two recent and unrelated news items on which I have thoughts

random pretty thing (via)
1. On Cynthia Nixon and choosing one's sexual identity. According to Cassie Murdoch @ Jezebel, actress Cynthia Nixon said some things about choosing her current partner, another woman, which have irritated other people also in same-sex relationships. In response, Nixon told the New York Times:
Why can't it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we're just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don't think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn't realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I've been out with. [NYT]
"Why is [choosing] any less legitimate" is my favorite line from this quotation, because regardless of where we, as humans of all sexual persuasions, fall on the innate/culture continuum vis a vis our own personal sexual desires, I think it's really important not to throw fluidity, change, and personal growth over time under the damn bus. By limiting "legitimate" or "authentic" sexuality to that which is fixed, innate, and ostensibly knowable from birth, we demand certainty on an issue which -- for some if not most -- is far from certain, or perhaps serially certain -- we know ourselves, and then we know ourselves again in a new light. Both equally true.

And, of course, even if you want to argue that sexual attractions/desires are innate and fixed, sexual identities and the language we use for them, are creations of culture -- so, yes, actually, we all of us "choose" to be "straight" or "gay" or "lesbian" or "bisexual" or "asexual" or "queer" or whateverthehellother label du jour we decide to slap on ourselves. Underneath those words are actual corporeal human beings, with attractions and desires no one can wrest from us or know better than ourselves -- but we do choose to politically identify with language. We choose to affiliate, organize, categorize. And we'll probably choose at some point to re-categorize human sexuality in new ways.

So I'm glad Ms. Nixon isn't letting people bully her into silence or repentance on this point for the sake of political expedience. That would make me sad for the future state of discourse on human sexuality.

2. On parents, children, and workplace negotiation. A friend of mine linked to an NPR story yesterday, on Tumblr, about parents advocating on behalf of their adult children with human resources representatives at their childrens' workplaces. I was thinking about this one on the way to work today, because I come from a family where -- okay, this hasn't happened and likely won't ever happen -- but where when I was growing up my parents often asserted their right to participate in discussions about (for example) our medical care, even when doctors thought it was "hovering." My parents were always clear to ask us, as their children, whether we wanted their support -- and backed off the moment we asked them to. But that experience has led me to be wary of cultural outrage over "helicopter parenting" and other family systems that Americans read as intrusive. Because things aren't always what they seem on the surface. Two thoughts:

a) Sometimes, tag-teaming is an important function of families. Sometimes, even grown-ups need the support of other grown-ups to self-advocate, particularly around things like healthcare? It can be as simple as  calling to report a spouse is too ill to be at work that day, or it can be more complicated -- like asking a family member to attend medical appointments with you. We can't all operate in isolation 100% of the time, and while I have no idea what the particulars of these HR situations might be, I hesitate to be judgy. Yeah, it could totally be an overbearing sense of entitlement. But it might also be desperation and/or simply family groups operating to support one another. Which leads me to:

b) This seems outrageous to us because we've decided as a culture that it's outrageous. Think for a moment about arranged marriages. In cultures where extended families facilitate marriages, parents and other adults are involved in something (courtship) which we, in America, have decided is essentially a private matter between the two people directly involved. Parents getting involved in their child's courtship decisions (e.g. a partner asking the parents' permission before proposing) is seen as intrusive. But seen in a different light, it's not intrusive, it's expected, and serves a purpose. We might, as a society, decide we dislike the purpose it serves -- but that's neither here nor there. By analogy, it would be interesting to back up and consider how multi-generational involvement in workplace situations operates. What perceived problem is this involvement seeking to remedy? Is it serving a function that, until now, has been met in some other way? Why has the old way stopped working, or why do people perceive it to have ceased working?

These are the things I think about on the way to work.


  1. I'm unable to see the supportive/ advocacy elements you describe as similar to the helicoptering I've witnessed working in university services.

    The difference is apparent between (for example) disabled students and graduates who have advocates accompanying them to appointments and helicopter parents who try to arrange and attend the appointments on behalf of their children (both able-bodied and disabled).

    In this sense the hovering description is inaccurate because although they hover in their children's lives they often attempt to take the place of their child in some circumstances.

    It's not unreasonable for an HR department to expect the individual who has applied for the job to be the primary individual to be involved in discussions about the role. If they wish to request an advocate that's fine but it's not fine for parents to go to HR without discussing it with their child first. It's basic respect.

    Anyone, child or adult, should have the say on their own lives. Helicopter parents are the ones who just think they know better. There's so much rubbish in the media about the youth of today being too immature or irresponsible which just isn't true but which some parents seem willing to accept.

    On the rare occasions I've spoken to the child of an HP (there's usually a reason they didn't contact us themselves in the first place) they've not been angry at their parents' involvement but a little weary of how their parents have misrepresented or misunderstood their situation

  2. yipes sorry it was so long