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

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“If Only You Were Born Now” – Up-and-Coming Identities

Originally Appeared on

I frequently find myself thinking ‘If only you were born now,’ while working with middle-aged gender variant people.  The few times I actually say it out loud, it’s painfully clear how unhelpful it is.   A few days ago I found myself trying to explain the concept “genderqueer” to a married, middle-aged natal male who currently identifies as transgender.  He was saying he feels part male and part female, not female enough to start hormones or have re-assignment surgery and transition, but not male enough to continue to pass as male.  I recall saying something along the lines of “all the college kids are doing it.”

To at least a certain subset of 20 year-olds, this man’s problem wouldn’t be perceived as a problem at all.  Identities including ‘both male and female,’ ‘neither male nor female,’ ‘third gender,’ ‘non-gendered,’ and ‘androgynous’ have become increasingly easy for young people to conceptualize.   “Oh, you’re just genderqueer,” I can imagine them saying.   But how does one come out as genderqueer at fifty?  How does one explain to spouses, colleagues, children and other relatives who have never considered identities outside the gender binary?    There would be very real and potentially serious social consequences to coming out for this person.

Even if I could bring him on a fieldtrip down to a local gender studies department or campus LGBT alliance to see first-hand what a genderqueer identity might look like, his peers would still lack any exposure to this concept.  Many adults are still struggling with the idea homosexuality, and most would have a difficult time really understanding transgender identity.  But at least the ‘one-gender-trapped-in-the-body-of-the-other’ idea fits into the gender binary most people are used do, as does attraction to the opposite gender.  Genderqueer is an identity which demands thinking way outside the box, calling into question the very concept of gender as we know it.

Even for those transgender folks who have transitioned, there is sometimes a level of generational envy.  I have often heard transgender individuals fantasizing about how things might have been different if they were born now, with the availability of hormones, surgical advancements, and the increased awareness of transgender children and teens.  Kids now have the option of intervening early enough that puberty never steals their chances of passing as their identified gender.

College is, after all, the perfect time to formulate one’s identity.  Had this middle-aged man experimented with transgender and genderqueer identities in college and chosen/begun his career and long-term partnership already identifying as such, his life would be very different.  College is a safe place and time in which one’s peers are also, in their own ways, testing out different identities.  But, as a wise supervisor of mine frequently says, “one can only choose from among the culturally available identities.”  For most of the middle-aged people I work with, transgender and genderqueer were not a part of the cultural landscape yet when they were adolescents.

A few months ago I attended an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City.  A beautiful, confidant young woman took her place at the “human microphone” in order to speak.  She began by saying, “I am a black, pansexual woman.”  I remember distinctly the pang of envy I felt.  Fifteen years ago I was a gender studies major (back when it was still called women’s studies).  I lived in the gay dorm and hung out with the least gender conforming kids on campus.  But I had never heard of “pansexual” until a few years ago.  It might not have taken me until my 30s to solidify my queer identity if I had.

For me, the labels that existed when I was in college didn’t quite fit.  In retrospect, this was because they all fit into that traditional gender binary.  Lucky for me, dating men and passing as straight fit my identity well enough.  I had the privilege of putting the knowledge I was queer on the back burner until an identity that fit me better was imagined by our culture.

For others, the feelings of being gender variant are so profound and all-encompassing that life simply cannot go on, at least not without suffering and struggle.  I believe this is why so many parents are working to open up space for their children to explore minority sexual and gender identities.  Once that stage in life when our identities are naturally in flux has passed, there is no way to get that time back.

I often wonder what my life would look like right now if I had had pansexual Identity on my radar in college.  It might look exactly the same, but have simply feel more authentic for longer.  Despite my envy, I am deeply encouraged by and utterly respectful of the kids that are coming up now.  They are fundamentally re-thinking gender and opening up space for fuller and richer lives for those who don’t fit easily within the gender binary (and really, for everyone).

That said, we always need to be looking forward, making more space, thinking further outside the box.  There are children growing up right now who will live their whole lives in silent desperation because they fit identity categories the culture has yet to offer.

Copyright 2012,, All Rights Reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero