this past April, when Jane was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told she had about a 2 to 3 year window of survival, and Mary and Jane make this excruciating decision: to ensure that Mary has full and legal custody of Annie following Jane’s death, they do what anyone would say is inconceivable. Yet, at that moment, it's the only way. They begin the procedure of Jane giving up her parental rights so that Mary can legally adopt Annie.

Yeah.

How much does that suck?

In the last years of her life, Jane has to make the impossible choice to completely remove herself legally from her daughter’s life.

A day after the court ruling, an email lands in our box at work from Mary and Jane, telling us their story in what is clearly painful, emotional and difficult detail. They ask a simple but poignant question at the end of the email: with this new court ruling, is there any way we can sneak in on the court’s good favor of same-sex adoption? And then this haunting line: please understand that timing here might be everything for us.

Reading that line took my breath away.

We respond with the happy news that they don't need to sneak at all. That the court was very, very clear that both “joint” adoption and “second parent” adoption is completely permissible for same-sex couples. We make a few connections for them. Get them in touch with the right people. Tell them these connections will help them get the rights and protections they need and deserve.

15 days later, we hear back from Mary and Jane. We wanted you to know that this morning, the probate judge in our county has approved our adoption. They are writing to tell us how thrilling it was to see both of their names on Annie’s birth certificate. They say we are just so happy tonight. They call it another beam of sunshine, of positive light and energy to get us through difficult times.

And they thank us for the work that we do.

My god. You read an email like that...and you are just never the same.

(I slept really well that night.)

1 comment:

Sarah P-H said...

Those are the moments when it is ALL worthwhile.