I am reading a fresh reprint of ‘Crime against nature’ from Minnie Bruce Pratt. (Sapphic classics, 2013) Minnie wrote these powerful, heartbreaking stories or poems as a result of losing custody over her children in the 1970’s because she was open about her lesbian identity. In this edition she writes a long afterword and in there is also a beautiful piece about family. It’s her plea for embracing all kinds of family, not just the ones that are legalized by the state. It’s about making a new kind of definition of family and she is still fighting as hard as ever for that, as this text is making very clear:
‘ The struggle against the legal and social bigotry that dealt me and my children such a cruel blow is still being fought over the definition of family. I am still part of the battle to assert the worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans lives and our right to survive and flourish’. ‘Powerful forces insist family should be defined always and only as the heterosexual unit of one-man-and-one-woman-and-their-children. In fact, less than 25% percent of U.S. families are heterosexually married couples with children-while 75% percent are people creating families in many other configurations. These families include grandparents raising their grandchildren, single parents raising biological children, aunts or uncles raising nieces or nephews; same-sex couples raising the biological children of one or both-or raising adopted or foster children, trans parents denied custody of their children, but trying to love them through limited visits or phone calls or e-mails, same – sex or opposite sex or trans couples who want to create families without seeking legal approval from the State. A larger definition of family would include immigrants who’ve had to leave their families of origin behind in another country in order to find work and have formed familias de trabajadores to survive, incarcerated men and women who press their palms against the plexi-glass of a prison-for-profit visiting room to meet the outstretched palms of their children and loved ones; groups of friends who form temporary households because of mutual interest or mutual need. A new definition of family would include the many, many different kinds of families that we create in response to the material conditions of our lives. We need to struggle for this definition of family- and to build a word that supports and affirms all of these different families now-and those yet to come. In the movies it’s still the bridal march of a man and a woman to the altar that gets the applause – the clapping , standing ovation at the end of the romance. But in reality it is the vast majority of us who are creating and living new forms of family, including LGBTQ families , who need support, recognition, and an economic system that provides for people’s needs, rather than the capitalist system that grinds us and our families up in its profit making machinery’.