November 5, 2008

Asanga and Esinakho have two mommies

I don’t need to tell any of the Episcopal/Anglican readers of this blog that issues surrounding sexual orientation are often at the forefront of debate in the Anglican Communion these days. The issue also continues to be a political football in the U.S., particularly in the debate over same-sex marriage.

One (of many) arguments that opponents of same-sex marriage use is some variation of the idea that it is not “natural” for children to be raised by two parents of the same gender. I think about this when I think about the case of two of the children in the pre-school, Asanga (left) and Esinakho (right).
The two are cousins, children of two sisters, Kholeka and Xoliswa. Kholeka and Xoliswa’s mother died in an accidental burning about a year ago and their father left them for another woman soon after. The fathers of their children are not, predictably, in the picture. The mothers are about 21 and 22 and live together and fend for themselves. By the standards in Itipini, they are not doing too poorly. Asanga and Esinakho are generally clean, well-dressed, and pretty healthy, which is particularly impressive in Asanga’s case as she was born 10 weeks premature. (Though she doesn’t look it, she is actually two years older than Esinakho.)

Though Asanga and Esinakho are nominally cousins, they are more like siblings - they live together, go to pre-school together, play and fight together, and see each other all day long. And Kholeka and Xoliswa make no differentiation between the two when it comes to parenting. Each is equally the mother of both children and they split responsibilities evenly. Biologically, of course, each child only has one mother but socially they have two.

How come we spend a lot of time talking about the “two mommies” “problem” when the two mommies are lesbian but not when it is a situation like this? And Asanga and Esinakho are not the only children like this I know. This situation is to my mind more tragic, more serious, and worthy of much more conversation than any “two mommies” scenario I’ve known of in the U.S.

If we’re going to make sex and sexuality the focal point of the Anglican Communion and raise it to the level that it “impairs” the Communion, could we at least broaden the conversation a bit so that we reflect the full reality of family life as it is lived around the world? Teenage pregnancy, absent fathers, and struggling mothers may not mentioned in the Bible in the same way as same-sex relationships but surely we can agree these topics demand a thoughtful religious response.