Seth has been amazingly supportive since I came out as Pansexual last fall. It wasn’t a shock by any means. He knew I was attracted to women. But now I was asking him to embrace an identity I hadn’t really had when he married me, and he did. He keeps asking me the same question though… why now? What about having kids created this impulse to embrace a queer identity?
All I knew was the possibility of being queer no longer felt like an intellectual exercise, but a necessity. I wondered if it could be hormonal. My attraction to women felt stronger than ever, could this be some kind of bisexual hormone surge? But that didn’t feel right, because my need to identify as queer was about so much more than just finding women sexy. The truth was, that need did grow out of the mommy role. It grew out of months of feeling isolated and lonely, attempting to connect with other moms, but feeling thoroughly unsatisfied and unseen. For the first time in my life, passing as straight felt like being invisible.
When I got “married,” in some ways we had a rather queer wedding. We called it a partnership ceremony, took communal vows which included working toward marriage equality and creating an egalitarian family which celebrated diversity. I kept my name. We eliminated anything gendered from the ceremony, as well as from the marriage itself, setting up the structure of our relationship based on other aspects of who we were. I never felt erased or closeted by my marriage, because I never felt forced into a hetero-normative, un-feminist role when I became a wife.
In fact, during my marriage I actually became more fully who I was. I felt the safety and stability which allowed me to explore my sexuality and sexual orientation. I was able to be open with Seth, and felt truly known by him. During the years between marriage and becoming a mother, I was getting my doctorate in psychology, a role which fit my sense of myself as an independent, ambitious, intellectually curious woman.
Before graduate school there was a period of years when I waitressed for extra money. I can remember feeling utterly invisible, seen by most patrons as uneducated, with nothing to offer other than serving their food, and in some cases, being a sex object. But I have never felt more erased than when I became a mother. When people look at me, they see everything society ascribes to a mother, and erase everything it doesn’t. Intellect, erased. Sexuality, erased. Curiosity, ambition, creativity, desire, activism, politics, raunchiness, erased. The creepiest part was the distinct feeling of suddenly becoming asexual in the eyes of the world. But I could deal with society labeling me, rendering most of me invisible. I could even deal with relatives and friends who ignored me as if only my babies existed. I could understand that, my babies were, in fact, quite captivating.
What I couldn’t deal with was trying to fit myself, a square peg, into the round hole of mommy culture. I saw other moms not only accepting this invisibility, but imposing it on themselves. I’ll never forget a mom who had been an accomplished professional before having children advising me to make sure I left the house sometimes because she waited three years to leave her children alone with her husband, and he wasn’t comfortable with them now. All these smart, educated, skilled women seemed unable to connect around anything other than babies. It was as if they were trying to convince each other that yes, in fact, those other parts of their identities had been neutralized. I felt so lost, so unseen, so different after these gatherings, that I was left asking myself… what am I?
I have always been queer. Even before I was sure my sexual orientation wasn’t straight, I was queer. I was queer when I stood up to my misogynist father when my mother wouldn’t. I was queer when I devoted myself to studying gender and identity, and became an activist against discrimination and in favor of human rights. I was queer when I created relationships that didn’t fit neatly into platonic or romantic, straight or gay categories. I was queer when I met and fell in love with a man, and we created a nontraditional, egalitarian marriage. I was queer when I spoke up and spoke out in situations where other women were unwilling or unable… when I allowed myself as a woman to be competitive and ambitious. Yes, I was queer when realized I was attracted enough to women to no longer consider myself straight. But I have never been as queer as I am as a mom. I have never had to be.
I am a mother. I am a loving, devoted mother who has moments of sheer bone-shaking, organ-trembling terror, like any mother, at the thought of harm coming to her babes. But I am so much more than that. And I am different. Not just because I like girls, but because I don’t accept the role society tells me to take on as a mother. Queer is not just a sexual orientation. It is not just about one part of one’s life. It is a perspective, a stance, a refusal to fill the role society dictates, and an insistence on being who we truly are. Just as I got married, but did it the way that felt right to me, and just as I am a woman in the way that feels right to me, I have to do mommy my way. And I am going to need every piece of my soul for this one. The mommy juggernaut is just too powerful. I can no longer afford to be quietly queer. I am banging down the door of motherhood’s closet. This is my coming out party.
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