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Archive for June, 2008

Howdy folks…it’s been a while. Luckily, we were enjoying a bit of family r and r. Much needed. Much enjoyed. Now, very much back into the swing of things.

On our travels, which took us, with great luck, to the Caribbean, I found myself watching in a new way to see what folks, both local and tourists alike, noticed about my family, what they said about Q, etc. Much of the week, spent in a bathing suit, Q was referred to as a boy. And yet I found myself intrigued to watch the social dynamics that arose amongst some of the kiddos around the pool. While other boys were drawn to each other by that mystical magnet that draws kids together somehow, Q was not similarly pulled into the rough and tumble games, to the ball tossing, etc. He didn’t show any pull, nor did they offer up their so-called magnet to him. His magnet, however, seemed to pull the girls towards him — coming up and just starting to chat with him. He readily entered into play with them, chatting away. This dynamic is intriguing. Not because it’s abnormal. Not because I think the only “natural” thing is for kids to play with others of the same gender/sex. But mostly because it was the girls who sought out Q. And it doesn’t only happen on vacations. Q’s best friend is a girl, and I think this has always been the case. I think there’s an energy to him that draws him to girls and that draws them to him (I’m sure someone imagining he’s a teenager might be chuckling mightily here…). And it’s that energy that interests me. And I think that’s the same thing that mystifies others.

But getting down to the whole protecting myself and protecting others; the real point of this post. As we awaited our airplane for the return flight, Q and I were in the bathroom. True to form, he wore his favorite, The String Tanktop. In the bathroom, a woman heard him humming a lullaby and said happily, “Oh, she’s the one humming! Now I’ll be relaxed and able to sleep on the plane.” I smiled and chuckled, but didn’t correct her about Q’s gender (as per our frequent conversations/check-ins with him about this).

But then I set to reflecting on this interaction. It is easy enough for me not to correct others. They don’t know that they are wrong, and it’s simple to continue that way. So I thought at first, “Ah yes, the magnanimous person that I am, I’m protecting those who mistake Q for a girl from the embarrassment of revealing their mistake” (as this mistake does seem to cause SUCH embarrassment in the general public for some reason). Then, since our wait for the plane was Oh So Long, I began to peel off the layers of that interaction. And when I did, I had to face the truth that in not correcting others, I’m also protecting myself. The same old punchline, in a way. If I don’t correct a mistake about Q’s gender, then I don’t have to address any questions about why I “let” him wear the clothes he wears, etc. And I really don’t want to be confronted with any comments about how he needs to look like a boy, or anything of that ilk. And I know that many folks don’t harbor such comments. But some do. And I’ve heard them. So, while I feel justified in protecting myself to a certain extent, it also means I don’t have to go out on a limb to expose myself. And in exposing myself, that’s where I usually have the chance to broaden minds, to enlarge the territory that boys are seen to inhabit. So there is a cost to the protection. And also a benefit. So, a quandary. Of course.

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I find myself thinking a lot about the opposing polarities in my life lately and how, while sometimes diametrically opposed, there’s often a deeper, complementary level. With regards to mothering Q, it shows up in the form of fear and embracing/being embraced.

Here’s what the fear looks like: When we’re with folks who have yet to see Q in a dress, I often approach the situation with trepidation. This, in spite of the fact that my boy prances in happy and full of confidence. I find myself, in spite of my desire to trust the goodness in people, in spite of the past showing me overtly the open hearts that people have, fearing their reactions. What will they think about him? More importantly, what will they think about me? Where are my boundaries? Am I trying to damage him somehow by “letting him get away with this?” Though I know on some rational level that fear like this is often unfounded, it remains.

Recently we were at a celebratory gathering and I saw someone who I had met years prior yet who had never met Q. She said, “You have such a beautiful daughter!” In my eyes, he didn’t look particularly girlish that day, but I guess his clothes were enough outside the gendered norm to code as such. My heart skipped a beat at this. I took a millisecond to take a deep breath and then smiled and said, “Actually, he’s my son.” She smiled and said he was beautiful. No judgment seemed to cross her face. I feared her reaction. I feared what she might say to others about me. No matter if/how I know those others. And I must admit that I noted that Q likes to push the boundaries of gender with his clothing. Did I say it to make it okay? To explain further? To make me feel better? To make it his responsibility? I’m not certain, but I do know that fear played a role.

The thing, though, that is funniest (when I really sit back and think about it) about my fear here is that, in our day-to-day lives, it is rather unfounded. We live in a community that embraces our family and a wide variety of identities, so Q isn’t so “out there” given the spectrum around here. The same can be said for his school. Our friends too; of course we are closest to open-minded, loving, and embracing people.

So why do I still carry this fear around with me? I think it’s because of the bigger world out there. The world beyond the boundaries of my city or outside the walls of his school. The world that is unforgiving when folks don’t fit into widely accepted molds. Particularly when those folks are boys or men. So that’s where the fear is from, and I think a little bit of it creeps in even if I’m in the presence of folks who I know do not fit that “bigger world” mold.

And I think the fear will always be there. It definitely diminishes each time Q is known and loved for who he is, as opposed to judged. So the fear and the embracing work off of each other and are, in the end, two sides of the coin.

More soon on specific acts of love and embracing towards Q – truly amazing!

And a not-completely-recent photo as I must find the battery charger….my apologies.

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This is my first opportunity to participate in Blogging for LGBT families day. I’ve read blogs in past years on this day, but never had one…until now. What a great concept to build community, visibility, and compassion. Which is really what my blog is all about.

I didn’t really know how, in particular, I wanted to approach this day. So I decided that I’d stick with my theme and share thoughts about my mothering journey, which is really all about a lesbian family.

What I’ve found since I’ve really started to pay attention to my own stereotypes, discomforts, and biases as I work to support and raise a healthy, gender-boundary-pushing son, is that allies are out there everywhere. When I worry the most about him announcing his love for purple or fairies or dresses, I’m most likely to be smacked in the face by compassion. Those are the moments that I love the most. It’s really because they are the most painful and cause me to peel away my biases about people and their perceptions of the world.

At first, I worried that straight folks would have the hardest time dealing with Q not fitting entirely into the boy gender mold. My worry, though, was a path directly into confrontation, as I realized that many of those straight folks are perhaps more understanding, more willing to embrace a boy outside of “gender guidelines” than some queer folks. While I haven’t experienced any discomfort from queer folks directly, I have definitely been heartened by the understanding, support, and compassion that straight parents of Q’s friends have shown him, which revealed to me the stereotypes that I have around sexual orientation and its correlation with open-mindedness. So yes, once again I my own stereotypes and narrow-minded thinking come back to smack me in the face. But in a good way, because I do believe that with that smack comes an opening of the mind, a relaxing of my defenses. And ultimately more love for Q.

Just yesterday, as we celebrated Q’s birthday, he received, among other things, two books about fairies. And that just made my heart glow. His friends and their parents know of his passion for fairies, and as opposed to sidestepping that passion and getting him something perhaps a bit easier to stomach as a gift for a boy, they boldly stepped out to gift him these books. Amazing. I know it’s a small act, but I do see it as an act of compassion and understanding. And an act that shows me the support that our small little lesbian family finds within our community. Most important, for me, is how that support manifests for my dear boy.

So blogging for LGBT families…I think I do it every day. I blog as a way of making my family visible and building support out in the world for others like us. I blog to create a closer-knit “family”/community around us for the moms and our boy, and I blog, honestly, as an exercise in expanding my own compassion, open-mindedness, and understanding.

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