My daughter woke me this morning with a sign that read “I Love U.” She’d gotten up early, made the sign, and actually waited until the alarm went off at 7 a.m. to run in and yell: “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
That is love.
Then we snuggled under the covers. She asked me to be her valentine. Of course I said “yes” and then we talked about what lie ahead for the day. In 5th grade Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal. Her friend, S., likes a boy, A., and she left a note in his desk reading “Will you be my valentine? I like you.” She didn’t sign it, but all the girls are dying to see if he’ll drop a special valentine in her box.
My daughter’s friends have told her a boy in her class with blond hair and glasses likes her and everyone is speculating that he will give her a valentine. She said he reminds her of QKDad. Apparently that is a good thing, still.
She is not shy telling boys who declare their like for her that she likes girls, but I think she’d be perfectly happy if this boy sends her a nice valentine.
Seriously, who doesn’t like to be liked?
Today I appreciate those around me AND I am valentine to one of my favorite people in the world. Happy Day y’all.
This is a post that invites you to talk to us or suggest a topic.
What do you think? What are you wrestling with at the moment? Send me your thoughts and suggestions.
Here’s what I’m running with today . . .
Yesterday I received this comment from TJ:
Love this post and am thoroughly celebrating your very precocious queer daughter. Another point for all those “How do you know for sure?” naysayers: Sure, this young person’s gender and sexual identity may shift over time. Maybe many times. And her crushes may look very different from day to day: femmy girls, boyish girls, bois, queer bio-boys, trans-folk, whatever. I celebrate the wonderful flexibility that comes with being queer and NOT having to pick identity boxes. So proud of your daughter for asserting her queer self so early, and hoping that pressure from conservative straight OR gay communities never stifles her self-expression.
I love this comment! Yes, yes, yes. There is a whole exciting world out that that she doesn’t know exists, and she really isn’t ready for. Yet it is exciting to think of all the exploring she will do as she grows up, not just in meeting different people, but traveling to different communities, and trying on different identities.
I hope she sends back stories to her ol’ mom about her amazing week at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival or some other cool event or destination.
Lesbian, Gay, Queer, Femme, Butch, . . . : The Power of Labels
I use the word lesbian to describe my daughter, because lesbian and gay, are the words she chooses to describe herself. I prefer queer because I see it as more inclusive and less restrictive, but she is young and hasn’t become aware of all the nuances of identity and attraction. But for her lesbian has a strong identifiable history, community, and a connection to feminism. Being a feminist is also an important feature of her identity.
She is at a stage where clarity of identity is important – especially since she lives in a less accepting environment. The kids she interacts with on a daily basis may know the concepts of gay and lesbian, but not usually. Anything beyond the straight-gay binary is just too complicated yet.
She likes saying “I am a lesbian and I am proud,” “I am a feminist and I am proud.” Ah, the power of labels to make us feel powerful!
A Universe of Possible Crushes
TJ, you are absolutely right. She made the picture of Dreamgirl X, because that lovely lady is one familiar type of female she interacts with and is drawn to. Someday hopefully she will travel to other places and meet other types of people.
The spectrum of gender performance and identity in elementary school is so very, very limited. In fact, she may be one of the few who actually push the envelope of gender non-conforming appearance.
In high school I think there is greater freedom. For instance, there is a slim high school-aged check-out girl at our local market with short, dyed hair and hip, arty glasses. She doesn’t look like your typical Southern high school girl.
Last week while I was looking at the cheeses in the refrigerated display of our local market my daughter leaned in toward me: “that girl’s cute” she said with a shake of her head toward the girl working the register in the lane behind us.
Apparently this short-haired nerd-pixie is also her type.
I leaned in, looked over my shoulder, and whispered, “we’ll have to go to her lane then when we are done shopping then.”
*Sigh* Isn’t the local grocery market a quintessential location for young crushes?! So sweet. (Reminds me of John Updike’s short story, “A&P”)
I am thankful that my daughter will share these harmless, innocent observations with me, because I am sure I was too embarrassed or insecure or private or something to share such a detail with my mom.
Gender Performance and Feeling Awesome
I’d also like to add to TJ’s comment to my post How Do You Know For Sure [that your daughter is a lesbian]?, to say that my daughter likes to play with gender performance too. But this is obvious to the people who know her – her sexual orientation is not (and therefore must be proved).
The other night she and I went to her very first play – not an animated kids’ story made for Broadway or the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular, but a real get-your-catharsis-on play. This was exciting for her and so asked if she should dress up. “Sure” I said and off she went, thrilled to wear her suit and tie. She came back to my room dressed in her gray pinstripe suit to make sure I was wearing an outfit that would compliment hers(!). She’d decided I should wear gray or black, but immediately approved of my navy blue Mad Men-inspired dress with pearls and pumps.
We had a wonderful night at the theater and she reveled in how “handsome” she felt. She even took a couple extra spins before the mirror just to enjoy it fully.
So, as TJ says: So proud of your daughter for asserting her queer self so early, and hoping that pressure from conservative straight OR gay communities never stifles her self-expression.
I hope that coming out and growing up in the Bible Belt committed to being her authentic self means that when she’s grown there is nothing that can stifle her.
Lastly, thanks for all the great comments I’ve gotten this week!
My daughters aren’t even thinking about boys yet.
In some families with ‘tweens (kids ages 9-12 years old) the kids aren’t being vocal about liking or admiring anyone in their class, at church, or on their swim team. It seems that they are wholly asexual.
So when I say “yes, my daughter is a lesbian, and yes, she is out at school” it seems like a strikingly sexual assertion.
I argue that preteens are surrounded by and identify with heterosexual romance and heterosexuality in ways that we don’t even notice. Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber bring straight sexuality and romance into the bedrooms and carpools of most American children and we don’t think about it at all.
This is how it was for my generation and this is how it is for my daughter’s generation. Listening to romantic and sexy songs is one important way we become individuals with romantic (and sexual) ideas and desires, ideas and desires defined by the culture we live in. This is totally normal.
Let’s take the lyrics and videos by Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber for example. Remember, these songs are pretty tame compared with some of the things our kids listen to everyday.
The video for Swift’s 2009 hit You Belong with Me features the adorably nerdy Swift longing for the attentions of her cute, young, male, football-playing neighbor.
I’m in the room, its a typical Tuesday night
I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like
And she’ll never know your story like I do
But she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts
She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers
Dreaming bout the day when you wake up and find
That what you’re lookin’ for has been here the whole time
If you could see that I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can’t you see?
You belong with me
You belong with me
By the end of the video, the authentic, quirky, yet very lovely Swift casts off her glasses, takes down her hair and captures the attention of the romantic male lead. She rescues him from the clutches of the stoney-faced, cheer captain also played by Swift.
My daughter, as well as all her friends, know every word to this song. It is innocent enough and the yearning for the attentions of the cutie who seems unaware of our hidden charms is typical.
However, this song and video like so many others just like it make heterosexuality for kids in elementary school and middle school so normal that it becomes invisible to the adults in their world.
Turning to Justin Bieber, his song Baby (with Ludacris) from 2010, even describes a love “affair” ended and mourned by the age of 13. The video is so focused on opposite sex relationships that it includes a boys vs. girls breakdancing showdown.
Both Swift and Bieber were still in their teens when their first hit songs topped the charts. Not much older than the ‘tweens who sing along to their music.
If every future straight adult, that harmlessly indulges in the desire to be or be with Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber were to wear a t-shirt that said “I’m straight” to elementary or middle school one day, my child announcing “I’m gay” would seem pretty insignificant.
No preteen sexuality in your house? Unlikely. (But that’s okay.)