The importance of having language

When I read Dana’s post over at Mombian, “Marriage vs. Civil Union: the Impact on Children,” it got me thinking again about the divorce I am currently undergoing. Not that I ever stop thinking about it – it’s eating up my entire year this year.  My divorce is why I found myself on the phone the other day, ranting at my beloved straight neighbor, who has my back in so many ways, about how I’m just realizing it was homophobia, internalized and institutionalized, that stopped me from even imagining that there was help out there from the powers that be (aka lawyers, the court) when we my ex and I first separated. My divorce is why I’m not writing, why my work is suffering, and why I’ve been such a bitch lately.

You might think from the above that this divorce is recent. It is not – my ex moved out 5 years ago, and we were on the rocks for years before that. However, it’s only recently that I’ve sought help from a lawyer and started referring to the whole thing as a divorce, which is what it is, of course. My boys never had that official terminology to help them with one of the most painful things that’s ever happened to them. It was just all of a sudden Mama and Mommy weren’t living together anymore, and the boys were going between two houses. They know other kids with two moms, and they know other kids who have divorced parents, but there aren’t many kids whose two moms got a divorce.

Reading the post over at Mombian, especially the testimony from the sporty hockey MA boy, I realized how much the comfort of language has been missing here. Divorce is as real as marriage – separated means something different, “The boys’ other mom and I don’t live together anymore,” doesn’t even touch the full meaning of “divorce,” and “two-house family” just sounds kooky. That’s how I usually explain to people, “The boys have two houses.” Except for now I have started saying, “The boys have two moms and we’re divorced, so they have two houses.” Awkward, but it’s at least more comprehensible to people.

It’s hard enough talking about who we are as a family and as people in the face of the great straight wasteland when, if we were really truthful, we would use terms that your average Joe and Josephine wouldn’t “get”: femme mom engaged to step-butch, lesbian mom about to move in with step-lesbian, etc,

Well, it’s hard to get to know anyone, really, and there’s no need for extensive detail out in the every day public, but here’s the thing: words like “wife” “husband” “married” and “divorce” offer both privacy and clarity, and we could do with a little clarity and privacy, too. Seth sure could. Actually, he would prefer that I completely and totally shut up about the whole thing. So I will. FOR NOW!

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 7:01 PM  Leave a Comment  

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