By Lara Lillibridge
The story everyone wants to hear isn’t the story I want to tell. Everyone wants to know what it was like to be raised by lesbians, how we functioned, what made it different. I want to talk about other things, the things that formed me and shaped me and scarred me. Not my mother’s sexuality. I want to say that isn’t what scarred me or made me different or made me who I am today. I want to say that it didn’t matter. But all of that is a lie. Of course it mattered more than almost any other aspect of my childhood.
Perhaps I don’t want to write about it because I feel an obligation to represent lesbian parents well, and to show that children of lesbians are normal. I don’t want to be a poster child for lesbian families. I don’t want to say it is or is not okay.
It is not something you can place a value judgment on, because it is not something my moms had any control over. They are who they are, and it isn’t fair to say that something that is intrinsically part of them is open to a value debate. I prefer to use my writing to scold them for things they could control.
Maybe I don’t like the voyeuristic component. After all, every teenage boy I ever told asked if he could come look in my windows, even though I explained that my parents weren’t people any teenage boy would want to see naked. I resented every straight adult asking me if I ever thought I was a lesbian. I don’t like the reduction of my entire life to a discussion on sexuality. I wish there was a way to define who makes up your family without the connection to what happens in the bedroom.
But the case may be that I don’t want to talk about having two moms because I am overshadowed by it. The most interesting thing about my life is not about me at all; it is about my parents. Perhaps I deny its importance because I want to be the most interesting character in my own story.
I can tell you what you want to hear. I can tell you about the kids that weren’t allowed to play with me because of my moms. I can tell you that I was called Lara the Lezzie for most of Junior High. I can tell you about the fight I had with one of my best friends in the locker room after gym class where she accused me of being a lesbian just like my mom and how I never forgave her.
I can tell you that I needed a boyfriend for years to prove I was straight to anyone who wondered during my teen years. I can tell you that I had nightmares that I would wake up one day and find I had turned into a lesbian overnight, and no longer was the person I was when I went to sleep.
I can tell you about the blue-collar, republican parents of my friends who never batted an eye about my two moms and allowed their daughters to have sleepovers at my house. I can tell you about the time my best friend’s mother caught her daughter playing doctor with me and how she didn’t freak out any more than was appropriate, and how she never tried to keep us from being friends.
I can tell you about the family my parents created, made up of other lesbian women, because my cousins stopped talking to us after my mom was outed. I can tell you about the Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve parties and everyone laughing and talking just like a normal family, and about how their conversations were as boring to me as a child as grown up conversations are to children everywhere. I can tell you how both of my moms went to every school concert and even a few track meets, that the school administration accepted that I had two moms even though it was the late 1970s and wasn’t very common. No teacher ever made me feel weird when I made my moms name tags for open houses or introduced them at parent teacher conferences. The Boy Scouts allowed my mom to volunteer with the troop when they asked for father-helpers. The Girl Scouts gave my two moms a troop to lead.
Or maybe you’d rather hear about me living in fear that I would confide in the wrong friend, and that they would tell my deep dark family secret. A lot of people like the story of how my mom lost jobs for being gay, and how I was afraid we’d get chased out of our neighborhood. Another popular story of neighborhood hate can be told two ways; maybe once someone threw a rock through a window, or maybe it just was kicked up by a truck and meant nothing at all. Most people prefer to think it was a hate crime, although there was no note to clarify.
I can tell you all of it or none of it, but I can’t tell you what it was like to have lesbian parents. I can’t speak to some universal experience. I can’t tell you what it would have been like if my parents were straight, and what parts would have been different and what parts would have been the same. I have no other point of view.
Lara Lillibridge is a mother, writer, off-key singer and an occasionally inappropriate dancer.
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