Sara Whitman

We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It!

Filed By Sara Whitman | October 15, 2007 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: gay families, lesbian moms, LGBT, lgbt families, parenting, schools

I used to love that chant at Pride marches when I was a young, rebellious lesbian. Sauntering down the street, taking over for the day, you shouted at the top of your lungs, celebrating how queer you were.

It filled you up for the year. You were safe. Out. Everyone around you was chanting, too.

In Milton, Massachusetts, it seems that there are some people who are going to have to learn not only are we here, but we’re legally married and have kids in the school. We’re in the car pool line. Our kids are going to go to school and talk about what they did on summer vacation.

With their moms. Or dads.

Get used to it.

In fact, a daughter of a lesbian mom didn’t think twice about talking about her family. Why would she? Unfortunately, a group of her peers decided it was something to pick on her about. The Boston Globe reported

what began as verbal harassment last January became more serious over the year, and culminated in what her attorney, Claudia Gregoire, in a letter to school officials, called a "group assault" on Sept. 10. Gaffey said six or seven students surrounded her daughter on the playground that day and were "pushing her back and forth," and two hit her. It ended when another child intervened.

Obviously these kids were not informed about the fact that being gay or lesbian in Massachusetts is legal. We enjoy the same rights as every one else.

Only state in the country, sure, but we do.

I read the article and asked my son Ben, who is now in middle school in Newton, MA, if he had ever been teased for having two moms.

Nope, he said. He went on to tell me at the camp he goes to that is for kids of LGBT parents, Camp OUT, they were asked in a circle if any of them had been teased at school for having queer parents. All the kids raised their hand, minus four. Two went to a private school with very active gay parents and two went to Newton schools where bullying programs have been in full force for many years.

It shows.

We need a structured way to address family diversity. It’s time to recognize that kids come from many different homes. Parents come in many different variations. I’m just as married as the next couple down the street. My kids deserve to be recognized for who they are, without fear.

And without some idiot pulling them aside and suggesting they be “careful” about who they talk to, as Tucker Elementary school’s counselor did. What kind of training does that counselor have? How could they ever see telling a kid to be quiet about their parents as a positive step?

I’m tired of people talking about LGBT parents in terms of sexuality. My god, you’d think saying “Lesbian parent” is the same as “hot wild fucking.”

It’s not. Explaining to kids, even preschoolers, that sometimes there are two mommies, sometimes a mom and a dad, sometimes two daddies, isn’t showing them a porn movie. It is simply describing what they already know.

In fact, in preschool? They get it. They don’t really care. They’re more concerned with who has the favorite truck or when snack is being served. What’s so scary is that they don’t have any hate in them when they are so little. When you plant a seed of acceptance so young, it’s hard to teach them bigotry later.

Which is why the right wing nuts get so upset about it. Gotta teach those kids to hate or else we’ll lose a generation to moderate beliefs and have a dreaded open and affirming society.

My God, the Unitarian Universalists will take over!

Bottom line? Teachers can be trained and should be trained to teach understanding about different family structures. They need to address their own prejudices so they can create safe classrooms. You can hate LGBT people but please, lay off our kids. They are children. There’s enough to be teased about- being tall, skinny, fat, having glasses, goofy shoes your mother bought, or always taking sushi to lunch. Let’s not make it any harder for them because of who their parents are.

Schools all across Massachusetts are going to have to hear something and hear it loudly. We’re here. We’re queer.

Get used to it.

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OMG I could have been so stylish if I'd taken sushi to school for lunch here in Indiana. *grins*

Our daughter had a mixed bag throughout school. I can remember one teacher who assigned an interview for homework. She had to interview a family member and she chose me. When she tried to turn in the homework, the teacher didn't want her to say "Daddy's partner" as my title - the teacher suggested "Daddy's friend" or "Daddy's roommate" instead. Our daughter held her ground though (and we went to the principal) and she was able to use her title for me. :)

Jake loves taking sushi for lunch.

It's a little strange.

Yup, I blame the educational system and its cowardly, political approach for the perpetuation of homophobia and bullying. LGBT issues receive ZERO coverage over here in Florida. I find it hilarious that in Miami, where there is such cultural diversity, they opt to use books beating on the tired old issue of race and ethnicity, while they seem to ignore women's and LGBT issues, the areas in which there is currently more bigotry shown in the communities.

Some are queerer than others of course.

I live in Canberra, Australia, where 2% of all couples are lesbian. It might be more if either civil unions or same sex marriage were legal. We passed legislation to allow civil unions, but as we're a territory not a state, that can be (and was) vetoed by the Federal government.

Having two mommies isn't uncommon, nor a cause for remark. But when I was asked by a teacher concerned about my interest in my son exactly what *was* my relationship with him - she knew his mother - then it was difficult explaining that I was his biological father. It wasn't that she didn't accept it, it was just difficult communicating the fact.

TS and other Intersexed people who look, well, normal, conventional, as expected, far too vanilla to be TG, sometimes have this problem. It's good inasmuch as as we don't get victimised (and an obviously TG person near a primary school here is in real danger), but not so good in educating those around us that we actually exist.

I try not to draw attention to myself, nor to my son. There's a tension between my responsibilities to act for human rights, and my desperate desire to keep my child safe. If it was just me, bring it on! But it's not. So my partner and I pretend to be lesbian, it's safer that way for our son.

Sara, of course, is 100% right about serious family diversity training and curricular inclusion. We need states like Massachusetts, who, despite not not being perfect on LGBTQ family issues, are farther along than others to take the lead on this. Curricular change has got to be one of the most contentious. Anytime people can say you're veering from the 3 R's, you're in trouble. "Our" view of education shouldn't be so limited, but for many it is. Sad but true.

I'd like to add to this discussion, however, that beyond curricular change and diversity training we need to address schools' approach to crisis intervention. School officials can easily turn from eduactors concerned with children's well-being to defense attorneys ducking and dodging when a serious incident occurs. Take the Milton case, for instance. It's true that better family diversity training could have prevented this attack from happening. But I also don't believe, in the short term, at least, that family diversity training is enough. Had the officials at Tucker reacted with less concern about possible litigation and more concern for the child's immediate and future safety, this situation would not have developed into a Boston Globe article.

You know what's miserable, Dustin, is that they told the kid not to talk about her family.

Be careful about who you tell...


And to be sure, everyone is worried about being sued- it has taken over common sense in the public school domain.

Telling her not to talk about her family was awful. Her mother was smart enough, thank God, to insist that whoever was assigned to be her daughter's one-on-one monitor after the attack was NOT the counselor who had told her not to say she had a lesbian mom. At least that much of the plan was respected.

This is going to continue to happen until the Educational system starts including light mentions of artists, musicians, scientists, and any other historical figure who had same sex partners or lived gay lifestyles.

They don't even mention people of color and their accomplishments... gay people?

We have a lot of work to do.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 17, 2007 5:20 PM

Hi ZoeBrain! We crossed paths on Salon recently. Welcome to Bilerico. (I've just been brought on as a contributor, though I've yet to publish my first post here.)

I can so relate to what you said about your son! My daughter and I are never recognized for who we are in public, which makes me (and her, too, I believe) quite sad. Because I look so young, many people even take us for a couple.

I am fiercely protective of her and am constantly torn between my desire to fight to make the world a more trans-friendly place--which often means coming out--and my desire to protect her, which often means pretending to be someone other than her mom. It's hard.

And would all be unnecessary if people would just get a clue!

As an aside, how ironic--and telling of the relative levels of societal acceptance--that you and your partner pose as a lesbian couple to deflect prejudice!!!

Sara, my heart just goes out to that little girl you described. How disturbing that her schoolmates had learned to hate so young.