Homophobia is nothing new. I’ve been intimately familiar with it since I came out. Actually, since well before I came out. Homophobia and I became acquainted when I was fourteen and went to get a haircut. My mother was out of town. Under the more permissive, and slightly oblivious, gaze of my father, I instructed the hairdresser to “cut it all off”. Which she did. Having your hair cropped above your ears does nothing to support the presumed heterosexuality of a teenager, and I became familiar with rumours and suspicion. Suspicions were confirmed and rumours turned to blatant homophobia when I came out at 18 and slowly began to give up the vestiges of femininity that had always been unnatural to me.
At 30, I get sir-ed as often as I get ma’am-ed. I get stared at in bathrooms. I hear slurs and snickers. I’m so used to navigating the world in my body and my identity that I don’t notice the stares, though when Sea and I go out together she points them out. These microagressions are a part of my daily life.
The thing is, for the most part, I don’t care.
I have a supportive family, a strong community, good friends, a loving partner, work that supports my identity. Being called a dyke by a drunk stranger is only a small annoyance in the face of this love. Less significantly, I’m also acclimatized to how my body and identity are read and responded to in this world. I’m so used to not caring, in fact, that I was shocked a few weeks ago when I did.
It was the weekend and Sea and I had been out shopping for hours, in a large store whose logo is the shape of a large red bullseye. After hours of wandering through aisles of brightly coloured plastic products, I had to pee. As I walked towards and into the bathroom, I was chased by a store employee. She had run so quickly from her register that she was out of breath when she caught me, just inside the bathroom door. “This… is… for WOMEN… ONLY!” she huffed. “I know”, I responded to her silent glare. Her only apology came by way of blaming my haircut for her mistake. I left the bathroom embarrassed and angry, upset by my own emotional response as much as by her gender policing.
Sea and I left the store and began to walk. Seeing that I was upset, Sea reached for my hand and squeezed reassuringly. “Don’t worry. I like that you look like a boy.” she said. I felt a little bit better. I squeezed her hand back. Until I noticed the hostile stare of the man leaned against a nearby wall. His stare reeked of judgment and disgust. As noted, I’m usually oblivious to those stares, and I rarely care when I do notice. But on that day I looked back and I was upset again.
Yet again, these stories are not outside my ordinary. They could be repeated with hundreds of others from the last decade and a half of my life: stories that I would recount with a laugh and a shake of my head and then move on. So what’s changed?
We’re having a baby.
As Bingo grows, diligently turning cartilage into bone, totally oblivious to the jerks who exist outside my body, I begin to see how homophobia will impact our child and our family. I see it in the woman drawing my blood who asks– for a second time– when I’m going to start wearing dresses. I see it in Sea’s cousin, demanding to know who the “daddy” is. And I imagine what it will look like when Bingo arrives: people chiding us over the lack of male role models, Bingo’s classmates asking whether I’m a mommy or a daddy, strangers wondering who the “real” mother is. And I suddenly, I care more about the looks and insults I experience. Not for me, but for our family.
I am confident that Bingo will be just fine. If Bingo ends up with some combination of Sea’s intelligence, my relative calm, our shared stubbornness, then we’ll really have little to fear. Bingo will also have a supportive family, a strong community, good friends. But I also wish that Sea and I could spend all of our time worrying about what shade of white to paint the baby’s room, without also having to worry about how the world will treat our little family.
I don’t believe that homophobia is any reason for queer people not to have babies, any more than I believe that sexism is any reason to not have girls. I do believe however, that it is a very good reason to advocate fiercely for our families. To say, “Look, here we are!” in the face of judgment. And I believe that our families are one of the most important reasons to fight against homophobia and to confront hatred in all of its forms.
Don’t worry kid, you just keep working on building bone density and growing eyebrows: we’ve got this.
(This blog post is a part of Blogging for LGBT Families Day. Chime in!)