Being a lesbian parent, I'm learning things the hard way
Parenting / 5 February 2019, 1:30pm / Vanessa Martir
Washington - I was in fifth grade in 1985 when I realised I was being raised by lesbians.
A classmate whispered to another girl as I worked as a lunch monitor in the cafeteria, "Her mom's a butch." Her face twisted in disgust as she gestured with her chin to a second-grader eating alone at the end of the table.
"Get outta here! Her mom's a lesbo? Yuck!" The freckle-faced fifth-grader pretended to hurl all over her lunch tray.
I turned to them, confused. "Butch don't mean lesbian!" I thought of my Millie, who we referred to as our "aunt" though she shared a bed with my mother. She would grab the brim of her Kangol and say: "Yo soy butch." The way she said it, it was like she was dancing salsa but just with her shoulders.
"Yes it does, stupid. What do you think it means?" The girl rolled her eyes at me and kept talking to her friend.
I stared down at the cold cafeteria food. Seconds earlier all I had wanted in life was to take a bite of that pepperoni pizza, but I had lost my appetite.
I was raised in a gay relationship in 1970s and '80s in New York City, long before "Heather Has Two Mommies" hit the mainstream in the '90s and just a few years after the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in 1973. Of course I did not know that then. All I knew was this was my family and I loved them.
I do not remember how or when we started calling Millie our "aunt," but it did not keep me from making her Father's Day cards complete with a cardboard tie and collar when June rolled around. And with good reason: When I was obsessed with basketball, she fashioned a hoop out of a rusty tire rim, nailed it to a splintered piece of plywood and put it up in the backyard. Then she bought me an official Spalding basketball.
That experience in the lunch room was my first experience with homophobia, but it was not my last. As a tween, a girl once told me "You're dirty like your lesbian moms." All because a boy liked me. I punched her in the face and dared her to say it again. She did not.
Earlier this month, Parents Magazine released its first magazine cover with gay parents, Shaun T., a fitness mogul and his husband and business partner Scott Blokker, with their twin babies.
As expected, conservatives lost their minds. The controversial activist group One Million Moms launched a petition campaign against the magazine, with the tagline: "Sign our petition if you are offended by Parents promoting a same-sex couple on the cover of their February 2019 issue. One Million Moms is giving you this opportunity to voice your disapproval of the magazine's attempt to normalize same-sex parenting."
I am a queer woman, raised by lesbians, raising my daughter with my butch partner. It means the world to me to see the model of love I have known since childhood finally acknowledged on the cover of a parenting magazine.
I thought I was doing a good job of teaching my daughter to be open-minded and inclusive until she came home from kindergarten several years ago saying, "That's gay. That's nasty." I did not scold her because she was far too young to understand what she was saying. Instead, I made it a teachable moment. When I asked her what she meant, she shrugged. She had heard a classmate say it and was parroting him.
I told her what gay meant in simple terms: It is when a boy loves a boy or a girl loves a girl. She stared at me curiously. I asked her if she thought my brother, her favourite uncle, was nasty. She shook her head emphatically. "No, I love Tio Tio," she said.
"Tio Tio is gay, so when you say gay is nasty, you're saying he's nasty." She sobbed as she apologized. I pulled her into my chest and consoled her, reminding her she was not a bad girl. "Remember that love is love, and love is beautiful."
Later I asked, "What if mommy wanted to be with a woman?" She looked at me quizzically then smiled, "Love is love, mommy."