What is Family?

(Tabién en español)

A particularly important idea that really answers the question, “What is family?” is that a family is what we make it.

Yes, the nuclear family with a mother, father, and two children may sill be considered the norm, but in reality, non-traditional families are a rising majority. a subject that I began to learn more about during a few of the panels at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. Speakers such as Diana Adams and Anita Wagner Illig explained to their audience that there are many other groups that can be considered family, even if their family format is not exactly mainstream: a single mother and her children; a lesbian couple, a sperm donor who wishes to take an active role in the child’s life, and the child; a gay couple, their child, and a surrogate mother; one parent, a child, and grandparents; and, polyamorous groups such as a married couple and their other partners. These may not be the individuals that people normally associate first with the word “family,” but that doesn’t make their love and devotion for each other any less real. They are all important example of what a family really is.

Creative Commons: Gay Ray
Creative Commons: Gay Ray

Fortunately, a wider view of family is starting to become more common throughout society. LGBT and polyamorous groups are now able to adopt children and California has even proposed a bill that could allow for the possibility of legally recognizing 3-parent families. Though the term “family” was undefined, UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16) gave us the right to family since 1948, which doesn’t itself define what a family is.

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State

(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

It is a fairly recent development that this idea has reached beyond that of the nuclear family, which, again, no longer describes the majority of families in this country. Now that this definition gives LGBT families legal recognition, there is hope that in the future, we will be able to share this same right freely with all non-traditional families.

Creative Commons: Eric Ward

Editor’s Note: On September 22, 2012, at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, Woodhull’s Executive Director Ricci Levy announced the official launch of it’s newest campaign, The Family Matters Project, “Woodhull recognizes the diversity of family in the United States and our goal is to protect our fundamental human right to family by eliminating discrimination based on family structure and relationship choices.” Summit attendees were among the first to contribute by filling out cards describing why family means to them that will appear as part of this national campaign..