The Parenting Chronicles: Fight the Good Fight

The hardest lesson: no matter how determined and strong your love is for your children, it will never be enough to completely shield them from hate and ignorance. And sometimes all you can do is throw someone’s hate-filled chicken back at them and hope you score a head shot.

I never wanted to make my daughter’s sexuality a big deal, no bigger than she made it. After she told me she fell in love with a girl I pondered how, and how much, to tell the family. I didn’t want to ever seem like I was ashamed and hiding it, but was it something I absolutely had to tell them? Was I obligated to tell everyone?

Was I going to have to cut a fool somewhere down the line?

In the end, I decided to discuss her love life the same way as her brother’s. No big announcements, just a casual, matter-of-fact mention that they and their girlfriends were doing fine. If someone didn’t pick up on it, I didn’t explain further. Most did, and they all had questions, but no one asked anything offensive (like, which one’s the guy?).

I need to take a minute here, though, and confess to something stupid I said. A friend asked if I would change it if I could, and I said yes. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with it, but because I knew what it would be like living gay in America.

What does that tell us about how we are indoctrinated about sexuality? There are not enough words to describe how much I love every hair on my daughter’s head (and jfc that girl has the thickest head of hair I’ve ever seen), yet my first reaction was to change her to make her life more comfortable rather than change the people who would make her uncomfortable.

 

You know, even as I write this I’m thinking that might be a pretty ignorant question to ask. I understand the spirit in which it was asked, but hey look! It’s more of that brainwashing!

Oh, and that line up there? About knowing what it’s like to live gay in America? Not even close, friends, and neighbors. I thought it would be hard, but it’s really like living in toxic sludge. It’s relentless. It’s deadly.

But I didn’t know that back then, so I sent her off to school with smiles and waves only to have her come home in tears because of the hate they were getting from the other students. Some of the faculty were equally bad (even if their bigotry was slightly more subtle).

And I couldn’t do a thing about it. It’s not just teenagers and faculty who can be assholes. Sometimes it’s parents, too, and when one half of the couple doesn’t have the option of coming out you can’t go charging down there to kick ass and demand justice for them. Even as naïve as I was back then, I knew there was a strong possibility at least one faculty member would take it upon themselves to out her to her parents (for her own good, of course).

I was so outraged and horrified that anyone would dare treat my child this way – over who she loves, ffs – that I had to find a way to fight back.

What I found was activism. I couldn’t fight for her rights at school but I sure could on a state and national level. I’ve spent the last ten years fighting as many ways as my circumstances allow.

I have to admit it’s hard sometimes. By standing up for her, I’ve had to expose myself to people who are far worse than the casual bigots at PB High. I’ve come to the ugly realization that a lot people think it’s perfectly acceptable to deny her the same rights their children automatically get. They really do see her as less than. They truly, actively wish her ill.

There’s no sugar-coating that. It sucks. That knowledge hurts like nothing else ever has. But it’s unavoidable. You can’t successfully fight if you don’t know what your enemy is doing.

Yes, that’s how I see those people. as enemies. And anyone who agrees with them at all is not welcome in my life.

Two years ago I “Facebook met” my sister and brother from my father’s second marriage. There’s a lot of back story and baggage that I’m not going to get into; the basic thing you need to know is I grew up daydreaming about having a brother.

He and I hit it off right away and began the tentative process of letting each other in our lives. I was willing to ignore his love of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, but when I discovered he was a fan of Focus on the Family, I had to slam on the brakes and start asking questions.

He did his best to explain that he would always treat my daughter with the utmost respect and affection, but homosexuality was a sin and he would never condone it, nor would he ever back it on a civil rights level. Studies proved that it was a choice and those who chose it had to live with the consequences. He had a friend who was ex-gay, he knew what he was talking about!

I did my best to explain he might as well slap her face and call her ugly names, that by actively working and voting to deny her basic human rights he was already treating her as subhuman. He couldn’t see how his actions completely negated his loving words. I couldn’t see a place in my life for him.

I’ve heard it said I’m unreasonable for choosing politics over family. How messed up is it that after fighting all these years there’s still enough brainwashing left in my head that I’ve questioned myself. Do I overreact?

No. Not just no but fuck no.

It’s easy to say someone is overreacting if you’ve never cried yourself to sleep worrying about your child’s safety, scared sick the next time it might not be a milkshake thrown, it might be a brick.

When was the last time you looked at a poster showing two nooses and knew the person holding it wanted those nooses around your child’s neck, and knew they have a whole system backing their hate? If your child isn’t black or brown or LGBTQ, I’m guessing the answer is never.

So don’t tell me I’m overreacting. Please. Being able to see this as merely politics is a luxury I don’t have. This is not just an abstract cause.

It’s what I swore to do when I heard her heartbeat for the first time. That smallest of sounds was powerful enough to change my entire world – from that moment on the only thing that has mattered is making sure she is loved and protected.

She saved my life. How can I not fight for hers?

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Brenda

40-something-something stay home mom, floating somewhere between traditional and strange. I’m addicted to music, making things and my computer.

18 thoughts on “The Parenting Chronicles: Fight the Good Fight”

  1. This is so beautifully written.

    I’m a teacher and I work hard to try and create a safe space each day in my classroom.  Sometimes I feel like I’m just talking to the air, but reading this I realise we’ve all got to pull together and do our part.  ‘Cause if I’m not creating an inclusive lesson, an inclusive classroom, an inclusive school, how can I expect them to go out and create welcoming, inclusive world?

    Politics isn’t an abstract idea.  The personal is political and the political is personal.  Anyone who thinks my sexuality, my body, my rights are up for open debate and I should be alright with that because it’s “just politics” has no idea what’s actually at stake.

    1. Yes, exactly – parents can only do so much at home, schools/teachers desperately need to stop dropping the ball and leaving kids out in the cold. It’s heartwarming any time I find a teacher like you; it’s wonderful to know there will be safe spaces for kids.

      And hoo boy do I agree with that last part. The only ones who see human rights issues as ‘just politics’ are the ones with nothing on the line.

      Thank you.

  2. YES. ONE MILLION BILLION TRILLION TIMES YES. I love that girl too (not as much as you do – I won’t say it because you’re her mom and I’m her cousin/as-close-as-I-can-get-to-a sister), and any of my friends will tell you I am FIERCE about LGBTQ rights. I will do anything to make sure that she is not denied the same rights as I have. I was not there for her, but I was there for my friend Brandon when he was struggling with the idea of coming out. I would have been there for her if I had been closer. You are 100% right on this, and I’m just as pissed about this as you are.

    I hope one day that we can take another picture like this, with her in the wedding dress instead of me and me grinning happily as she marries whomever she loves.

  3. This post gave me goose bumps. Whenever I read about people who can be so blind, who cherish being so blind and use it as a stick to poke out anything that doesn’t belong in their opinion in their world, it scares me more than any story about environmental disasters or oncoming wars. Because humans are the fabric, and people like that continue pull more and bigger holes in it.

    1. Yes, I have to agree. Even if we figure out the environmental and world issues, what does it matter if people still act this way? I’d much rather have environmental disasters if the trade off is people getting over this kind of nonsense.

      And I’m going to leave it at that, before I start ranting. It’s too easy to rant about this.

  4. I understand how you felt when you were asked if you would change her. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, one of the girls I worked with asked me what I would do if my kid told me he was gay. She was somewhat horrified when I replied that I would tell him I was proud of him for being brave enough to come out of the closet. She kept pressing me, asking if I wouldn’t be upset at all about it? I finally told her that I would be a little sad, because his life would be harder than it should be and I didn’t want my kid to have a hard life. It really does suck, and I applaud you for fighting to make the world a better place.

    1. Yes, that’s the only reason I was able to stop beating myself up for saying such a ignorant thing – my motivation was always about her happiness. I just hate that in this day and age even the ‘liberals’ still ask it. No one ever seems to ask ‘what will you do if your child turns out to be a skinhead’. You know, something that really should be difficult to accept.

      Of course now I’m always worried I’ve swung the other way – first time I saw  “Over Enthusiastic PFLAG Mother” I about peed my pants laughing at how accurate it is.

      1. That is hilarious, and it reminds me of another anecdote from my first pregnancy! I was an unwed mother, which was a bit difficult for the conservative side of my family, but my dad told me that one of his uncles got really excited and told his daughter that she and her girlfriend should adopt my baby, since they couldn’t make a baby and I wasn’t married. The fact that his heart was in the right place and he was so enthusiastic about his perfect plan made it funny instead of insulting.

  5. So, do these people who think that you’re ‘unreasonable’ for choosing politics over family also feel the same towards your half-brother, who actually chose politics (and religion) over family? And what a stupid premise in the first place, to think that supporting your daughter isn’t choosing family.

      1. For the record he’s my half-brother (my ability to pick what is or isn’t relevant info to leave in is pretty bad), but your point is still totally spot on. No matter the ties he was still someone I just met.

        No one should come before your children, not even parents. I just can’t understand how anyone could think differently.

        1. Ah, apologies for misreading the family connection. There are a lot of step relations (mostly cousins from where I sit, but also aunts and uncles) in my family due to a lot of remarriages, and I get a little tetchy about folks asking me to treat them like the kith and kin that have surrounded me for years and been a part of my life forever. They aren’t horrible people or anything, but they also are not “family” the same way that the people who have been in the family longer. I may have been projecting a bit. Still, I think I would feel the same way about them if they were related by blood. You don’t owe people access to your life and a chance to hurt you and your loved ones, ever.

    1. Oh of course not. Anyone who has said this about me, or others like me (and for the record it’s not just been some familial backlash, random internet strangers have said it as well) think he is right. I’m the bad person for trying to force someone to accept homosexuality.

      I agree it is all kinds of messed up – and the people who keep perpetuating such ignorant ideas are the ones who seem to equate freedom of speech with freedom from getting called out on their bullshit.

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