‘Transnational’: a brief note

A brief note on terminology: I will admit that we’re not, strictly speaking, a transnational family. Technically, that’s when one or both parents lives in a different country from their child or children. Since we both live in the same country and our kid isn’t actually born yet, I’m not sure quite what to call us. A transnational couple? A bi-cultural, bi-national family? (Oh, the little check-boxes.)
But we do live far away from most family support networks, as do many people in the US. And there are people around us in so many less desirable versions of the same situation – some who, for visa reasons, cannot work while their spouse works or studies here in the US. (At least, as the spouse of a US citizen, I have legal standing to work here; my parents, being Singaporean, have legal standing to visit anytime and stay for up to 90 days at a stretch; his parents, being US citizens, can visit anytime too.)
Also, not every family relationship is necessarily transnational: even within large countries like China or the US, one or two parents might live apart from their children for work, full-time or part-time, while grandparents or other family members care for children.
I don’t know what to call our family. Or our neighbours here who are grad-student families. Or the long-distance-but-not-transnational families. Or the families in Singapore where one spouse can’t work, access affordable housing or get permanent residency because they don’t meet income or educational thresholds that are a black box. (See Kirsten Han’s essay on what transnational couples really need – pro-tip: it’s not marriage counselling.) Or the families who are invisible and under the radar in Singapore because both parents are not only not married but of the same sex, whether or not they’re from the same country at all. I’m certainly not going to try and tackle all of these issues at the same time here. But whatever the arbitrary terminology you choose, the fact remains we are all stillĀ families. And that should mean something. Doesn’t it?
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