In her article "Identity Treason: Race, Disability, Queerness, and the Ethics of (Post)Identity Practices" Victoria Kannen asks, "What aspect of oneself or one’s identity is relevant for ethical attention and judgment? In what type of activities do people engage in order to form themselves, to moderate their presentation, to decipher what they ‘are’ in order to become recognisable?" (150).
I've been thinking a lot about this very thing since last week, when I was interviewed about my experiences as a queer mommy blogger by a rad academic doing research in the area. One of the biggest issues rumbling around in my mind since then has centred around a question I was asked about politics and queer blogging, and, in particular, what I thought about her observation that the vast majority of queer parent bloggers in Canada are markedly apolitical. (You know, except me and my let's hang out all the dirty laundry all the time-ness. Winky, winky face). I think this tends to be true. I have found it to be true in my life and also in the blog-o-sphere. There is, among us queer parents, a certain amount of what I like to call 'appealing to normalcy.' A 'the-kids-are alright-ness'. This isn't accidental, and this is, without a doubt, political. I've said it once, I've said it twice, and I'll say it again. The queer parent position ain't easy. You get accused of appealing to normal on one side and accused of freakery on the other. Untenable, friends. A tricky line to tow. I try, try, try to resist the 'appeal to normalcy' and still, it is ingrained in my mind and in my embodied ways of walking in the world. Those who critique queer parenting from within our own ranks sometimes insist that the very call to parenting is itself indicative of trying to tidy up, make palatable or 'straighten' (if you will) the promiscuous queer life. And for some folks this may be present prior to parenting. But what I can speak to, from the side of being a parent who actively tries to resist keeping up with the straight world Jones', is that there is a real and consistent pressure to be a 'good gay' when one is a parent. To be over-the-top child centred, to be the best and most attentive parent, to be the strongest and most committed (monogamous and happily married parenting unit) to prove that we are good enough for the job and that 'the kids are okay.' You know, in spite of our horrible, dirty, kinky, queerness. Which is, of course, the unspoken by always underlying issue. I feel it, I resist it, and I feel it some more. It's a never-ending cycle of deep down shame and struggling to resist it.
But what does it mean if the kids aren't 'alright'? If the couple who parent is fractious, or, god FORBID, if the couple isn't actually a couple anymore? GASP! Divorced queer parents? Or, like me, divorced queer parent attempting to date and do grad school and carve out a life for myself as well as for my kids? Even if I wanted to pass, I fail, fail, fail at the game of normalcy and same-as-you-ness. My life = societally speaking, not a good 'homelife'. Broken home. Queer home. Split-energies home. Broken. Queer. Split-energies. Guilt. Shame. Bad mother. Bad mother. BAD MOTHER! And so on and so forth...
I feel guilt and shame about my queer, divorced, grad-student, broke-ass parenting. I do. I'll just put that right out there. I feel it with the same stubborn tenacity as my insistence in my right to be a queer, divorced, grad-student, broke-assed parent, and to do so openly and in the face of those who would yell 'BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!'
And sometimes, sometimes my children are great. Happy. Thriving and well-adjusted. Other times, they just aren't. Some of that may be my fault. Maybe it's because they don't have 'a dad.' Maybe it's because they no longer live in the idealized loving two-parent home. Maybe, maybe, maybe. We can maybe until the cows come home and that shit is all kinds of complex. Maybe it's because sometimes, we aren't meant to be alright. Sometimes, for kids as well as adults, shit just goes topsy-turvy. Sometimes, it's just fucking hard to be a kid. To be a grown-up. To be alive. The most likely answer is that sometimes, it's probably a combination of all of these things.
Which brings me back to Kannen's question: "What aspect of oneself or one’s identity is relevant for ethical attention and judgment? In what type of activities do people engage in order to form themselves, to moderate their presentation, to decipher what they ‘are’ in order to become recognisable?" (150).
The reality is this I am many things: a queer, crazy, fuck-up; a dancer, lover, femme; an academic, a thinker, nurturer, fighter; a person who struggles to find her way in the world and figure shit out and take care of her babies. All of these things = a great fucking mother and a half-decent human being.
Sometimes the kids aren't alright, and sometimes they are.
But I'm not going to pretend to be more palatable to make anyone more comfortable - even if that someone is me.
Victoria Kannen (2008) Identity Treason: Race, Disability, Queerness, and the Ethics of (Post)Identity Practices, Culture, Theory and Critique, 49:2, 149-163, DOI: 10.1080/14735780802426643