Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who defines your family?

Hurray! Same-sex marriage got its New York seal of approval!

This is good news. For gays and lesbians, and probably our consumer-oriented wedding industry and corporation-sponsored health insurance industry.

However, people like me, with families like mine, are still left out in the cold.

By all likelihoods, this should not be the case--I'm straight and single with no existing conditions and able to work. It shouldn't be too hard for me to find work that lets me support myself and get enough health coverage.

But that's assuming that being single means you have no responsibilities to anyone. Which is not the case for me.

Let me explain. I like my family of origin. Really, they're quite lovely people. I have better conversations with them than I do with most people, and whatever issues we may have with each other, I don't doubt that my parents and brother love me unconditionally.

So, while I support gay rights and am proud that New York finally caught up with Iowa, I find it curious that the state is more willing (along with people who like to police co-dependency in the world) to say I have a family if I marry a woman and adopt a child than if I try to claim either of my parents or brother as my family. True, they are not dependents, but neither are working spouses. Yet a sexual relationship seems to warrant a tax break, while a loving, familial relationship for 34 years does not.

It appears that progeny is the defining trait of family, according to a recent ABC news report. But what if I don't want children? What if I've decided against bringing new people into the world to suffer? (I know, it's not all that bad, and I've made peace with life and its difficulties, but really, I don't see any reason to recruit.)

Can I get a population-reduction credit? Like how corporations get a carbon credits?

It all seems so arbitrary at this point. My first job at McGraw-Hill had a nice system allowing employees to choose "self+one" health coverage, allowing single parents and gay couples in domestic partnerships to get covered without too many questions. It seems that we should all be able to do at least that. In an ideal world, maybe we could elect to pay higher premiums according to the number of people on our insurance, not conditions or dependency status.

But the debate goes beyond health insurance. Even salaries are less negotiable if you're single. But why shouldn't I be able to demand a salary that lets me contribute to the well-being of the people I'm related to? Yes, I'm not the sole bread winner. But they are still my first priority and responsibility after myself.

At one recent interview, I asked about work-life balance and the interviewer and I enthusiastically agreed that it's very important. The interviewer then asked, "Do you have family?"

My response: "Yes. Not in the traditional American way. But I have family."


Jeremy Lin said...
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Tina said...

I never thought of that until you pointed this out, but you are correct. I would like to know why if I am helping out my adult son who is disabled, why I can't get a break since I am head of household...However there is no answer they seem to be able to give. Maybe one day they'll knock of tying procreation to the tax code and work on helping those who need the break who either have no children but dependent parents/adult children/etc...Who knows? Anyway, thank you for such a though evoking post...Lauren Vasil pointed me to your blog...