Pro-Polyamory-Rights, Pro-Disability-Rights Lesbian appointed to EEOC
Is there any way that I can sufficiently thank Chai Feldblum?
Last week Barack Obama appointed Chai Feldblum as the first open lesbian to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her Georgetown Law professor biography page lists some of her outstanding and diverse credentials in the realm of fighting discrimination:
"J.D. Harvard... A former law clerk for First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Frank M. Coffin, and Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Professor Feldblum has been a leading advocate and scholar in the areas of disability rights, health and welfare rights, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and workplace issues. She played a leading role in the drafting and negotiating of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. She has also helped draft and negotiate the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and various medical privacy bills and regulations."
All of the above issues are good fights worth fighting, and all will inspire the usual name-calling and fear-mongering from the radical right. But in an especially rare move for someone entering the public spotlight, Chai Feldblum also signed the statement "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships" - along with her esteemed company of Gloria Steinum, Judith Butler, Betty Dodson, and Barbara Ehrenreich. The Catholic News Agency's headline calls it a "'Manifesto' that Praised Polygamy", but then, the Catholic News Agency hasn't done enough research to realize that we usually prefer the term "polyamory" over "polygamy." What the statement actually says, in part, is:
Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others. A majority of people – whatever their sexual and gender identities – do not live in traditional nuclear families. They stand to gain from alternative forms of household recognition beyond one-size-fits-all marriage. For example:
· Single parent households
· Senior citizens living together and serving as each other’s caregivers (think Golden Girls)
· Blended and extended families
· Children being raised in multiple households or by unmarried parents
· Adult children living with and caring for their parents
· Senior citizens who are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren or other relatives
· Close friends or siblings living in non-conjugal relationships and serving as each other’s primary support and caregivers
· Households in which there is more than one conjugal partner
· Care-giving relationships that provide support to those living with extended illness such as HIV/AIDS.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
There is the usual, predictable right-wing backlash, which I don't feel like gracing with much attention, except that it maintains its entirely ignorant assumption that "households in which there is more than one conjugal partner" characterize only patriarchal Mormons, Muslims, and "cultists." I laughed aloud at Rev. James Heisner's statement through the John Birch Society:
"Technically, the Beyond Marriage defense of 'loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner' would include not only polygamy but also polyandry, but it’s not hard to imagine that “loving households” that include more than one husband sitting on the sofa and telling the wife to get them another beer isn’t really all that high on the agenda of folks like Professor Feldblum."
In part because my last three years of polyandrous polyamory have been some of the happiest of my life, and in part because it's rare to see a male conservative paint such an offensive stereotype of men. Another poly woman had already commented teaching Rev. Heisner the word "polyamory"; my response is on the John Birch Society's Comments section and also below:
Speaking as a legally married woman who has also had a boyfriend for the last three years, and who has always been entirely honest with my husband and has his support: I assure you that polyandry is actually just as real as polygamy, and we are are grateful for Ms. Feldblum's support. I am not "normally associated with Moslems and cultists," and I do call myself a feminist. And yes, most of the modern people who honestly maintain multiple romantic relationships at the same time prefer the term "polyamory." The most respected books about polyamory - The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, and Opening Up by Tristan Taormino - were both written by women.
Reconciling feminism and multiple loving partners isn't difficult at all: Feminism is all about the freedom of choice. What strikes me as both offensive and simply ignorant is your assertion that polyandry can only mean "more than one husband sitting on the sofa and telling the wife to get them another beer." Do you actually believe that a man's only role in a romantic relationship is to sit on the sofa and demand beer?
....Thank you Chai Feldblum. You are a beacon of hope, and may you have many productive years on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.