Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Lesbian Couple Asked Me for Advice

A friend introduced me to a lesbian couple that is concerned because their elementary school aged son is going to be moving schools and they are worried that he might face teasing and bullying because of his moms’ orientation. He asked me about it because I was also the son of a lesbian couple as I went through my school years (and I remain a son of a lesbian couple today). I decided to write a post about it, figuring that there might be others who could benefit from my experience.

First, let me include one privilege checking caveat. I grew up in Massachusetts in the 90’s. This is written for people who are in socially liberal areas. If you are in the deep south or Bible Belt areas, you may find things to be more difficult. I will discuss how to deal with the teasing in the later part of this post.

This timing post has nothing to do with the current political climate and is only in response to the request for assistance I received.

Got 99 Problems But My Moms Ain’t One
When I was in middle school and elementary school, I got made fun of for a lot of things (not so much in high school). Here is a list, in order of commonality, of the things I was made fun of for:
1.       Acne
2.       Bad Hair
3.       My nervous habit of giggling when insulted
4.       Acne
5.       Fashion
6.       Acne
7.       My name (Outhouse, Greenhouse, Brownhouse, Doghouse, Blackhouse – they started running out of good ones)
8.       Acne
9.       My moms being lesbians
For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call the couple who contacted me Alice and Betty. They are concerned that their son might lose friends because they can’t deal with him having lesbian moms and that he will resent them.

Here’s the thing. If someone would make fun of me because my moms are lesbians, then that’s not someone I’d want to be friends with. I lost zero friends during my whole school career because of my lesbian moms. Not one. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

You know who I resent? The bastards who invented the phrase “oxycute ‘em!” They gave people the impression that acne was easily curable and they caused me much grief. Sometimes I worry that now that I work in New York, I might run into someone in marketing and find out that they invented that phrase. I’m not sure if I could be held accountable for my actions if I meet that person. 20 years later, still upset about that.

But my moms? They were awesome. And it was 1996! Who picks on someone for lesbians moms in 1996. It’s not 1956 people!

Nobody Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent
Homosexual parents sometimes might feel that they are somehow doing something wrong. They know that they are not, but that doesn't quiet the anxiety. But they aren't doing anything wrong. They are living life in the way that God made them, and this is what they should teach their children. If their children do not feel they are doing anything wrong, then why would they accept criticism for it? It would be like making fun of a kid for walking upright or wearing shoes. There's nothing wrong with it, so why would you mock it?

This is not to say that no one tried to make fun of me for it. This dialog happened once:

Bully: Your mom's a lesbian.
Me:  Yes.
Bully: Like, she's a dyke.
Me: That means lesbian, yes.
Bully: But, like, your mom sleeps with other women.
Me: That's what lesbian means.
Bully: But... like, your mom's a lesbian. 
The bully was thinking that my mother's orientation was something negative, but I did not accept that. This gets us into the underlying social theory of why kids make fun of each other. In any environment where a pecking order is established like school, prison, a sports team, or a post apocalyptic wasteland, people are trying to position themselves above others. They will take advantage of any lever that presents itself to do so. Is that kid different because he wears glasses and you don't wear glasses? Get people without glasses to agree that no glasses is better than glasses. Now, as a group, you are all higher up the pecking order.

Of course, this only works because everyone buys into it. If the glasses wearing kids refused to accept that their glasses made them inferior, then the lever would be invalid.

It is the same with a gay parent. Had I accepted that having a homosexual parent made me inferior, then it would have done so, but I did not accept that. Thus, it lost its sting. Moreover, I could flip the script on them. Not only would homosexual parentage not make me inferior, homophobia made them inferior.

You see, what is happening here is a form of social combat. The bully is picking this fight on this topic because he thinks he can win this engagement on this topic and come out on top. It's culturally similar to the bully who physically attacks a weaker kid. He does so to appear strong, but if the "weaker" kid can best the bully, then the bully will appear weaker and the other stronger.

What If I Don't Live In A Blue State?
So, what if the it isn't a matter of pecking order but serious bigotry? Well, this is outside my personal experience because I grew up in Massachusetts, but I shall answer anyway because I know someone is going to ask.

The answer is similar. If you are not doing anything wrong, then there is no reason to feel guilty. If your parents are gay and they feel that is morally okay and you do as well, then you should carry that confidence. Here's the thing. The Bible does not actually forbid homosexuality. It really doesn't. You can read about it here.

So, it's not immoral. It's not against the Bible. The only real reason people have a problem with it is that it's icky to them. Well, that's no reason to get down on someone for something.

So, for a child of gay parents in a socially conservative area, it will be more difficult, but I'd recommend finding friends who do not have a problem with it. Build a bulwark of allies, so that when the homophobes do come around, the allies can say "dude, that's not a thing."

Bigotry can only thrive because people accept it. If people reject it, it recedes into the shadows and eventually vanishes entirely, like a plant starved of light.

That said, perhaps this is just me speaking from my privileged position of living in a socially liberal state, and maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. This whole section is hopeful speculation.

The Take Away for Gay/Lesbian Parents (In Socially Liberal Areas)
Your lifestyle will not ruin your kid's life. It won't even make it more difficult. Sure, they might get teased for it, but they'll be teased for that instead of something else. We all get teased, and the adversities that we face as kids give us strength to fight the greater challenges in our lives.

Your kids may resent you for interfering with their relationship or for giving them a curfew or for making them do their homework, but as long as you are open, honest, and loving with them, I don't expect they will resent you for your orientation.

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