Extended family / Family

Lesbian Families as Role Models (Guest Post)

Reader, thinker, and real life friend Clare sent me (Liza) this message below, and I thought it would be a fabulous guest post here. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been close friends with Clare’s (straight) older sister since I was about 18 and full of radical organizing and world-changing ideas and Clare was about 7 and full of cuteness and love/admiration for her big sister.

From time to time there is a discussion that the blog sphere has created a good space for lesbian families, and queer people and allies in general, to connect to one another. Obviously, Lesbian Family, was born out of these connections. And, for those on the inside, this connection and safety of community is an end of itself.

However, I would like to talk about something else that Lesbian Family provides: role models. Some of you are probably not going to like to think about it this way, but role modeling and having queer role models is something I have thought a lot about lately. It is also something I was blessed to grow up with.

Growing up, even if in Wisconsin, I babysat in the early 90s for a lesbian family, my parents had partnered gay friends who they brought home, one of my sister’s best friends went on to start Lesbian Family, etc. Looking back, all of these experiences, especially the ones at an early age, shaped my view of being queer, of being out, of belonging. Over and over, however, I see that my experience may not have been the status quo—especially for bi/lesbian women of color or from other countries.

A couple years ago, I met an Asian woman who had been studying and living in middle America for 5 years. Although she was attracted to women, she told me that she never would consider a relationship because she couldn’t stand the thought of growing up and not having children. The idea that lesbian families around the world are having and raising children had never occurred to her, as she had never heard of it or seen it. After seeing Lesbian Family, and reading up a bit, her ideas changed.

Another friend from the southern hemisphere tells me that although she is queer and dates women, she can’t imagine seeing it back home. She can only imagine lesbian families in the middle/ upper class America or other western nation sense (she also admits that the image she still holds in her head is that of white America). Although she knows there must be queer people in her home country, she has never seen them nor can she imagine that they have a space in her society.

Back in America, a friend just last week told me two things that shocked me: 1) that she had never met a well adjusted, settled down, lesbian couple and 2) that there was no place in corporate America for out lesbians.

Over and over my mind returns to the idea of role models. If a person hasn’t seen it, how hard is it to imagine? If a person sees a solid lesbian couple with kids, how easy is it to see that path as viable? How important is it that these role models, these lesbian/queer/trans couples, look like us (economically, physically, racially, religiously, etc.)? And, how have role models or lack thereof influenced your struggles in creating a family?

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  1. When my wife was first coming out to herself, one of her first thoughts was that she couldn’t possibly be a lesbian, because she liked country music. (A few years amongst our koboi-boot-wearing-and-two-stepping lesbo sisters have certainly cleared up that particular misconception.) It’s hard to become your truest self when who dream you are doesn’t seem to exist anywhere you look – and that’s true both of lesbians and women in general. We’ve talked many times about the luck we have to be living when and where we are, and the amazing bravery and vision of those of us in times, cultures and places here and elsewhere, who found a way, in the face of all that invisibility and persecution, to stand up and be seen. I’m not sure if my wife and I would have found each other if it weren’t for all of our revered elders and ancestors who started drawing the outlines and shading in the shapes of what it could look like to be a dyke. We honour them every day, and the message gets passed on when my wife’s mother, who called me Liz’s ‘friend’ for the first 3 years, danced at our wedding, and told me that we were going to make wonderful parents. We know people whose opinion on equal marriage has turned 180 degrees after getting to know us. ‘Role model’ sounds wiser and surer than I feel on a day-to-day basis, but certainly we are leading the way to a new reality and deeper understanding for a whole variety of the folks we know and meet. Given what others have gone through, it’s truly the least we can do.

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