Friday, July 11, 2008

The p00fter-basher within

Granny & babies

Last night I did this survey on the experience of gay and lesbian parents. Ruth McNair is doing it through the Bouverie Centre in Melbourne, so it's all very proper.

Anyway it's started me thinking about internalised homophobia all day, specifically mine, and how it affects my parenting.

As a parent, I am so much more out than I ever was before. I am pretty out - I certainly don't choose to be closeted - but I know that just walking along the street, people don't assume I'm a dyke.

I knew I would have to become more out once the babies came, but I didn't really get what that would be like. Twins get a lot of attention, and when Lovergirl and I are out wearing one baby each, someone always says, 'What beautiful babies - whose are they?' So, we say, 'Ours'.

This has always been fine - as in, we haven't had any negative responses - although often people take a second to really get what that means. I can see realisation flit across their faces. 'Huh? Umm? OOHHHH!' Then they will quickly move on to talking about something else about the babies, 'Are they eating solids yet?'

Lovergirl said, 'I feel really exposed.'

Another common interaction, when I am out by myself with Lucky & Junior, goes,
Total stranger (usually mature woman): 'What beautiful children! Is your husband Asian?'
Me (in a warm friendly tone): 'No, my partner is a woman and she's Anglo. The donor is Chinese though.'
Total stranger: 'Ah..'

Sometimes I dodge the pronoun. More people say 'partner' now, so it's easier to do this without actually lying. But I know I'm walking away from the conversation leaving the impression that I'm straight.

I know that, having brought children into my family, I have a responsibility to model being proud of who we are. I want to get really confident with outing myself so that by the time the children can understand, they will see that it's no big deal and that we think our family is the best family to be in.

I'm out at work, at mothers' groups, to all my family - anyone I've met more than once, really. What's new is this constant outing to complete strangers. Shop assistants. Old ladies. Random Asian people who admire the babies. Other twin parents stopping us in the street to exchange notes.

When I think about it, what do I fear? I don't really think many people are going to beat up a woman with twin babies in a playground (which is usually where I am). It's more about disapproval. And some weird taboo about not wanting to make people uncomfortable. And people often look uncomfortable, when they ask an innocuous question and unexpectedly are confronted with my sex life.

So, the avoiding the risk of disapproval and discomfort from strangers, or safeguarding my children's self-esteem?

I know this is something my mother also struggles with. She has confessed that sometimes she uses a short form of Lovergirl's name (it contracts to a boy's name) when referring to my partner. My mother is learning the pronoun game. I find it a bit insulting, but also can see why she does it - she is being thrust into the position of having to come out, as well. (What would be the fear for her, I wonder? Being perceived as a failure as a parent, for producing gay children?) We both need to learn to do better quickly, before the kids pick up on it.

I'm going to practice harder.


Chris said...

How terrible for people, to ask a question about your reproductive habits and then suddenly have to think about your sex life... ;)

mikhela said...

Ha! Now that I think about it, they should have to do less thinking about sex with us - given that our children were a modern version of an immaculate conception - than they would have to do when they are pondering the origins of het couples' offspring.

E, M, and the Little Man said...

I wonder what their first thoughts are when they think of how we got pregnant? Do they think of syringes, turkey basters, vials of sperm? Or is there just a blank in their mind if they have no frame of reference...

I always find it awkward to come out to strangers about our family, but feel it must be done. I have to show a good example for Teo. A lot of people jump to the conclusion that Maria and I are mother/daughter, I guess because there is a bit of an age difference between us. I don't see it, but somehow that's where they go...

Mikhela said...

I suspect it's a blank. Some brave people ask questions, which I'm happy to answer - I think it's good to demystify. Lovergirl finds it intrusive, so that's a personality thing.

On a couple of occasions people have assumed LG and I are mother/daughter, which drives LG completely wild. I think it is because people pick up on the intimacy between us all (me, her, the kids) and are quickly trying to make sense of the relationships.

JahTeh said...

Not quite in the same category but the looks I get from family when I say I'm a member of the VGLRLobby is priceless. It's running across their faces, 'Is she...' 'Is that why he divorced her..' 'She's a bit old....'
I've given up trying to explain to the oldies and the young don't care.
It's lovely that people stop and admire your babies.

mikhela said...

i love 'she's a bit old' - does one become too old to be heterosexual?

Lizzie said...

Thanks for this. I think about it a lot - being proud and out even more with kids so my children won't learn inappropriate shame. So much work I need to do. But you hit on it with the whole not wanting to make strangers uncomfortable ..... Sigh.