Queer Family Values

Curator's Note

One of the reasons I chose to highlight The Fosters, is that this is the first show on television that honors and authenticates queer family values. The Fosters, tackles a myriad of contemporary family issues – and at the center of all of this are two moms and their children. The children have come into the family through birth (previous heterosexual relationship that ended in divorce), adoption (mixed-race twins born to a drug addicted mother), foster care (a brother and sister who experienced extreme abuse from their previous foster homes). Yes, all of this comes together in one home – and The Fosters does a beautiful job unpacking the complexities and intersectionalities in each episode.

In this episode, we experience a concept that we do not see in contemporary media – the differences in the values that we can learn from growing up in an LGBTQ family. This clip respectfully and eloquently portrays what many COLAGErs (people with LGBTQ parents) have experienced in our families – experiencing marginalization (bullying, feelings of isolation, homophobia), being made to feel unsafe, and then learning from our parent/s and each other how to navigate that while being empowered to stand up for ourselves and for others. Lena explains, "If you are taught to hide what makes you different, you end up feeling a lot of shame about who you are, and that is not okay." Quintessential queer family values include respect for others and their paths, empathy, an understanding of what it feels to be marginalized and to help lift up others who are experiencing this, inclusivity, and empowerment to be our best selves.

The Fosters is a reflection of the unique and powerful values that we see in our families. The show skips the painful hilarity that has allowed LGBTQ families on TV to be acceptable; gay dads who adopt daughters to play dress up, racist jokes when white parents struggle to answer the questions of trans-racially adopted children, the advent of “gaycism”, the bigoted grandma who cracks homophobic jokes at intended gay dads, the perpetuation of the myth that LGBTQ families are just like straight families – and move us right into a real place where we can finally laugh and cry with a family who experiences what we have.

 

Comments

Aaron Dickinson Sachs's picture

beyond comedy

Annie, thanks for bringing our attention to “The Fosters” and what seems like a new iteration of representations of queer family that move beyond the palatable veneer of comedy. I haven’t seen “The Fosters,” so I’m not sure if the family follows along with the other main trope of queer family that we’ve talked about in here, represented by the “perfect” “Kids Are Alright” family, but from this short clip it seems like the characters, mother and son, are both grappling with issues that seem very real to our families.

Even if they play it right more often than is likely the case in “real life”—and I’m making an assumption about that given that it’s TV—it’s nice to see a show that deals with the substantive issues of queer family without dressing it up in stereotypical clothes for comedic effect. And from this clip, it does seem like the show gets at what you and Danielle both refer to as the values that seem common to many queer families—empathy and tearing down walls, fences, and boxes that marginalize some and privilege others.

Again, thanks for the insightful look at this representation of people with LGBTQ parents and their families.

kellen kaiser's picture

I take it you don't like Modern Family.

It’s so interesting to me that y’all want more accurate representation because I am totally down with sugar-coating. I am sure it comes from some fear based place but I am horrified whenever I see a news item involving gay folks misbehaving, especially as parents. I guess I just feel like we’ve barely made it into being seen at all and i’d rather get a good reputation before shading in the details. I am happy among ourselves to recognize all the nuances and issues but as far as the rest of the world is concerned….i’m into keeping it simple.

P.S. I totally tried to get a gig consulting on “The Fosters,” with absolutely no luck. I thought they should have at least one person on staff with lesbian moms.

P.s.s. But it is a really sweet clip and it is an awesome and revolutionary show.

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