Not Your Traditional Mommies

By Laura M. Olivieri

“Untraditional families are just the same, the only thing you need is a big heart,” said Rey, a boy who requested to be adopted into a same sex relationship.

On Wednesday, March 5, Rey’s two mothers- Zulnette García Ramos and Elga Garcia Casilla- and two other panelists- Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro and Shariana Ferrer Nuñez confronted the “mom and dad” myth at a round table discussion held on the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez Campus.

The round table of discussion was part of the program of the fifth edition of the Colloquium Del otro la’o? celebrated every two years on the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez. An English department professor, Dr.Jocelyn Géliga Vargas moderated the event, which took place on the Amphitheater Ramón Figueroa Chapel.

Professor Jocelyn Géliga Vargas presenting the participants at the round table discussion: Demystifying Mom and Dad, on March 5,2014

Professor Jocelyn Géliga Vargas presenting the participants at the round table discussion: Demystifying Mom and Dad, on March 5,2014

The speakers were carefully selected in order to provide the audience with diverse opinions, Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro is an Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender (LBGT) activist and an award winning writer while Shariana Ferrer Nuñez is part of a student organization, “La Juventud 23 (J23-MAS),” that fights for socialism and independence in Puerto Rico. Zulnette García Ramos is the founder of a feminist organization named “La Juntilla X” as Elga García Casilla is the founder of an organization that promotes working women in the Syndicate, “Comisión de la Mujer UTIER”

Present in the Amphitheater were over 50 people, mostly UPRM students. The event’s mood was serious yet comfortable enough for the panelists to speak frankly. They were asked three questions by the moderator, which they answered with very diverse opinions.

The first inquiry was about their respective identities and labels. Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro answered that she did not make much of labels but she recognized the need of society to label things in order to classify and understand. While  Elga García Casilla said that identifying herself as a lesbian was a very hard process because of her involvement with religion. Elsa’s partner, Zulnnette García Ramos stated that she did not mind the term lesbian as Shariana Ferrer Nuñez shared that she preferred to use the term queer.

The event moderator’s second question was how has heteronormativity affected their lives?  Shariana Ferrer, the only panelist without a child stated that heteronormativity (imposing heterosexuality as the only sexual orientation) is a violent manifestation because it is something that’s imposed by our society. Panelist Zulnette García Ramos, added that it has made some processes in her life more tense or problematic than they should be.

Defining family was the last question. Ferrer, quickly answered that family is an economic institution that will later become, if allowed, a support net. The other three participants answered along the lines that family is defined by those who you share your daily life with, aside from biological family. In a post-session interview, panelist García Ramos challenged the general belief that ‘children with same-sex parents are affected psychologically.’ “There have been numerous studies that prove that these children are not affected negatively, they instead grow up with a broader and more respectful perspective than other children,” said the pre-adoptive mother of two.

García Ramos’s advice to parents who are afraid of embracing their homosexuality is that although the closet is a safe zone– a place you have to leave only when you’re prepared– “a life of hiding one’s true self is just not worth it.”

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