I have a habit — a very uncharacteristic habit, if you know me — of hearing people out when they’re saying something prejudiced. It’s not because I care to humor them, or I’m gunning for a fight, or conversely because I’m charitable enough to let it slide, but because in this one instance I am a hopeless optimist. I’m always waiting for the big turn-around, constantly shocked that all the -isms and -phobias still exist and weasel their way into my life via “intelligent” “liberals.” It stands to reason, I guess, that if I encounter racism, ableism, sexism and homophobia (see also: heteronormativity, transphobia, etc) from college-educated, democrat-voting, non-religious people, that once I widen my group of friends to include the devoutly religious and not-so-liberal, well…things take a turn for the even worse.
Somehow, it still took me by surprise when, at a get together with other mothers, the question was posed: how would you feel if your child turned out to be gay?
Let’s see, I thought. How interesting do I want this discussion to get? Not very, I decided, and listened as women that I genuinely like expressed their potential misgivings. I realized at that moment that, for the first time in my awareness, I was passing.
Clearly, as I am a woman partnered with a man, having become pregnant with and birthing a child the old fashioned way, it’s safe to say that I’ve been passing for awhile, but it had never occurred to me before. As someone who, in her youth, wore rainbow pins and short hair and suffered the consequences — slurs, threats, dyke bitch hissed as I passed boys I had the nerve to find unattractive — then stopped caring and stumbled on acceptance the thought that I would eventually blend seamlessly into the straight world wasn’t something I saw in my future and certainly not in my present. But, here we were, sitting in a circle over our babies and hors d’oeuvres, discussing a them, not an us, as feels — as IS — appropriate in my case. I’m not sure what made me shy away from being entirely forthright aside from the simple fact that my own sexuality wasn’t necessarily pertinent, but I, of course, said whatever George turned out to be is perfectly fine with me. The conversation didn’t take any real grisly turns; nobody said anything terribly cringe-worthy and the general consensus was that it would be okay. But the fact that it was even a question made me uneasy: would these women be as friendly with me if they knew the truth? I wanted to believe they would; that once they realized a queer woman was already a part of their lives and she wasn’t a caricature or an ethical vaccuum, a pervert or a societal outcast, their perceptions would change for the better. Their hopes for their daughters wouldn’t hinge on heterosexuality. Admittedly, that I am living a relatively heterosexual life renders me less effective at normalizing queer culture but I can hold out hope that it would be a decent jumping off point.
Unlike past experiences which range from equally tame to really, really, REALLY stupid ala the moron Nathan went to school with, stupid enough to tell me, then repeatedly defend a Jew joke, I am not looking to discard my relationships with these mamas at the first sign of discord. Generally speaking, I’ve been a gung ho bridge burner, happy with a handful of people in my life and equally happy to expunge said life of anything unseemly. Now, while I’m not looking to change the world, motherhood has softened me, given me a little faith in humanity and the willingness to work with what I’ve got. So, ladies, cards are on the table: I like girls and frankly, if my son is gay, together we can celebrate Gael Garcia Bernal’s entire catalogue. If my son is trans, I’ll take him bra shopping. I am cisgendered but queer, and I hope we can still be friends.