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 naÃ¯ve 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?