After reading my Guide to Having Your Lesbian Daughter Home for the Holidays, my mom (whom I did not realize reads my blog pretty regularly --how rad is that?) mentioned that having one's dyke progeny home is not always a walk in the park, either. Even if they want to be fully accepting and supportive, our families don't always know how. So my mom and I have collaborated on this list of how we lesbian daughters can do our part to make family time as joyous (or tolerable, depending on your family) as possible.
We know they love us dearly and want to make us feel comfortable... but sometimes they need a little help, amirite? Here are some do's and don'ts for our well-intentioned straight fams.
DO: Going to buy gifts for your lesbian daughter, but don't know what she'd like? Stick with her list, even if it includes things from the men's department.
DO NOT: Insist on buying her stuff from the women's department if she does not usually buy stuff in the women's department. (If you claim that the socks/sweatshirts/shoes are "just like men's," then you shouldn't care what department you buy them in... Right?)
BONUS TIP: All lesbians love gift certificates. And money. And puppies.
DO: Include her partner in everything, just as you would if her partner was male.
DO NOT: Introduce her partner or girlfriend as her "friend."
BONUS TIP: Not sure whether to use "partner" or "girlfriend?" Ask ahead of time.
DO: Avoid contentious political discussion.
DO NOT: Turn on Fox News, no matter how badly you want to watch it. They sometimes say hostile things about The Gays, which will make your dyke kid annoyed, angry, and/or uncomfortable.
BONUS TIP: This goes for conservative talk radio, too.
DO: Feel free to ask if she's dating anyone.
DO NOT: Ask, "Are you keeping an open mind about dating men?"
BONUS TIP: If a great-aunt asks her, "Have you met a nice man yet?" gently "remind" her: "Actually, Aunt Marge, Suzy dates women, not men."
DO: Carry on with church attendance, if that's part of what you like to do. And invite your daughter--don't assume that she's not religious anymore.
DO NOT: Pressure her. Some of us have a complicated relationship with religion. We might not feel comfortable with the folks at church, the church itself, or some aspect of it. Please respect this.
BONUS TIP: Declining to attend church with you doesn't mean we're not religious or don't believe in God. Attending church with you doesn't mean we're religious, or that we identify with the church's religion.
DO: Group gift exchanges, if you like.
DO NOT:Make them gender-specific gift exchanges (e.g., women bring a "women's gift," men bring a "men's gift," exchanges happen within gender groups). For the gender-atypical among us, that can just underscore the fact that we're not exactly like everyone else, making us feel out of place.
BONUS TIP: Nice scarves, coffee tumblers, a Kindle, a temperature station, or a unisex watch are all terrific gender-neutral gifts.
DO: Compliment your daughter on her appearance, if the compliment is genuine--e.g., "That color looks great on you," or "Those are cool shoes!"
DO NOT: Use a compliment as a back-handed way to get your sapphic offspring to be more gender-conforming or conventional--e.g., "Your hair looks really nice now that you've grown it out a little."
And if you want to be really supportive, wear an awesome shirt like this one.
What else would you add to this list? What makes you feel comfortable (or uncomfortable) when you're home for the holidays?
Last month, I posted a list of things that well-meaning-but-misguided people tend to say to childless lesbians. On my Facebook page, a few readers mentioned that people say equally irritating and/or idiotic things to lesbians who have kids. Here are some of their least favorites:
Seriously, people. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're beside yourself with joy and curiosity about a child or a pregnancy that is not your own. It is very, very rude to ask someone you barely know about the biological details of how his or her children came to be, or to offer your unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinion about how the family arrangement is likely to affect the child.
Q: But what if I really want to know?
A: That's what the Internet is for.
Q: But I'm a total supporter of gay rights! So it's okay if I ask, right?
Q: What if the person I want to ask is a friend or family member?
A: Possibly fine. But this varies based on the person. Some folks will talk your ear off about IVF; others will want to smack you for asking. If the person is a friend, you probably already know the deets or would feel comfortable saying something like, "Hey, I had a few questions about the biological aspects of your pregnancy. Would it be okay if I asked you about it? If not, I certainly understand."
Q: Oh, good! I can ask my lesbian co-worker how she got pregnant!
A: NO. When I say "friend," I'm talking about someone with whom you hang out socially, on a voluntary basis. Just seeing someone at work functions, PTA meetings, or the post office doesn't count.
Q: Oh, good--so I can tell my lesbian daughter that her son needs a male influence?
A: NO. The aforementioned ban on unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinions about someone's child-rearing decisions applies to friends and family members as well.
Any queer parents out there want to add something I missed? Drop me a line or post a comment below!
Okay, I'm hesitating to post this because it makes me seem way more curmudgeonly than I actually (think I) am. Oh well.
I should also say that at least for me, and maybe for other people, none of this applies if you're a close friend or close family member. It's more when acquaintances or (godfuhbid) strangers offer their advice that I blanch.
What you say: There are soooo many options for people who want kids!
What I hear: You're probably too stupid to figure this out, but you can procreate without having sex with a man!
What you say: But you'd be such a good parent!
What I think: I'd also be a good race car driver, occupational therapist, or professional shoeshiner. Natural predilection does not a destiny make.
What you say: Some people are too selfish to have kids.
What I hear: You are selfish and shallow. Unless you have kids. In which case all is forgiven. But I thought better of you. Now you just make me sad.
What you say: You could always adopt!
What I think: No sh*t.
What you say: Lots of lesbians are having kids these days!
What I think: Lots of lesbians are also chain-smokers, alcoholics, drug users, glue-sniffers, head cases, doctors, truckers, and couch potatoes. So?
What you (usually another lesbian) say: My mom didn't fully accept my partner and me until we had kids. But now that she has grandkids, we're closer than ever.
What I hear: Your mother will never fully love you until you procreate.
What you say: There are SO many children out there who need good homes.
What I think: So why didn't you adopt instead of having biological kids? Oh--you're scared you'll end up with a crack baby or a psychopath from a Russian orphanage who's never been held? But I should go for it? Thaaanks.
What you say: NO one thinks they want kids. Then they have them and they're glad they did.
What I think: Am I the only person in the world who's ever heard of cognitive dissonance?
What you say: Are you thinking of having a family?
What I think: So, me + DGF + slightly swollen canine ≠ "family?" Screw you.
What you say: You haven't lived a full life unless you have kids.
What I hear: Your life is invalid. There's only one way to redeem yourself, and it smells like diapers.
What you say: You may think you know what love is, but you don't really know what love is until you have kids.
What I hear: All your feelings are pathetic, shallow, and invalid--mere shadows of what they could have been. Alas!
Okay, so I'm being melodramatic, but you get the idea.
I actually don't think the pressure is nearly as bad for lesbian and gay couples who don't want kids, as it is for straight couples who don't want kids. People basically assume that opposite-sex couples are going to have kids, and that if they don't, it's because there's something biologically "wrong" with them. Instead of just getting asked, "Do you think you'll have kids someday?", people will ask questions like, "Do you think you're going to... start trying?"
I once asked my friend Erica what it felt like to want a kid. She said that when she saw other people's babies, she just wanted to steal them and have them for her very own.
I have never felt this way.
Although, admittedly, I want to steal other people's dogs and take them home and have them for my very own. When I confided this to Erica, she was not especially impressed by my puppy-mothering instincts.
"But doesn't that mean something?" I asked, forcing my mouth into what I hoped was a beatific maternal smile.
"It might, um, mean that you should have dogs instead of children," she said.
Of course, she is right. Baby dogs are cute to me in a way that baby children have never been. People say that babies are cute and smell wonderful. I maintain that even though babies *can* be cute, this is not always the case, and that they typically smell like poo.
My lack of desire to procreate is something I've been thinking about lately, as I am solidly in my mid-30s, and it's now-or-never time if I want a tiny human to spring from my loins. Originally, my mother didn't want kids, but changed her mind and decided she was okay with it, and then she loved having them (and, truth be told, was the best, most engaged mom ever). So I have kind of assumed for most of my life that although I never wanted children at the moment, there would come a time when having children would go from seeming wretchedly inconvenient to seeming kind of fun.
But this time has not come.
If I had a partner who (1) was dying to have kids and (2) was willing to do four-fifths of the work, having kids might sound fun. But my DGF feels the same way I do, meaning that in tandem, we would still be sixty percent short of a parent.
Don't get me wrong--I like kids, particularly after the age of fiveish. I've done a lot of teaching and coaching of various types and at various levels, and I think kids are awesome (my favorite being high schoolers). And if someone gifted me a baby, or something happened to a friend and he or she left me with custody of their kids, I guarantee I'd throw my whole heart and soul into parenting--I really would--and I'd probably love parenting, too. I can guarantee I'd be both open-minded and overprotective.
And yet, I have no special desire to proactively become a parent. Not only does this make me feel like kind of a bad person, but it's also a little odd. After all, tons of babies need good parents and are up for adoption. Why don't I just adopt one? Is it really all that different from a friend leaving me their kid? Somehow, it feels that way.
I also keep feeling as if, one of these days, the desire to have a kid is going to grab onto me, and then I'll "get it." But for now... I don't get it.
Can anyone else relate to how I feel about all this?
Next post: Well-Meaning-But-Obnoxious Things People Tell Lesbians Who Don't Have Kids. (Anything I should be sure to add to this list? Tell me!)