Identity / Life

VillageQ: A Little Castro in Your Laptop


siblings copy

Circa 1977

I am a middle child, chronologically situated three years after my sister and five years before my brother. But the middle-ness of my place doesn’t end there.

On the spectrum of living experiences, my sister, a dedicated stay-at-home parent, enthusiastic cheerleading coach, and recently-blooming tennis superstar at her athletic club, stands firmly in the realm of suburbia. (That’s her channeling Davy Jones in the picture above).

My brother, a used record shop employee, self-taught musician, underground radio DJ, and DIY filmmaker, planted his urban roots in San Francisco nearly two decades ago. (That’s him with the golden curls, laughing at his sisters’ fashion choices.)

Me? As per birth order, aesthetically, professionally, and geographically, I live somewhere between my siblings: a former San Francisco resident (who swore she’d never move to the suburbs), a poet and writer (who throughout her M.F.A. program and early career questioned if she’d ever have kids), I currently write and live thirty-five minutes (and worlds) away from city center, on a quiet, tree-lined street, in a home chosen for its sizeable backyard and excellent school district, with my wife and two kids. (And yes, I’m the one with the shifty eyes and polyester jumpsuit. So?)

Yesterday, I both bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t scrub my Anderson sliding doors to their once-upon-a-time pristine glory, and felt a wave of nostalgia for the dinged-up bathtub I used to soak in back in my San Francisco flat, the one installed circa 1922, the one with a historic rust stain near the drain.

That’s me: in the middle, both/and.  I hold this position not just in my family, but in the world at large.

I celebrate the clean public restrooms, open natural spaces, abundant parking, and slow(er) pace that characterize my current hometown. And I hunger for the murals of the Mission District, the gloriously odd birds squawking from the backseats of MUNI busses, and the sound of my brother running sound checks on his guitar before a gig at The Knockout. I bow in gratitude for the many mindful, committed (and every single one of them straight) parents I’ve met at my kids’ elementary school, and I miss living at the epicenter of our country’s queer mecca.

When I first moved to the suburbs thirteen years ago, this “both/and” aspect of my identity incited a kind of restlessness: being here, I longed for there. But as I came to appreciate the plusses of my new environment (when I accidentally left my garage door open all night, no one stole my stuff; no one, save my own children, urinates in my yard; I have a garage and a yard), I sought ways to activate and integrate what’s missing here.

That’s the thing about identity: it flourishes when reflected back to you by your surroundings. My current setting calls on me to be a good parent, a responsible homeowner, an excellent neighbor and community member. But what about the aspects of my identity that are not drawn out by my environment? How does the poet or artist keep her spirit alive in the suburbs? How does the sole lesbian-headed family on the block stay connected to queer culture?

Nine months ago, as the latter question upgraded from “curious” to “urgent” on my list of mental quandaries, Polly asked me to join the merry band of writers at Lesbian Family, inviting me to an ongoing inquiry into what it means to be who we are, where we are, in this place, and in this time.

Here I’ve found other lesbian parents whose experiences reflect mine, ringing the “you are not alone” bell I so love to hear. But I’m finding something else here, too: an opportunity to expand my queer consciousness. This is why I’m so excited about the site’s name change from Lesbian Family to VillageQ, a broader, more inclusive moniker: because I want to partake in queer culture beyond my own personal experience. While I cannot always hop a train into the Castro to bask in the full spectrum of our vibrant community, I can (almost always) steal a few moments to log on to the internet, step into this virtual space, and enter a conversation with you.

In this way, VillageQ makes my “both/and” possible. It’s like a little Castro in my laptop.

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