Every time I think 2020 has thrown everything it’s got at us, it steps up its game: the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the potential of a conservative Supreme Court that could roll back LGBTQ and women’s rights; a president who, during a presidential debate, not only refuses to condemn White supremacist groups, but openly calls for one to “stand by.”
Even before these most recent events, however, President Trump’s record on LGBTQ equality has been atrocious — notably for LGBTQ parents-to-be. His administration has pushed to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people and others in foster care and adoption, using religious beliefs as an excuse.
Additionally, several important cases directly related to LGBTQ parents are still making their way through the federal courts. Some will decide whether children born outside of the U.S. to parents in same-sex relationships, at least one of whom is a U.S. citizen, should have U.S. citizenship. While the families have had some wins, the U.S. State Department continues to appeal those rulings.
Another case, on whether taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people by citing religious beliefs, will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 4, the day after the election. Even if Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, isn’t confirmed by then, this is still a case to watch in a court with a conservative majority.
And we’re dealing with all this in addition to a global pandemic, a recession, ongoing and widespread racial injustice, and the varied personal tasks and challenges each of us may encounter in our daily lives.
I have to tell myself to breathe. Yes, I’m worried. As a parent, a lesbian, a Jew, a woman, and simply as a human being, I’m angered and deeply concerned about the direction of our country. Merely getting myself worked up about it does no one any good, however. Here are a few ideas for finding balance in the days ahead through a combination of public and private actions and care.
Get involved with nonpartisan voter outreach campaigns like Reclaim Our Vote or with LGBTQ and other social justice organizations. Volunteer for the Biden campaign or that of a member of Congress. Talk with your friends, neighbors, and relatives about why this election is so important to you. As Justice Ginsburg once said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
This is as good a time as any to make sure our families’ legal protections are as secure as possible. All of the major LGBTQ legal organizations have long recommended confirmatory (second-parent) adoptions or court orders of parentage as the only ironclad way of securing parental rights between a nonbiological/nongestational parent and their partner/spouse’s biological child(ren), even for married couples when both parents’ names are on the child(ren)’s birth certificate(s). And having up-to-date wills, medical powers of attorney, and other legal documents prepared for you and your spouse/partner is always a good idea as well.
Not sure where to start? The LGBT Bar Association maintains a Family Law Attorney Directory, which can easily be found with an online search. Additionally, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders each have helplines — see their websites.
Teach our children.
Those of us with children who are old enough can start (or continue) conversations with them about democracy, activism, social justice, and more. My own son is taking a civics and government class in high school this year, which has sparked many conversations at the dinner table — but even if you have younger kids, there are age-appropriate ways to talk about the importance of, say, voting, equality, and speaking out against injustice. (See mombian.com for some book ideas.) Helping the next generation of citizens be informed and engaged may be one of parents’ most important contributions to our country.
Care for ourselves.
Take a break. Listen to music, get some exercise, eat some junk food, watch a silly movie or read a trashy novel. Make time to do something to take your mind off the state of the world. This may mean bending the rules for the kids, too, but an extra hour of screen time for them while you pedal away on the exercise bike won’t damage their long-term health — and a little extra fun time might even be beneficial for them as they, too, deal with a year like no other. And if you don’t have the luxury of spare time, do what you can — turn off the news while you commute or drive to the grocery store, for example, and turn on music or an audiobook instead. If you have a friend or neighbor whose stress seems worse than yours, offer to run errands, bring them a box of cookies, or do something else to show you care.
This is the big one. Make a plan now to vote by mail or in person. Remind your kids to vote if they’re grown and on their own. Offer to help friends or neighbors get to the polls. Vote.org has details on how to check if you’re registered, request an absentee ballot, find your polling place, and learn about state-by-state deadlines and rules.
It’s going to be a rough few weeks here in the United States, no matter what transpires. Queer parents and our kids are some of the most resilient people I know, though. We’ll get through this together. Wishing us all peace, love, and strength for the times ahead.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.