The rigid expectation of what a “family” should look like is something many of us find stifling as we move toward creating our own. Nowhere is this struggle more keenly felt than in the queer community, which faces social and legal hurdles that make the pursuit of family difficult, impossible, or even dangerous. For this reason, a collection of first-person narratives on queer family is liberating and necessary.
Editor Bruce Gillespie has brought to-gether a diverse group of voices – professional writers and otherwise – that candidly share what “family” means to them. “[The] idea of family has been used to bash and illegitimize [queer] relationships as something unnatural for a long time,” Gillespie writes in his introduction. “[R]eclaiming the concept of family is an act of empowerment that is at once personal and political.”
A Family by Any Other Name covers a wide range of these reclamations. Noreen Fagan writes about her family’s painful decision to move to Canada to have their family recognized in the eyes of the law, while her son writes of the solace he feels at Camp Ten Oaks, a sanctuary for children of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer families. The anthology successfully details all sorts of loving familial connections, whether blood-related or not. In the essay “More Than a Donor,” Nancy Newcomb writes of her six-year-old daughter’s questions when a schoolmate challenges the fact that she has two moms: “Our non-traditional family doesn’t have a traditional lexicon to fall back on. We are defining ourselves and searching for the right words to help people understand.” High-school teacher Jason Dale writes of the devastating and beautiful moments faced while he and his husband were undergoing the process of adoption.
In one particularly stunning piece, Dorianne Emmerton candidly reveals the fact that she never had a desire to be a mother, but through a unique set of circumstances is able to be an integral part of a child’s life. “I’m more comfortable now because I realize that, while some people change their lives to focus on their child, it is possible to integrate a child into your life instead.” This book is about exactly that – what is possible in the face of what you’re told is not.