Queer parenting with pride: Breaking generational patterns
Do you remember when you learnt what ‘gay’ means? I do.
Mum was washing up in the kitchen, and I had been out playing with friends in the street. I was maybe about six or seven, and someone had called me ‘gay’. I didn’t know what it meant, but could tell from the tone that it wasn’t a good thing. I ran through the house to my mum.
“Mum, what does ‘gay’ mean?” I asked. She looked stunned and didn’t know what to say. After a moment of silence, she replied:
“You know how you have a mummy and a daddy?”
“Well, some people have a mummy and a mummy, or a daddy and a daddy. And that means that those mums or dads are gay,” she paused. “And that’s fine.”
Image by: Sand Crain
Fast forward 10 years, and I finally learn the word ‘bisexual’. I start thinking that might be me, but I know to keep it to myself.
While my dad has a gay brother, and my mum has lesbian friends – that’s ‘fine’, remember? – my dad says that bisexuals are just confused and want to have sex with everyone.
I suspect my experiences are not all that different from many other queer Millennials.
Growing up in the ’90s and ’00s, I was taught that gay people were accepted as long as they didn’t splash their ‘lifestyle’ around in people’s faces.
In 2017, I noticed these attitudes come to the surface during Australia’s same-sex marriage plebiscite. Several Boomers told me that it was a GetUp! Australia advert that made them change their mind and vote ‘yes’ to marriage equality.
The video is filmed entirely through the eyes of someone looking at their male partner. The audience sees their first meeting, exchanging phone numbers, dating, playing cricket on their beach with their friend. It’s not until the end of the video that it is revealed to be a gay couple.
This campaign reminded Australians that same-sex couples could be perfectly normal – and it was on this condition that they deserved marriage equality.
Being an out and proud bisexual mother is easy with my children. We have a pride flag and queer art throughout our home, we regularly read books with queer characters, and we have lots of queer friends.
My kids come home from school talking about so-and-so’s mums or their non-binary friend.
I felt so liberated when I shared my own identity with my children. We were reading a book about the origins of the Pride march in the USA, and there were lots of people waving different flags. My eldest pointed at the pink, blue and purple flag –her favourite colours – and asked what it was.
“That’s the bisexual flag. That’s Mummy’s flag,” I said.
Naturally, she asked what bisexual means. I explained that it meant that I fancy all different people, not just boys. I told her that before I met Daddy, I’d had a girlfriend. She thought it was very cool.
Unfortunately, we cannot be open like this with my Boomer parents. I used to tell myself it was a non-issue; after all, I had married a man and had the safety of a straight-passing relationship. Yet, the older my children get, the more I worry about them potentially outing me. What a strange concept to worry about: my children outing me to my parents.
Every time we go to visit my parents, I shut parts of myself off. Jokes that my husband and I make to each other about “bi-wife energy” get shelved instinctively. I become smaller, less happy, less loud, less… me.
Once when we visited, a preview came up on TV for the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. My eldest child – then around six – pointed at the screen filled with joy and said, “Mummy, Mummy! There’s more RuPaul coming!”
My dad looked disgusted. He shook his head, turned to me, and asked:
“You don’t watch that shit, do you?”
I didn’t know what to say. I watched the confusion on my daughter’s face. Why had her grandfather just called a TV show she likes “shit”? Why wasn’t Mummy defending RuPaul?
My face grew warmer. My heart beat faster. I changed the subject.
Like many Boomers, my parents think that being queer is just all about sex, as per my dad’s comment that bisexuals just want to have sex with everyone. They think it’s something that’s hidden in the bedroom, and that’s the way it should be.
They don’t understand that queer people have a rich history, role models, and a culture formed through oppression and finding our own families.
This is the impact of Boomers’ conditional acceptance, and the attitude of ‘queer is fine, but don’t splash it in my face’.
Coming out has never felt safe. I don’t want lukewarm tolerance – I want to be embraced, loved and celebrated. I worry I am being a hypocrite by hiding: something that I never want my children to have to do.
When I told my friend I was writing this piece and recounted all the ways I’ve felt unsafe and unhappy around my parents, she reminded me that no matter how hard it is, we know that we are breaking generational curses here. We are determined to pass on a baton of pride and joy, rather than shame and self-loathing.
I want queer pride and culture to be as natural to my kids as breathing. I don’t want them to simply remember being told what ‘gay’ is. And so, every day I find shame-free ways to parent my Generation Alpha children. I will never make them feel like they need to hide parts of themselves.
It is never easy being the generation in the middle: the one that says, “This ends with me.” There is no guidebook or manual for parenting, much less queer or feminist parenting, but I am proud to belong to a generation that is muddling through.
Anonymous is a proud feminist and mother living on Wurundjeri Country (Inner North Melbourne).
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