This past weekend I had the opportunity, as I often do, to spread the good gospel about queer parenthood. My job affords me the opportunity to do this on the clock (policy and communications person at an LGBTQ family support and advocacy non-profit: boom!). But I’d do it for free any day of the week.
This past Saturday, however, I might have swung and missed on the coda of it all. So I am happy that the occasion of the 14th Annual (!) #LGBTQFamiliesDay affords me an opportunity–and the impetus; thank you Dana–to right this wrong. Even if it means I have to break the stride I had going here as a so-slow-it’s-for-all-intents-and-purposes-suspended-in-amber blog.
Two colleagues and I were at Filoli Historic House and Gardens for their first week of LGBTQ Pride programming–and, I might add, the first week of Pride programming at any site on the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Tag, Williamsburg, you’re next!
The official part of our presentation entailed spiffy factoids that all should know, and which I never tire of re-researching and sharing. Gems like: we who are willing to identify ourselves as LGBTQ to a survey constitute about as many people who are African Americans, say, or have blue eyes, or are left-handed. This demographic analogy is always helpful for people who benefit from a nice solid hook to hang their understanding on. Like, hey! All right, I have seen people who are or I even am one or more of those things! Heck, our last president was two out of three of them!
Other fun facts regarding queers and lefties: lefties have been pathologized and considered corrupt and corrupting for many years in the past, even in many places on earth in the present. And when the condemnation is laid on thick: surprise! Fewer people identify publicly as such! When they were discouraged from or punished for doing what felt more right, more natural and comfortable, most lefties awkwardly accommodated with the condoned right hand/ right way, and did not thrive near as well as they darn well should have. Especially in key activities such as fencing.
With both lefties and queer folk, our numbers in the population rise over the years, in sync with the waning of harsh judgement. So where around the turn of the 20th century only around 2% of the population identified as lefties, a hundred years later it was around 12%. Just like us queer folk! With the exception that millennials and younger folk are identifying as LGBTQ in even higher numbers–around 20% (in some studies more).
What this means for fencing and such I don’t know. But I do know it’s a good thing for all the young people of the world trying to find their way.
Meanwhile! Back to LGBTQ family fun facts. About a quarter to a third of us are raising kids, which might seem modest, but only a half of cisgendered, heterosexual households are raising kids. Each of us cohorts are interested in having kids in surprisingly similar proportions. So. Considering how far around the block we have to go to find ourselves with child, or children, I’m pretty impressed with us.
I prattled on like this with more fun facts, and my colleagues followed, regaling attendees with news of what’s happening in the world of LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 education in California these days (a lot), and what sorts of support programming my workplace offers (a lot). But after it all came the best part: freestyle schmoozing.
I had the chance to chit-chat with two different queer couples, each new to the Bay Area and not yet with child or children. They seemed to have not yet decided if they would. Ever the evangelist, I couldn’t help but try to recruit them all.
“You have to! So not kidding!” I spouted. “I’m a ‘made’ parent, not a ‘born’ one. I never would have done this if I didn’t have a partner who was dead-set on it. And? Best thing I’ve ever done, shit you not!”
I went on to try to make it more concrete, trying to account honestly for the big shifts that would inevitably happen in their lives.
“I mean, you can’t go out to the movies or whatever on the spur of the moment, like you can now. It’s like you have–” I paused, trying to find the right analogy. “It’s not like you have a plant. Or a cat. Okay, it’s like you have a dog. But not just a regular dog. Like, a dog with a urinary tract infection. And you might come home to find they’ve involuntarily peed everywhere, maybe begun to chew up your favorite shoes, or climb up the curtains, desperate in their uncertainty you would ever return home in their lifetimes.”
Blank stares. And then, “Okay you’re not really selling this super well.”
And then I was all, “But no! I mean, yes, your life changes in ways you will never be able to predict before hand.” Inside I’m thinking, also: get your relationship shit together first, then start picking out baby names and nursery room colors and family-building paths.
Or, perhaps more specifically: it’s best if you can arrange to go to hell and back with your partner first (that is if you’re doing this with a partner; these folks at least were). Get to the brink of hell, I thought, be wobbling on the precipice of its gaping maw, and then if you find that you both work your way back from that precipice together, you know will have what you need to get through the first half-dozen or more years of delirious, under-slept, disorienting 24-7 that is early parenthood. You’ll know, when you look at each other bleary-eyed over the sweet-smelling skull of this doughy being you never knew you could love like this, that one day you’ll have a date night, and gradually more and more often (at the imperceptible speed of dawn), you’ll find each other again; you know you will, because you were lost once and found your way back before.
I stuffed these more sober internal monologs which I reckoned would fare even worse than the pee. But didn’t help the overall pitch when I blurted out, “No, it’s great! I mean, you find whole new caverns of love in you that you never thought you had! You’d run in front of a train to save them! Stuff like that!”
More blinking blank stares. And a hearty reiteration of how not-well I’m selling this, between the pee-mageddon and the hurtling oncoming train.
But I was dead serious when I wrapped it up: “Okay, but still: It’s the best thing I’ve ever done as a human. Worth all the sacrifice and change, and I’d do it again a hundred times over, given half a chance.”
Now that I know who these people are that once were mere spirit-dreams in the ether? Now that I’ve held them as they cuddled, or cried, or slept restless with fever; now that I’ve had years to answer their open questions about the world, and then later their cagey ones; years to marvel at their minds, guffaw at their wry humor, stand breathless in the wake of their kindness, or nimbleness of mind, or imagination, or righteousness?
It was a beautiful June day, and all of us needed to get back outside and stroll around these beautiful historic gardens, so we did.
But it’s true. Given even a fraction of the chance I’d do it a thousand times over. All the dog pee, all the trains, even for a glimpse.