*hey folks, this is day one of my new blog schedule. below you will find my first open letter. today i dedicate it to the community*
Over the last couple of day’s I have been privy to multiple-streams of conversations about the place that people without romantic partners and/or children have within the workplace and within the community at large. The question’s they raise are familiar ones, and they center on the experiences of femme-of-center people who have chosen not to marry or have children.
But where are the conversations about the women who’ve chosen not to get married or have children? Where is the outrage on behalf of the women who are expected to work longer hours, attend evening and weekend events, and be ‘flexible’ in their work schedule because they don’t have ‘pressing obligations’ outside of work?
In 4 days I was twice reminded that I do not have a partner or children. I was reminded of this after having to tell colleagues that I require at least 2 day notice when scheduling meetings.
The expectation that women get married and have children has been well documented in academic and non-academic writing of all kinds. What has been less discussed, are the interpersonal and inter-community repercussions when femme-of-center folks exercise their right and/or their desire to not have children or to get married. To often, greater work, community and interpersonal expectations are placed on these people because of assumptions about their time, as the Other Class makes clear.
But beyond that, to often, and I would argue, less spoken about, is the reality that frequently single people are left without systems of interpersonal support or community during times of crisis, illness or even day to day challenges & triumphs. Rose Arellano states this problem well:
“I love my romantic relationships, but I am so glad I have a community of friends I am just as mutually committed to. “I want to live in a world where there isn’t a hierarchy of relationships, where romantic love isn’t assumed to be more important than other kinds, where folks can center any relationships they want whether it be their relationship to their spiritual practice, kids, lovers, friends, etc. and not have some notion that it’s more or less important because of who or what’s in focus. I want to feel like I can develop intimacy with people whether we are sleeping together or not, that I will be cared for whether I am romantically involved with someone or not. I want a community that takes interdependency seriously that doesn’t assume that it’s only a familial or romantic relationship responsibility to be there for each other.”
I want to live in the world that Arellano talks about as well. To often, as a young single woman with a chronic illness, I find myself in the emergency room alone. I am luckier than most in that I have chosen family and my mother, who all text, email and call to check up on me regularly while I’m there. But they are also almost all home with their romantic partners, children, and so on… This isn’t to fault them, those are relationships that are important and are valued priorities. The question I am asking is, do single people without children have a place within the community?
Who cares for us when we are sick? Who celebrates with us when we have a major career achievement? Who plans our surprise 40th birthday party? All of these things that are regularly assigned to the romantic partner and/or the children of the individual, have no substitute for us without those relationships. We shake our head’s when individual’s enter romantic relationships to fill a void in their life. But as a community, we are often unwilling to create systems to provide those same individuals much needed daily support.
Significantly, organizations like the Audre Lorde project are beginning to have these conversations about Trans elders who need support as they experience various challenges at the later end of their lives. These are often elders whom, for whatever reason, don’t have children, or the “nuclear” family. This work is so critical, because I can’t tell you how often I have been in the hospital, and my roommate was an elder who also had no one to accompany them during their stay.
I want to encourage our community to begin thinking about our elders and the rest of us. How can we start including those of us without nuclear support systems in our day to day? Who can we call and check on today? Who can we include in our holiday gatherings? Who can we visit in the hospital or the hospice? Let’s not limit these kinds of activities to holiday volunteer projects. Instead, let’s begin the critical work of thinking about what a inclusive community that is truly integrated into our daily lives on a day to day basis looks like.