May 27, 2015

Yee Won Chong on Chosen Families and Economic Security

by Yee Won Chong
Yee Won is a Trainer, Strategist, and Board Member of Forward Together.
Find out more about Yee Won's work here.

I love that May Day marks the first day of Asian American Heritage Month and ends on the day before Pride month begins. The convergence of workers' right and being an immigrant from Malaysia and being queer and transgender came together for me earlier this year.

In February, the Oregon state legislature started deliberating on making paid sick days a law. This is especially important to low wage workers such as agricultural and restaurant workers, who are disproportionately immigrants and people of color. Oregon could've made history with this bill by becoming the state to use an expanded definition of family to include family by affinity, not just by blood. Alas, they missed the boat by removing language that includes family like mine.

While my blood family lives 8,000 miles away, it doesn’t mean I don’t have family in the U.S. I have chosen families in Oregon and Massachusetts. I lean on them for support in times of distress and in times of celebration. They are named in my living will and healthcare directive along with my blood-related sibling. They were with me at my citizenship ceremony two years ago.

Chosen families is a very common occurrence among LGBTQ people, who may come from families that do not accept them. But this not just a LGBTQ phenomena. In fact, four out of every five households in this country do not consist of the two-parent, nuclear family. There are multigenerational families, families with unmarried partners and LGBTQ families. They are families just the same.

This why I joined the Strong Families initiative and Family Forward Oregon to urge Oregon lawmakers earlier this year to use an expanded definition of family in the paid sick days bill.

Expanding the definition of family will create great economic security for my, yours and all families.

Read more stories from AAPI Heritage Month here.