Recently, whilst riding on public transportation, Tex ran into the partner of a femme friend of ours. They exchanged hearty, butchly greetings and a handshake, and just as the other butch was getting off at her stop, she leaned over and whispered to Tex something upsetting that was going on in the life of her step-kid, our friend’s child from a previous relationship. Tex was horrified – this was none of her business! She really didn’t want to know! And why did the other butch need to dump it on Tex in the first place? “Didn’t she feel the love?” Tex lamented, when she told me about it later.
I’d say the other butch did feel the love and that was exactly why she felt safe to share her step-parenting burden, however maladroitly. The nuances and heartbreaks particular to being a butch step-parent are hardly anything that the straight world would “get”, and, unless we child-rearing queers make a real effort, it’s straight folks who make up the bulk of our parenting co-travellers. I imagine the sordid details of her step-child’s life just burst out of that other butch, perhaps even despite herself. The shock and gladness of running into another butch step-parent in the middle of her regular day – come on, how often does that happen? – made the upsetting information simply fly out of her mouth.
I used to bemoan the conservatism of my sister dyke moms, who, it seemed to me, did nothing but toe the line. Where were the other radical queer parents, interested in homeschooling, in questioning the imposed medical wisdom, who were going head-to-head with schools about racist, sexist, homophobic-yet-beloved practices? I guess we were all just trying to survive as best we could in the face of the onslaught. My go-to has always been trying to figure out how I can fuck things up; this is not everyone’s go to and that has to be ok.
After I came out to my cousin as bisexual, lo, children, these many, many years ago, she reported back later, somewhat wryly, that my aunt, upon hearing the big gay news, remarked smugly, “Well, at least all of mine are normal!” No one wants to have a queer kid, even now. For example, I believe that the desperate efforts made by straight liberal parents here in the burbs to be “supportive” of their genderqueer, trans, otherwise not “normal” children, stem from a deep sense of failure and loss; it’s a full-on overcompensation. Just as angry tirades and sobbing jags stem from the same oppressive cultural messages: not-straight equals failure. How much more pressure on queers who have kids, choose to have kids, flying in the face once again of heteronormativity, good god, people – if your gaybes aren’t normal than it is really, truly, absolutely, you god damn fooly YOUR FAULT!!!! A whispered phrase into the ear of a fellow butch step-parent who appeared like magic on that train the other morning, well, maybe it saved that butch’s sanity just a little bit, just one more day.