Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crisis of Conscience

Note: Before this entry is published I’m going to talk to all the people involved and I’m also going to change all the names. I don’t usually do this, but when dealing with minors you can’t be too careful.

This entry has been rolling around in my mind for a few weeks. On May first, I went to Pride. Those of you who know me know that I always go and have a booth there. This year, I was also on a mission to find teenage appropriate clothes for someone with two moms who is not embarrassed about it. This is because two of my beloved activist friends have adopted a 14-year-old girl. One of my greatest joys in life of late has been buying and sending things to Jane. It’s lovely being a virtual auntie. You get to spoil someone else’s kid and you don’t even have to babysit.

When I saw the teenagers from Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE) sitting across from me selling t-shirts, I thought that I would get her one. Knowing, as I do, how much she seems to like bright colors and rainbows, the white rainbow t-shirt that said ‘I LOVE MY FAMILY’ with a heart where love should be seemed ideal from my ultra-femme honorary niece. However, when I had someone take over my table so I could go over there, they had sold out of the shirt I had wanted. All that remained was a gray shirt with orange writing that said ‘YOU KNOW WHAT’S SO GAY? MY FAMILY.’

Being bisexual and in a wheelchair, I’ve encountered my share of bigots because I wear activist t-shirts and have liberation stickers on my wheelchair. For a moment, I considered not buying this very obvious shirt. The last thing I would ever want is for some middle school bully to harm Jane. I sat there for several minutes while the teenager who showed me the shirt waited expectantly for me to do something, namely take out my wallet. In the end, I rebuked myself for having these giving in sort of thoughts. Jane lives in a nice place with progressive people and young people today are much more accepting than when I was growing up. I was sure she would have no problems. Moreover, I thought this was much more of a Pride festival shirt than a wearing-to-school-on-a-regular-basis shirt.

I put the shirt in the mail the next day along with a shirt I got her from ADAPT, a disability rights group I belong to. About one week later, I got a message from one of her moms saying the package had arrived and not to worry. She was not mad at me despite the impression I may have gotten from her Facebook status. I hadn’t checked Helen’s Facebook status that day, so I didn’t even know what she was talking about. Of course, the curious person I am, I went and checked immediately.

Apparently, Jane had insisted on wearing the gay family shirt to school. Helen, being a protective mom, was concerned about people teasing her. But anyone who knows Jane will tell you that once she gets her mind set on something, good luck getting her to change it. Finally, the pair reached a compromise. Jane could wear the shirt I sent, but she had to wear another shirt over it. Now that Jane was successfully off at school, Helen confessed to feeling a little guilty. She said “Have I betrayed my community, my family, myelf?”

I felt amazingly guilty at causing my friend to go through all those emotions merely because I bought her daughter a gift. It really made me think. On the one hand, I was very proud of Jane for not being afraid of what people would say and being proud of who she was—the daughter of two awesome lesbian activists who loved her to bits. On the other hand, I was afraid as her mom was that some hotheaded teenage bigot might give her a bloody nose or something.

This made me think about when I have my own kids in the future. Will I be nervous if they want to wear a shirt saying they have two moms in my case is, as far as I can estimate, is about a 70% likelihood. Will I try to shelter them from the misguided bigots of the world? Is this even good for them? What does my sexual orientation have to do with their growing up in the first place?

Of course, I don’t need to figure any of this out right now. At the moment, I’m so hopelessly single, it’s pathetic. There is no partner. Therefore, there will be no kids. My mother was a single mother and I respect her for it. A lot of my friends are single mothers, so please don’t think I’m bashing single motherhood. It’s just not for me.

In the end, I’m glad, in a way, that this incident happened. It gave me some clarity around issues I fully expect to struggle with when I become a mother. Although, I also hope that the world will become more accepting by then. Somehow, though, I’m sure we’ll have a bit to go. I think that’s always going to be the case.

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