Thursday, July 15, 2010

Becoming Social Parents

I just returned from visiting my parents and family one last time before I move to Boston at the end of the month. It was an enjoyable visit and we were intentional at making every moment we had together count for something since I'll be moving clear across the United States from them.

Prior to my arrival in Merced, my mother adamantly insisted that we watch the film La Mission during my visit. The film is a drama starring Benjamin Bratt that sheds light on issues of homophobia and sexuality within Chicano families.

As I sat there watching Bratt's character blatantly disown and condemn his son for being gay, I was drawn to my own father's face as he was watching the movie with me. The look of shock, anger, and disappointment covered his face. My partner sat in tears throughout the movie then looked up to my parents and simply said, "Thank you." My coming out experience with my family didn't involve much heartbreak or disowning. My parents were quick to accept me and remind me that they would love me whether I be straight, gay, bi, etc. I am reminded though that not every LGBTQ individual shares the same experience. Films like La Mission become a powerful tool for the LGBTQ community.

In an earlier post titled, "Storytelling as Social Protest," I introduced the term critical witnessing to describe the process of being so moved or struck by the experience of encountering a story as to embrace a specific course of action avowedly intended to forge a path toward change. La Mission positions itself as a critical witness. The film is an indictment against homophobia and misinformation regarding sexuality. I believe that the film is universal (in the sense that has a message that's relevant for all people, whether they be Chicano or not) and targets two groups of people:

First, the film targets parents of LGBTQs. As readers of emotions we are able to witness how painful it is for a person to be disowned, disregarded, and condemned by their loved ones. The film teaches parents to love by showing them how much it hurts when they don't.

Second, the film targets allies. As people that remember to love and affirm all people, we become social parents and we have a moral obligation to respond when we see our 'children' hurting. We become each other's families when everyone turns their backs to us. As my father sat their on the couch on the verge of tears, I saw him becoming more than just my parent, but a parent to all LGBTQs.

What does it mean to you to be a social parent? How can we use this role to educate families that are still victims of misinformation when it comes to sexuality and religion?

Photo Credit: Florencia García

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