Kids at School Make Fun of Lesbians
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! February 3, 1999
                                                                                                christinastarr.ca
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There she is, lolling in the bathtub as pampered and self-assured as some well-attended rank of royalty. Contemplating her submerged navel she says matter-of-factly, Kids at school make fun of lesbians.
          It
s the first time Ive heard the complaint directly. She knows about harassment and bashing but its never come from her friends.
          That
s easy enough to explain. Up to a certain age kids dont distinguish between whos queer, whos straight or whos anything else – if left to their own judgement. All theyre interested in is whos fun to play with or maybe wholl let them dress up in anything they want.
          But kids aren
t left to their own judgement and the judgement theyre eventually forced to adopt is that gay is bad, lesbians are weird and fag is a dirty insult.
          My daughter is getting to an age of self-awareness. She
s growing past that lovely time of innocence and complete self-confidence and beginning to realize that other people have opinions about her. Shes also noticing that, in our culture, those opinions matter a lot.
          Now the gay issue is starting to pop up like rubber duckies in the tub. I have no doubt that
fag is a common insult at her school and that lesbians are not considered normal. This is all news to her, but against the playground moral majority, what does she have to fight back with?
          Well, besides the self-confidence, sense of pride and joy I
ve tried to give her, I think what she fights back with is me. Im not sure Im up to the challenge.
          It makes sense that if I
m more out, and more obviously comfortable with who I am, my daughters passage through school will be easier. I dont mean that by being a super-queer mom we will escape challenges and insults – visibility has a way of also being a target. But I cant expect her to ignore the comments or challenge the insults if I seem to be avoiding them myself.
          I tend to be liked by my kid
s friends. Im the cool mom who not only let her daughter bleach her hair, I did it for her. So far that popularitys come in handy to offset questions like Why do you look like a boy? But in the pre-teen and approaching adolescent years, when judgements are freeze-dried on contact, its not enough anymore.
          I need to be out to them in a clear, unembarrassed way before they think they
re outing me or my daughter and can snicker about it. I need to be there first so that when they arrive, breathless and excited with this shocking piece of information, both my daughter and I, and maybe everybody else, can say So what else is new?.
          But it scares me – the thought of deliberately making it clear to everyone in a very straight environment that I
m gay, and being pretty much alone with it. Not that other parents wouldnt support me or that I wouldnt maybe smoke out another gay mom or dad, aunt or uncle somewhere in the school. But, right now, theres no other gay visibility – at least not that Ive noticed.
          I
d rather just have people, including the kids, get to know me, like me and, when they find out Im gay, go through their own trouble to accept it (if necessary). I dont want to do the work for them. I dont want to be the one-person anti-homophobia marching band. What if no one likes my tune? What if I just end up looking like a fool, with all the adults talking behind my back and all the kids teasing my daughter in the playground? Would I want to stay at such a school? No. But I dont want to go through the humiliation to find that out.
          I have a picture in my head of my daughter with an out, unashamed mother she can be proud of because I
m proud of myself. It doesnt count that Im out and unashamed in my own community, in my family or at work. I have to be out wheres its hard to be out, and I have to be out where it matters to her.
          It
s a struggle Id rather not take on. Id rather just go on being cool and being queer. I dont want to justify or explain it and I dont want to be singled out. It makes me appreciate the courage and strength of every other gay person whos come out where it wasnt acceptable, whos formed a committee, launched a suit or made a complaint. They are probably all reluctant heroes, wishing somebody else would have done it before them so they didnt have to step into the limelight over the very personal question of whom they prefer to have sex with.
          But I also cant risk my daughters humiliation or shame over who she is and where she comes from. If I want her to know that being queer (or being anything different from whats so-called normal) is totally okay then I have to be that myself. If I want her to step away from the taunts and insults with the same grace and ease with which she steps out of the tub, Id better make sure she knows its safe because she's seen me do it myself. 

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The judgement that kids are forced to adopt is that gay is bad, lesbians are weird and "fag" is a dirty insult.