The Queer Family Flirt

Hello! I’m so glad you’re here. The piece below gives you a glimpse of why I think sharing our stories publicly, and living our lives publicly, matters. I’ve been writing about our family on my blog, This Family is Sacred for two and a half years. I’ve been surprised, and honored, by the thoughts and experiences people have shared back with me in response to my writing. I started writing because I needed community. It worked. I am excited to expand that community here at LGBTQ Parenting. The piece below is an edited and expanded piece I posted on This Family is Sacred in August 2016. I’ll be posting new pieces on this site and This Family is Sacred in the coming months. Thanks for reading!

Perhaps the edge of her jaw, sharp and clear, was what caught my attention. Her hair was short in that haphazard way Vermont does short: with a can of product and a good blow dryer, she’d look like New York City. But we don’t do blow dryers here. Tattoos filled the back of one calf. I scanned quickly: yup, there was her partner next to her and across the room the toddler they were keeping a hawk-eye on in the play space at the science museum.

I scanned back to my own son, pulling on a cord to make a fake woodpecker tap fake holes into the wall. “G look — that kiddo has two moms! Just like you!” No, I didn’t do it. I bit my tongue. Two decades of well-trained self-control was all that kept me from blurting that out, though, or maybe: “Hey! Are you queer? You look queer! Would you like to be our friends?”

I have just slightly enough social grace to not ask that question directly. But it leaves me wondering: what are the rules? When you’re single, there are rules for how much you flirt to suss out whether a single person is queer. But how do you family-flirt to figure out if the family is queer and if they would like to be your friends?

In the two years since G was born, I’ve seen lesbian families in public places maybe a half dozen times. I have an eye out, always, for such chance encounters. Unfortunately, my social pull towards inertia, to not start a conversation that hasn’t been started yet, is compounded by my utter lack of gay vibe. I’m not saying I don’t have gaydar. I have that in spades. I’m saying I don’t give off that pheromone that sets off other peoples’ gaydar. Short of holding hands with my wife while we adoringly point at our son, a stranger wouldn’t look at me and say “hey–she’s a queer mom!”

Does it matter? Our straight friends are lovely. Our toddlers run in a herd together as we drink strong coffee and try to have a focused conversation that lasts for more than three minutes. The straight friends never bat an eye at me being G’s parent. They call me his mom, just like they call my love his mom.

It does matter. I’m not G’s mom just like my love is G’s mom. I’m his Baba. I’m his “there is nothing in this world, come Supreme Court decisions or social norms, that is going to stop me from being your protector and parent.” I’m his parent standing in a courtroom, officially adopting the child I have been with since birth. I’m his parent who doesn’t instinctively know him by smell; who didn’t feel him kicking in my own body — but who actively and relentlessly chooses to love him.

I’m in no competition with my love about who loves him more. I don’t need reassurance that I’m “just as much of a parent” as my love is. G turns a grin towards me as he yanks on the woodpecker’s cord. I know that I’m his parent. G knows that I’m his parent.

But when he was 3 months and 6 months and 9? Part of choosing to love a child means that it takes time for the child to reciprocate the love. G didn’t instinctively know my smell. He hadn’t grown familiar with the inside of my belly by kicking with the sole of his foot. He learned to love me by repetition: song after song, walk after walk, bath time after bath time he came to trust me.

“Come!” he calls out, abandoning the woodpecker to scoop up small balls from the floor and send them ricocheting down a series of chutes. Ping-pong ping-pong bonk! they go. His exuberance fills my heart. I glance towards the queer couple nearby, wishing for a shared look with another Baba, a moment of “isn’t this just the most amazing thing? Being here, with this small child, in their exploration and joy?”

But they don’t look. To them, I’m just a straight-looking mom with a two year old causing a ruckus.

So what’s a straight-looking gay girl to do? How do I go up to a queer family and say: “so hey, it’s been quite the adventure to be the baba to this child that I love more than breath itself, and it would be so awesome to have some queer families to hang out with so that I could get some others’ perspectives on this whole baba thing, and G could get some exposure to the fact that there are, indeed, other queer families in the universe, in Vermont, even, and he’s not a total one-off in the world. Would you like to come over for dinner on Friday?”

So here we are, dear queer family friends in the internet, inviting you to our virtual home for dinner tonight.

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