Most people believe the current gay marriage debate is about whether gay people can legally marry. In actuality, nowhere in the US does sexual orientation have any bearing on marriage legality. A gay man and a lesbian could waltz up to any justice of the peace in this country, in any state, wearing matching rainbow leggings, carrying pride flags instead of flowers, and tie the knot, no questions asked. Constitution upheld, fabric of society unscathed.
The truth is, Proposition 8, DOMA, state marriage amendments, Chris Christie’s veto in NJ, the Pope, the protests, and the two major Supreme Court opinions received today aren’t about gay or marriage at all. They’re about gender. The act struck down by SCOTUS today might more appropriately be called DOGA – the “Defense of Gender Act.”
If the introduction of “gayness” into marriage was really what folks in California, and elsewhere, wanted to prevent, then why do we allow the many mixed-orientation marriages that occur all over the US, many of them involving children? If “gay marriage” isn’t about gay people getting married, then what is the “profound redefinition of a bedrock social institution” Mr. Cooper, legal counsel defending Proposition 8 (the California same-sex marriage ban) was debating with the supreme court justices? Mr. Cooper’s argument wasn’t about gay people at all. He repeatedly referred to “redefining marriage as a genderless institution.” Mr. Cooper was arguing a case for upholding the gender binary.
Since I began coming out to people as both queer and pansexual almost two years ago, I have only gotten two negative reactions. (Sadly this was true a few months ago when I wrote this post, gotten a bunch more since) One of these followed a very expected format – the ‘prove to me you’re bisexual’ reaction. The person wasn’t mean or hostile, but simply looked at me as if to say “Come on… you’re not serious?”
He then proceeded to inform me that he “has a test for this.” He asked me if I would “co-habitate with, and/or have my primary romantic relationship with a woman.” I said I would. It was the truth. But I didn’t feel good about having passed his test.
I politely explained to him that it’s offensive to make yourself the authority on someone else’s identity. “Has anyone asked you to pass a test to prove you’re straight?” I asked him. He chuckled as if caught in the act.
If you haven’t check out Shiri Eisner’s phenomenal monosexual privilege checklist you will definitely want to do so. I have privilege. We all do. But this list helped me tremendously to recognize some of the ways in which, as a bi/pan sexual, I do not have the privilege mono-sexuals do.
Privilege #2 from Shiri’s list:
Monosexual Privilege #2 – When disclosing my sexual identity to others, they believe me, without my having to prove it.
Folks who are gay or straight can mostly take for granted that if they reveal their sexual orientation, others will believe them.
Why was I sacrificing for motherhood before I even decided I wanted children?
After working his ass off to land a job in “big law,” my husband left his firm after less than two years. He explained to a dumbfounded male partner that he felt he could not avail himself of the options open to female employees to improve work/family balance. The partner merely agreed that as a male, doing so would make it impossible to have a future at the firm.
Our infant twins were around six months old when Seth concluded that in order to be the involved, egalitarian dad we both wanted him to be, he was going to have to “lean out” of his career, and “lean in” at home. This Times piece suggests men must “lean in” at home in order for women to be able to take Sheryl Sandberg’s now famous advice to “lean in” at work. Indeed, Seth needed to make changes to his career so that mine could continue.
Seth and I were both angered and shocked at the workplace barriers that existed for him. Taking a 70% schedule, as many of the successful women in his office had, would have meant career suicide. Instead, he made the choice to leave “big law” all together, in favor of a job where he would still work extremely hard, but have more control over his hours. Along with this came a massive pay cut of almost 1/2 his salary.
As Rampell point out in the Times piece, parental leave options are dreadful in the US. But if those options that are available are, either systemically, or culturally, not options for men, that essentially forces women to “lean out” of the work world, while preventing men from “leaning in” at home.
–In 1980, Adrienne Rich wrote possibly the most important queer feminist text in human history, Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence. Today, I bring you my own thoughts on compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory monogamy, gendered and vanilla existence, all through the lens of… ice cream.
—For anyone who might be wondering (especially those who remember this), no I was not high when I wrote this post, just hungry.
Every time I think I’ve stepped completely outside the box, I find there is another box. My life is like one of those Russian nesting dolls—open me up and there’s another one inside. But in my case, instead of getting smaller and smaller, I get queerer and queerer.
When it comes to sex and gender, our world is like an ice cream shop that only sells two flavors—with maybe a third special flavor available on certain days of the week. As a lover of frozen treats, I have to say, that’s pretty lame!
Imagine if ice cream only came in chocolate and vanilla. Strawberry would seem pretty damn novel—even radical! Strawberry might seem so radical, it could never occur to anyone to do something crazy like mix flavors together, add nuts, chocolate bits or (god help me) cookie dough! How empty our lives would be without cookie dough! And the saddest part—we would have no idea what we were missing!
I’ve always been outside the box. It’s not like I only knew about chocolate and vanilla. At 20 years old I was hanging out at something called a “Queer Kiss-In.” I just wasn’t kissing anyone. Why not? Because there were other boxes I was still inside.
Strawberry. I got it. I got the strawberry, but I didn’t get the cookie dough. I was outside the straight box, but I was still inside the monosexual box. I hadn’t reached pansexual yet, and wouldn’t for years. There was no way for me to imagine cookie dough back then.
Why do I meet so many other women who didn’t realize they liked women until later in life? You see, many of us were never offered that flavor. When we looked down into the display case of life we didn’t see queer as an option. Even me, who thought I was pretty damn radical, marrying a feminist man in a partnership ceremony, wearing a brown dress, keeping my name… I thought I was at the wheel, but I was still caught up in compulsory monogamy and heterosexuality. I questioned the gender expectations traditionally ascribed to “marriage,” but there were so many other things I didn’t question.
Seriously though, it’s really hard to see something in yourself that you’ve never seen anywhere else, and that no one recognizes in you. In the last couple of months I’ve had several friends I perceived as straight or lesbian tell me they are much closer to bi, as well as friends I perceived as cis-gender tell me they aren’t. The more I talk to people about my identity, the more I’m able to truly see them, and perhaps, the more they are able to truly see them. I’m left wondering if the LGBTQIAPK, etc. folks that we see out there are only tip of the iceberg.
What’s different about queer people who somehow manage to recognize queer in themselves and live it? Are their skins thicker, are they smarter, luckier, were they simply in the right place at the right time, or are they gayer, kinkier, or more gender flexible than the rest of us? I can’t say.
All I know is how incredibly fine the line is between me and your garden variety heterosexual, vanilla, monogamous suburban mom. If so many of us ladies are, or were, just a couple neuron-firings away from recognizing our queer, than how many more are out there like us whose queer neurons just haven’t fired yet?
Why does one mom stay closeted her whole life, even to herself, while another is tormented by her same-sex desire which she never reveals to anyone? Why does one woman have a secret affair with a woman, ultimately coming to view herself as a lesbian, while another has a full -blown, long-term relationship with a female, but still identifies as straight. What separates the woman who comes out to her husband and friends and has discreet relationships with women, from the one who leaves her marriage and never looks at a man again?
In my humble opinion, very little.
I say that because I could be any of them. I could have landed anywhere on that spectrum. I still could. Had I never had pregnancy and birth hormones coursing through my veins and experienced the head-trash of becoming a mother in our society (see here for my manifesto on motherhood and coming out), would I have gotten so in touch with my queerness? Easily not.
I once heard a talk by a woman who is an expert in the field of transgender identity. She stated, with regret, “We’re losing a whole generation of butch lesbians.” Her implication was that many of the women who would have identified as butch lesbians in the past are now transitioning to male. Why would this be? Current technology and visibility of transpeople means—you guessed it—more flavors. It seems the butch lesbians of the past were all about strawberry, but they hadn’t yet sampled the cookie dough.
It all comes back to the ice cream. If we look down into that case and all we see is straight, all we see is monogamous, vanilla, traditionally gendered, and paired off in dyads, then there’s nothing else to sample. There are so many flavors we all have yet to discover! Everyone has another box to get out of. We all have unexplored aspects of our identity, and for most of us, more unexplored than explored.
I never saw a woman love a woman in a way that wasn’t platonic until I was 18. When I acted flagrantly queer in high school, nobody ever noticed. I’m not saying they ignored or rejected it—see that would be a form of recognition, albeit painful. I’m saying they simply didn’t see it—like a color-blind person looking at a pattern and only seeing certain parts—they were queer-blind. Their brains were not wired to see queerness. They had neurons firing to straight girls acting very, very friendly with their best friends. Groan.
When I was a senior in high school, I won an award for writing. It wasn’t a surprise. I’d been getting praised for my writing my whole life. But what if I hadn’t? What if no one ever noticed my writing? What if no one around me even knew what writing was? What if my teachers paid way more attention to other talents I had and ignored my writing skills? Would I be writing this right now?
Amazing how parts of us can get hidden so far inside us that we don’t even know they are there, while the things that get validated, groomed, praised, and noticed tend to be the ones we cultivate. That my friends, is why I have a husband and a blog where I write about being queer, but not a girlfriend. And that too is why I wasn’t kissing anyone at the “Queer Kiss-In.”
It wasn’t that I wanted to kiss someone but didn’t. I don’t think I even had access to those feelings. I don’t believe it’s because they weren’t there—I think I just didn’t know where to look for them. I didn’t even know to look for them. By then, I’d had my straight parts reinforced up the wazoo, and my gay parts not at all. Remember Eve, my “sixteen year-old lesbian alter ego?” She’d already been sent into hiding by that point.
This is what compulsory heterosexuality is. It’s not big brother knocking on our doors and telling us “You are going to be straight, vanilla, marry, and be monogamous, and that’s just the way is it, young lady!”
It’s much more subtle, and much more pervasive than that. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything we see, but most of all, it’s in the many, many things we don’t see. It’s in everything we are told about ourselves, and it’s in the silence of the things that are clearly in us that not one ever sees.
So what is fluidity then?
I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not so much that queer feelings suddenly appear where there weren’t any. I wonder if it’s more like we are, for a variety of reasons, able to see more. It’s like we get treatment for our queer-blindness, and suddenly we can see twice as much. It’s like walking into an ice cream store, and instead of three flavors, there are six, and then sixteen, and then sixty. What if those ice cream shops were everywhere? What if we could all see all the possibilities?
I wonder if we would conclude that fluidity is simply seeing more and more of what already is, and queer is just another word for human?
Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.
I recently read this post on the wonderful Raising My Rainbow blog. In it, “C.J.’s mom” talks about how she assumed her husband would be the one to talk to their boys about sex, until it became clear her gender variant son might be gay. (Let me pause here to say that C.J.’s mom is one of my mommy and blogger heroes, and despite using her post as a jumping off point into the far reaches of my radical brain, I have nothing but utmost respect for her).
I think many of us approach the idea of talking to our kids about sex by following cultural scripts we don’t give much thought to. If we stop and ask ourselves why, however, we may realize these scripts are not at all the best way to raise empowered, feminist children. Why does a same-sex parent give the sex talk? What message does that send? Why a “sex talk” at all? And what should be said in the talk?
I know some of you think you have many years before you answer these questions, but the truth is, we have to start when our children are learning to talk by teaching them the proper names for body parts in a casual, natural non-shaming way. I tell my two year-old daughter during diaper changes “I need to wipe your vulva.” This is the very beginnings of her sex education, and my son’s as well.
So why “sex talks?”
Recently, a group of friends at a dinner party went around a talked about whether we had had a “sex talk.” Turns out not a single person at the table had had one. We were all basically “self-taught.” So the fact that many folks who are parents now are thinking about and planning “sex talks” is admirable and important.
But is the “sex talk” enough?
In my opinion, if I’m planning a “sex talk” with a kid, I’ve already missed an opportunity.
While I continue to work on my treatise on gay marriage (and why it’s really all about gender, and not gayness or marriage), I thought I would post this poem I wrote for my partnership ceremony in honor of the marriage equality battle being waged this week. It, as well as most of our ceremony, was meant to highlight our desire to create a conscious, feminist, non-hetero-normative union, rather than a marriage in the traditional sense.
Even back then, before we really knew just how queer our union really was, I think we felt like we were getting away with something, even above and beyond our extreme unease at getting married when so many others couldn’t. Thinking now about bisexuals getting just highlights the absurdity of making marriage dependent on gender. Anyway… more on that soon.
Working Dads Risk Damaging Their Child’s Prospects
Working Dads Are Healthier, Study Finds
Working Dads: Don’t Feel Guilty
The 10 Commandments For Working Fatherhood
5 Comments To Avoid Saying To A Working Dad
The Myth Of The Rich, Selfish Working Dad
Have you seen these headlines? No? That’s because they don’t exist. Links to the real headlines appear at the end of this piece. They, and the millions like them, are actually about working moms. Working moms are without a doubt the most picked apart, analyzed, written about, advised, talked down to, talked up to, monitored, and micro-managed group in society. And when working moms speak about being working moms, we listen, and then we attack.
This article is not meant to weigh in on any of these debates. Rather, this article asks the critical question: Would we say that to dads?
If the topic du jour sounds absurd when the word “Dad” is substituted for “Mom,” we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if our energy is being well utilized. Instead of answering and re-answering the age-old questions about working moms—Are they harming their kids? Are they helping them? Are they too selfish, too rich, and spoiled, too frazzled, pulled in too many directions?—let’s ask a different question. A critical question.
I dread the day when my little boy realizes he isn't supposed to play with Minnie and will be mocked for his exuberant cries that "Minnie have a bow!"
This post is the email I sent friends and family asking them to assist Seth and I in creating a gender-flexible, non-hetero-normative environment for our twins.
It truly does take a village to raise a child. All of you are part of ours, and we are grateful beyond words to have each and every one of you.
I have been thinking about this email since before my children were born, and the time has come for me to sit down and write it. When I thought about what I most wanted to communicate here I think what it boils down to is that we need your help. Beyond Seth and I, you form the closest circle around O and J – a circle that has the power to build the kind of world in which they grow up. We can’t necessarily change the realities of the outside world, but we can create a buffer, an alternative, a safe place to fall, a refuge, a place where they can be who they truly are. It is with that in mind that I ask you to open your hearts and minds and consider how you can wield the great power you have in J and O’s lives in order to help us create that safe space.
When I went into my kids’ room this morning, my sweet J was standing up in his crib, exuberant, clutching his stuffed Minnie Mouse as he does every morning. He shouted gleefully, “Hello Minnie! I kiss Minnie! Minnie have a bow!”
“Hello Minnie!” I responded.
Across the room, my precious O was clutching the matching Mickey with a sly smile on her face. She did a little shoulder shimmie when she saw me. The night before as we headed up to bed, she had said softly, “Minnie?” making sure her companion would be in her crib with her.
No, my son doesn’t prefer Minnie to Mickey. The fact is, my kids don’t know the difference between Minnie and Mickey. They call them both Minnie. Either doll will suffice at night when they can’t go to sleep without “Minnie.” Why? My kids don’t know what gender is. Yes, they are too young, but also, we haven’t taught them.
During the past few weeks I have had the exquisite pleasure of:
-aggravating a group of middle-aged lesbians.
-confusing gay and straight people alike with my mystifying pansexual/married lifestyle.
-having a close friend refer to me as transgender (I guess she thinks that’s what I came out as?)
-Going to my first several events as an “out” queer woman.
-being told by both my husband therapist to essentially “tone it down.”
They say well-behaved women seldom make history. I’m guessing women who fit neatly into existing movements and social categories probably rarely do either. Having said that, not fitting neatly, or at all, can be lonely.
Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker. “Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning. I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here. The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.
“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding. Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right? It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend. I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up. But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window. I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter. I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery. At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.
Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone. No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately. I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.
The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy. It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient. You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment. All that was real to me was time. This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.