Out and Pansexual in the Suburbs

If only everyone believed in "NO LIMITS!"

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.

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From Diapers to Dyke March (Happy 6 Months Undercover In the Suburbs!)

My First Dyke March - NYC 2012

Last Saturday I did something I shouldn’t have.  I took my kids to the summer celebration of our mothers of multiples club.  Sometimes I feel like one of those rats in a cage that keeps electrocuting itself over and over, never learning where to go and where not to go.  In my defense, I wanted to do something fun with my kids that morning, but I somehow managed to block out yet again how out of place those moms make me feel.  Yes, folks, for those of you who’ve been around long enough, these are same moms from this post about being a closeted egalitarian parent.

As soon as we got to the “celebration,” I started to feel twitchty.  I saw some people I knew.  They weren’t very friendly.  I took my kids out of their stroller, but they were acting strange.  Typically if I let them loose on a playground, they run in two different directions nonstop until I beg for mercy.  But they just stood there.  I parked them both on one of the landings of the jungle gym.  Again, they just stood there, looking around sheepishly and clinging to me instead of being right up in the big kids’ faces as usual.  Could it be they were uncomfortable too?  We sat there for a good long while, with no one coming up or acknowledging us except to ask if I wanted my 18 month-olds to have an Italian Ice off of a truck.  They paused long enough to act like I was a horrible, depriving mother when I said no, then moved on.

While I sat there, looking around, I was reminded of everything about these people that made me feel icky inside.  It was just like being in high school again.  I was surrounded by rich, white, heterosexual and gender normative (at least in performance) folks who have no concept of their privilege.  Look, I’m white myself.  I’m cis-gender, and most people probably see me as heterosexual too.  But there are just so many of them, and they’re all the same!  They seem to have no idea that there’s a great big world out there beyond their little corner of suburbia.

How come none of them were divorced?  How come none had same-sex partners?  Where were the single parents?  Where were the moms of color?  Where were the parents who don’t feed their kids McDonalds?  Where were the moms and dads who head to BDSM clubs or go out swinging when the kids are in bed?  What about the parents who are too busy doing cool stuff, or too poor to keep their lawns perfectly manicured and their houses freshly painted?  What about the moms with tattoos?  And where were the other egalitarian parents?  I’ll tell you where those parents were.   Anywhere but there.  Duh!  They wouldn’t feel very comfortable there either!  They just weren’t running around getting electrocuted again and again like me and those rats in the undergrad psych lab.

The dads were at this event too, which was creepy – not because I don’t think dads should be at kids’ events – quite the opposite.  It was blatantly obvious that playing with their kids was an unusual and not totally comfortable experience for these dads.  They were trying really hard… too hard.  Have you ever played on a playground with your kids before, I wondered?  It was like they were giving off this I’m not a real dad but I play one on tv vibe.

A few hours later, after I dropped my kids off safely at Grammy and Grampy’s, I emerged from Penn Station in New York City.  As I stepped out into the midtown chaos, I felt my whole body sink with relief.  I could breathe again.  I realized I’d been feeling all clenched up since that morning.  I looked around.  It was as if every kind of person in the world was on that street.  I looked down the block and saw the two gay boys I was meeting waving to me.  I whipped out my pride flag.  Good riddance rich, white, cis-gender, heteronormative, child-obsessed, icee-pushing mommies.  I needed a stiff drink and a good old fashioned Dyke March.

Dyke Marchers

Later that day I marched in the NYC Dyke March with my husband Seth.  Only the most accepting, loving, comfortable-in-his-own-skin husband would accompany his recently-out-as-queer wife to something called a “Dyke March.”  It wasn’t Seth’s first choice of Saturday activity, but he approached it with an open heart and mind, and didn’t complain a bit.  For those of you who’ve never been to a dyke march, I’m no expert, but it appears to be a female-centered and more political, or at least advocacy-oriented event, than the pride parades, that’s meant to bring visibility to the female queer community.

I’d like to say I felt totally free at that march – like I could finally be myself, the way I couldn’t at that horrible kiddie party.  But the truth is, my suburban mother identity felt as squashed there as my queer/rebel/feminist one had that morning.  Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of representation of moms, or of queer women partnered with men, at events such as this.  Was a suburban, pansexual, feminist, socially deviant mom as out of place here as I’d been that morning?  Probably.

So I still don’t have a place where I can look around and see myself reflected back in the faces of others.  I still don’t have a place where there’s room for the full breath and depth of my identity, where nothing is assumed (not that I’m a more involved parent than my husband or that I would rather talk about my kids than my career.  And not that I’m a lesbian and the man next to me is my gay male buddy). What I do have is a partner and a few friends who can witness all those parts of me, and still look at me and see a coherent whole.  More importantly, I can do that for myself.  I can walk into a room of mommies and not feel quite as closeted as I did when I wrote about feeling closeted at playdates.  I now know who I am as a mom, and I know not being like other moms doesn’t make me a bad one.

I’m not a bad mother because my career gives major meaning to my life in addition to my family, because I cause trouble on the internet while my kids are stuck in their high chairs eating, because I go out with friends, because after a certain amount of time on mommy duty I need a break, a long break, in order to maintain my sanity, because I read books, or even because I have a filthy potty mouth and a dirty mind.  I know now that I need all those things.

You’d better believe after a weekend of dyke marching and pride parading, I was thrilled to go back to my little snugglets, recharged and ready for their twinsane toddler antics.  I guess balance is the best we can ask for.  Time for changing diapers and time for dyke marches, so that even if we don’t feel completely visible in any one place, we can feel close to ourselves and not lose that.

I need time with my kids – I need to be attached and connected to them.  I also need my relationship, my career, and something for me that makes me feel whole, that reminds me who I am even when so much of my life and work feels like it’s about caring for others.  That something is right here.  When I look back at my blog posts, I do see myself reflected back.  I have created this space where I put all the parts of me together and try to make sense of it all, like here, (and yes, I see the irony in the fact that none of ya’ll know my real name).  I can’t completely blow my cover – otherwise I wouldn’t be “undercover” anymore!



Your Faithful Spy, Lyla

 Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.


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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.

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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