Give this election a face. Give it mine.
This election is about family. Mine.
What Candice (my sister) went through with Dev (her late husband who passed away from cancer a few years ago) was heartbreaking to say the least. When I think about some of my saddest memories from that time, two in particular come to mind, both from the hospital. I remember looking in on Candy once while she was alone with Dev in the ICU. She was rubbing his legs, bending his knees, and moving his limbs around to help increase circulation. I’m sure she and others must have done that several times, but this was the first time I saw it. She looked as though she didn’t have another tear to spare and who knows the last time she had eaten or slept. She didn’t know I was watching, but it broke my heart. Her husband was unconscious. On his deathbed. And there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. Except rub his legs. But that’s what she did. She was there, doing what she could, rubbing his legs.
A few days later came my second memory. The doctor let me accompany Candice and Dev’s family to a private conference room to discuss their decision about whether or not to release him from life support (something no twenty-something should ever have to think about). She squeezed my hand so tight the whole time. She sobbed into my shoulder. Why couldn’t he just wake up long enough to tell her what to do? Why couldn’t he wake up and answer her questions? Wake up and laugh with her? Cry with her? Enjoy ice cream and craft beers with her? All he could do, though, was lie there as each of his organs began shutting down. And all she could do was rub his legs. But she was there. Rubbing his legs. And no one told her she shouldn’t be. Or that she couldn’t be. God forbid I ever find myself in a situation like my sister did, watching someone she loved die. But if I do, I would want to be there, rubbing my husbands legs, just like I saw my sister do for hers. God forbid I ever have to make a decision about end-of-life care. But if I do, I want my opinion to be heard and valued.
When my friend Sean and I were working together at a church camp as young teenagers and first realized that we both might be gay, we were so terrified of it that we got into a huge fight, said some nasty things to one another, and didn’t speak again for 8 years. The next time I saw him he was on TV. He had apparently come out of the closet, joined the Navy, was living in San Diego, and was now making national news as a gay-rights activist and the organizer of the first-ever military contingent in a Pride parade. I found him on Facebook and not long after that we Skyped for hours, apologizing and finally sharing our long-overdue stories with one another. I once again now consider him a good friend. But Sean experienced a kind of pain that even I had not. As he’s since shared publicly, he participated in “conversion therapy,” where church leaders continuously and aggressively attempted to convince him that he was less of a human being and less deserving of God’s love and compassion because he was gay. Core aspects of his identity had been attacked so harshly and for so long that, in his words, “the thought of dying was more appealing than living.” He was able to overcome all of that only to then be told by the Navy that he could not be openly gay in the military. That he could not publicly ever say that he was gay, ever talk about someone of the same sex as someone who he loved, and could never even publicly date someone. He had to hide the greatest thing of all: love. He had to hide himself. Sean is a wonderful person who should be able to fully and authentically be himself. But only one President has ever agreed with that. Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Obama said that my friend Sean doesn’t have to hide who he is. Obama said that when my friend Sean fought for his country in war, he earned the right to march in a parade while wearing his uniform. Obama supports Sean and all of our troops for not just certain parts of their identities, but for all of who they are.
I’ve lived with both of my parents together, each of them separately, and without either of them at all after I moved out at 18. My Aunt Cherrie is one of the best parents I’ve ever known, even though she never gave birth to any of the children she’s cared for over the years. My stepmom, Chris, had to jump right to being a parent of adult kids, but she’s done so wonderfully. My sister and her husband Jeff are just beginning this new adventure with my baby niece, Emma, joining us any day now. And I truly can’t imagine not having my adopted nephew, Robbie, in our lives. From my family alone, if I’ve learned anything at all it’s that parenting looks different for everyone. And I think I could make a really great parent someday, if I get the opportunity. But this election will have a very real impact on what that can look like for me.
Romney said that visiting a dying spouse in the hospital is a “privilege, not a right.” He thinks I shouldn’t be able to spend those last few days keeping circulation in my husband’s legs when he’s in the ICU, like my sister was able to. But Obama signed an executive order mandating that hospitals who receive federal funding would have to recognize my union. Romney thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to be a dad, even though I would love my kids with my whole heart. Because he thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, like my aunt could for little Robbie.
Said, “Adoptive families come in all forms. With so many waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure that all qualified caregivers are given the opportunity to serve as adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status.”
Said, “Marriage is primarily not about adults, but about kids. A child and their development and nurturing is enhanced by access and by the nurturing of two parents of two different genders. So, as we think about the development of children, and the future of our nation and its ability to raise a generation, we need to have homes where there are moms and dads.”
Said, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married… The fight for LGBT rights is consistent with that most important part of America’s character, which is to constantly expand opportunity and fairness to everybody.”
Signed a pledge to add a federal constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage forever. He doesn’t even support civil unions, saying, “If we find ourselves in a setting where the only choice is between civil unions and marriage, I will prefer civil union. But I would prefer neither.”
There was a time when I thought I would never get married, never have kids, never get to experience those joys of life. But now we have the only President in history who said I should be able to marry whomever I love.
There were times when I was so depressed as a kid that I thought about taking my own life. But now we have the only President in history who has said my life is worth living and that “it will get better.”
Put aside any political stances and party affiliations, and just consider the heart of the matter. Consider true family values and all the different types of families that should indeed be valued.
This election is about family values. It’s about whether or not my family will be valued. Please think of me in this election, and give these issues a face.