thirty two [happy birthday to me + some photos]

Today's my thirty-second birthday, in the event you didn't already know that via all the over-helpful social media reminders!

Hanna bought me this lovely ceramic indoor water fountain as a present.

Ever since I was a small girlchild I have loved the sound of running water and used to fantasize about living in a house with a river running through its center. Short of that, I wanted to live in a cottage by the sea, on a river, or by the lake, where the sound of waves and rapids could be heard through the open windows.

Neither of these things is practical right now, but the fountain is a lovely "plan B."

(photos by Hanna)
Making room for the fountain, despite its modest size, precipitated a major reorganization of the living room - a way of making the apartment few new and springy even though we've lived here nearly five years (and Hanna even longer).

We moved the couch from the inside wall out to a spot beneath our bay windows (the element that really "makes" our living room as a space). This shift necessitated consolidation of some bookshelves into a book wall ... bonus points if you spot the TARDIS shrine!

We're enjoying natural light that now falls on the couch, making for good reading into the evening without having to turn lights on.

The cats continue to be unimpressed by us, though we have clearly been setting a poor example in the lewd cuddling department...

Or a good example, depending on which way you think the bread is best buttered.

Enjoy your Easter weekend, folks -- spring is slowly arriving!


politics, pornography, and combating queer isolation

cross-posted from the family scholars blog.

Conner Habib, an actor who performs in gay male pornographic films, was recently invited by a student group at Corning Community College (Corning, NY) to speak on sex and culture. When the college president found out that Habib, in addition to being a thoughtful and articulate human being, had appeared in erotic film, she took steps to cancel Habib's talk and has apparently moved to further obstruct attempts to host the talk in a non-college-sponsored locale.

Habib has written an excellent piece about his own perspective on these events which can be read in full over at BuzzFeed. In the essay he reflects on the place pornographic materials have in mitigating the isolation sexual minorities can experience, particularly in rural areas. He writes:
Where I grew up, just outside of Allentown, PA, I watched, right through my adolescence into adulthood and early college years, while straight people paired off and experienced sex. They were able to engage with a basic aspect of human life that seemed unavailable and distant to me. Unlike today, there was no discussion about gay marriage, nor were there many gay characters on TV. But even if there had been, neither would have rounded out my experience as a man with homosexual feelings because so many of those feelings were — unsurprisingly for a young man — sexual. Gay sex was a lonely venture. It wasn't easy to find, and was only mentioned in slurs and the butt of jokes. ... Whether I bought it from the adult video store or, later, downloaded it, gay porn helped me encounter positive images of gay men enjoying the act of sex. Gay porn was a window into gay sexuality that was free of shame and guilt, and revealed a different world where sex wasn't a lonely prospect, confined to the shadows or just my imagination.
Habib describes how, being a man of Arab descent, he receives fan mail from gay men in Middle Eastern countries who "[express] gratitude and relief for my having portrayed gay sex in a positive light on camera."

Perhaps most relevant to readers of Family Scholars, Habib articulates the importance of discussion, rather than silence or evasion, in the face of conflicting interests or concerns:
When [Corning Community College Vice President] Don Heins called me and stated that [college President] Katherine Douglass canceled the talk because she had concerns about the controversial subject on campus, I told him that I understood those concerns. They are serious and real concerns - if they weren't, I'd have no need to give talks, after all. I have similar and additional concerns in my own life: How will having done porn intersect with my other interests? How can I pursue porn and speak openly about sex without making other people feel alienated? What have I noticed about the porn industry that I find supportive of or a hindrance to freedom — particularly for LGBT communities? ... the question here isn't whether or not we have concerns, but whether or not we have the courage to address them.
(Emphasis mine. Read the whole piece here.)

As someone who believes in the power of articulate and thoughtful speaking and writing, I believe that the Corning Community College administration has erred in canceling Habib's talk. Particularly without even approaching him first with their concerns (presumably about his acting career) and attempting to find a workable solution short of banning him from campus.

As an undergraduate student, I experienced a similar situation in which a controversial speaker was brought to campus -- in this case, a leader from an ex-gay ministry, Mario Bergner, who was invited by the chapel staff to speak as part of a series on Christian sexual ethics. The group of faculty, staff, and students who objected to the invitation put together a coalition and sponsored, during the same week, the evangelical gay rights activist Mel White.  The power dynamics were different in our case: the administration supported Bergner and the chaplain's office, while White was brought in through grassroots action. At Corning, a student group invited Habib and the administration used institutional authority to veto that action. I also don't claim my college community found a wholly successful method for conflict resolution: participants in the Bergner-White event(s) will likely remember how incredibly difficult it was to navigate the divisions within the community which these dual invitations exposed, divisions which fifteen years later still remain unresolved. 

However, I -- like Habib -- would contended that it is far better to have difficult, even painful, conversations than no conversation at all. Because Habib and the students who wanted to hear him speak have gone public with this story, a conversation is happening anyway: the conversation that the school administration sought to stifle, as well as a conversation about how and why they sought to stifle it.

I hope members of the Corning Community College administration are listening closely, and perhaps learning a thing or two in the aftermath which they might have learned more productively learned by attending Habib's talk as originally scheduled.


comment post: friendships, "crushes," and heteronormativity

About a year ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by London-based journalist Rachel Hills for her forthcoming book, The Sex Myth (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Last week, she was in touch with some of us to ask a follow-up question about "boy talk." For those of us who grew into our sexuality desiring women, or who didn't identify as female, Rachel wanted to know what such "boy talk" girl bonding rituals felt like to us.

Here are the thoughts I sent in response.

when you do a Google image search for "sleepover"
you get a bajillion images like this (via)
What an interesting question you pose, Rachel!

I have several distinct-yet-inter-related thoughts and memories:

First, I did not attend gradeschool (I homeschooled until college). Because of this, I don't recall a lot of intense pressure to perform gender in the "boyfriend"/"crush" way in my pre-adolescent years. I remember pressure from my childhood friends to pick a "best friend" among them, and feeling confused about how to handle that without hurt feelings. I remember lots of gender play in terms of dressing up and playing princess and "runaway princess" (which usually involved setting up house together, as sister-princesses, in the "woods").

It's true that, apart from my younger brother and his little group of male friends, I didn't have male friends who survived much into gradeschool. When I was very young, I remember playing with the children in my mother's circle of friends irrespective of gender, but when those children started attending school the boys were definitely under pressure NOT to be friends with girls (and vice versa, I imagine), so we drifted apart. The boys I knew in the neighborhood were more casual acquaintances, and even then they tended to be identified as my brother's friends, even if we all played together outside.

Second, I remember being intensely embarrassed and upset when older people (babysitters, adult friends of the family) framed my relationships, celebrity interests, etc., as (sexualized) "crushes." I vividly remember in the 9-10-11-year-old period specific instances of being teased -- I'm sure in a well-meaning way! -- about my passion for the tennis player Andre Agassi whom I idolized when, for a brief while, I was into tennis. Perhaps some of the intensity I felt about him WAS pre-pubescent romantic interest, but I really hated the teasing because I was confused by my own feelings, didn't identify them as romantic or sexual, and didn't like the feeling that other people were assigning terms to my feelings that I didn't agree to. It also felt like very private feelings were then being hauled into public in ways that were potentially embarrassing.

So during that period, the framework of "the crush" actually served the opposite purpose from bonding with my peers or same-gender compatriots: it made me feel uncomfortably singled out and limited in my passions. It served to make it clear that I needed to police my feelings (and the expression of those feelings), particularly about boys and men, if I didn't want to come under unwanted scrutiny.

As I'm typing this, I'm thinking about the way in which my passions for same-gender friendships were NOT similarly sexualized or policed by others, and the freedom that allowed me to develop emotional intimacy with my close female friends during pre- and early adolescence.

Third, I definitely remember the way in which my teenage friendships with other girls organized themselves around "boy talk." Our "boy talk" manifested in two distinct ways (as I recall), one of which I felt comfortable engaging in and the other of which I didn't. I do remember enjoying "boy talk" that circled around fictional characters in films and books. My girlfriends and I would read novels and portion out who had the "rights" to certain dashing heroes (or anti-heroes). We gossiped about what was happening between our favorite (hetero) couples in these fictional narratives and celebrated the successful marriage plots for the characters we felt were deserving and well-suited to one another. All of this I very much enjoyed.

What I felt more uncomfortable about, and artificially performative of, as time went on, was the more personal boy-crazy talk about crushes within my friendship circle. It felt awkwardly forced -- particularly for the friends (and we were a shy group of girls) who never acted on their supposed crushes by initiating a relationship with the person in question. It very much felt like an activity engaged in to earn points with other girls. You talked about who you had a crush on because it was what everyone was supposed to do.
I remember really hating the awkwardness of this period (adolescence), and the way in which girls and boys were relentlessly sorted into same-gender groups, and their mixed interactions chaperoned with the expectation on all sides that such mixed-gender interactions (whether single-y or in groups) were going to be fraught with sexual tension. I didn't like the way you suddenly were supposed to be aware of your bodily boundaries, who was touching whom, and how things that seemed nice (and possibly proto-sexual) were suddenly inappropriate. Like, I remember once being on a camping trip and helping a boy wash his hair in the river. We were both wearing bathing suits and I didn't touch anything other than his head, to help with the shampoo, and it was really nice to be enjoying ourselves. But afterwards, there was this clear message from some of the camp counselors (and later, parents) that this interaction was somehow fraught and potentially worrisome in a way that it would never have worried anyone if I'd helped a same-gender friend wash her hair.

Thoughout my adolescence, I kept asking people what was difference about sexual attraction versus intense, passionate friendship and they kept telling me that I'd understand when I had the experience. What I eventually figured out (embarrassingly enough, not until my mid-twenties!) was that the reason I couldn't decipher the difference was that I in fact had the potential for sexual desire for both men and women. My attraction to women had been burbling along all throughout my childhood and adolescence and had simply been allowed to run its course through passionate friendships -- without all of the constraints imposed upon interactions with boys.

The one passionately intimate friendship I developed with a boy in my adolescence was with a young man who eventually came out as gay. We're still very close friends, but it's definitely illustrative to look at the way he and I navigated our friendship in the context of heteronormative culture. While my passionate same-gender friendships were just as intense and intimate as my relationship with this boy (part of the patchwork of clues that finally led me to understand my bisexuality / sexual fluidity), those girls and I never problematized our relationship -- and neither did our families or wider circle of friends. In contrast, this male friend and I were both very aware of the emotional intensity of our relationship, and about the expectation that we needed to police the boundaries of that passionate relationship in order to respect one anothers' (emerging) sexual identities and to manage the expectations of our respective social circles. Our letters (for much of our relationship during that period we were long-distance correspondents) are full of discussion about the nature of our relationship, whether or not we felt a sexual relationship was in the cards, why or why not, how we might piece together a continued friendship even if one of us was sexually attracted to the other and the other did not reciprocate. We looked for models in history and literature for passionate, non-sexually-active, cross-gender relationships like ours. All of this activity was never explicitly prompted by our peers or the adults around us, but was definitely something we felt we needed to do. While no analogous process ever took place between me and the young women I was close to, despite the fact that I would (looking back now) argue the emotional intensity of female-female relationships were commensurate to what I felt with this male friend.

My point in recounting this story is that as a woman who grew up queer in heteronormative culture, I still felt pressure to sexualize cross-gender relationships and the absence of pressure to sexualize same-gender relationships. This meant that I was often bewildered and frustrated by the way cross-gender relationships that did NOT feel particularly sexual to me were nonetheless inscribed with those feelings from the outside, and simultaneously it delayed my recognition of the sexual potential within same-gender relationships because no one in the culture around me was encouraging me to think in those terms. While I'm glad for the protected, private space that gave me to explore my same-sex desires without the social scrutiny I would have endured for cross-gender desires (if/when they became socially visible), heteronormativity also meant I had a lack of language to speak about those desires even when I had begun to acknowledge them.

Whew! More thoughts than I anticipated when I started this reply ... I'll leave it there. Good luck with the final week of revisions, and thank you so much for staying in touch! I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing the final work.



from the neighborhood: sunning cats & SCOTUS nailpolish

While Hanna was dozing in the bedroom this afternoon, and I was listening to Jeff Chu's interview on the Diane Rehm Show through their online streaming (have I mentioned how much public radio totally rocks and that we're proud supporters?), I decided to paint my fingernails in rainbow in anticipation of this coming week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the legality of bans on same-sex marriage.

Like it's any secret, but I think my nails probably give my position on the matter away.

What with the wedding ring and all.

The cats were unimpressed with my politics and beauty regime, particularly since there was nothing edible in it for them.

They preferred to spend the afternoon sunbathing in our living room.

(Sometimes I suspect Teazle is a slinkie in disguise.)

(And also that one day she will figure out how to reach the hanging plants...)

Hope you all are having a restful weekend -- more coming later in the week on queer porn, queer families, sex and relationships, SCOTUS, DOMA, and all the rest!


quick hit: "in loving memory of her little girl: past, present, and place in the gladys potter garden"

My former professor, mentor, and friend Laura Prieto has recently published an essay in the digital humanities project Subjecting History titled "In Loving Memory of Her Little Girl: Past, Present, and Place in the Gladys Potter Garden." The piece explores how a memorial garden in Laura's neighborhood came to be, and what it has meant over time:
Surely I cannot be the only person who has noticed the pair of stone plaques outside one of the heavy wrought iron gates. The inscription on the left side reads: “The Gladys Potter Garden. Dec 4, 1883 – Nov 16, 1891.” Its companion plaque on the right is much more weathered and thus harder to read. But if one squints a bit, one can make out the explanation: “This garden was given by a mother in loving memory of her little girl, who loved this spot and who loved to walk here with her father when it was part of an attractive ravine. MCMXX” [1920].

I am a historian. I am a mother. The inscription knocks the breath out of me. Among so many boys and girls who have played here, there was Gladys Potter, and she died at my own son’s age. I know how frequently parents have suffered the deaths of their children throughout history. I can prepare myself for these awful object lessons in a cemetery (where I’ve also been known to walk and explore the past). But I do not expect this sharp announcement of grief, this intimate and generous act of mourning, to arrest me at the gates of my children’s playground.
Hanna and I first heard this piece when Laura read an early version of it as her presidential address before the New England Historical Association several years ago. We are so happy to see it find a home!

Please go enjoy the essay in full at the Subjecting History interface. The digital volume is currently open for comment and will eventually, with revisions guided by that commentary, be published as a physical print volume. The scholars who are participating hope for broad public involvement -- go help them hone their work!


booknotes: from the courtroom to the altar

I have book review out in the most recent issue of NEHA News (Spring 2013, vol. 39), the bi-annual newsletter of the New England Historical Association. This time, the title is Michael J. Klarman's From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). You can read the full review in the PDF version of the newsletter, but here's a snippet to whet your appetite:

In his most recent work, legal historian Michael J. Klarman (Harvard Law School) turns his attention from the role of the courts in ending racial segregation (From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: Brown v. Board and the Civil Rights Movement) to the history of gay rights activism -- specifically the legal struggle around same-sex marriage. Klarman explores how gay marriage emerged as a key marker for both pro- and anti-gay sentiment, and assesses “the costs and benefits of gay marriage litigation” as a path toward greater social justice. As a scholar of Constitutional history, Klarman is particularly keen to understand the role of judicial opinion and court action in changing public sentiment (and, conversely, the role of public sentiment
or action in changing judicial reasoning or decisions). 

You can read the whole thing thanks to NEHA's willingness to make their newsletter available online for free!


comment post: shipping as ... creativity [survey]

Sam, Dean and Cas ... re-imagined (by jasric)
Our friend tiptoe39 has been authoring a series of posts on "shipping" and fan works over at SpoilerTV, and for the last few posts she's created surveys to help her generate content. Here are my responses to her survey on "shipping as...creativity":

How does shipping enhance your creativity? 

I think shipping kicks my creativity into gear in part because it pushes my political buttons as a bisexual woman and as a feminist: I experience shipping as a direct intervention in mainstream narratives. It is a form of critically interacting with books, movies, television series that depict human sexuality and human relationships in certain ways, challenging the stereotypes, assumptions, or erasures I see there and re-working the source within the fanwork to tell a different version of events.

This is going to sound like a weird comparison, but I once attended a talk by Jane Yolan on faith and writing, in which she talked about how some people viewed writing from a Christian perspective as a negative constraint on creativity -- but instead she saw it as a limitation that fueled creativity because it gave you a framework that you had to work with ... creatively.

I think fan fiction can work in a similar way to writing "Christian fiction" ... in that you have a starting set of assumptions (the canon work) that's sort of there as a de facto set of prompts. And then whatever inspiration you have for your work, you'll have to be clever enough to put those two things together. Fitting form (the original material) with function (your particular vision in this instance). It's a challenge that I think can actually amp up someone's creative juices, because you can't afford to be lazy about it. (If nothing else, your fellow fans will call you on it!)

How does viewing fanworks by others enhance your creativity?

God, I love the creativity of my fellow fan creators. I'm constantly awed by the dedication with which so many of us write/draw/paint/edit/enact/etc. It's wonderful to take in so many visions of the same core material; to see how many ways the same narrative(s) can be improvised upon when humans put their minds to it. I definitely feel that my exposure to fanworks and the people who created them has taught me to look at the world in a more multi-faceted way. I see everything through "slash goggles" now, a perspective that necessarily involves holding more than one understanding of a work in mind (and heart) simultaneously.

Fellow writers have also taught me a LOT about the construction of effective erotica; I do believe I have a strong original voice in that regard, but I'm not going to kid myself into thinking I spontaneously learned how to write smut well. I learned it from my fellow fic-writers (thank you!).

What are you able to do creatively with shipping and fanworks that you cannot do with "original" creative works?

I've always been a person who thinks best "aloud," in dialogue with others. With shipping (and fan fiction writing) that conversation is a built-in feature of the activity from the start: you're in dialogue with the original work that inspired the fan work! I get incredible satisfaction out of participating in that conversation; it generally brings me into a much closer and more positive relationship with the original work (even when I'm highly critical of it) than I would be as a more passive consumer of the original work. I have very little experience with non-transformative fictional work (my non-transformative writing has been in the genres of academic/scholarly papers and creative nonfiction essays / blogging -- also forms of conversation in their own right!). But I have tried my hand, occasionally, at non-transformative fiction and I often run out of steam at some point, I don't have the social accountability to finish the story that the fandom provides. I think I also felt less of a sense of purpose with non-transformative work (it feels less politicized, less like an intervention, which are key kicks-in-the-ass for me as a writer).

What is your response to the idea that those with creative inclinations should work from their own characters and worlds rather than appropriating another's?

I understand the concern of creators who feel threatened by fan works. At first blush, fan works can look like an authorial power-grab, like plagiarism. However, I'd encourage people who are framing fan creations as plagiarism to reconsider that assumption. Instead, I'd argue that fan works are a form of reader/viewer response to the original piece. Like literary or film criticism, they are responsive to the original work, cannot exist (are often meaningless) without that original work with which they are interacting -- usually with a mix of praise and critique.

As long as the pieces are clearly framed as such (transformative works by fans), and the creators are not making money from their creations or passing their work off as actually by the original creator(s), I would argue that original creators can only benefit from the fan community getting excited about their creation enough to generate those responses. That responsive interaction will likely translate into investment in your original creation, which -- if you're a professional of any kind -- is going to translate into a larger audience, higher profile, more income. As a fan creator myself, I'll be honest and say that at least half of the original creations I create for I would not be reading or watching if I were not invested in creating fan works from them. The fan creation IS my investment in the work, my conversation with it.

Finally, as an historian I would point to the fact that fan works have a long history, as does the tradition of artistic inspiration, musical "quotation," fashion trends, and other conventions of one original work informing another very directly. While the Internet and other technologies have made this type of interaction more visible, I would argue it has long been a part of the equation in creative economies. This does not mean that creative rights concerns are invalid -- in fact, they are crucial to continue defining and advocating for -- but it does mean that there is precedent for original works and transformative works living side-by-side in mutual benefit.

Is there anything about shipping, or the shipping community, that limits you as an artist, creator, or consumer?

Well, I don't think this is exactly the kind of "limit" you're looking for, but I have sometimes found myself as frustrated by the tropes of certain fandoms, and the imbalance of having an endless supply of fic along certain themes, for certain fandoms, and then radio silence along other lines, in other fandoms. Obviously people are inspired to write what they're inspired to write. But fan works, like original works, are not created in a vacuum. So I think it's legitimate to note that there are relatively few sexually explicit fan works featuring female couples (compared with the huge pool of m/m slash out there). This can be a self-perpetuating cycle as fan communities reinforce excitement over certain pairings and fans who create in collaboration or through inspiration from one another gather around certain fandoms or pairings and not others.

I will include myself in this indictment: I write both female and male pairings, but in latter days I've been working on male pairings in part because that's where the community reinforcement comes from. My two Supernatural fics have far and away the most views, kudos, and comments on AO3 of all my fic. The next-highest story in terms of exposure and praise is a female pairing for Downton Abbey that's been up for almost two years, and is still only half the views as the Supernatural piece that's been up for five months.

So I think that even though the fan community often pushes back against canon, and the limitations of mainstream media in terms of human sexual diversity and other types of diversity, they are still often constrained by the "givens" of particular fandoms, and by the pressures of "the market" -- even though it's not a financial economy, but more of a social economy.

And, you know, we're human. So to the extent the culture we are steeped in perpetuates racism, sexism, classism, abelism, ageism, etc., etc., etc., as creators/consumers we're going to fall into those limiting traps as well, from time to time.

How would you characterize the community surrounding fanworks? (If you have also created non-fan creative works, can you compare the two communities? Those who read/consume are also welcome to compare the two communities.)

Overall, incredibly positive. These are people who take pleasure in what they do, and who generally engage in the activity as a leisure-time activity, as something fun and joyful. I really appreciate that fan creators are amateurs ("lovers") of their craft.

For myself, the pleasure I get from participation in the fanwork community is enhanced by the fact that my creative expression here is option, is non-professional, is what I do for pleasure rather than for work. I am also creative (even writing-creative!) in my professional life, and that feels more deadline driven and like it has a higher risk level to it than in the fanwork community. I feel more alone and (potentially) judged, like there is a much narrower margin for error in that context.

My fan creations are lower risk because they can be revised and updated as want them to be, and I find my audience to be incredibly supportive and forgiving. Fans are pretty good with the constructive part of constructive criticism -- they WANT your work to succeed, and get better, at what it's trying to do. It's rather like blogging, in that respect, only with no trolls! Which is lovely.

And I don't want it to sound like I haven't had incredibly warm and supportive feedback from my mentors in the professional settings I move in, either -- they've been unbeatable! But the stakes there just feel bigger in terms of being taken seriously as a ______. Fans will pretty much take you seriously as a fan as long as you're enjoying yourself and the object of your fannish love.

I would say particular fandoms strike me (in my early 30s) as "young" by comparison ... but that varies really a lot by fandom, so it's not a generalization.

Fan fiction authors also seem to be majority women, but again that would be a gross a generalization in terms of fan participation in responsive mediums.

What are the major problems you see within and surrounding shipping and fanworks?

I don't know if I'd characterize any of these as "major problems" but I do see them as ... problematic? issues that fans as a community might do well to have conversations about.

1) RPF. Real-person fic is something I have major reservations about, as it feels non-consensual and intrusive to me. There's a difference between someone choosing to portray themselves (or consenting to have themselves portrayed) in a sexual way, publicly, and to have other people create sexually explicit material about them -- even with positive, fannish intent! -- and make that public. It feels stalkery and, like I said, majorly non-consensual. I think it's a kissing cousin of "revenge porn" -- where sexually explicit pictures of videos (real or faked) of a person is released to the public as a form of character defamation.

2) Over-identification and emotional investment. This is something I tred carefully on because obviously fans have a long history of being characterized as hysterical, too passionate, etc. (what is too passionate, even, right??). But I have definitely come across people who use fandoms to validate their own identities (like, a character HAS to be gay or they can't deal, or -- conversely -- the idea that a character could be read as lesbian freaks them out and pushes them into defensiveness). And I've also seen people using fanwork to manage their own trauma or mental health which is totally appropriate alongside getting other forms of help, but I sometimes feel like fanwork is not a replacement for therapy, medication, a social support network, [insert need here].

3) Territorialness. So one of the great things about fans can be our generosity and collaborative spirit. ... and one of the worst things about fans can be our sense of ownership of a particular interpretation of a canon piece. To the extent that people sometimes abuse the folks who support "rival" interpretations, and even abuse original creators whose vision differs from their own. It's one thing to critique a creator's vision (the direction a series is going, something they do to a character, etc.) ... but I also think it's important to remember that just as WE (the fans) have a right to our vision of the story or character, so do other fans and the original creator.

Anything else you would like to add about shipping as creativity?

Whew! I think this form has me beat, so I'm going to leave it at that :) ... looking forward to the post!


it's not just about marriage law

cross-posted from the family scholars blog.

April DeBoer (second from left) sits with her adopted daughter Ryanne, 3,
and Jayne Rowse and her adopted sons Jacob, 3, and Nolan, 4,
at their home in Hazel Park, Mich., on Tuesday. [caption by NPR]
We've been talking a lot lately, at the Family Scholars Blog, about the upcoming DOMA/Prop 8 cases before the Supreme Court and debating the cases for and against marriage equality. Sometimes "gay marriage" can seem like the only or most important issue for LGBT folks. In fact, many of us have had the experience of talking with someone who assumes that once gay marriage is legal then anti-gay prejudice and marginalization will -- poof! -- be a thing of the past. We'll be able to put down our "activist" hats and embrace our mainstream status.

But the marginalization of LGBT individuals and families goes a lot deeper than marriage law. One such example comes from my home state of Michigan, which has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation regarding recognition of same-sex relationships -- including a ban on same-sex partners adopting together. While heterosexual couples and single people are welcomed as prospective adoptive parents, gay and lesbian couples are explicitly denied the ability to provide their children with two legal parents.

 A lesbian couple who are parenting three adopted children have sued the state for the right to co-adopt. From the NPR story on their case:
As foster parents, Rowse and DeBoer shared legal guardianship of Jacob. When they decided to adopt the boy, they faced the same decision they'd faced with the two other children: which of them would be the legal parent. They chose Rowse, who is also Nolan's legal mother. That meant DeBoer actually lost legal rights she had as a foster parent.

"I lose the right to make medical decisions for my boys," DeBoer says. "I can't enroll my boys in school. I am on an emergency card at school — I am listed as just an emergency contact person. I am not a parent. I am nothing."
You can read the whole story over at NPR.

There have been a number of people at the Family Scholars Blog who have expressed varying degrees of concern about the sanctioning of same-sex relationships through marriage because they feel this legitimizes gay and lesbian parents as procreative partners in some way.

What I think gets lost in such abstract discussions -- about same-sex couples somehow, in future, creating new life together -- is the fact that LGBT parents are already parenting without the full legal recognition that, in hundreds of little ways, ties parents to their children and ensures kids will have their parents or guardians present for them -- advocating and decision-making as necessary -- throughout their childhood. Statistically speaking, LGBT parents are also generally caring for their own biological children or adopting children who would otherwise spend their lives in the foster system. Parents (straight, gay, lesbian, or otherwise) who have used assisted reproductive strategies, too, are parenting children who -- regardless of their origins -- deserve the security of knowing they will have access to their parent-carers when they need them.

The argument that legalizing same-sex marriage gives social approval to all manner of assisted reproductive practices glosses over the fact that by supporting restrictive adoption laws, marriage laws, and other legal restrictions on the recognition of same-sex families, those who oppose recognition of same-sex relationships  are actively marginalizing existing children and their parents.  You aren't stopping future families from being created; people of all sexual orientations have, and will continue, to create families irrespective of the law. Instead, you're stopping already-established families from accessing the full range of social supports that, as a nation, we've decided interdependent couples and parents with dependent children need to thrive.

Maybe your concerns regarding reproductive ethics are strong enough that such a cost is worth it to you. But I don't think it's honest or responsible to simply ignore the human cost of such discriminatory practices.


booknotes: the end of sex

It's always slightly embarrassing to admit you've requested an advance review copy of a book mostly to make fun of it and/or get angry at it -- even more so when the book in question actually turns out to be much better than you suspected it was going to be at first glance. Sometimes you really can't judge a book by its cover. Or, in this case, its title.

The book in question, this time, was Donna Freitas' The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy (Basic Books, 2013). Oh, god, no, I thought. Another hand-wringing book about how Kids These Days Are Doing It Wrong. Another book blaming feminism or men or pornography or youth or [insert favorite moral panic here]. Another book where an adult spends an inordinate amount of time focused on the sex lives of teenagers: how much they're having sex, how they're having it, with whom they're having it, and how they are (or should) feel about it when they do.

Yet I was pleasantly surprised. Donna Freitas is a skillful critic who manages to avoid many of the standard pitfalls of such journalistic studies. A professor of religion and gender studies, who also has a background in student life, Freitas' previous work, Sex and the Soul (2008), examined the role of religion and spirituality in adolescent sexual decision-making. This new work centers the voices of undergraduates themselves, letting them describe in their own words how they navigate the sexual culture(s) of residential college life. Although Freitas does not discuss her research methods in detail, it sounds from the text itself that she collected written surveys, conducted face-to-face individual interviews, and asked study participants to keep a written journal documenting their reflections about sexuality and selfhood. These primary sources inform Freitas' narrative throughout and serve to make her argument stronger -- though not unassailable. I'll get to my outstanding questions and irritations below, but first let's talk about what I appreciated about The End of Sex:
  • An insistence on both female and male voices. Too often, books and articles on so-called "hook up culture" (i.e. Sessions Stepp's Unhooked) focus on women almost exclusively. They take for granted that the hook up is a situation designed by and for men (who, our narrative of masculinity goes, are always ready for no-strings-attached sexual encounters) while women are losing out. Freitas actually admits that this was a narrative she herself bought into before she began her research. But in listening to actual young men, she discovered what sociologists like Amy Schalet have pointed out to us: that young men, like young women, yearn for emotional connection and meaningful sex. Yet they have learned to bury those desires under the shell of masculine bravado.
  • Calling out the gender binary. Freitas does a good job of pointing out how the cultural expectations around male and female sexuality constrain students' ability to act on their authentic desires. Men, straight and gay, feel pressured to want sex all the time and bury their emotional-relational desires deep; to the extent they acknowledge those feelings, they're likely to feel isolated without anyone to discuss them with (because all the other men around them are similarly self-protective and silent on the subject). Women, meanwhile, are walking the tightrope of that old no-win situation, the virgin/slut double bind. They're expected to be willing (but not too willing); sexually " pure" (but not too pure). Much like the high school "slut" -- who may or may not have ever had sex -- female college students struggle to manage their reputations in a world where too much and too little are equally derided.
  • Listening to students thoughtfully, and encouraging sexual agency. Too often, books on young peoples' sexual habits end up caught in a rescue narrative, calling on us to "save the children (from themselves)." Otherwise known as concern trolling. Freitas resists condescension, writing with confidence in young peoples' ability to change hook up culture from within into something that better suits their needs. Freitas also tries, with middling success, to resist a one-size-fits-all solution to young peoples' dissatisfaction with hook up culture. While I think she could have gone further with this, that she acknowledged difference at all (including the fact that some students might thrive on casual sexual interactions) deserves a nod.
  • Distinguishing between the cultural narrative and personal reality. She points out that her study participants consistently report that "everyone else" is engaging in casual sex, while they themselves are dissatisfied with the scene and are seeking alternatives. Freitas could have interrogated this dissonance a little more closely, but, again, points for acknowledging that not all (or even most?) students are throwing themselves into a life of no-strings-attached sexual experimentation.
  • Human sexual variety. Unlike many of the writers who have looked critically at the practice of hooking up, Freitas intentionally brings queer students and queer relationships into the picture. One of the students she profiles at length -- as someone who successfully resisted engaging in sexual activities he didn't feel ready for or comfortable with -- is a young gay man now happily in a serious, sexually-active relationship. She also notes the way young people report moving in and out of the hook up scene, rather than imagining once they've fallen off the deep end there's no going back.
  • Encourages us to help young people learn good sex. And by "good sex" she doesn't mean "sex only within marriage" or simply "safer sex" practices -- but sexual intimacy that is wanted and enjoyable. Too many of the students Freitas spoke with seemed to feel caught in a cycle of sexual behavior they hadn't actively chosen to engage in, yet didn't feel able to say no to. The landscape of sex appears, in their view, to be one of "on" or "off," where once you've said yes one time you might as well keep saying yes again and again -- whether you really desire to or not. If this is an accurate depiction, it's heartbreaking -- and points toward the need sexuality relationship education that refuses to reduce the message to "abstinence only," or public health messages about STI prevention.
  • The problem of alcohol replacing communication. While I question the extent to which all students everywhere depend on alcohol to grease the sexual relationship wheels, where it does happen, I agree with Freitas that it's a worrying trend. Not only for the usual alcohol-consumption reasons but also because it isn't serving users' sexual pleasure and sexual agency well. Students report using the "I was trashed" and/or "my partner was trashed" line to explain away all manner of sexual activities in which consent was dubious at best, and mutual pleasure a distant ideal rather than a lived reality. 
So those are the good parts: This is a thoughtful, evidence-based study that centers the voices of the population Freitas is studying (male and female students of all orientations in four-year residential colleges). It resists gender stereotyping and heterocentrism. It also, for the most part, resists reactionary solutions such as calling on students to "wait until marriage," or suggesting a (female) "return to modesty." Instead, Freitas encourages educators and adult mentors to give students the cognitive and emotional tools to critically engage with their own sexual cultures, evaluate their sexual values, resist sexual activities that make them unhappy, and create sexual relationships (whether fleeting or long-term) that will bring them physical and emotional pleasure and satisfaction. There is little in this agenda that I would argue with.

Still, there are some outstanding questions I have about the way Freitas frames the problem of hook up sex and some of the solutions she has offered. In brief:
  • Blaming the usual suspects. In trying to identify where "hook up culture" comes from, Freitas relies in part on a number of usual suspects: pornography (for teaching poor sexual scripts), online social networking (for supposedly robbing young people of interpersonal skills), the pervasive use of alcohol by college students (see above), and the changing "rules" of relationship formation (without a "dating" template, and without clear gender roles, how and when to make the first move?). I find all of these unsatisfying in their explanatory power, though I'd agree that some of them are concerning in their own right. 
  • If hook up culture is a story about other students, how many young people are actually participating? I was confused by the fact that Freitas repeatedly pointed toward the way the majority of her interviewees were unhappy with the dominant campus cultural narrative of hook up sex, yet a) pointed toward everyone but themselves engaging in it, and b) even when they did report participating it, were doing so to a limited and unhappy extent. I kept wondering: if hooking-up-as-a-way-of-life is always something that someone else does, how much of a reality is it, really? To what extent is it a story we tell ourselves about college culture because we fear/envy college students and -- since at least the turn of the twentieth century -- have continually imagined their lives were sexually hedonistic? If students themselves have inherited this cultural narrative of college promiscuity -- and thus imagine everyone around them is leading a much more sexually wild life than they are themselves -- that's definitely a cause for concern. But not equivalent to students actually engaging in said behaviors.
  • If students are so unhappy, why don't they get off the merry-go-round? I admit my blind spot here: I attended college between 1998-2005 as a part-time undergraduate who only spent three semesters in on-campus housing (when studying on, paradoxically, off-campus programs). I was never steeped in student culture, generally interacting with peers in class and limited extracurricular activities. So perhaps I had greater social independence than most undergraduates to pick and choose the aspects of college culture to engage in. Living in my hometown, I still had the social networks of long-term friendships, extended family, church, and workplace to fall back on when it came to "opting out" of aspects of student culture I didn't like -- whether it was opting out of conservative evangelical chapel services or drink-fueled parties! Still, if students are truly expressing unhappiness with the college scene in such great numbers as Freitas suggests, why oh why are they not revising it? Students are, after all, the primary creators and perpetuators of student culture. 
  • The "her hands caressed" problem. I was having a conversation with a couple of fellow erotica writers recently in which we were joking about the problem of limbs with volition. You're proofing a piece and you realize you've got someone's hands or lips acting independently of the person who, in fact, controls the action. I felt like Freitas often fell into this trap with regards to hook up culture, writing about it as of this culture were an entity with independent agency. Cultural discourses, it is true, can exert powerful pressure on individuals and populations ... but, usually, they only exist because someone benefits, or thinks they benefit, from maintaining that particular cultural narrative. The discourse of gender difference, for example, has vocal proponents who believe that men and women are essentially different. They have something at stake (religiously, relationally, or otherwise) in a vision of gender difference. Who are the defenders of hook up culture? By Freitas' account, not the students themselves! And school administrators, faculty, and parents seem shocked by accounts of its existence. So what accounts for the rise of "the hook up" as something which young people feel they must engage in or at least contend with? This question went unanswered in The End of Sex.
  • What about young people not living in dorms on four-year residential college campuses? This is not really a criticism, since any research investigation has its limitations, but I found myself wondering throughout this discussion of hook up culture how generalizable it might be. I pointed out above that my own non-residential status as an undergraduate insulated me somewhat from campus culture. Surely this is true for others as well. Is the hegemony of hook up culture, as reported by Freitas' subjects, isolated to certain types of undergraduate campuses? (She acknowledges, for example, that it is not so present on evangelical Christian colleges.) What is it like at community colleges? In trade schools? Art schools? Not in college at all? Are there certain populations within large campuses more immune or resistant to hook up culture than others? (i.e. commuter students, international students, students involved in sports? drama? politically engaged? religious students? students who have previously experienced a serious relationship?) I feel like the differences among students is often lost in Freitas' narrative, subsumed under her urgent sense that all students experience the relentless pressure of hook up culture's (disembodied) demands.
  • She blames (in part) technology for young peoples' bewilderment about how to get to know potential romantic partners outside of drunken make-out session. I feel this is a simplistic cop-out. I am, admittedly, biased: my wife and I were introduced via email and spent a lot of our get-to-know-you time via chat and email. We both hate the telephone; for the six months before we moved in together (initially as roommates), I would get up extra early on workdays to catch her online before she had to leave for work; I did my homework after she went to bed, so we could talk online until she shut her computer down for the night. All of this internet connectivity supplemented and facilitated the things we did together in person: walks, movies, lunch at the campus cafeteria, sitting next to one another in class, theater and concerts, shopping excursions. In non-romantic life, I have sustained key relationships, from childhood through into adulthood, by "virtual" means: through postal correspondence, email, blogging, and other social networking tools. Thus, it is difficult for me to take seriously the argument that virtual communication somehow impedes... communication.
  • Why is "dating" the main solution offered to the problems of "hooking up"? Toward the end of The End of Sex, Freitas suggests that students might benefit from relationship education (yes! I agree!) and points toward a professor at Boston College (a Catholic university) who teaches a popular 1-credit class on relationships in which one required assignment for all students (regardless of gender and sexual orientation) is to take a romantic interest out on a date during the semester. The date assignment was, according to the professor, a terrifying and bewildering one for her students -- although they also expressed appreciation that they were forced outside their comfort zone in order to pass the class. Freitas' suggestion is that the structure of the date, however terrifying it is to initiate, provides a safe framework for getting to know a potential sexual partner without being wasted and without the pressure for instant sexual contact. I appreciate her point, but I also wonder why she overlooks the fact that more informal friendships can evolve into sexual relationships in healthy ways -- and the more problematic aspects of dating culture that we don't necessarily want to resuscitate? When I ran a draft of this blog post by my writing group, several members recoiled at the date assignment, not only because it felt intrusive to them, but also because their experience with dating wasn't so hot either. As one member observed, "My son just graduated a small residential college where going on a date was extremely normative. This not only did not stop hooking-up and/or drunken sex, it also didn't seem to improve relationships. It also really strengthened rather restrictive gender norms (who asked who, who paid, etc)." Another concurred, pointing out that her "dating" relationships had suffered from many of the same problems as more casual encounters. Perhaps, we mused together, the problem is not the hook up, per se, but rather misogyny?
  • What about "hanging out"? My wife and I were friends and roommates first, an intense relationship that evolved into courtship over a two-year period, and eventually into a sexually-active, committed partnership. We never formally "dated," yet we weren't hooking up either. Instead, we were good friends who eventually acted on the sexual possibility we both felt in our relationship. A third member of my writing group suggested that between "the date" and "the hook up" there's this thing called "hanging out" -- where you connect in the student lounge over pizza and a Walking Dead marathon and discover you fit together really well, in more ways than one.  "Hanging out," at least in my experience, also carries a lot less baggage in terms of gender-based expectations for behavior. In my informal friend survey, "hanging out" seems to be an option for straight as well as queer couples, so I wonder why it's invisible in Freitas' narrative. Particularly when it has the potential to offer the best of both worlds: getting-to-know-you time without excessive alcohol or the pressure for immediate sexual activity.
In the end, Freitas' The End of Sex is an addition to the literature on hook up culture that is better than many, despite its limitations. I devoutly hope it signals the beginning of a (dare I hope?) sea-change in the way we talk about relationship culture in the twenty-first century. As I finished this review, Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com offered up a lengthy interview with author Leslie Bell, who has recently published (yet another!) book on hook up culture, Hard to Get: Twenty-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom. Clark-Flory enthuses that Hard to Get is "a nuanced look at hook up culture" that refuses to either downplay its pitfalls or deny its pleasures. That one's on order at my local public library, and I'm looking forward to reading (and reviewing) it soon.

cross-posted at the family scholars blog.


fun with amicus briefs! [doma & the supremes]

cross-posted from the family scholars blog.
Thanks to Amy's recent post that linked to John Culhane's piece on the importance of amicus briefs, I spent a nerdy afternoon this past weekend browsing through some of the many briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in relation to the two same-sex marriage cases that will be reviewed by the court this session. They are all available to read in PDF at the American Bar Association's website; you can also find a list at the SCOTUSblog. I thought I'd share a few highlights with you. Of particular interest to the folks at Family Scholars might be the brief submitted jointly by the Family Equality Council, Colage, Our Family Coalition, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the Center on Children and Families,  the Child Rights Project, and Sarah Gogin. Together, they seek to represent the children raised by same-sex parents as well as young people who experience same-sex desire as they look toward a future forming adult relationships. They begin:
The voices of children raised by same-sex parents -- those who live every day within the family structure at the heart of these lawsuits -- are too often unheard in debates about same-sex couples and marriage. Their stories are too often missing from discussions of "traditional" families or "family values," and their personal experience too often discounted as irrelegant. Although those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples frequently make assumptions about the quality of the children's family lives, the children themselves are rarely asked to explain what they actually experience.
Throughout the brief, they foreground the voices of young people who are growing up with LGBT parents, and their list of "authorities" (the brief equivalent of a bibliography) offers a valuable starting point for thosee interested in learning more about the experience of people who have grown up within LGBT households. As the brief asserts,
Although the Proponents [of Proposition 8] claim an interest in stabilizing the American family structure, the elimination of marriage for same-sex couples in California and the refusal to recognize valid married couples on the federal level have the exact opposite effect. Placing an official stamp of governmental opprobrium on the relationships of same-sex parents instead serves to stigmatize and de-legitimize the relationships, and, as a result, the children themselves.
Not to mention, the children of our nation who will grow into adult same-sex desires and relationships:
By officially sanctioning their exclusion from marriage and placing existing marriages of same-sex couples in the singular position of being "not marriages" for federal law, these measures exacerbate feelings of hopelessness about the future and perpetual "different-ness" that many LGBT youth already feel and discourage them from aspiring to full participation in civic life.
As an historian, I was also pleased to see both the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the American Historical Association  (AHA) had filed briefs discussing the history of marriage law in the United States. The AHA draws on the scholarship of its professional membership to make several key arguments: that the federal government has historically deferred to state law when determining marital status; that the meaning of marriage is not limited to procreation; that marriage practices have changed over time, and that this is a strength not a weakness of marriage as a social institution. From their summary of the arguments:
Control of marital status is reserved to the states in our federal system. Marriage has always been understood as a civil contract embodying a couple's free consent to join in long-lasting intimate and economic union. In authorizing marriage, states turn a couple's vows into a legal status, thus protecting the couple's bond and aiming moreover to advance general social and economic welfare. Throughout U.S. history, states have valued marriage as a means to benefit society. Seeing multiple purposes in marriage, states have encouraged maritally-based households as advantages to public good, whether or not minor children are present, and without regard to biological relationships of descent. ...For two centuries before 1996, state marital diversity reigned, along with serious inter-state contestation, without Congress stepping in to create marital "uniformity" for federal purposes. Congress never took a position on a marital eligibility question pre-emptively so as to discredit a policy choice that a state might make. Before DOMA, federal agencies assessed marriage validity by consulting the relevant state laws. In historical perspective, DOMA appears as an attempt by Congress to single out particular state-licensed marriages for disfavored treatment.
The OHA, in a brief filed with the American Studies Association, takes up a slightly different aspect of the case.  They outline the history of discrimination towards sexual minorities in the United States, and pointing toward legal precedent for taking history into account when assessing the full weight of discriminatory practice:
As professional organizations devoted to the study of American history and culture, amici are not before the Court to advocate a particular legal doctrine or standard. But they wish to advise the court that the historical record is clear. Gay men and lesbians in America have been subjected to generations of intense, irrational, and often violent discrimination, commencing as soon as they emerged as a group into American public consciousness and continuing today.
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund reminds the court of its historic role in guaranteeing equal protection rights to all citizens, asserting that "The role of the courts is to safeguard the rights of historically subordinated groups by applying heightened scrutiny to laws like DOMA, that disadvantage them as a class."

And finally, it was also heartening to see a number of briefs from religious organizations supporting marriage equality, including one filed on behalf of a truly heartwarming number of faith traditions: the Bishops Of The Episcopal Church In The States Of California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington and The District Of Columbia; The Jewish Theological Seminary Of America; Manhattan Conference Of The Metropolitan New York Synod Of The Evangelical Lutheran Church In America; The Rabbinical Assembly; The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld Of Shaarey Tphiloh; The Union For Reform Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Church Of Christ; The United Synagogue Of Conservative Judaism; Affirmation; Covenant Network Of Presbyterians; Friends For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, And Queer Concerns; Methodist Federation For Social Action; More Light Presbyterians; Presbyterian Welcome; Reconciling Ministries Network; Reconciling Works: Lutherans For Full Participation; and Religious Institute, Inc. (yes really!). Their premise is:
Americans are a religious people, but diversely so. Religious adherents differ on contentious issues, and religious bodies have themselves evolved and disagreed over time -- on marriage as well as other civil rights and social issues. In view of that history and the wide range of modern religious thought on same-sex unions, it would be a mistake to elevate any one view on marriage above all others as the "Christian" or "religious" view. Indeed, it would be constitutionally inappropriate, because civil marriage is a secular institution ... and the Constitution bars the government from favoring certain religious views over others ... Religious freedom means that all voices may contribute to our national conversation, but particular religious perspectives on marriage cannot be permitted to control civil recognition of marriage for all.
These highlights represent just a handful of the perspectives filed with the court, and I encourage all of you to go explore on your own -- and share what briefs spoke to you, and why, in comments.


teazle vs. bedroom shelving [video]

In the past couple of months, Teazle has mastered the art of climbing the shelving in our bedroom in order to snatch the stuffed animals from the very highest shelf. A couple of weeks ago, I had the camera handy when she decided to have a go.


admin note: comments & spam

Hi all,

I've been getting hit increasingly with spam comments lately that aren't being caught in Blogger's spam filter. This may be a sign I need to migrate the blog to Wordpress, but I'm not quite ready for the work that would entail, so ... I've turned the captcha word verification function back on for commenting, to see if this helps clear up the problem. If you are having trouble verifying you comment, please email me feministlibrarian [at] gmail [dot] com to let me know it is an issue. And include the comment if you want me to post it for you.

Thanks for your patience!



quick hit: american sociological association on same-sex parenting and child outcomes

cross-posted at the family scholars blog.

via Religion Dispatches.

The American Sociological Association has filed an amicus brief in the Proposition 8 case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court strongly supporting marriage equality as a positive step for child well-being. They also offer an extensive critique of the Regnerus study used in other amicus briefs as support for upholding the ban on same-sex marriage.

You can read the entire 32-page brief here (PDF) and Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches, above, discusses the critique of the Regnerus study specifically, with lengthy excerpts.

Here, I thought I would share the succinct conclusion from the brief itself:
The social science consensus is both conclusive and clear: children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents as when they are raised by opposite sex parents. This consensus holds true across a wide range of child outcome indicators and is supported by numerous nationally representative studies. Accordingly, assuming that either DOMA or Proposition 8 has any effect on whether children are raised by opposite-sex or same-sex parents, there is no basis to prefer opposite-sex parents over same-sex parents and neither DOMA nor Proposition 8 is justified. The research supports the conclusion that extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples has the potential to improve child wellbeing insofar as the institution of marriage may provide social and legal support to families and enhances family stability, key drivers of positive child outcomes. The Regnerus study and other studies relied on by BLAG, the Proposition 8 Proponents, and their amici provide no basis for their arguments, because they do not directly examine the wellbeing of children raised by same-sex parents These studies therefore do not undermine the consensus from the social science research and do not establish a “common sense” basis for DOMA or Proposition 8.
While I would be the first to agree that just because something is said by a professional organization that doesn't make it true (exhibit A: the classification of homosexuality as a pathological disorder), it is true that professional consensus backed up by a body of literature that consistently demonstrates a set of outcomes requires an equally strong body of evidence to refute. And the anti-equality spokespeople are not offering up that body of evidence.

I encourage those interested to at least skim through the ASA brief.