Upon finding out that I am a queer mama, there are a number of common responses I encounter. As I don’t have a sign advertising my “queerness” and veer towards the girly side of things (thus screwing up peole’s weird ideas of what a queer girl should look like), I often come out after inquiries about my husband. (Because every woman with children clearly must have one of those, right?! That’s a whole ‘nother rant altogether.) This happens on a daily basis, from anyone to store clerks to other parents and caregivers at playgrounds.
Having kids makes you come out A LOT! I cannot lie – I get sick of coming out all of the time. It’s inconvenient and anxiety-producing and awkward and taps into my own internalized crap. Not to mention that having to be the “educator” all of the time gets old pretty damn quick. But I owe it to my kids to be out and unashamed, so I try my best. (Some days are better than others).
I’ve encountered a number of reactions to my coming out…
Of course, there have been positive responses, these are the folks I’ve snapped up as friends, because, for this and many other reasons, they are marvelous human beings. Once, a stranger apologized for having assumed that I was straight. Her, I wanted to hug (after almost keeling over from shock and surprise!)
But more often, I get the “embarrassed silence then edge slowly away” response. Sometimes I get a dumb struck and/or confused look (um, but you have babies!) and sometimes they pretend I didn’t say anything at all.
And then there are the doozies…
1. I hate, hate, hate it when people I’ve just met at the park or the supermarket or some playgroup pretend to be cool when taking in the news of my queerness, and then lean in conspiratorially (to further demonstrate their smooth and laid-back acceptance of my queerness, naturally,) and whisper “Do you mind if I ask, you know, how you did it?” This is really, really, really common. It’s also really, really obnoxious.
The thing is, they always seem to be wanting something salacious – like hearing that I went out and found 10 sailors for a mad-wanton-porn-star-lesbot-babymaking session. Nope. No sailors. (Poor, poor, lonely, lesbian-less sailors). Just me, L., a nurse, a speculum, and a teeny weeny vial of 3168.
2. What do you know about the dad?/What about the dad?/Don’t you think kids need a dad? or some variation of the above.
Yikes. First or all, my kids don’t have a dad. My kids have a donor. Some anonymous guy who spoofed in a cup so people like me and people struggling with infertility could have babies. I love you 3168, wherever you are, for spoofing in a cup for us, whatever your reasons. But spoofing in a cup does not a dad make. Dads are people who are involved in their kids’ lives – who read stories change diapers and play soccer and get barfed on, and so on and so forth.
I think kids have really basic needs. They need love and encouragement and good role models. (I do sometimes worry about my kids’ lack of male role models – but we’re working on that, and that’s an issue for another blog!). I think kids need folks who are engaged and involved in their lives. Peole who worry about them, who listen to them. This, my kids have in spades.
3. Do you think that’s fair to your kids to have two moms? I mean, kids are cruel. Aren’t you worried about bullying/teasing/other forms of social trauma befalling your kids?
Yes, yup, uh-huh. You bet I’m worried about those things! All of the time. But do I think being born to two moms who love and nurture them is unfair to my kids? For real? I think what is really unfair to my children is that we live in a world where it’s still okay to bandy about homophobic bullshit without even having the grace to be even a little bit embarassed about it. Sheesh.
4. It must be hard not to be able to “make a kid out of your love” or something to this effect.
First of all, most kids aren’t made out of love, they’re made out of sex. Whether or not that meeting of egg and sperm is an expression of their parent’s love is, I’m guessing, a case by case kinda thing.
And second of all… my partner and I tried to get pregnant with our son for over two years. TWO YEARS! Two years of incredible highs of hope and devastating lows of disappointment. We laughed together and cried together. My partner held my hand at every appointment and ran home from work on more than one occasion because I called her crying when I got my period. Again. When we finally got those two red lines on the pee stick, after two years of living on a roller coaster, we cried and laughed and danced and sat together in shock and disbelief and elation. My daughter was conceived at the same clinic, with my partner holding my hand and my 1 1/2 year old son sitting on my belly, squishing my face and sticking his fingers up my nose. And if that isn’t being conceived as a part of our love, then I don’t know what is.
5. The absolute worst, though, is when we are out as a family and get “Which one of you is the mom?” We inevitably explain that we are BOTH our children’s moms. Then, almost without fail, we are asked, “yeah, but which one of you is their “real” mom?”
This is so asinine, and so hurtful to non-biological parents. Neither carrying a child to term, nor giving birth makes someone a mom, just like spoofing in a cup doesn’t make someone a dad. Coming through, being there, taking those highs and lows, doing the hard work, holding that sick baby through the night, or comforting that tantruming kid whose body is both wracked with sobs and kicking you, being a disciplinarian, a teacher, a cook, a playmate … that’s what makes you a parent. My wife is the most amazing parent. She is patient and gentle and devoted to both of our children.
I’ve worked in the social services long enough to know that biology is not what makes you a parent. Biology doesn’t mean shit. Being a parent — that, you have to earn.