By: Selina Boquet
Remember that really horrible present you got for your birthday as a kid? The one that told you what you should like because of your age, or your sex, when your personal taste was far from the stereotypical norm? Perhaps you were a little pigtailed rough ‘n tough girl who received a frilly dress from Aunt Carol, or a sashaying delicate boy who was graciously given a football helmet and cleats by Uncle Pete. Presents from well-meaning friends and relatives can easily pressure gender roles upon unsuspecting little people who do not fit into neat little gender boxes.
One the most offensive presents I ever received was a New Kids on the Block Sweater from JC Penny from Grandma. I remember I was seven years old and greatly disturbed that Grandma thought I listened to such music. All of my friends were obsessed over the ‘cute boy band’, yet that was not me. No way was I going to drool over some silly boys. Yes, I was a lesbian even at age seven.
I do sympathize with my grandma a bit more now that I have my own children and I’m actively trying to raise them without gender role stereotypes. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. I’m trying to listen to my children carefully. I’m trying to buy them things not just because I want them to have it or because society or my family thinks that they should have it. I find this simple task to be surprisingly difficult. In my fight for raising children who truly live authentic lives there are many obstacles to tackle. The first obstacle is myself.
When I began planning for my twins’ seventh birthday I had no idea what wonderful adventures were in store for me. I would be forever changed as a mother. I would feel a little older and a little wiser for having survived such a plight. I wanted this party to truly be of their own unique design and creation.
Keeping up with my perception of these ever-changing children of mine can be confusing. When did they grow up so fast? Yesterday they were little twin babies suckling and cooing and today they’re listening to Justin Beiber on their headphones. No more princesses, no more Caillou; my kids are growing up. I wanted them to have another sweet little baby party. You know, with pastel colors and the comforting characters from my own childhood like Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.
In Party City, picking out their birthday décor, I had to stop myself from interfering with Savana’s eclectic style. She chose Monster High, which makes me feel extremely old because I had no idea what that is. They look like Brats dolls dressed as monsters. This frightened me at first because I realized that she was changing. Change is scary. Despite my passion for instilling autonomy in my children, at this moment I felt some primal motherly instinct scream deep inside of me,
“No! You’re getting Disney Princesses and that’s final!”
Instead of blurting this out, I bit my tongue and let her choose exactly what she wanted. Upon taking a closer look, I realized that the dolls had some very androgynous characteristics. The gift bag sets came with mini skateboards and black and white marbled ‘decomposition books’. What’s more the feet on these dolls are enormous just like mine! They wear great big, stylish drag queen heels. (I wear size 11 and I love drag queens because they can find the cutest heels in our size! I need a drag queen bff so I can double my shoe closet.) Maybe these dolls were not so bad after all. I mean even the dolls themselves are monsters. That’s a stereotype-bending paradox right there. Aren’t all monsters boys?
Ezekiel, my sweet little monster boy, stuck with the good old fashioned Hot Wheels Cars as his theme. Safe and non-threatening. It was the selection of his birthday gift that threw me for a bit of a loop. He wanted drawing pencils. Drawing pencils?! For a seven year old? I know he loves to draw and he has a special talent, but I had my doubts that a set of charcoal drawing pencils from the art store would be more exciting to him than the latest greatest new toy. Yet after the party, when all was quiet and the last guest had gone home, I peeked into his room. He was there, happily drawing with his new pencils and his new easel, listening to Adele. He looked so mature, so unique, and so authentic. My heart filled with joy. I had given him tools to nurture his soul. Maybe this growing up thing isn’t so scary after all.
When I asked my soon-to-be seven-year-old daughter Savana what she wanted for her birthday, she said she wanted a skateboard. When we searched on the Internet, she pointed at each feminine looking skateboard, exclaiming that it was the perfect one. Great! What an easy present to buy right? Wrong. I thought I’d just drop into Target, Toys R Us, or Big 5 to pick one up. However, in each store that I went to, I only found boyish looking skateboards with flames and dragons. I should have ordered online, but it was too late. With each failed attempt, my persistence grew.
Grandma and Grandpa (on their dad’s side) added fuel to the fire. They gave Ezekiel a skateboard and Savana received clothes. Girls can ride skateboards too! The gender stereotypes were coming at us from all different angles. Finally, a friend helped me find a discounted purple skateboard at the Enjoi Warehouse where she used to work. We found Savana a professional skateboard complete with a panda and rainbows painted on the deck! Gotta have the rainbows. Savana was elated when she opened her present! Just what she wanted. Now let’s hope she doesn’t break any bones.
The day of their birthday party is somewhat of a blur of screaming kids and the scorching summer sun. The kids all jumped, danced, and played their hearts out. My favorite part was seeing that my kids felt free to reveal their own personal style. I could feel the joy in both of them as their individuality was celebrated that special day.
Creating cookie cutter Dick and Janes is the greatest form of discrimination. When I was in church, the homophobic environment created dark, bold lines between gender roles. We were definintely taught that women were inferior to men. I suppose this might be part of the reason why gender neutrality is so important to me.
Right now I’m currently working on un-brainwashing my kids and trying to shake them free of their gender molds that the church and society has pressured them into. We all know that we teach our children more with actions than we do with our words. I can tell my kids a million times that they can be whoever they want to be but if I don’t take the time to listen to their heart and cheer on their passions, then my words fall meaningless.
Where’s the guidebook for newbie lesbian single moms who are dating? I want one. I want the book to be just like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. I want to know how I will feel and what symptoms I will experience at every stage in becoming a newbie lesbian single mom. I would call it:
What to Expect When You’re Lesbianizing
The First Month: After one month of being out of the closet as a newly single mom you should expect to feel very lonely and shut off from the world. You may feel tempted to sleep with anything with a vagina and run through the streets naked. Focus for this month: self-control. Buy yourself a vibrator and stay at home with locked doors.
The Sixth Month: Now that six months have passed and you were too busy talking to girls on the Internet to take the advice from the first month, you need to get out of that relationship you fell into with the first girl that said hi to you. It will be painful and heartbreaking even though you never really liked her in the first place. Focus for this month: Cleaning up after the reckless abandonment of the first few months.
One Year: Congratulations! You have made it through the most difficult stage! If your kids are still alive and you haven’t remarried yet then you have passed the test with flying colors! You can now expect to feel like you know everything and can conquer anything. While the latter is obviously true, you must know that you do not know everything. Stay close to true, honest friends who know you and can give you an outside perspective and don’t get too caught up with the crazy world in your head. They’ve put up with your shenanigans for the past year -now it’s time to not only appreciate them, but start giving back. Focus for this month: Nurture true friendships.
A guide such as this one would be helpful! When I was pregnant I always had my “What to Expect” at my side. It comforted me. I think that what scares me so much about being a new lesbian single mom is the fact that my perspective in retrospect is so much different than my view of the situation when it is occurring. I feel like I am growing in the area of making decisions more from an objective viewpoint and not simply relying on my emotions at the moment. Growing is a good thing.
Now I’m at a new stage in my lesbianization and as per usual, things can be confusing in these unchartered waters without trusty said guide. I’m trying to date without emotionally terrorizing my kids. Like all caring moms, I want to raise emotionally healthy children with the ability to trust and build healthy relationships. And like most new lesbians, I’m excited and curious about this new world I live in.
The balance between the two is the challenge.
My kids have really connected to two of my exes and it’s difficult when they ask for each of them. I explain to my kids that they are still our friends, but we just don’t see each other as often anymore because we are doing different things. Life is like that, I explain. Sometimes you are friends that hang out all of the time and then people grow and change and you go separate ways.
I’ve tried to be selective about who I introduce to my kids, but now I know that I need to be even pickier about who meets Savana and Ezekiel. I had debated this advice before. I had said that with my case it was different. I argued that kids are most affected when the girlfriend/boyfriend fulfills a parenting role. My kids have plenty of parents, they have a mother, a father, and even an uncle in their daily life. My girlfriend will be an addition to the equation, and will not cause much heartbreak if it doesn’t work out. But now, after the break-up, when my kids ask for her -there is a sadness in their eyes. Although the best relationships can turn bad unpredictably, having my kids suffer over my break-up is something I want to protect them from at all costs.
Because of this, I’ve been attempting to hide my dating life from them altogether. Do you know how difficult that actually is? Not bringing my date over to my house, and going to hers? That must be possible in other cities where the price of rent is rational, but here in LA, all of the houses and apartments are filled with roommates, family members, and kids. We have to be silent ninjas.
I think they understand me in Japan. There, they have hotels you can rent by the hour and it is considered commonplace for a couple to rent a room to get their business done. This way, the visitor is not caught trying to sneak out the back door in the morning by a tiny person asking, “Mommy, who’s that?”
By: Selina Boquet
One bright, peaceful day, I was effortlessly frolicking through a field of daisies, the wind in my hair, petals at my fingertips, the sun drenching my upturned face when suddenly, I heard a strange sound. It was a rhythm, so faint I had to stop and listen. It was getting louder. It sounded so strange and out of place…my cell phone. Someone was calling.
I sat up out of my lovely dream with a jolt, gasping for air and blindly answering my phone. Before I could even say hello, reality instantly hit my body. Like watching a movie in fast forward mode, flashes of San Francisco, the road trip and all of the walking we had done that weekend was summed up in one tired, mumbled word, as I put the phone up to my ear. Ouch.
“Hello?” I managed to utter, still trying to separate dream from reality.
I’m not sure how I got that nickname from my Dad. It used to drive me crazy, but now it’s endearing. Some things become more precious to you as you grow up. At least it’s better than the nickname they had tried to place on me. I had one little potty accident at the store when I was about six years old and they started calling me “Li li a la tee tee”. I turned into a little green hulk whenever they called me by that name.
“Hey, I’m flying in on Southwuhwuh on flight woahwoahwaoh. Do you have a pen?” English was not quite making sense yet at this point. Then, a faint knocking at the door. Am I being woken up from another dream?
“Dad, hold on, I think someone’s knocking at my door.” I stumbled to the door and winced at the bright sun from the outside world.
Surprise. The kids were home early.
“Mommy!” I was bombarded with hugs as a somber-faced baby daddy looked on.
“Can we talk?” was his profound request.
Really?! Right now? Why NOW?! Can’t you see that I just woke up? Besides, I hate that question at any time! Difficult and awkward conversations always follow.
“What? What do you want to talk about?” was my confused reply as I tried to keep my composure. With one hand, I unsuccessfully attempted to tame my sleep-induced Mohawk and with the other hand, I rubbed my eyes to see if I was hearing correctly. My hair sprang back into its upright position as he stated,“I want to apologize.”
Great. Gay Boy wants to talk about his feelings. Can’t close the door in his face after those words. Besides, this might be interesting. He might have had a change of heart.
Sigh. “Come in.”
I finished grabbing my dad’s flight information for his nearing visit, and sat down to talk with Omar. He explained that he had never had a chance to apologize for all of the pain he had caused me in our marriage and in the break up. He said that he’s not trying to get me back; he just wanted to know if I had forgiven him. I replied that I had forgiven him for the past, yet the present was still very unpleasant, especially with the way that he hated me and all gay people. When he replied with his usual response that he doesn’t hate me, he just doesn’t agree with being gay, I decided it was a good time to break the more than obvious news to him.
“Omar, you are gay.”
“I’m WHAT? Now how do you figure that? How do you know?”
“Ummm…the biggest clue would be the guys you slept with before and during our marriage. Besides that, you can see it in the way you walk, talk, and dress. You are gay. There’s nothing to be ashamed of and the sooner you can accept that the happier you will be.”
“Wow, I’ve never had this conversation with someone before! I’m not gay! I’m attracted to women and if I was attracted to men, I would fight it with everything I have.”
“I know, and that is exactly what you are doing.” I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation at this moment. I wished my head was clearer. Coffee. I needed coffee. Instead, I talked on. I went into a lecture on authenticity, acceptance, and the joy of living in the truth and loving yourself for who you are. When I finished my speech, I observed his confused expression.
“I hear what you’re saying but I’m having a difficult time following you,” was his earnest reply. Perhaps it was a combination of my sleepiness and his denial that was making my communication unclear.
“What I’m trying to say is, Omar, you’re gay.” We both laughed at my blunt repetition. I was surprised by his relaxed mood. Maybe he is changing. Maybe there is hope. Being able to sit down and have a civil conversation was a big transformation from the beginning days of our break up three years ago.
Back then, our interactions consisted of him peering at me from behind bushes, and driving slowly by my house late at night. Once he even broke into my house to steal a picture of me with my girlfriend at the time and threatened to send it to all of the parents of my students. Considering the fact that most all of our interactions over the last three years had been regulated by a judge, this simple, relaxed conversation was truly a break-through. I know that he’ll come out of the closet soon and I choose to see his improved attitude as a step in this direction. We’ll just wait and see if he remains this friendly when he finds out that I’m sending the state after him for the child support he owes! Until then, I’ll just enjoy the increased level of peace in our required current interactions. Sometimes the universe throws us the smallest of miracles at the most unexpected of times.