Lesley and I are not queer. I have some qualms about the queer identity but think people are free to identify that way and that it is a valid identity (I know, what a relief that I find someone’s identity valid). Not being queer makes it a bit awkward for us in our hippie college town. We’re looked at as enemies of current LGBT struggles and have never really felt like we fit in to the larger community here.
Lesley and I are not queer. We are lesbians. If asked in friendly circles, we will be completely honest: we are dykes. We are dykes not just by sexual orientation but also by political belief. We were taught by strong second wave feminist dykes and have opinions that are extremely unpopular in current day LBGT(QIIA? Is that all of it now?) politics. We’re old school. I believe that there are things about the transgender identity (movement, maybe?) that hurt women. I am not saying that transgender people hurt women, but that the identity does. I also believe that women who were socialized as girls have a different experience than women who were socialized as boys and that each group needs and deserves the space to heal from that experience alone. I’m sure by now you have figured out that these views are unpopular.
I’ve been thinking a lot about these things lately for a few reasons. First, our roommate is a teaching assistant for a sex and culture class. A student in the class asked the professor what is the difference between lesbian and queer. The professor responded that queer is more radical. This has our household enraged. I’m not going to go into why because you’ll either understand why or disagree with me without an explanation but that is issue one of what brought this to the forefront.
The next issue that brings this up is the question we have been asked about how we will identify ourselves as parents. We have been asked who will be “mama” and who will be “mommy”. I’ve been rereading this article circulating on my facebook about a family with (at least one) genderqueer parents who makes the distinction that their family does not have two moms but instead a mama and a baba. We both plan on being moms yet we hesitate to give ourselves names. We have friends who also choose not to name themselves but go by “mama l—-“ and “mama j—-“. I hate that, too as I don’t want my child calling me by my first name. Also, let’s be real, mama is the better choice so how do we decide who gets that? Neither one of us have a desire to be labeled as a parent by another name which could create some confusion for us and has many people asking how our child will identify us. I think this will happen naturally and realistically, I have always called Lesley “Doodle” (or some variation – Choo choo McDoodleroo, Chief Doodler in charge of all the doodles, ect) and wouldn’t be surprised if our child did the same.
People are quick to place labels. We all know this. I like skirts and dresses and am never questioned about my gender identity. Lesley has facial hair and wears “men’s” clothing so is often asked what pronouns she uses. This is where I think that the popularity of the transgender identity is hurtful to women. Because she does not present the way people expect a woman to present she is assumed to not be a woman. This is why older lesbians have a hard time with trans issues, y’all. It used to be the straight world that assumed that non-conventional women aren’t women, now it’s our own community. I foresee many conversations in our future with well-meaning folks wondering how to define us as parents and as I usually do, am putting the cart in front of the horse with mulling over my response to imaginary questions.
The third thing that brings identity to the forefront of my mind is a conversation going on on a forum I use. The conversation is reminding people that sex and gender are not the same and should not be used interchangeably. This has served as a reminder of the need to examine my own bias when becoming a mother. While I think it is pretty impossible to not assume your infant with female genitalia is a girl (or your infant with male genitalia is a boy) and I’m not going to beat myself up about going forward with that assumption, I want to be accept our child for whoever they may be and make sure we provide a loving home where they are welcome to be that person. I have no desire to raise child “X”, a genderless child, but need to give myself permission to evolve with them. I need to be aware that my child may not be a second wave feminist dyke. I need to be aware that I need to be nice to other well-meaning parents. I need to be aware that I may spend a bit more time explaining our family to curious people and that I should do so with compassion. And I need to be aware that while we are not queer, the many moms and dads and babas that I see around town with their infants are part of the greater community of nontraditional families that I want to try to join. Sure, I need to allow myself and my opinions to grow but mostly I need to remember that sometimes it’s okay to keep my mouth shut.