Thursday, September 13, 2007

Straight Mom, Queer Kids

Yesterday I read a post about seeking diversity at Peter's Cross Station. I left a comment there saying I was going to write my own post about it, but it got all jumbled up with how I feel about being a foster parent and about the feelings I am having particularly about Frankie's mom. But I want to try again, because sometimes when I read something written by a white parent of a non-white child I think, "Wow. Change a few of the nouns, and I could have written that."

Anyway, I gave up on it yesterday, because I could not keep focused. I'm going to try to write about what it means, to me, to be a heterosexual married woman rearing queer kids, about having chosen to parent queer kids, and that seems carries meaning and obligation.

It means educating myself about what it means to be gay or trans in this world, and yet holding back and knowing that I cannot figure out what it means to be Carl, or David, or Evan or Frankie in this world. But it is not just that. I cannot sit at home and read books and try to understand. It is not intellectual work, or not only.

Initially I thought it meant striving to form friendships with people in the GLBT community for the sake of my kids. I thought I needed to have these relationships so that I could get advice I needed and so that my children would have positive role models. So I put myself in places where I could meet people who could give me that advice and become those role models. For the most part it worked, and I have never sensed that the people I approached honestly resented that motivation.

But something happened along the way. First, some of the people I made attempts to get to know became friends. People that I simply enjoyed being with.

And the more fully I thought of myself as a mother to Carl, David, Evan, and now Frankie, the more my sense of my relationship to the GLBT community changed. In some ways it is just that I feel relaxed where once I would have felt awkward. And usually I have felt accepted. Not always of course. There have been times when I assumed that I would be welcomed and found myself wanting to justify my right to sit at the table.

But it is more than that. Where once I would have been an advocate for gay rights, now I am passionate on behalf of my children. Once I might have said that civil unions were not an adequate substitute for marriage, but perhaps was a compromise that should be accepted. Now I hear myself saying, "If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck and turns into an egg when you cross state lines, it isn't a duck. It is a decoy to confuse and pacify us."

And I mean us. We are talking about my children, their potential spouses, and my hoped-for grandchildren.

Parenting children from a community other than my own has meant for me not that I need to diversify my world, so that my children will feel safer here. It has meant for me that I have to claim a space in their world. I have to walk where I do not fully belong. I have to learn to say, with Abigail Garner, "We are not allies. We're family."

As I said in the beginning, this post did not become what I expect it to become.

You see, it is something of a motivational speech for myself.

It is not enough to buy Frankie dresses and let him present as a girl at home. It is not enough to have a transwoman friend to invite into my home to answer his questions.

Committing to parenting him means more than that. It means taking a deep breath and walking with him into the Transexual Support Group meeting.

Because he wants me to.


  1. I wish ALL parents thought this way because the difference between race and sexuality is that sexuality is not marked on the body of an infant. And a queer kid can be born to anyone, not just queer parents. Even if his/her mom didn't choose you, Frankie's lucky to have you at this time. And so is mom, because you are really helping her kid whether she appreciates it or not.

  2. i appreciate your post. most queer kids *do* have straight parents...and allies/family are integral to generating change. so, thank you.


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