Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Redefining Family Membership: How YMCAs and Other Clubs Discriminate Against Our LGBTQ Families

Recently, the local YMCA—of which I am a member—has been considering merging with another larger YMCA in the area. One of the stumbling blocks in the talks about merging has been the “family membership”.  Why “family membership”? Because many “family memberships,” which offer a great discount to a family, who are usually strapped for money, have determined that a “family” is one man and one woman, with no variation. I was surprised that there were no other options for my family of two men and children. “Name of wife/mother” and “Name of husband/father” were the only blanks offered on the form. After a series of discussions over a period of months, the YMCAs reached a compromise, simply putting the words “Parent” where gender language was used before.
            My family is not the only one confronted by this legal form of discrimination. The “Hands On Children’s Museum” in Jacksonville, FL used a similar form that specified that a family was one mom and one dad.  There was no space for “partner,” “moms” or “dads,” let alone a place for aunts, uncles, grandparents, or godparents.  If the one mom included the other same sex partner as a “friend” there was an additional cost to the family membership.
            YMCAs and the “Hands on Children’s Museum” are not the only ones with this practice of specifying that family include one man and one woman.  It usually isn’t until we start joining groups and organizations that offer family membership that we discover whether or not our families are considered a “family.” Slowly, but surely, we will change the small and large obstacles that stop us from our same sex parents being accepted as one of the models for being qualified as a “family membership.”

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