Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Super-fun Internalized Homophobia Game: What If?

The other day, for the very first time, Boy-o encountered a negative reaction about our family make-up.   There is a neighbourhood urchin, an 8 year old, who is drawn to our home like a moth to a flame.  He practically stalks us, wanting to come over and play constantly.  I've let him, as he's largely a polite wee thing, and he seems to need us, for reasons as yet to be discovered.  But when Urchin realized that Boy-o had two moms, he exclaimed "That's SO weird!"  Boy-o looked a bit stunned.  Then repeated the words I'd told our neighbour urchin, and have told to him a million times before.  "All families are different, Urchin."    But as I stood there, processing what had just happened with a heavy heart (and yes, yes I know it will be an important educational opportunity for Urchin - I just honestly don't care), I wondered how long my words would be enough to soothe away the largely negative messages our son gets from the rest of the world about what a family should be (even though the reality is that barely anyone's family resembles this Cleaver-esque image of perfection anymore, and even though that image was largely a mirage anyways).

This experience, combined with the fact that our son has begun acting out having a father in imaginative play, has opened the floodgates for my parental fears (even though I am well aware that this is just a normal part of exploring the world around him).  What if our kids hate us for not being the Cleavers?  Of course, I know that being different is an asset rather than a liability. But I'm practically ancient, and they're just kids.   I knew going into having kids that we'd have to struggle against messages from the mainstream world.  I just didn't think it would happen so soon.

I know these fears are the product of internalized homophobia - I get it.  I get that even though I scream and rage at the Limbaugh's and Schlessinger's and Coulter's in the world; just like when the 'well meaning'  folks say things like, it's selfish for gays to have kids because those kids will bear the brunt of the worlds' homophobia (even though no one really has kids for 'selfless' reasons and even though it isn't my fucking fault the world is filled with homophobic wankers) their message still seeps into my body somehow. Just like I get that all those kids' books well-meaing folks have purchased for us with the traditional nuclear family seep into my son's psyche and alter his perceptions of 'normalcy'.  The assumption is that kids, particularly boys,  are at a deficit if they don't have fathers.  The "trouble" of "fatherless sons" is discussed ad nauseum in the media, particularly in regards to boys with, um, delinquency issues.  Again, I get that this is ridiculous.  I know that this is based on sexist ideas about same and opposite gender relations.  I know it's archaic.  And still, there is this place in my brain where these ideas still act as a filter to how I see and exist in the world.  We take things in, even when we don't want to, and even when they don't fit for us. 

And so these fears linger.  Not that Boy-o or Girlio will head to a life of crime, but far worse.  What if they resent us?  Hate us even?  (And though I'm sure we'll give them loads of perfectly good reasons to resent us all on our own - what I'm talking about here if what if they feel these things for reasons beyond our control?)  What if we our love isn't enough?   It is almost unbearable to contemplate.

What if they knew that I wanted them so badly that my body literally ached for years to have a baby?  What if they knew that we tried and tried to have them, that we were so desparate for the love of them that we resented our friends who got pregnant so easily when we could not?  What if they knew that they were the most important, the biggest loves of our loves, the hardest, most rewarding, most amazing thing we have ever done?  That we would willingly undergo any form of torture in order for them to flourish, to succeed, to feel loved and okay in this world.  Would it make a difference? 

It is the constant need to both combat and compensate for messages from the outside world, that ultimately makes this issue so anxiety-producing.  So we wait, we watch, we try like hell to instill self-esteem and valuing difference, and we wish on all the stars we can find in the sky that our love will be enough to see us all through at the end of the day.

Working through these fears seems like a constant wrestling match with a slippery crocodile - sometimes I come out on top, sometimes the croc does, and in the end, it could be anyone's game.

Final Parting Words:
Now, if you yourself are a gay parent - I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Hey lady - it says right in The Big Gay Handbook that we are not supposed to talk about this stuff!  It's right there, sandwiched in between "How to Turn Straight People Gay" and "Queer Bathhouse Etiquette."   I know - I know - it feels almost traitorous to publicly grapple with this stuff because it feels like capitulating to the homophobic crap spun everywhere in the world around us. It would look so much neater and tidier for the queer cause if we didn't talk about the tricky stuff and just put up a united front against the haters. I know.

So - for the record - in case there are any Limbaugh-lovin', queer hatin' folks reading my blog for some strange reason - I don't worry about my kids getting messed around in this world because they have two queer parents who love them more than anything in the world.   I do, however, spend a whole lotta time worrying about my kids getting messed around in this world because of Limbaugh-lovin', queer hatin' asshats who spew their toxic shit everywhere, ya dig?  So to steal and turn the famous break-up phrase - it's not me, it's you.


  1. I had an opportunity last week to talk to 'my' kids (I run an after school program) about what a family looks like.

    We were going through some photos of them that I took this school year, and sandwiched in between the pics was a picture of my cousin and her wife that I'd had printed at the same time.

    And they said, "Who are those people?"

    So I told them.

    A couple were shocked, a few went, 'oh' and one little girl was just... horrified.

    And it started the most amazing discussion about what makes a family.
    And they all contributed their ideas and we ended up agreeing that a family is made up of people who love each other, gender unimportant.

    I think it's so important to just discuss things like this. And in the same tone as I'd answer, "Why is the sky blue?" or "Are we going to the gym today?"

    So my point (and I really did have one here...) is that your son and daughter probably will have incidents where people get all stupid.

    But they're also going to have opportunities to educate everyone they come in contact with.

    And that's a great thing.

  2. There was some research lately that showed that children with same sex parents do better, probably because these parents can't accidentally have them, they are all wanted babies. That just goes to show is that love is the most important thing end of story :)

  3. Hi there - I'm a lurker that found you through offbeat mama and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog! This is the first time I have felt compelled to comment - and I just want to say THANK YOU. Thank you for putting into words what has been swirling around in my brain for the last few years. I am currently going through the body-aching-for-baby stage and my partner and I are planning on trying to conceive this December. I feel like such a hypocrite sometimes being all out and proud all the time but then secretly harboring all this guilt about my children not having a father. So, again, thank you and I look forward to your next post!

  4. Thanks Kara! Glad you came out of lurkdom :-) You should check out the book "In Our Mother's House" by Patricia Polacco. My mom just bought it for my partner and I... made us both cry.

    Ami - yes - lots of educational opportunities for sure. It's wonderful to know that there are fanulous educators out there like you! I just wish that the burden of being the educator didn't have to rest on my kid's wee shoulders - because they shouldn't have to...

    FF - yes - love is surely the most important thing. Thanks for the reminder.