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
“Mommy, I’m half gay and half Christian!” My son, Ezekiel proclaimed to me just the other day. He really took it to heart when I told him that when you’re gay, you’re born that way! So if I’m gay, then he must be half-gay! I love the way that children think!
“Sweetie, just because I’m gay and your daddy is Christian, it doesn’t mean that you have to be either of those things. You are your own person! You discover who you are and don’t let anybody else tell you anything different! In fact, you can be gay AND Christian!”
His eyes widened in surprise. That’s it, I decided. It’s time to take my kids to Pride. They need to see that there are more gay people out there than just their crazy mom. The week before LA Pride I told my kids we were going to a huge party where everyone loves and accepts everyone no matter how they dress, who they love, or what they believe. I told them that everyone dresses in rainbow to signify that even though we are all different colors, together we make a beautiful rainbow.
Once Ezekiel learned about the dress code, he instantly exclaimed,
“But I don’t have a rainbow shirt!!” This became his new obsession that week. Savana, my daughter, had a rainbow shirt, but Ezekiel did not. At the end of each question or request he would remind me:
“I’m hungry! I don’t have a rainbow shirt.”
“Can I go play outside? I don’t have a rainbow shirt.”
“Why do I have to clean my room? I don’t have a rainbow shirt!”
When the day of Pride finally came I still had not been able to go shopping for his rainbow shirt. Although I had told him if he mentioned it one more time, there would be no rainbow shirt, I was secretly pleased at his persistence to show his support. We quickly stepped inside of Old Navy on our way to LA Pride and luckily I found one rainbow shirt in the boys’ section. He hasn’t voluntarily taken it off since. I have to peel it off of him, quickly wash and dry it, and he isn’t happy until he’s wearing it once more.
I was nervous about taking my kids to Pride. I didn’t tell many people about my plans because I didn’t want to hear, “Oh that’s not a place for kids.” Before we went, I looked on-line for the kid’s area of LA Pride and I saw a jumper in the background of one of the pictures from previous years. I hope there’s a jumper, I thought to myself.
As we walked into Pride that Saturday afternoon in our rainbow shirts, I was searching for other kids. I didn’t see any at all. Would they have fun without any other kids around? My kids held onto me tightly as the grown-ups towered over them. There better be a jumper, I thought, or I’m going to have to take this up with the planning committee of LA Pride. I wanted my kids to have some fun, positive associations with being gay. Every Sunday when they go to church with their dad, they are shown how much fun it is to be a gay-hating Christian with candy, crafts and puppets. The competition is steep.
We made our way over to Summer Tramp, LA Pride’s newest addition to the annual celebration. It was early in the day and there were very few people still. We stood at the entrance and took in the sight. There were two huge jumpers! One was in the shape of the Titanic and it had a gigantic slide and the other was a double waterslide! There were two brand new swimming pools with lots of floaties to play with and many beach balls to bounce around! Everything looked fresh out of the box and no one was playing with any of these things! My kids were in heaven! We slid, swam, bounced, and splashed until we were plum pooped out!
It was at that time when the party people began to show up and the place was starting to get crowded. Savana and Ezekiel had collapsed on a giant inflatable sun and when I told them it was time to go, they uttered through half-closed eyes,
“But we’re still playing! We don’t want to go yet!” I told the kids it was grown-up time in the pool area and they reluctantly put on their shoes and followed me to the booths. It was time for their lesson on religion and acceptance. I remembered how surprised I had been to see the booths of gay-friendly churches at my first Pride.
As soon as we began our way down the aisle of booths, faces all around us lit up,
“Kids! Oh they’re so cute! Here’s a sticker! Ask your adult if you may have some candy! Take it all!” We quickly became overwhelmed with free pens, bags, sunglasses, and even band-aids! Bringing kids to Pride has great rewards! We approached one booth where they had a little table and chairs, some coloring books and a bubble blower just for kids! It was clean and new, just waiting for my little artists to color away!
When I was finally able to pull them away from the coloring table where they had about five people waiting on them hand and foot, picking up each crayon for them the second they rolled to the floor, we said goodbye and went to talk to the people at the church booths. Episcopal, Methodist, Non- denominational, we hit them all.
“What do the families look like that go to your church?” I asked each friendly booth attendant. They explained to the kids that all kinds of families go to their church, families with two mommies, two daddies, one mommy and one daddy, or even just one mommy or just one daddy. It was so great for me to be able to show my kids that there are many different loving and accepting churches out there where you can be gay and be a Christian. In just a few minutes we were able to visit several different churches that may believe different things ideologically, yet they all agree more importantly that hate is not a Christian value.
Satisfied and sleepy, it was time to go home as the place was really starting to get packed. As we walked to the car, more admirers smiled at our little family, now completely adorned in rainbow pride from head to toe. We looked like a rainbow had just swallowed us whole and spit us out again. My heart soared with a new definition of pride that day.
The rainbow obsession carries on as my kids eagerly covered their rooms, books, and bags with rainbow stickers as soon as we got home. When we went to the movies yesterday I got in trouble with my son because I wasn’t wearing my rainbow shirt. It made me realize that although I have been out of the closet for three years, I’ve never worn my rainbow shirt around them in public. Even though I consider myself a fearless LGBT Activist, I guess I didn’t want them to have to deal with the comments of insensitive strangers.
Yet my son taught me that I don’t need to worry about what some random stranger may tell us. The war is at home as my kids already face bigotry every weekend when they go with their own dad. They do not need a mom in hiding, protecting them from the hate of the world. They need a mom strong enough to stand loud and proud! Hate can scream ferociously, yet love and acceptance can shine louder! The only way that hate may win is if love does not have the courage to speak. Live Loud! Shine Proud! Happy Pride!
By: Selina Boquet
I found myself a new boyfriend. I met him when my friends took me to their family’s horse ranch at the foot of the mountains, in the San Fernando Valley. He came struttin’ by in his dusty cowboy boots, Stetson hat and Wranglers. The veil of dust kicked up from the many hooves of horses trotting around the make-shift arena added to his mystique. He tipped the brim of his hat to guard his eyes from the scorching desert sun as he examined me carefully.
“Te está mirando para arriba y para abajo (He’s looking you up and down)!” my friend leaned over and whispered in my ear. She then addressed my new suitor, “La quieres conocer? Venga! Te la presento! (You want to meet her? Come on! I’ll introduce you!)”
I jumped down from the horse trailer to shake his hand. As I kneeled down to give him a kiss on the cheek, he blushed and swiftly wiped the kiss from his face with the back of his chubby little hand. He may have only been six years old, but he already knew that no matter how enchanting a girl may be, protection from cooties is first priority.
He kept a close eye on me from a safe distance as we continued watching the horses. A majestic Clydesdale was on-stage dancing to the live, boisterous mariachi music. His enormous frame bounced lightly to the beat of the music. I watched in amazement as the immense horse held alternating hooves perfectly poised between beats. His owner rode proudly, dressed to impress in a traditional traje de charro, or cowboy suit. The silver buttons that lined his pants gleamed together with the silver horn of the meticulously polished saddle.
I carefully hopped back onto the bed of the horse trailer, trying not to get splinters in my city girl ass. The height protected me from the thunderous hooves of the horses that came to visit us in-between songs. Some of the riders were not as precise in their riding skills towards the end of the party and the horses would come so close that if you didn’t pay attention you’d get a mouthful of horsetail. Not as tasty as it looks. The excited energy at the event was a drastic change in pace from the slow, easy morning we had spent in the small, quiet town.
Earlier in the day I had accompanied my friend’s grandpa on his usual errands (both of my grandpas are gone so I borrow others whenever I have the chance). Each store clerk and customer we passed was introduced to me as a family member or a long-time friend. Grandpa would joke with the ladies we encountered that they shouldn’t be so jealous just because he was with such a pretty girl. That’s what my Paw paw used to call me -his Pretty Girl. And just like my dear Paw paw, it was difficult to even drive down the street without stopping to talk to someone he knew and had something urgent to tell them, making his rounds the old-school Facebook way of actually greeting his friends face to face.
I loved the fact that the easy-paced town, the people, and the horses reminded me so much of the way things were when I was a little girl on my Paw paw’s farm in East Texas. I felt like my Paw paw was right there with me and that Maw maw was waiting for us at home with her fresh-baked biscuits. It helped me understand the reason why some devote their lives to continuing their heritage and the small town way of life. Taking the time to honor the significant traditions of our family can be the bridge from the past to the future in which our loved ones may live immortal.
Back at the ranch, as I therapeutically stroked the beautiful horses, I tried to not think about anything I was supposed to do that day. I didn’t think about work or laundry or bills. Instead, I let myself drift into a time and place where life is quieter and the rumble of the city is silenced by the blanket of desert heat and the awe-inspiring pristine mountains looming near.
In the hustle of the big city, somewhere in-between Karate classes, nagging bosses, whining kids, nail biting deadlines, and anger inducing traffic, I had forgotten how to slow down and put my grandiose issues into perspective. Hard to believe that one of my worries had been about missing my workout that day, and the next darn day my muscles were so sore from horseback riding that I was hobbling around my school in South Central all bow-legged looking like I had truly lost my horse. As I return to my daily reality, I find that although my usual stressful problems are still here, they feel a little bit smaller; a little bit lighter. It’s funny how sometimes taking a step backwards can actually help you to move forward.
By: Selina Boquet
I recently deactivated my Facebook account from my days as a leader in a Spanish speaking church. I had forgotten all about it! I was so eager to get away that this was one of the loose strings left untied. It was strange seeing my old profile again. All of the church people were there with their fake lives and Cheshire grins. It’s funny how I had spent so much time with these people and now as I look back, I don’t miss it at all. Not one bit.
I looked through the few pictures that were there. There were photos of me with different church leaders looking poised and enthusiastically conservative in a salmon colored button up shirt. Boy was I fat! What is it with religion that makes you eat? I think it’s all of the gathering. In those days we had meeting after meeting, and especially in the Latin Ministry, there was always really good food. While enchiladas and tostadas might be good for the soul, they certainly are not good for the waistline.
As I looked at the pictures, I saw only a vague resemblance of myself in the girl I had once been; a faint echo of who I am now. In retrospect, I can see the confusion hidden behind my smile. I loved their passion, dedication, and their faith, yet something bothered me deep down inside.
Religion has always been a central part of my life. When I was five, I remember going “door knocking” with my father. We would knock on doors and hand out tracks. These tracks had little cartoons and scriptures that would catch your eye and make you want to become a Christian. I had two favorites. One was the one with the devil on the cover and the flames of hell burning all over him! I remember thinking, “That looks scary! Why would anyone WANT to read that?” The other one is a tricky and very real looking one hundred dollar bill. I could just imagine the poor fool, so excited to reach down and grab his newly found one hundred dollar bill only to see that it’s an invitation to invite Jesus into your heart.
In Portland, Oregon, where I grew up, they made praying Jesus into your heart easier than ever! Just down the street from my house, right across from Cruisers, the local burger joint, there was a Pray Jesus Into Your Heart Drive-Thru! Now that is what I call convenient! The large black and white sign read, “Free Prayer!” Which is a very good price for prayer these days with inflation and everything; at some churches it’ll cost you your first born son!
We always teased my little brother because nearly every Sunday at the end of church when they did the alter call, he would walk down to the front, along with the few brave visitors, and pray Jesus into his heart. I remember clear as day when I asked that little seven-year-old why he kept going to get saved every single Sunday.
He replied, “Because it doesn’t feel like it’s sticking!”
I was very disappointed when I started to read the Bible in college and realized that praying Jesus into your heart was more of a cultural phenomenon than a scriptural truth. As I studied the Bible and religion further, I uncovered more and more shocking revelations.
In my World Religions class, we studied Religions of the World by Lewis M. Hopfe and Mark R. Woodward. Right away, my professor at the Christian college warned us that the things we would learn in the class might test our faith. As I studied, I learned that several of the founding teachings of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were merely adopted ideas from neighboring religions. The concept of hell, heaven, Satan, demons, and angels was not even introduced to the Bible until the Jewish culture adapted the concept from another roaming group of atheistic people, called the Zoarastrians, five hundred years after the first book of the bible had been written (which is not Genesis, by the way).
I had always pictured the Bible being handed down on a golden tablet, directly from God, straight to Moses, written perfectly. It blew my mind. If heaven and hell were ideas that the Jewish people copied from a group of roaming nomads who didn’t even believe in God, then how could that be such a cornerstone of Christianity? I didn’t answer these questions, or dwell on my doubts too much at that time. They remained an ever present nagging mosquito that I would swat away every chance I had. There was no way that my family could be wrong.
You cannot change a person’s faith by filling her head with mere facts. It’s the heart that decides what it wants to believe. I often wonder what my beliefs would be if I had been born in a different culture. I could just as easily have been raised a devout Bhuddist, Wikkin, or even Zoroastrian. As human beings, we are innately loyal to the culture in which we are born. Who knows, either you or I could have been one of the young Muslims preparing for Jihad.
When I came out of the closet, I tried different gay churches. Although I enjoyed seeing a place of worship where everyone was included in a loving and welcoming environment, I didn’t feel like I needed to be there. I had spent my whole life believing that without someone telling me what to do, I would be a horrible person. There’s a freedom in knowing that you’re doing the right thing, not because someone is telling you what to do, but because it is the right thing to do. The concept of someone being a good person and leading a good life independent of religion is a strange thought to many.
It wasn’t until I was 29 years old that I realized that it’s ok not to know all of the secrets to our existence. There is beauty in the mystery. I appreciate the best of all religions and understand that religion can bring peace and meaning to the lives of many. As for me, I’ve done my time in church and am happy that I do not have all the answers.
By: Selina Boquet
I had tried to talk him out of it. As soon as I saw my dad making a present for my mom, my stomach twisted in anxiety, knowing that giving presents was not my dad’s forte. It was hard to burst his bubble, though. He had such a silly grin on his face as he joyfully prepared his special gift. As a teenager it was sad to see my dad try his best to make my mom happy, yet always end up failing. The previous year had been a disaster because the poor guy had forgotten Mother’s Day altogether. The year before that, the book he gave her was hurled through the air, gently grazing the top of my head. My mom’s tendency to throw objects at high speeds had perfected my evading techniques throughout my childhood. However this particular year, my dad was determined to give her something she would never forget.
“Happy Mother’s Day!” My little brother, my dad, and I sang in unison as we carefully laid our cards and gifts in front of her on the bed. Our mood was hopeful as every occasion we tried to be, even though we still braced ourselves for the worst. I imagined our gifts as a ceremonial offering to an easily angered god. Mom loves surprises and she was already astounded that her usually forgetful husband had remembered to give her a present this year. As she carefully opened the cylinder-shaped package I’m sure she had all sorts of high hopes. Maybe it was a new bottle of her favorite perfume called, ‘Smells like Giorgio’! The small, orange perfume came in what looked like a spray can and it didn’t last her long as she bathed in the cheap, imitation fragrance daily. Or perhaps he had gotten her a Victorian figurine! She could always use one more for her collection.
My mom loved all things Victorian and we would often enjoy tea and crumpets on a blanket in the yard amongst the Douglas Fir trees, with our floppy Victorian hats and horribly fake English accents. Time seemed to move slowly as we enjoyed one of the few Oregon days where the sun had managed to momentarily break through the stubborn clouds. My most familiar memory of my mom is of her sitting on the Victorian rose-print flimsy foam couch, in the living room where she had painted the walls bright purple, watching Days of our Lives. Characters from the show like Roman and Marlena are family to me as day after day they watched me grow up, awkward and bewildered. I can still hear the fizzle of the bubbles from her Diet Coke and the crunch of her Sour Cream and Cheddar Lays Chips as she snacked away while paying homage to her daytime soap opera.
My mom has always been a perplexing creature. Just when you think you can predict her reaction, she throws you for a loop. Her own mother had the Southern charm that allowed her tell people off while sounding like she was giving them a compliment. Christian values spoke strictly against gossip of any sort, yet it seemed as if anything could be said as long as a sympathetic, “Bless her heart” followed.
“She’s having such a hard time losing weight, bless her heart. You know that’s why she hasn’t found a husband, bless her heart.” It always fascinated me to listen to my grandma and aunts skillfully insult other unsuspecting family members with deep criticisms, disguised as concerned interest. My mom, on the other hand, has never had the patience for that. She tells you what she thinks exactly when she thinks it.
A friend once described her perfectly. He observed, “Your mom is the nicest and meanest person I have ever met.” It’s true! My whole life my mom was always helping to clothe, feed, and house complete strangers who were down and out on their luck, sharing what little we had. She taught me the importance of smiling at everyone you see on the street and always thought of creative ways to entertain us with little to no money at all. She was the first one to arrive at a party and the last one to leave.
Yet, even during the fun times, one of her infamous temper tantrums was always just around the corner. One quiet afternoon, my brother and I were watching after-school cartoons. Our dad, as usual, was putting around the house, fixing this and that in his familiar bustling way. Suddenly, a horrendous scream broke through the peaceful house.
“This place looks like a nigga shack!” In the dead silence following her eruption, we all looked at each other, shocked. Mom’s screams usually jump started us into a frenzy of cleaning fools, yet this time we all burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of her simile. Here it was, 1997, and she was comparing our house to those of the dirt-floored slaves’ homes of the Old South! Unfortunately, her racist roots would boil up from time to time. Even though some of her best friends were African American, the world in which she was raised had left its footprint on her subconscious.
Now that I’m an adult and I have my own kids to discipline, I realize that there is no perfect mother. We each do the best that we can. Some moments are successful, and some are embarrassing, yet hopefully our children turn into decent human beings. I thank my mother for all of the beautiful things she taught me, and the courage to laugh at the mistakes she made with me.
Waiting on that Mother’s Day so long ago for my mom to open the present my dad had made her was like bracing for the impact of a crash landing. Despite my hope that she would see the heart behind his gift, I knew she would not be pleased. Finally, the brown paper bag wrapping was torn away to reveal….a Victorian pencil holder! My dad smiled wide with pride, waiting for her gasp of pleasure.
“What is THIS?! A toilet paper roll??!!!!” my mom instantly exploded. My dad had taken an empty toilet paper roll and had lovingly stuck Victorian stickers to it. He had then glued the decorated toilet paper roll to a small piece of a wooden board from the shed. In his mind, it had been a fantastic creation she would cherish forever. Instead, we spent another Mother’s Day morning in our pajamas at Walgreens hunting for cheap flowers, cards, chocolates, and of course, perfume that ‘Smells like Giorgio’.
By: Selina Boquet
“I’m gay,” I uttered to my husband late one night as our toddler twins were finally snoring away. I pushed a piece of blonde hair behind my ear and sat up in bed and looked at him straight in the face. I wanted him to see my sincerity. I wanted to send him flashing memories of all of the girls that I had said were so hot. I wanted him to remember the stories I had told him about Ellie, my first girlfriend. I was ready to admit that my gay wasn’t ever going to be prayed away. It was time to see if I could convince him of the same.
Everyone in my church knew that I was gay. Ellie was even a part of my testimony. As a Christian, your biggest tool in converting others is your story of what Jesus saved you from. The more sinful and horrid your past life before going to church, the more powerful a tool you have in bringing others to believe in God and joining the church. The more people you bring into the church, the better Christian you are.
My relationship with Ellie was the biggest sin on my sin list. Before you become a part of the church I was in, you have to write a sin list. They instruct you to sit down and write a list of every single sin you have ever committed. Only through confession of every sin before baptism can you be saved. After reading the sin list to the leaders of the church, I felt so shameful and guilty that the opportunity to wipe everything clean was an oasis in the dessert.
When I became a leader in the church, listening to the sin lists was a sad, yet secretly fascinating part of the conversion process. I heard all sorts of intimate details of the lives of these people who I had only just met. They would tell of drugs, sex, abortions, affairs and most times I was the only person they had ever divulged their secrets to. Just as I had been pulled into the church by guilt, I dragged others in the same way. For only 10% of your monthly paycheck and an additional annual donation of 20% of your income you would be accepted into God’s kingdom and a filthy sinner no more.
After being a zealous leader in the church for more than six years, I knew that with those two words, “I’m gay”, I would ruffle a lot of feathers. However, I had no idea exactly how ugly it would get.
“Don’t worry honey,” my husband consoled in response to my brave confession. He rested a condescending hand on my shoulder like Jesus to a lowly beggar. Even his other hand completes the imitation with a graceful sweep of his upturned palm. “We’ll get you help. We’ll get through this.”
“I don’t want help. I am gay and that’s not going to change. I’m tired of pretending and being ashamed of who I am. I think we need to separate, but I need some time to think.”
That Friday night, Omar was optimistic and thought this was just one more of my weak moments. In the morning when he saw that I was serious and was truly considering leaving him, he started to get angry. The tension in the house was thick and I needed some air to be alone with my thoughts. The next day I went to Ventura beach to try to clear my head and decide if I wanted to take the huge step of going out on my own in this huge city where I had few friends.
As I drove up to the peaceful town and looked out onto the tranquil ocean, I knew that I had already made my decision. The only thing I could think about was getting back to my babies and starting our new life together. I quickly drove back home and embraced my children. They needed me to be strong for them. Their elated faces when I walked through the door reassured me that I was making the right decision.
When we missed church on Sunday for the first time ever, the leaders came to our house to talk to us. I did not want to talk to them and I stayed in my room while Omar told them what was going on. I knew that they would be back and I did not want to be there when they returned.
I needed to find a place where my kids and I could begin again. I instantly found a small studio guest house to rent and I stayed there by myself the first night. The floor was hard and cold as I only had a couple of blankets for a bed, yet it was the most joyous night of my life. I was finally free.
The next day, I returned to my apartment for my kids, and just as I was about to leave, the leaders of the church drove up unannounced. My stomach dropped. I was not looking forward to this conversation. This was a common tactic that even I had used to try to talk to members of the church who were trying to leave in an effort to keep them from walking away. I knew exactly what they were doing because I had done it before.
I reluctantly agreed to talk with them, hoping that I could show them how determined I was to move on with my life. Over the course of our discussion, I felt the pressure building. Unexpectedly, Omar admitted that he had been unfaithful to me several times throughout our eight-year marriage. He told me for the first time in front of the leaders that early in our marriage he had had relationships with men and women from his work numerous times. This took me as a complete surprise and left me in a state of shock. Coming out of the closet was difficult enough without dealing with the pain of the betrayal of my best friend through some of the happiest times of our marriage.
I felt an overwhelming sorrow and the world around me went dull. I felt like I was in a deep well and I could only see blurry images of people from afar, speaking in muffled voices. The church leaders told me it would be best if I stayed with them for a few days so they could take care of me and help me through this difficult time. I numbly said goodbye to my babies and got into the car with them. They took me to their apartment in Hollywood and I cried for three days. At the leader’s apartment, they had bible studies with me and told me how great of a testament of faith it would be if I forgave Omar and chose to return to my life with him. I knew that if I could hold true to my decision in the midst of the very leaders I once respected and served, then I would be certain that my heart was leading me towards the truth.
I asked them when I could go home. I didn’t think it was fair that I had been taken away from my kids when Omar was just as guilty of homosexual sin as I was. They informed me firmly that I could go back to my kids when I changed my mind and decided to go back to church. I was trapped. It was that second that I knew that I had to fight for my life and my kids. I put all of my clothes into my garbage bag and told them I was going to do laundry. Instead, I picked up my kids and took them to the store to start setting up our new home. I was finally one hundred percent sure that I was making the right decision.
It’s been three years now and there isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t cherish my freedom. From my first gay pride to my first time walking down the street holding a girl’s hand, every moment is beautiful for me. How relieved I am to know that I do not have a horrid disease that needs to be cured, or a dreadful past to be ashamed of. In my search for spiritual guidance, I was misguided and taken advantage of, yet it was not too late for me to choose the right path. The divine love I was seeking came from deep inside of me as I finally learned to accept my true self.
By: Selina Boquet
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to
blossom. –Anais Nin
Blossoming is a dangerous act. It takes courage to spread your petals to the world and gamble losing friends, family, and even your life.
Many people ask how I made the decision to come out of the closet.
I had a lot to lose. I was deep into my perfectly formulated heterosexual lifestyle. I’ve been asked how I could have left the church and my marriage of eight years to face Los Angeles alone with my two kids. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t painless, but it was worth it.
When I decided to come out of the closet, there was no one magical moment that pushed me into full bloom. Instead, it was a million complex movements that lead me to the greatest epiphany of my life.
I had many puzzle pieces that helped awake me out of my 28-year-long slumber. I always knew that I liked women, yet there is a huge difference between knowing that you are attracted to women and realizing that you are, in fact, a lesbian. Admitting this to myself was a long process.
One of my first recognizable turning points occurred after watching the movie, “Into the Wild”. I was surprised by my feelings of jealousy for the freedom of the protagonist of the story. As the plot unfolds, a young man turns down the comforts of money and modern society to live in a van in the Alaskan wilderness. He had no masks. No one’s personal agenda or religious expectations affected his life decisions. He was living the definition of pure freedom. Having that kind of liberating freedom in my own life seemed so distant and foreign that I broke down crying and couldn’t stop for hours. All night I searched through this mysterious sadness in my heart that I had pushed to the side for so long.
It didn’t make sense to me, though. I had followed all of the rules to success that had been taught to me. My mental list had neat little checks in all of the boxes. Church Leader. Check. Teaching Career. Check. Two beautiful children. Check. Husband. Check. I had the life that others told me would make me happy.
So then why did I feel so empty inside?
In the eyes of everyone around me, I had the perfect life. My grandma sure was proud of me. She loved to hear what we were doing in the church and how we were being promoted higher and higher into leadership.
“I’m so grateful all of my grandchildren (there are 27 of us) are workin’ for the Lawd,” she would proudly say at the end of each of our conversations in her sweet southern drawl.
When I started to see the truth, that I was gay, I felt empty inside. If I believed that what my church and my Southern Baptist family had taught me about homosexuals, then I served a God who hated me. I remember singing for the church choir and feeling like an absolute stranger to these people who were closer than my family. I knew that if they knew I was gay then I would no longer be welcome amongst them. The more I learned about my true self, the more I felt among enemies. This was difficult because as I had moved from Oregon where I grew up to Los Angeles just two years earlier, I didn’t have any family in California and almost all of my friends were from the church.
My co-workers were my only true friends in California and one in particular, Patty, helped me by asking me challenging questions and patiently listening to me. We were carpool buddies and we spent about two hours a day in the car together. She became my therapist and my great wise sage as she listened intently and supported me each step along the way as I discovered my authentic self. I owe her my life.
“You mean that you used to be gay, but you gave it up for God? How is that possible?” Patty marveled one day, “If someone told me I couldn’t be straight anymore, I had to be gay, I couldn’t do it!” I nodded with confidence and pride at my dutiful commitment to God, yet inwardly I was shocked at why I had never seen it that way before. Even in my disconnected state, it made a lot of sense, yet I wasn’t ready to admit that I had been wrong. Gay people aren’t made, they’re born. Tiny moments of clarity such as these accumulated in my thoughts and helped to take me one step closer towards my own acceptance of the truth.
Over the next few months my eyes began to open little by little as I slowly began to accept the fact that I was gay and that I wasn’t going to change. I started to see that I did not fit in the life I was living. Once I fully accepted that, I came out right away. On April 25th, 2008, approximately one year after my conversation with Patty, I told Omar, my husband, that I was gay.
As I look back at my journal entry from that day, I can see that even then I doubted my decision. I wanted the picture perfect life that had been painted for me. Yet as I wrote on that fateful day, ‘there is only so much pain one person can take’. Despair and self-pity run so deep in my journal entry, it scares me at how close I was to taking my own life. I remember that at my darkest moment, the faces of my two beautiful children came to my mind and a glimmer of hope flickered somewhere deep inside.
When it feels like you have nowhere to go, death can appear to be a good option. The number of people who have fallen for that lie and choose to take their own life, sadly seems to rise every day. I thought that I had come to the end, yet it was only the beginning. In the eyes of my children, I found the hope that I needed to carry on.
Anais Nin understood that there is more suffering in hiding from the world, than there is in revealing your true core by spreading your petals to the sun. The fear of pain and rejection is what kept me tight in a bud yet the philosophical poet, Kahlil Gibran, reminds us that, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The sorrow that once created canyons of emptiness inside of me now allows me to hold an ocean of joy.
Thanks to the struggle that it took to come out of the closet, I now possess a more profound level of gratitude for the simple things in my life. My hypocritical and judgmental friends have been replaced with loving, supportive friends and family who love me for who I am. It is better for someone to reject you for who you are than to love you for who you are not. Every day I treasure the freedom and peace that comes from living an authentic life.
By: Selina Boquet
As a little girl I was never allowed to watch any cartoons with magic in them, for fear that they would somehow turn me into a witch. While shielding me from the sorcery in Care Bears, my over-protective mother failed to imagine the influence that Punky Brewster would have upon me. Her tomboy ways made my cheeks flush as I gazed in admiration. More than twenty years later, I still have the same type. My girlfriend looks just like her.
When I was seventeen, I fell in love with Ellie. She was my first real kiss and I was so relieved. Any other kind of romantic relationship with a boy that my mom pushed me into felt so awkward and foreign. When I was with Ellie I felt pure serenity. We were both deathly afraid of my mother’s Southern Baptist Values and Heavy Texan Hand. My mother made no mistake as to her beliefs on homosexuals. She prayed for their damned souls just as she prayed for the child molesters and the murderers.
At age 18, I told my mom I wanted to move out. She said that the only way I could leave the house was if I was married to a man. No daughter of hers was going to be one of those slutty girls who lived by themselves. When I met Omar, I knew that he was my ticket out of a bad situation. We married six weeks after we met.
Marital stereotypes construed my understanding of a healthy marriage. When you grow up and get married you’re miserable. Married people don’t have sex. And if they do, the wives always have headaches and are unsatisfied with little sexual desire. My marriage fit those misconceptions perfectly. In my innocent viewpoint of the world, the dysfunctional marriages I saw around me were my only comparison. I was unhappy. I was normal. I filed away the attraction to girls that I had felt since early in life into the category of experimentation.
I chose not to see that the things or people that we are attracted to in our youth are the same things and people we are attracted to when we grow up. Social-learning theorists tell us that children are able to identify gender as early as two years old. However, gender is fluid until the age of seven years old. That is when learned gender stereotypes are adapted and most children adhere to the societal expectations of their gender. This is easy for the majority of people who fit into those two categories. For the rest of us, it can be the beginning of a life-long challenge to find our place in society.
As I watch my own kids grow up, I see gender roles being forced upon them. Their father is one of the main culprits. Because of his insecurities of his own sexuality, he makes sure that Ezekiel and Savana are neatly compartmentalized into girl and boy boxes. I know that Ezekiel would enjoy taking ballet with his sister, yet even though I encourage him to do so, he’s paralyzed by the fact that he would be the only boy.
Society has suggested and his father has confirmed that boys don’t like ballet. However, little do most people know that when ballet first began and for more than three hundred years after, women only stood around in their corsets and hooped dresses, while the men were the main dancers. In fact, The Austin Ballet states that the pointing of the foot, which is the foundation for all five ballet positions, was created so that King Louis XIV could show off his shiny shoe buckle when he played the Sun God in Le Ballet de la Nuit. Society’s definition of masculinity has completely flipped since the 15th century. The mainstream definition of gender and sexual identity is enforced by popular thought, which leaves us pigeonholed and restricted from exploring ourselves freely.
Ezekiel’s struggle reminds me of my own as I pleaded with my grandpa to be allowed to drive the four-wheeler on the farm. My cousin Bubba Jack was my age when he started to drive the four-wheeler, but that just was not allowed for girls. My hope is that someday soon human beings will evolve to an androgynous society where everyone can choose what and whom they love and feel no shame for following their heart’s desire.
When it comes down to it, we are all people. Although there are many commonalities between people with the same genitalia, no one can put a stamp on a group of people because of their physical appearance. Sandra Bem, from the University of Nebraska, asserts that research shows ‘exaggerated gender-specific behavior severely limits the intellectual and emotional development of both men and women’. When you define a person by their character and not by their gender, only then can you expect to authentically know that person, and not simply a reflection of false gender roles, acquired by conformation to the societal norm.
When I came out to my mom, she cried that it was all her fault that I was gay. If she wouldn’t have forced me into relationships with guys, I wouldn’t despise it so. Being in bad relationships with guys did not turn me into a lesbian, just as secretly watching the Care Bears behind my mom’s back did not turn me into a witch. Likewise, my crush on Punky Brewster was not the beginning of learning how to be gay, yet a sign that love sees no gender.
When we are told what and whom we may love, it restricts us as human beings. Coming out of the closet does not mean that you change teams or that you become gay. It simply means that you decide to shed the gender roles enforced upon you in order to reveal your true self. That being said, there is no moment when you realize you are gay; instead there is a moment when you realize that you are the person who defines your sexuality and not the society in which you live.
By: Selina Boquet
“Mommy, why are you gay?”
Over spaghetti tonight, my daughter asked this poignant question. Ezekiel, my son, looked up from his vegetables with big eyes and waited for my answer. Both of my children are slowly forming their understanding of what gay means and these conversations are becoming more and more frequent. They attend church with their father every Sunday where they are taught that being gay is wrong and evil. Many parents are scared of this topic, yet I welcome it and use these questions to teach my children about tolerance, respect, and most importantly, about me.
I repeated the same answer I give them every time they ask. I’m gay because I was born gay. This led into one of my usual lectures. I instructed my 6-year-old twins to never pretend to be someone they’re not. Lying only makes us sad inside. Savana continued by stating,
“And that’s why you and Daddy do not live together. Because you’re gay. I wish you and Daddy lived together.”
The bluntness of her statement surprised me. She’s growing up so fast. I explain to my inquiring little minds,
“I do not want to make you sad by not living with Daddy. I am being truthful about who I am. It is important to always live in the truth. Never try to be someone you are not, and never ever be ashamed of who you are.” It feels so good to be able to be honest with my children. My decision to come out of the closet was fueled by the realization that I was teaching my children how to live a lie.
I sometimes think about what my life would be like if I would have remained inside the closet, hiding behind my “Holy-Rollers” mask. What sermons would I be preaching? What group of women would I be leading? Where would they have shipped me off to by now? Planting a church in a Spanish speaking country was once the dream I had lived for. I came to Los Angeles to be trained to spread the gospel around the world. Little did I know, my “Praise Jesus” mask would soon become unbearable.
The fame and power of being a church leader was intoxicating. Standing in front of hundreds -sometimes thousands of admirers, you feel validated and accomplished. People were so awed by my courage and faith to be able to come out of homosexuality to help others who struggle with the strange disease. I wanted so much to be a good person in their eyes.
Yet more than anything, when I became a mom, I wanted to be a good mom. I wanted to be a happy mom. I could feel the talons of depression sink deeper into me as I became distant to the world because of my heavy secret. I knew that I had to take action soon. I could not hide my authentic self anymore. My kids were suffering from my emotional absence and they deserved a happy and healthy mother. Finally, I decided to trust my heart and to go against what I had been taught my whole life. I left the church and my husband, the father of my children, and started anew on my own. I had finally realized that there are some things that cannot be prayed away.
It’s been three long years since that night that I told my husband I was gay, I was leaving him, and I didn’t want “help” from the church. He, on the other hand, decided to attend their un-gaying classes.
“They told me I can’t do this anymore,” he reported after his first “lesson”. Demonstrating, he twisted his right hand to the side, pinky aloft in his very familiar, very gay, motion. That’s right. I wasn’t the only gay in the marriage. We were both in hiding, so we hid together. We shared a big closet.
It’s amazing to me now how wrong I was, how oblivious I was. I forgot about myself and the message that I would soon be teaching my children because I was so busy trying to make everyone else happy. People ask me if I regret the decisions I made. Although it’s difficult not to think about the eight years of my life as wasted away, if I never would have gone down that path, I never would have had my beautiful boy and my spunky little girl. They are the sun in my life, and without them I would not survive. The main thought that went through my head and that gave me the strength to come out of the closet was knowing that by doing so, I was teaching my children that it takes courage to be who you are.
Even though my kids are being told every Sunday that their mom is evil, I know that they know in their heart what the truth is. They can feel the love in our house so much that they don’t really look forward to their weekly visits to Dad’s house. When I tell them it’s time to go, it is almost always met with complaints and pleas to stay just a little bit longer.
Through my actions, I have taught them more about what being gay really means than any weekly Sunday school class ever could. Savana and Ezekiel already feel the unconditional love that is born from an open and non-judgmental heart. They know that they are accepted and loved for who they truly are on the inside, not who we expect them to be. Tolerance and respect are the core values of the gay community. It’s a community that I’m proud to be a part of and proud to teach my children about when they ask, “Mommy, why are you gay?”