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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Family Values of Lifelong Love

There are scores of ongoing relationships I've covered through exclusive interviews in which the lovers are denied the freedom to be open about their love and are, by law, denied the freedom to marry and have that marriage treated equally under the law.
The family revealed in this two-part interview is a family that politicians and cultural critics (who prattle on about "family values" as an excuse to perpetrate bigotry when it comes to things like marriage) would no doubt hold up as a paragon of the ideal family and would point to them during a speech or use their picture on a website or in a mailer. And yet, they're denied their rights, and the same politicians trash families when arguing hypothetically.

The couple interviewed below in the first part of this interview are mature, articulate, intelligent professionals who're married in every way but under the law. However, they're not only denied their right to legally marry, they could be thrown in prison just for loving each other and must hide the truth from just about everyone in their life. They aren't hurting anyone; why should they have to hide their love and be denied their rights?

Their daughter, interviewed in the second part below, is bright and eloquent, and yet we constantly hear that her parents shouldn't even have given birth to her or her siblings.


Read the two-part interview below and focus on what this family has to say. They sound like the (above) average American nuclear family. Should these spouse be denied equal access to marriage or any other rights? Shouldn't their daughter and their other children be able to watch them file a marriage license?

Assumed names are used to protect this family from prejudiced discrimination.


*****


FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Describe yourselves.

Hellen: I am a marine biologist. We make good money and we recently bought a beautiful house in coastal California.

John: I work in IT as an engineer.


FME: Are you married or have you ever been legally and/or ceremonially married?

H: My husband and I got ceremonially married when I was 18 and he was 20, about 25 years ago.

J: It’s more like we have been married for 40 years though.


FME: So there was now state/county paperwork? Who was at the ceremony? Did they know you are siblings?

H: There was no paperwork, we live in the US, where the laws are very strict about that sort of thing. We didn’t dare try to fill out any paperwork. It was just a small ceremony, we had a few friends there, and our dad was there. We grew up together, so they all knew that we were siblings.


FME: How would you describe your sexual orientation and your relationship orientation... are you heterosexual, bisexual, what? Are you a monogamist, polyamorist, or....?

H: I don’t think I really know what my sexual orientation is. Other than John, I am exclusively attracted to women. I don’t want to call myself bisexual though, because that doesn’t really feel honest. None of the conventional labels really seem to fit.

J: I’m straight. We are monogamous, but I think if either of us wanted another person in the relationship that the other would be fine with that. Honestly though, we are just too busy to take the time to get to know another person.


FME: You currently live with...?

H: I live with my husband and my four children.


FME: Are you full biological siblings, half siblings, step siblings, or adopted siblings?

J: We are full biological siblings.


FME: Your children are your biological children? How are they?

H: We have two beautiful daughters, 12 and 17, and two handsome twin sons, 16. They are all healthy and growing up to be great people. They are the perfect children. They do well in school, they help other people, and they accept and love everyone they meet. I really couldn’t ask for better kids.

J: They were all planned, but Lexi, our oldest, wasn’t planned as well as the others. When she was born, luckily she was healthy, but I think it really hit us that we were siblings and our kids could be affected negatively. So, the next time around, we went out of the country to get genetic counseling. The doctor gave us the go-ahead and we felt much better about having the others. Obviously we hadn’t planned on twins, but they were a nice surprise.


FME: What kind of relationship, if any, did you have while you were growing up? What was family life like? What was your childhood like?

J: Well, our mother died when Hellen was a baby. Our dad was left alone to take care of us, and it was hard for him. He wasn’t always able to keep food on the table consistently, and our sister was older, but still not old enough to work, so financial circumstances were bad for a while. Dad was always loving though, he made sure we knew that he was trying his best to be mom and dad. He was really torn up after mom’s death. He still tells stories about her.

H: Neither of us really knew our mother, but we still missed her. I think that is part of the reason John and I were so close. Like John said, dad was always loving. We always had a good relationship with him. When we told him that we were getting married, there was a bit of a bump in the road. But he came to the wedding and he was very happy for us. We still have a great relationship with him, and he is a big part of the kids’ lives.


FME: How did sexual affection become a part of your relationship? Was it a sudden event or a gradual process? Did you know ahead of time it was going to turn sexual or was it more spontaneous? Is it clear who made the first move?

H: The way our dad tells the story is that we were always hugging and kissing on the mouth. He says that he always found us in our bedroom or the closet playing “doctor”. He would separate us and tell us that we weren’t supposed to do that, but I think after a while he realized that we were having fun and we loved each other. The first time I remember realizing that we were too close for everyone else’s comfort was in elementary school. At recess once we went off to do the usual kissing and holding each other, and one of the teachers gave us a good smack and a scolding.

J: I wouldn’t say that anyone really made a first move, because we were always close as toddlers, but she was more aggressive generally. Especially once we got into our teenage years. I was afraid of hurting her or doing something she didn’t want to do, so I let her come to me. We were never apart though, and our favorite times were when we were together. We started puberty at about the same time, if I remember correctly, and things got more intense. I started having all sorts of crazy feelings for her, I wanted to marry her even then. We must have proposed to each other hundreds of times before we even got past our teens. Neither of us had serious girlfriends, we were so in love with each other that we didn’t even care about anyone else.


FME: Can you describe your feelings during that process?

H: We were best friends and siblings. It is the ultimate bond. We love each other because we are family and we have to love each other, but also because we chose to be in the other’s company. It’s like having your brother, your best friend and your lover in one person. It’s heaven.


FME: Before this had you ever thought this would be possible or enjoyable; did you have any opinion one way or the other about close relatives or family members being together?

H: I suppose we internalized some of the prejudices that others were trying so hard to impose upon us. Once we realized that other people didn’t like how close we were, we toned it down in public. But at home, we were always in the same room. We slept in the same bed for our entire lives. He is the only person I have ever felt this way about, family or not. We had never heard of those things before Lexi showed us your blog. When I was younger, I thought everyone was in love with their brothers!


FME: How do you describe the lovemaking now?

J: I think most people our age have far less sex than we do. I will leave it at that.


FME: Describe your relationship now. From what you've said so far, it is basically a marriage. Do you see each other as family or lovers, or are those two roles inseparable at this point?

H: We have been together since I was born, really. He has always been there beside me as my brother and my lover. We tell everyone that we are married, even though we legally aren’t. Most people don’t know that we are siblings though. Only the kids, our dad, and a few very close friends. Even after all these years, I still get butterflies when I think about him. I guess people call this feeling the honeymoon period, only it has never ended for us.


FME: So only a few people know the full, true nature of your relationship? How did they find out? How have they reacted? Are you able to act like a couple in public? Does anyone know you as a couple but not as family? What kind of steps, if any, have you had to take to keep your privacy?

J: Our dad and our sister knows. Our dad watched our relationship develop, but his attempts to separate us were mostly feeble and incomplete. I don’t think he realized that we were in love until we told him. I think he saw our relationship as kids as playful experimentation and he didn’t want to interfere with that. We told him we were getting married, and that we wanted to be together for the rest of our lives, and at first he seemed opposed, but I think he realized that he had no say in the matter. He was either going to lose us, or accept us. The friends we told reacted similarly because they saw how close we were, even as little kids.

H: When we told our sister, she let loose on all the insults in the book, and accused our father of molesting us, which is 100% false. We don’t speak anymore, but I think she eventually realized that we just want to be left alone. I don’t think she has contacted the authorities, luckily.

We are able to act like a couple in public again, since we moved to California. No one but the mentioned parties knows us as siblings. To maintain this lie, we had to leave our home state. We already wanted to leave, so it wasn’t much of a loss. We had to tell our kids, it was a necessary evil. It is hard as a parent to have to burden young kids with such a serious secret, but if they found out later it would likely have been much worse. Other than that, we just don’t tell people.



FME: Having to hide the full nature of your relationship from some people can be a disadvantage. If you've had to do that, can you describe how that has been? Are there any other disadvantages? Conversely, do you think consanguineous relationships have some advantages and some things better than unrelated lovers?

H: It is hard to keep the secret sometimes, but it’s worth it as long as we can stay out of jail. Our kids understand that no one else can know, but they also accept and love us for who we are.

J: I think our relationship is better than other relationships. We just have a much deeper connection than other people could ever develop. We have known each other our whole lives and we have always been inseparable.


FME: What do you want to say to people who disapprove of your relationship, or disapprove of anyone having this kind of relationship? What's your reply to those who would say that this is one of you preying on the other and that you can’t truly consent? For example, that he must have forced himself on you or manipulated you?

H: I am a 43 year old woman. I am mentally and emotionally developed enough to make my own decisions. If you want to say that I couldn’t consent when I was hugging and kissing my brother as a toddler, then fine, but I can sure as hell consent now, and this is my choice, not yours.

J: I find it a little bit funny when people accuse me of taking advantage of her, which has happened. It’s just so bizarre because she is the more extroverted and sexually aggressive of the pair of us, I don’t know how someone could hear our story or see our relationship and think that I was somehow forcing myself on her. I could never dream of hurting her, she is literally the blood in my veins.


FME: Aside from the law, which I think is ridiculous, can you think of anything that would make relationships like this inherently wrong?

H: I will say that I was worried about our children. But all four of them are perfectly healthy, and the research shows that the increased risk of complications is not very high. I would encourage other couples like us to get genetic counseling before having kids, but the increased risk still does not make this inherently wrong. If you saw us and didn’t know that we were siblings, you wouldn’t say that our marriage was wrong, so why would your opinion change if you found out?


FME: So if you could get legally married, and that included protections against discrimination, bullying, etc., you would?

J: Oh, absolutely. I am just waiting for the laws to change and I will marry her the same day.


FME: What advice do you have for someone who may be experiencing these feelings for a relative or family member, especially a sibling?

H: Don’t be afraid of what people think of you. If you are in love, who cares what other people think? Some day you are going to be old and eventually you will die. Do you really want to spend your whole life without completely knowing the one person who is closest to you in the world? Do you really want to live your life for other people instead of yourself?


FME: What advice do you have for family members and friends who think or know that relatives they know are having these feelings for each other?

J: It’s not really that important, is it? Who cares who they are having sex with? Are they good people? That is all that matters.


FME: Have you met in-person or do you know anyone else who has experience with consanguinamory, or consanguineous sex?

H: I once had a friend who had relations with his brother, but they stopped talking to each other after their parents found out. Other than that, I have never known anyone else.


FME: Any plans for the future?

J: Lexi is going to be leaving for college soon, so we will have to make sure she has everything she needs once she leaves. Our youngest is going to start high school next year. As for Hellen and me, I don’t foresee any huge changes. We will just carry on as always.


FME: Anything else to add?

J: I just want to thank the interviewer for showing us that we are not alone and we are not freaks. We are very much in love, and the six of us are a very happy family, but it can get tiresome to constantly hear about how incest is disgusting and unnatural.


*****


Here's what their daughter "Lexi" had to say...



*****


FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Describe your background.

Lexi: My name is Lexi. I’m a high-school senior in California. We just bought a beach house so my mom could be closer to the ocean. I am the oldest of four siblings, the youngest is my sister; she is twelve.


FME: Describe your parents and their relationship.

My mom is a biologist, she’s a really smart lady. My dad works in IT, I’m not even entirely sure what he does, it’s really complicated. They work really hard to give us what we need and teach us how to be good people. We all have a great life and a great family. My parents are always together once they get home from work. My dad usually cooks dinner while my mom does some work, and then after that we always eat together as a family and talk.

My dad shows love with food, he is always trying to invent new dishes. He loves my mom so much, he is always making her favorite foods and cuddling her. They are so cute together. I have never heard them fight, which I think is because they never fight.

As cliché as it sounds, my parents are my heroes. They grew up really poor, but they worked really, really hard to get where they are today. I think they are the ultimate power couple. They have really set the bar for what a relationship should be like: loving, respectful, and long-lasting. I haven’t really had a serious boyfriend yet, but when I do, I hope we can be like my parents are.



FME: Describe your childhood and family life.

My parents moved to California when they got married. My siblings and I grew up in California, we have been here our whole lives.

Growing up, we always had enough. Always enough food, enough love, enough books and toys and company. We never wanted for anything. Our lives are and were pretty much perfect. We have great relationships with each other, even with four kids in the same house, we don’t fight very often.

My parents are great people. They are patient and they worked so hard to be good parents. I think the first step to being a good parent is being a good person, and they both are. They are open-minded, accepting, loving people, and they passed that on to us. I don’t get to tell them often enough, but I really appreciate all they have done for us. They spent their whole lives in love, and my sister and brothers and I are the product of that love. It’s beautiful.



FME: Does anyone in your life know the full, true nature of your parents’ relationship and how did they find out? How have they reacted?

My grandpa knows because my parents were always closer than just siblings. He accepted their relationship, even after they got married. I have an aunt, but she was much older than my parents. She moved away when she found out about them. I’ve never met her, but she reacted pretty badly from what I have heard.


FME: Do you have friends who don't know? What do they think of your family?

None of my friends know. My mom and dad always told us not to tell anyone, because it could get them in trouble. All of my friends love my parents. My dad is a great cook, and he plays music and my mom is a really warm person. A lot of my friend’s parents are divorced and I think it is really sad that some people don’t have parents like mine.


FME: When and how did you find out that your parents' relationship is something a lot of people are prejudiced against, or is taboo or considered different? When do you find out they were siblings or that most kids did not have parents who are siblings?

I would like to say that I didn’t have some sort of disgusted reaction when they told me, but I guess I was already old enough that I internalized the prejudice of this society. I was about seven when they told me. They made sure that I knew that most people don’t think that it is a good thing and that they could go to jail for a long time. When they told me I was really confused at first, but I gradually realized how much they loved each other and my siblings, and then I realized that people are wrong about these sorts of relationships.


FME: Have you noticed a difference in comparison to other families?

Other people’s parent’s don’t seem as excited to be together as my parents do. It seems like adults get bored of each other after a while, but my parents are never bored. Some days my mom gets home earlier than my dad, and on those days she is always puttering and trying to make the house as nice as possible for when he gets home. Not as like a “womanly duty” sort of thing, but just as something nice to do for him. My dad does the same sorts of things for her.


FME: What kind of steps, if any, have you had to take to keep your family's privacy?

I can’t tell my friends, which is sort of hard sometimes because I just want to gush to them about how my parents have been in love for practically their whole lives. But, I know that I have to help protect them, so I haven’t told anyone.


FME: Do you think consanguineous relationships have some advantages and some things better than unrelated lovers?

I think my parents love each other more than other couples love each other. I don’t think people realize how much work it takes to get to know someone else completely, so since they already know everything about each other, it’s really easy for them to get along.


FME: What do you want to say to people who disapprove of your parents' relationship, or disapprove of anyone having this kind of relationship? What do you want to say to people who insist you and your siblings should never have been born?

I understand that the taboo is very strong, but social customs have been wrong before. Female circumcision is prominent in some parts of Africa, children and women were once stoned to death if they talked back. We now know that those customs are wrong, and hopefully someday soon people will realize that this custom or taboo is wrong, too.

I would like to tell them that it is none of their business. I would implore them to imagine a parallel world where THEIR relationship was a taboo and everyone thought that they were disgusting. Because that is all it is, really. A societal construct, regardless of the Westermarck effect. Not everyone is gay, but most people, even those who are straight, do not think that gay people are gross. So, obviously it is possible to not share a sexual desire but also not condemn it. That is what this world needs to do.

It makes me really sad to think that someone could meet my sister or me or by brothers and think to themselves, let alone out loud, that we should not exist. My brothers both have genius IQs, next fall I will be graduating high school and enrolling in one of the most prestigious private universities in the world. My sister is the kindest, cutest little girl I have ever seen, and very smart too. If someone met any one of us and could still say those things, the issue lies with them, not us or our parents.



FME: Aside from the law, which I think is ridiculous, can you think of anything that would make relationships like this inherently wrong?

Well, having parents who are completely in love with each other, who never fight, and who love us at least as much as they love each other is pretty terrible. Obviously I’m joking, but it is ridiculous to assume that anything is inherently wrong. Even things that have the potential to go wrong aren’t inherently wrong. Are guns inherently wrong because they can kill? Are people inherently wrong because some people are evil? Is sex inherently wrong because some people rape?


FME: What advice do you have for others who find out their biological parents were/are siblings?

You are not defective. You are not an abomination, you are not any of the mean things people say about you. You are evidence that your parents loved each other and wanted a baby more than they were afraid of the very harsh laws, which, in a way, makes you cooler than other people.


FME: Anything else to add?

Please help my parents get married. They are the best people I have ever known and they should be treated like everyone else.

*****


There you have it. Consenting adults living as spouses and raising their children; a family that isn't hurting anyone. Yet, the couple  faces discrimination and denial of their rights simply for loving each other. They are happy and in love, and raising their children, yet they are denied their fundamental right to marry. They could be still be criminally prosecuted in most US states.

Why should they be denied their rights? There’s no good reason.We need to recognize that all adults should be free to be with any and all consenting adults as they mutually consent, and part of doing that is adopting relationship rights for all, including full marriage equality sooner rather than later. People are being hurt because of a denial of their basic human rights to love each other freely.

You can read other interviews I have done here.

If you are in a relationship like this and are looking for help or others you can talk with, read this
If you want to be interviewed about your "forbidden" relationship or that of someone you love, connect with me by checking under the "Get Connected" tab there at the top of the page or write me at fullmarriageequality at yahoo dot com.

If you know someone who is in a relationship like this, please read this.

Want serious analysis and discussion of these relationships?
Thank you to Hellen, John, and Lexi for discussing your lives. We wish Hellen and John continued happiness together and we wish Lexi success in her studies.
— — —

9 comments:

  1. That is so beautiful, I especially like how the daughter is so supportive too. This is obviously a very well functioning, intelligent and loving family, and it is INSANE that the law would break them all apart and jail these fantastic parents. You know, most people could learn A LOT from their example. Reading stories like this should seriously make people think twice before condemning consanguinamory.

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  2. Wow, just wow. What an amazing story from a great family. A brother and sister who have loved each other their whole lives, who have made a life together and are raising a family. This is exactly what we need to prove that there is nothing wrong with this kind of relationship. I love that their daughter's thoughts were included in this interview too. If they read this, I want these people to know that I am very happy for them. I too am in a relationship with my brother, and we have child. When she is old enough we will tell her the truth about us, and I am sure she will be supportive, just as the daughter of these two people here are supportive of them. Congratulations and I wish them all good luck, and as for the brother and sister I hope they will continue to be together and always love each other.

    -Liz Smith
    blond_one89@tutamail.com
    blondone89 on wickr chat

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  3. H I don’t think I really know what my sexual orientation is. Other than John, I am exclusively attracted to women.
    i have heard of this as something that happens to otherwise gay people, that except people that are the same sex they fall in love with 1 person of the opposite sex and sometimes that other sex person is the one, other times they are the only other sex person they ever are with then end up their life married to someone of the same sex.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, but these people have been together for like 20 years of marriage and they seem to be madly in love, I don't think she is going to leave him for a woman any time soon lol.

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  4. I have always thought that there was nothing inherently wrong with incest, but have never acted on it. I also have not broadly proclaimed it due to the usual fears, but I have been able to discuss it openly with a few people. I just want to let 'Hellen' and 'John' know that I am just one more person who supports them and their choices fully.

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  5. I had a relationship with my sister when I was younger. It lasted from the time I was eight until I was in my late 20's. I still love her very much and wish I could be in a relationship with her. We didn't talk for many years for a number of reasons one of those being how guilty I felt. Now we're getting to know each other again but I doubt we'll go any farther than just being bro and sis. It's heartbreaking because I love her so much. I'd do anything to be with her like we once were. I'm so glad this couple is so in love and able to be together and that they have such an amazing family.

    I wish them all the best. Thank you for this blog and for all you do.

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  6. Hellen and John!! I hope you get married, I support you guys and your family, this is so beautiful.

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  7. I am a 72 year old Black man married 46 years to a 70 year old white woman and we have three fantastic adult children. Our marriage at the time was illegal and taboo in many states. I abhor all forms of prejudice and have the greatest empathy for any who must confront it. My wife and I are so compatible so many ways but it continues to amazed me how much I do not know about events of her early life that have deeply affected who she is. What a wonderful world Helen and John have created for their family. Those two have forged a lifetime partnership that everyone who marry can AT BEST only fantasize about. It gives me hope for mankind to know that such people exist. Their "marriage" takes the word to a level so far above the silly, fragile institution to which it refers as to be laughable that THEY should be the ones denied legitimacy. I truly am inspired to strive to emulate the lessons I've learned from the privilege it's been to know their story. Until now I thought I had done pretty good with my marriage and family but I now see I can do better. Thank you all!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Anonymous! What a wonderful comment. And congratulations to you on the longevity of your marriage! I'd love to hear more about your own relationship and any negativity you've dealt with because of it being interracial. You can always wrote more here or email me at Fullmarriageequality at yahoo dot com

      Delete

To prevent spam, comments will have to be approved, so your comment may not appear for several hours. Feedback is welcome, including disagreement. I only delete/reject/mark as spam: spam, vulgar or hateful attacks, repeated spouting of bigotry from the same person that does not add to the discussion, and the like. I will not reject comments based on disagreement, but if you don't think consenting adults should be free to love each other, then I do not consent to have you repeatedly spout hate on my blog without adding anything to the discourse.

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