By Betsy Fife Archer
If you are reading this, you did it. You survived the first post-election holiday. I say this because I suspect I am not the only one who comes from mixed stock: Republicans and Democrats. In my family of origin, the women vote Democrat while the men vote Republican. For many years, there has been a standing rule in my parents’ house that politics are not to be spoken of in this mixed company. I can talk to my mom about politics, or my dad and I can debate using hushed voices when my mom leaves the room. My father likes to tell me he thinks Obama is going to ruin our country, “I hope [your son] has a country to grow up in.” My brother and I just don’t talk politics because we are so far on opposite ends of the spectrum.
As we all know, this election was different. We had one candidate who said our families don’t exist or shouldn’t exist versus another candidate who supports our right to marriage equality and all the benefits that would come with. Typically, as elections near my family talks less and less about politics. Those hushed conversations at my parents’ house turn into awkward silence as Fox News vomits lies in the background. We stop sending each other email forwards we know the other will find distasteful. In fact, I just don’t call as frequently because the rage that fills my soul thinking about how that half of my family might vote is overwhelming.
Come October of this year, I was feeling angry on a daily basis. I told my dad that I was mad at him because of the possibility that he could even think about voting for Romney. I didn’t call my brother. I bitched to my mom about the other two. Then I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. Because I inadvertently cry when I am angry and wanted to maintain an illusion of composure, I wrote them emails. I told my dad that a vote for Romney was a vote against my son and my family. I told my brother that, if elected, Romney would ensure his future nephews and nieces have no legal ties to me, their non-gestational mother. I told them both that I wasn’t asking them to vote for Obama, but I was asking them to not vote for Romney.
I never heard back from my brother. I suspect that we will never talk about it. Judging from his Facebook posts, I would assume he voted for Romney despite my heartfelt plea and despite the fact that I have never asked him for anything. My dad didn’t write me back either. Instead, he told me to my face that he wasn’t going to vote for either candidate.
It ends up that Romney won North Carolina (where I live) anyway. So, while my dad’s vote wouldn’t have mattered here, it did make a huge difference to me. I haven’t talked to my brother since the election. We had Thanksgiving with my in-laws (yes, there is political drama there too). I suspect we won’t really talk until the next holiday. I also suspect that I will survive that encounter. Family is complicated and will remain so, in or out of election years. Series after series of holidays and arguments and laughter and hugs and great distance and birthdays and tears. It is all in there.
I am still processing all of this and trying to figure out how to interact with people who I know voted for Romney, especially family members. I just don’t know how to do it. Knowing myself, I will be fine. I will learn from not saying everything that is on my mind. I will show my son true tolerance for others. I won’t bring up Obama, but will talk about books and the weather. I will do all of that over a chicken leg with some amazing cranberry/orange sauce and I will survive…again.
Betsy Fife Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Social Work degree from Smith College. She has spent seven years as a therapist working with children, adolescents and families of all configurations in various contexts. She has presented to college audiences in Massachusetts and North Carolina around being a queer parent, being in a long-term relationship and working against unjust laws that make her marriage in legal limbo outside of the northeast. She is a founding member of YouthPride, a queer youth organization started in Atlanta in 1995 that continues to this day. Betsy continues to volunteer her time with the Campaign for Southern Equality, an organization based in Asheville North Carolina which serves to promote the “full humanity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in American life and to increase public support for LGBT rights.” Betsy is also an active artist specializing in hand-hooked rugs, fine art embroidery and wedding photography. Betsy teaches fiber arts workshops across the south and photographs weddings wherever someone will pay her to go. Betsy lives in Asheville, NC with her partner of more than 15 years and their amazing toddler son. Betsy is working with her friend and fellow blogster, Charlotte Caponga-Amias, on a guidebook about becoming a queer, non-gestational parent. She and Charlotte blog at turkeybasterandabottleofwine.wordpress.com.