(HOST) This is the time of year when most of us try to be “home for the holidays” with our families – even those for whom commentator John Scagliotti* says the words “home” and “family” have taken on new meaning.
(SCAGLIOTTI) Recently we heard that the Vice President’s daughter, Mary Cheney, will be having a child next spring with her lesbian partner Heather Poe. There was no mention of a father even though Time Magazine quoted religious fundamentalist James Dobson as saying, Quote “The boy’s father has to do his part. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball” unquote.
But families that fit Dobson’s vision are now in the minority. The majority of families in America today are not your typical nuclear one, lead by a father and mother, but some other combination. And all those alternative families are creating new holiday traditions.
As a young man coming of age in the sixties I always anticipated family gatherings during the holidays with a great deal of trepidation. I was gay and didn’t fit in. So, rather than continue to deny what I was to my family I simply broke away and stopped going home for the holidays.
Lots of other baby-boomer homosexuals who came of age during the time of gay liberation did the same thing. However since the holidays are about coming together, the newly “out” gay folks of the 1970’s started to gather within their own community and we began to call ourselves “family”.
And although we didn’t realize it at the time – while we were dancing to Sister Sledge’s “We are Family – I got all my sisters and me,” we were beginning to redefine for America and the world what a family could be and look like in the 21st century.
Here in Guilford, our family invited some of the men who are part of the Southern Vermont’s AIDS’s Men’s Program for Christmas – men who might not have had a place to go for the Holiday. We jokingly called our holiday meal a misfit Christmas dinner, after The Island of Misfit Toys – the animation classic on TV every year since 1964, where misfit Rudolph saves the day with his red nose – perhaps the most well-know Christmas TV character after Charlie Brown.
Alex Potter, the director of the Men’s Program emailed the group, quote, “before anyone says ‘hey wait a minute, I am not a misfit’, then put yourself in the mind of a red-nosed reindeer on the Island of Misfit Toys, with polka-dotted elephants, a train with square wheels and Herbie the elf who really wanted to be a dentist” unquote.
Because even in the hardest and loneliest of times, we misfits have found that a good sense of humor goes along way when dealing with intolerance.
And as we gather for the holidays together this year, we can celebrate the fact that a handful of states have now passed laws that protect our alternative families. Vermont was the first in the nation to pass a civil union law. Most recently, the state of New Jersey joined Connecticut in passing similar legislation.
When I was a boy watching the Nutcracker, I could never have imagined that I could grow up and marry a prince. Young boys in Massachusetts can have those dreams today.
John Scagliotti is the creator of the public television series “In the Life” and the Emmy Award-winning producer of the documentary “Before Stonewall.”