A Glimpse of the Family in the 21st Century

By: Nicole Cordero

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     “It’s fine to have wheels, to be round, to have several moms or dads; it’s okay to be adopted; it’s good to have dreams,” Rey read from a book titled “It’s okay to be different,” given to him by the Department of the Family when he turned seven. That’s when Elga García asked him: What do you dream about, Rey? “That you and Zully adopt me,” he answered.

     That was the moment that brought down tears to the people who gathered on Wednesday, March 5 at the Amphitheater Ramón Figueroa Chapel in Carlos Chardón Building at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez as part of the “V Coloquio ¿Del Otro La’o?: Perspectivas Sobre Sexualidades “Queer””(V Colloquium From the Other Side?: Perspectives on “Queer” Sexualities).

     This anecdote, was told by Elga García as part of the testimonial round table entitled “Queeriando la Familia: Confrontando el Mito de Mamá y Papá ” (Queering the Family: Confronting the Myth of Mom and Dad), a round table that addressed the issue of diversity in families today.

     The most recent population census, conducted in 2010, indicates that 55 percent of families in Puerto Rico do not respond to the traditional model and that more than 65 percent of births in the island are not within a traditional marriage, said Professor Jocelyn Géliga, the session’s moderator, in her introduction.

     Identity and labels, the dogma of heteronormativity and the meanings of the family were the topics discussed during the round table.

     On the issue of identities both writer Yolanda Arroyo , winner of the Institute of Culture of Puerto Rico 2012, and Zulnette García, sociologist, identified themselves as heterosexual during their youth but later in adulthood as lesbians On the other hand, Shariana Ferrer, a feminist and human rights activist, defined herself as “queer” and stated that she sees sexuality as fluid. The fourth panelist, Elga García, winner of Martin Luther King price in 1990 for her community work in La Perla in San Juan, identified herself as a “pure lesbian.”

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Jocelyn Géliga, Yolanda Arroyo, Shariana Ferrer, Zulnette García, Elga García. (left-right)

     All of them admit during one point of their life being victims of heteronormativity or the social pressure to accept and live within previously established rules and pursue the dream of hetero-ordinary family.

     For Zulnette García it was during the adoption process of Rey and Dalianis, fearing that being honest about her sexuality would cost her and Elga García the approval of their application. She is grateful, however, that they never felt any discrimination from the Department of the Family.

     However, in an interview, García said that on one occasion she had a conflict in the children’s school, which led her and her partner to the office of the principal because a mother complained that she and Elga García had kissed in the school. García said to the director that it was a lie and that “the problem was the other mother who could not cope with the situation.”

     The roundtable was attended by about 60 people who included professors, students and non-teaching staff and culminated with a round of questions.

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The activity culminated with a round of questions from the audience.

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