I was asked recently if I was a queer parent.
Am I a what?
I have two kids, one daughter and one son. My daughter is currently identifying as non-binary and is going by a different name and my son… well my son, bless his heart, thinks he needs to be gay to fit in and wishes he was black. I’m not kidding. This is literally the conversation that has been happening at my house. I came out to my family two years ago and the narrative of our family hasn’t been the same since. It’s been tough and it’s been beautiful. And definitely queer. But, exactly what does it mean to be a queer parent?
I had the pleasure of interviewing a couple, Tiffany and Gloria. Together for four years, about to be married, gender fluid, and polyamorous, these two are the poster children for queer families. They have two ridiculously gorgeous children. Their eldest identifies as she/they and lesbian; their younger daughter wants to change her name to 'something more African-American'. As Tiffany explains: “When I was younger I wasn’t as woke. I didn’t think about what I was saying by giving my daughter a white girl name.” All I can think is, wow. How amazing that this 9-year old has the wherewithal to want to identify with her culture?!
The girls have been homeschooled after some incredibly difficult situations happened with their classmates. Their decision to pull them out of traditional school was intentional, the choosing of their home school group was intentional. They wanted to make sure that they were giving the girls an environment where they would feel safe. They have been in Atlanta for the last year and a half and it’s been challenging. The girls experienced being made fun of at their schools because they weren’t dark enough or because of their religious beliefs.
“It’s funny,” Tiffany mused. “In Minnesota, we dealt with a lot of homophobia and here we deal with more racism, you’d think it would be opposite.”
With that being said, Tiffany explains further, “It’s so sensitive and there are so many things we are working through as people. I think that it’s a lot to expect that everyone is going to be the healthiest parents. Unhealthy, dysfunctional parenting is something that is an unfortunate symptom of the society we live in. And I mean I can have a lot of grace but we can’t be in a situation where we are affected by people who are toxic. Especially if it’s their kids.”
“It really is all about intention,” Gloria replies. “And it’s important to remember that dysfunction doesn’t just happen in hetero-communities. It’s not like we don’t know queer people who have issues.”
I ask Tiffany what being a queer parent means for her? Tiffany responds, “For me, when I use the word queer I think of anyone who falls under LGBTQ + spectrum only because most people I know that are across the spectrum also identify as queer. Also, I have met people that don’t consider themselves queer and only consider themselves Gay or Lesbian so it’s just like a difference… but me, I identify as Queer and I’m also gender-fluid. It really does mean something different to everyone.”
Then like a beautifully wrapped package, I was given Kendra and Tony. I had known them to be a heterosexual couple with an 11-year-old daughter. Upon meeting them, however, I found out that Kendra identifies as bi-sexual. She and Tony also have a girlfriend. A girlfriend that they recently told their daughter about.
Kendra and Tony talk about how they’ve raised their daughter, “We started having sex talks with her when she was about six,” Kendra explains, “We wanted to make sure that she was okay with talking to us and if she needed anything or needed to ask anything that she would be comfortable doing that. As she got older we would ask her if she was interested in boys or girls. Everything to her is gross right now, you know. So, we just wanted her to know whether she liked boys or girls it didn’t matter just as long as she was okay. And so then, Tony and I had had several conversations about when we would tell her about me and my experiences.”
Tony adds on, “It seems like with her almost being twelve, that she is starting to reach a point about how she feels about her sexuality and whatever that is and we wanted to make sure that we were honest with her as she goes through that.”
When their daughter started to deal with depression and anxiety, the opportunity presented itself to have the conversation with their daughter about Kendra’s sexuality. She understood and was grateful that her mom talked to her. Time passed and Tony and Kendra decided it was time to tell their daughter about their girlfriend. “She really wants to be a part of our daughter’s life,” Kendra explains. “So, they have exchanged phone numbers and our daughter knows that if there is something that she needs to talk about that she doesn’t feel comfortable saying to us, she has someone else she can depend on.”
Tony and Kendra do not identify as queer but they think that being a part of the community has influenced their parenting. Tony explains what he means, “I don’t feel like I let it drive my decisions but I also feel like there are things we have done with her and conversations we’ve had that maybe wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
So, what does it mean to be a queer parent? In the simplest of terms, it means to break the standard mold of what parenting looks like and what “family” means. In the articles I have read and the families I have met, roles are defined differently.
Families are not just biological, they are chosen. Children are given the space to form their own opinions about their identity, sexuality, and world view. From what I have seen, they are being raised in a culture of honesty and open communication. Queer families are not only teaching their children to question their roles in the home and society, they are also teaching them acceptance. Acceptance of themselves and acceptance of other people.
With everything that is happening in our society today, thank God or the universe or whatever you believe in, for the queers. If we consider ourselves to be a “thinking” people, then why are we thinking inside of boxes? To be queer is to deconstruct and destabilize—sexuality, gender, the perception of “normal”. Perhaps it’s time that we all take a page from their book.
Ruca Rose is a 33 year old mother of two, who recently came out as a lesbian. She has been published in literary magazines and daydreams of creating her own poetry book.