How Queer Saved My Soul From Motherhood’s Closet

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.

Pride Onesies for the twins!

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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10 thoughts on “How Queer Saved My Soul From Motherhood’s Closet

  1. Your post encapsulated everything I’ve thought for years but couldn’t put into words. My family used to say I was born with a fist in the air and crying out about unfairness, and I guess my arm is still up. You are so right that it IS a stance, a refusal to being what society dictates and to define for ourselves what we are. I truly believe people like us are the game-changers; otherwise, most would be satisfied with the status quo and then where would all of us be?

    • Karen, thank you so much for your kind words. It’s so amazing to feel like I’m not alone in this! It makes it easier to “keep MY arm up.” Fellow “game-changers” unite! I’m so happy I found your site as well. Can I follow your posts by email/are you planning to add a facebook page? I must admit, I’m horrible with twitter, just starting to force myself to learn how to use it.

  2. Man, I love this post, your increasingly confident voice, and your insistence on living a fully examined life. No wonder we’re so simpatico.

  3. Aw thanks Kate! That’s so awesome to hear. Funny thing is I wrote this post a few months ago, but didn’t have the confidence to post it until now :)

  4. My motherhood has made me significantly less comfortable with passing, also. Before I was a mother I was cool with being fairly quiet about my relationship and would let peripheral characters go on assuming whatever they would assume.

    Now, though, doing THAT feels like a disservice to my own child and the world he lives in. It never felt like such a LIE before, but it does now. I want him to know that his family is awesome and legitimate and I feel like my being open and outspoken is an important part of that.

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s so nice to hear others have had a similar experience. I feel similarly. I don’t want my kids to think I’m ashamed of who I am or feel like they have to hide anything about me or themselves from others. I want to be a role model to them of living authentically. I’m hoping by the time they are old enough to be more aware, I’ll be a lot more comfortable negotiating coming out and putting myself out there – working on that! Good for you for being open and outspoken! That’s great to hear.

  5. I cried when I read this. I am a mom, living in suburbia, and bisexual. My husband knows and always has known that I am bisexual. Although as much as he loves me and accepts me I don’t think he can get past the heterosexual male idea of girl on girl porn as being bisexual. He loves me but he doesn’t quite get it. But he is trying. I have rarely shared my sexual orientation with friends or family members but after being married and becoming a mom and now I have a teenager I feel very much like I need to be true to that other side of myself. Acknowledging all of me. It has not been a positive experience trying to share this even with my closest friends. Last nite I had my 2 closest friends over(both other suburban moms, one a single mom) and I was discussing it with them and I am shocked by their ignorance. And by the advice they give me of keeping it secret. I feel so bound into a hole by that. I am told that we live in a hillbilly ignorant area and no one will understand and that women will judge me as hitting on their husbands or them if I mention that I am bisexual. The husbands hit on me in secret after they hear about it in passing or from their wives. I am so offended by all of these responses and so confused as to how to deal with any of this. Your post made me feel not so alone. Thank you.

    • Aw Jessica, so glad you found the site and were moved by this post. Hearing from you moves me so much as well because I get SO MANY responses telling me that since “you’re married anyway” you should just keep this to yourself, or that I’m too old to be going around coming out to people. Folks don’t seem to understand why it’s not enough to just know I’m pansexual in my mind. I have come to believe there is monosexual privilege in these statements. Gay and straight folks don’t have to only be gay/straight in their mind, it’s frequently quite obvious who they are. I’m so sorry to hear your two closest friends didn’t seem able to understand why you’d want to put this out there. It sounds like it’s out of concern for you, but still hard. It sounds like a lot of folks around you also conflate being bi with being promiscuous. I don’t see why friends’ husbands would think finding out your bi is a time to hit on you or folks would worry about you hitting on them or their spouses. We know our sexual orientation has nothing to do with our interest in sex or level of monogamy. I don’t know what area you are in, but are there any kind of LGBT centers around where you might be able to find social support? I am in a very accepting area, but I still feel like people would rather I just kept it to myself. Very disappointing.

  6. Pingback: Hetero-monogo-binar-illa-normativity and… Cookie Dough | Undercover in the Suburbs

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