Hugs. Lots of them.
It is clear to me now that holding my daughter is the most important gift I can give her during this period of intense growth. Since she chose to come out to the world she has grown up so much, but she also wants her mama to embrace her more than ever.
Last night during a long period of silent embrace she whispered, “it’s good to know someone’s here for me, whether it’s grades, sexual orientation, or sexual [gender] identity.”
These days I wonder all the time what we can do to inoculate our kids against the insidious onslaught of a bigoted society? Perhaps holding them as much as they need to be held, every time they ask for it is a start.
Check out the amazing video I just linked to on the Raising Queer Kids Facebook page. It is both a work of art and so touching. Watching it made me feel so clearly the importance of supporting kids, our own and others.
I so appreciate Randy Potts’ sacrifice and courage to go public. His story gives birth to real understanding, empathy, and conversation. Thank you Randy, even if I never meet you.
Family and Drag – Part I
Parents, Drag, and Celebration
This bisexual woman enjoys drag, but has not shared it with her mom, because her mom has been only conditionally supportive. Yet, her mother calls her and asks to she the videos of her performances. At first the daughter questions her mother’s motivation and says no, but after time passes the mother is able to express her wish to see them, without the intent to judge.
This posted depicts the complicated relationship between parents and their children, even when the children are all grown up and living life away from home. I hope that the writer is correct and her mother is ready to be exposed to her drag performance videos openly and with acceptance, if not with appreciation.
The author’s hesitation springs from experience. Her mother doesn’t embrace her LGBT identity, but she doesn’t condemn it either. The point that the writer makes about her mother showing up when asked, but not celebrating her daughter’s identity spontaneously is crucial.
Celebrating your kids for being who they are, without being asked is essential to raising healthy, confident kids and having family relations that are authentic and meaningful. This writer says:
I’m fairly certain that my mother will die and I will still never be fully sure about her feelings towards my life. That’s just the kind of person she is; her cards are usually played close to her chest.
This seems like a common sentiment, but such a sad one. I certainly don’t want that with my daughter.
This writer is brave and vulnerable – right on! She’s right if there is headway made at least one party must be vulnerable and take a risk. I wish her the best.
Family and Drag – Part II
Beautiful Transgressions and Taking the Long View
Speaking of taking risks: recently my lovely daughter was in a big, family wedding. She willingly grew her hair out for six months, wore a pastel bridesmaid’s dress, and as far as I can tell didn’t come out to anyone during the weekend, which would have caused drama that both detracted from the bride’s special weekend in the spotlight and added more stress to an already stressful situation. My daughter was gracious and accommodating or at least that’s what I discerned.
BUT – when it came time to pack for the events of the long weekend she announced that she would be wearing her suit and tie to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. I even took her out and bought some really stylish black dress shoes from the boy’s section of the shoe store. Dressing in what was essentially drag* for the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, was both risky and beautifully transgressive.
Apparently the wedding planner could stop referring to our girl as he and him, no matter how many times my daughter corrected her.
According to my daughter this angered her, yet I wonder if there is a part of her that expected (hoped) this would happen because it drew attention to the very nature of her gendered performance at that moment. She is shrewd like that – she always has been. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about her. She can take the long view when she wants to undermine the status quo/powers that be.
You definitely can get a sense of this ability in My Daughter’s View of Herself, when I describe her clear three-year plan to address gender, then gay awareness/rights, and then being out at school. She may not be aware of her astute stratagem, but do it intuitively.
She’s taking calculated risks, making herself vulnerable, pushing the envelope of accepted behavior, addressing the reaction, and then pushing further. I definitely don’t want to think of this being directed toward teenage defiance. Yikes . . . and wow.
*Notes on Drag
I say “drag” because this is what it must look like to outsiders, but I don’t think of it this way because from day-to-day, sometimes hour to hour, our girl dress in outfits that range from the extremely feminine to the fully masculine. For us it is all her – there is no differentiation between what is performance and what isn’t. It is all performance, and none of it is.
This morning she went off to school in a short, pleated gray and pink plaid skirt, a gray t-shirt with a pink bow embroidered on it, silver flats with silver roses on them, and a pink and gray sweatshirt to keep away the autumn chill. Her nails are painted a precious lavender and she is wearing sparkly earrings.
Which outfit is drag?
Today is the 13th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard.
As a parent I want to make this world safer for my own child and everybody else’s gay child.
I won’t be able hide behind trees and crouch behind bushes while she goes to out into the world in order to make sure no harm comes to her.
What I can do is try to engage others in conversation about queer kids. Until she is older I can try to protect her from the ignorance or prejudice of people who know she is out.
I can be an ally and an advocate.
Yesterday I went to Safe Zone/Ally Training. I suggest that anyone who wants to make the world a safer place for members of the LGBT community consider spending an afternoon at a local training. I will proudly display my Safe Zone sticker beside my office door, so that anyone who needs a safe space will have one.
Moreover, displaying the Safe Zone sticker let’s others know they aren’t alone.
One can find plenty of information about being an ally information here.
Many universities regularly offer Safe Zone/Ally Training. Check with your local university’s LGBT Center or Women’s Center to see if or when they will offer a training session.
October 12th will mark the 13th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard.
I just read a blog which reminds us, in the words of Indira Gandhi that:
Martyrdom does not end something, it’s only a beginning.
Jamie Morris Shacker writes a blog, this positive life and recently published a post Thinking of Matthew. He writes about Matthew Shepard, his own identification with Shepard, and his own life as a young gay man in a small town. I was especially moved by his story,
Growing up, I lived in fear of my hometown; I never felt safe there. I remember walking home from work late at night wondering who was going to jump out of a car and attack me. I still dream about those nights. They were few but impactful nonetheless. Or the bullying in the halls, on the play ground or just the looks and whispers behind my back, into books, etc…
Being a queer kid in a small town is not always an easy thing, in fact I cannot think of a single instance where it is. I cannot speak to what it is like in larger cities, that simply was not my experience. I think it must be the same, I mean no matter how big a city is, if you are ten, your world is your school and you do not have access to others outside of that world. Well, maybe they do today with the internet. But in my day, if you will, we certainly did not have that luxury. Either way for hundreds of kids a computer is simply not enough.
I just wanted to write something, to express these crazy feelings I am having, to emote as I said earlier and to ask all you to never forget Matthew Shepard and to find all of those little queer kids (or any other kid who seems a little alone and isolated) and give them a hug or whatever you believe proper, so they know someone is on their side, that they are not alone. And, when given the opportunity, speak out against hatred and violence towards anyone; words do harm and words can be violent. When you hear someone make a negative comment about gay people in general, a specific person or any group, remember it is these attitudes that brought two young men to a field in Laramie, WY to kill. It is this attitude and ignorance that ended a life.
Everyday I try to let my little queer kid know she is not alone by loving her and celebrating her, but just as importantly I try to surround her with as many vocal allies as possible. Yet for every one child lucky enough to be born into a queer-positive family like ours there are scores out there who are scared and alone. There are scores of children who are being negated and threatened by their own families and communities.
Most assuredly I will remember Matthew Shepard, on October 12th and every day.
This story “Lessons from Sharing the Story of my (Possibly) Gay 6-Year-Old Son” is simultaneously wonderful and heartbreaking. It is so fascinating (and sad) that people both cannot believe that children can know their identities from a young age.
This story is wonderful because provides additional support for the argument that if children have positive role models and understand the very real concepts of gay, straight, lesbian, queer, trans, etc. they will be able to recognize themselves from among these identities.
And thank goodness for Glee!
“Amelia” writes: “It got me thinking and after awhile I started to feel like I knew this big secret that shouldn’t be a secret at all: Every gay adult used to be a gay kid. It’s not as if all children start off as straight until some time later when someone flips the gay switch. We are who we are from the very moment we are born.”
Yes! And the fact that some (perhaps more) children are able to articulate their identities to parents who will listen to them and honor that knowledge is a testament to the fact that we may have actually made our society better than it was before. Nowadays, there is some legal protection for my child. There are pride parades for her to attend. There are t-shirts for her to buy and wear that speak her truth to the world in proud, bright colors.
I’m sorry that one of the messages from this article is just how much vitriol this poor mother has had to endure. I thank her for sharing her story, because lots of people spoke out in support of her too.
We aren’t alone.
I took my daughter to her first 4-H event. We hadn’t met these people before. I looked at these new people. I had to assume they are potential friends. Yet I wondered, are these people open to having a lesbian member? I listened carefully to the parents’ language for clues to their values, their affiliations, but I was still left wondering.
Will we get to know them just to have to sever our relationship with them because they are not welcoming to us?
Three years ago we lived in California during the build up to the vote on Prop 8. Over and over again I was terribly disappointed by the narrow mindedness of our neighbors. It was so hard to live with hatred and fear glaring at us from apartment windows and street corners (of course we glared back). I dread feeling that again, though I know it is unavoidable. If not in 4-H, somewhere else.
I wonder if my daughter was worrying about the same thing.