Drawing Lines Down the Parade
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! July 19, 1999
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Like tons of other people, I ran into someone I hadn't seen for a long time at the dyke march. She used to be a friend and I was happy to catch up with her and her partner. We did the usual "Hey, how are ya? It's been a while." Then after enquiring about my daughter, who wasn't with me, she said "Well, if I see one more lesbian mom parading her little baby around I'm going to be sick."
          I was surprised but I didn't respond. I simply let the crowd carry me away, in the other direction, towards the beer garden and friends I enjoy being with. But it seems a subject worth taking up. It's hard enough existing as a queer mom in the straight world of schools and supermarkets and summer camps. Myself and other queer moms don't need to hear that we, and our children, are unwelcome on the most dyked‑out day of the year.
          I don't think my acquaintance is alone in her perspective. It's part of the "We don't want to be confused with straight people" attitude that's creeping through our community, mostly in response to the fight for equal recognition of gay families. I don't want to be confused with straight people either. I applaud those who argue that, in the fight to have our families recognized, we shouldn't lose sight of the many and uncommon ways that gays choose to exist in society.
          I've proudly thought of the gay/queer community as not afraid to mess with social taboos and conventions. I've certainly stretched my idea of relationships, even my idea of parenting, far beyond what was ever presented to me in the straight world. As queers, we've not been part of the social rewards of weddings or the fallout of divorces so we're less bound by those rules, we're freer to experiment.
          I'm not saying that living outside the bounds is all fun and games or that some of that experimenting isn't painful. But having been excluded from the benefits of social acceptance it's only right that queers get credit for turning that exclusion into an opportunity to try something different.
          But acknowledging and celebrating our differences from the straight community, even maintaining a rigorous boundary, can't mean that we spurn all similarities. Human beings, in all our diversities, are far too alike for that. Not to mention that we are bound by the conditions of the society we live in.
          We either own a home or we rent. We're either unemployed, self‑employed or employed by someone else. We may be an artist but our grants come from the same federal coffers as for straight people. We may have a lover, have several or have none. We may have a BMW or a bicycle, but none of these factors is gay or straight specific.
          And neither is having a child. You might as well say that having slept with the opposite sex, or having been married at one time in your life, is unqueer. In that case, I know that my so‑called friend wouldn't qualify. Neither would she qualify if we eliminated all committed, monogamous, home‑owning couples as too straight‑identified.
          My child came out of a straight relationship. But many queers are twisting the assumptions of what it means to be a parent and how to have a child because they don't believe that because they love, or love to fuck, the same sex they should be excluded from the joys of a child in their life. And we who had children before we came out don't believe we should be excluded from the joys of queerness, or from participating in pride, because some special people call us "Mommy" or "Daddy".
          I don't want to assimilate, but I don't want to suffer the disdain of those who believe that queer families dilute the difference of "gay". And my daughter, for all her growing social awareness, doesn't want to assimilate either.
          She loves her diverse lives, completely comfortable in both the straight and the queer communities. That's a bonus I think. And, like many of the babies and children paraded on pride day, she'll have an uncommon potential to bridge the rifts and divisions that keep us drawing lines down the parade, saying who can come and who can't.

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Myself and other queer moms don't need to hear that we, and our children, are unwelcome on the most dyked-out day of the year.