I am a lesbian. I was married to a woman. We conceived a child through donor insemination. We are now divorced and share custody of our daughter, Ella. Too much information?
The other day an acquaintance forced a little epiphany for me. She casually asked in an elevator about my family life. I indicated that I have arranged my life in a way that allows me to spend more time with my kid, which I am so lucky to do and so grateful for. She praised my choice, as many traditional folks do. As we walked out of the building, she went on to pry further. There came the point where she asked about Ella’s dad. I said lightly, “She doesn’t have a dad, she has two moms.” The woman paused, looked confused, and stopped in her tracks to ask, “What do you MEAN she has two moms?” I sighed internally, and then took a breath and I explained. I am a lesbian. My ex-wife and I conceived Ella. She has two moms. This wasn’t an earth-shattering conversion, I realize. But it happens all the time. The conversation naturally reached the point where I was forced into choosing whether to be vague, or to be up front about the unusual nature of my family (i.e. to come out).
See, here’s the thing. I’m good at being vague. Gender neutral pronouns. Evasive wording. I’m a smart, educated woman. I can wiggle around it. I’m not ashamed of who I am. I am proud. But I get tired! I phrase things to avoid the conversation when I don’t feel like having it, like with a casual acquaintance such as the one above. I say “my ex …” or “I’m divorced and her other house does things this way…” and so on. It’s really easy to evade the fact that I’m a lesbian and my kid has two moms when I just don’t feel like explaining and justifying my life to relative strangers.
But it dawned on me recently that Ella can hear me. She may not know what I’m up to when I do that, yet. But it’s not fair. She does not have the vocabulary or linguistic skills to twist and evade and be vague. Nor does she have any idea that her family is something people might judge. She knows it’s different; she’s not blind. So it’s not fair that she has to have “the conversation” whenever she’s questioned, because she doesn’t know how to avoid it or even that she might want to avoid it. So I had damn well better have that conversation every time it comes up too. I had better set an example for how easy and simple the conversation can be, and how to respond to positive and negative feedback when it does happen.
So no more evasive actions! When asked “Where’s Ella today?” The answer is “She is with her other mom” not “She’s with my ex.” I don’t give the speech I gave at the start of this post to everyone I meet. But I will come out.