Coming out… to my kids
When I was a kid, I saw my parents and maybe all adults as these immutable beings who had everything figured out.
Now that I’m a parent myself, I’ve realized that we never stop growing, that everyone can change, including me. Of course, as an activist, this is my great hope: that people can and will change, so that we can make a better world.
And this change starts with me. Even though I thought I knew myself, I realized in my early 40s that I wasn’t exactly straight.
When I told one of my friends, she looked at me like I had three heads, and said, “well, duh.”
One of my other friends said, “Well, you’ve always been queer, as far as I knew, because you just don’t care for social conventions on so many levels.”
And it’s true, I’ve always been a bell hooks kind of queer. As she wrote: “Queer' not as being about who you're having sex with (that can be a dimension of it); but 'queer' as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and that has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
I’ve had to invent my own place in the world as a biracial, Black, small, fat nerd. Adding “queer” to that description wasn’t a big identity shift on some levels. But actually engaging with my sexuality as something that was mutable, something I could still explore, in my 40s, was a big deal to me.
I had to have a lot of awkward conversations with folks who hadn’t seen me quite so clearly: “What exactly do you mean by ‘queer’?” Is that, like, bi? Or lesbian? Or what?
But the easiest coming out conversation I’ve had has been with my kids.
I’ve spent their whole lives being open and honest in discussions of what bodies can do and how to talk about their feelings, in the hope of making sure that they feel a legitimate sense of autonomy as they learn to navigate the world, even a world that wants to strip rights away from so many of us. We’ve been talking openly about sex for more than half their 12-year-old lives.
So when one of my kids asked if having crushes on characters of a variety of genders meant they were bisexual, we had a great conversation about sexuality and the variety of ways to love and create community and family. And I said, “I like the word ‘queer’ because it gives me so many options.”
And that was it, as far as coming out to my kids goes. Of course, our conversation around sexuality is ongoing. Since then, we’ve talked a lot about crushes and romance and love and how love is an action, not just a feeling. How it’s a word that can be used with friends, too, not just romantic partners and our household members. How important it is to make sure that people feel seen and loved for who they are, not who we wish they would be.
One of my kids said to me the other day, “I just want to live in a world where you can love whoever you want and do whatever you want–with consent–with whoever you want and no one thinks it’s a problem.”
Me, too, kid. But for now, I’m glad we get to celebrate loving even when the odds are not in our favor, and we get to work to make the odds better, for everyone.