I was seven when my parent separated. They moved into separate parts of the house, then across the street from one another, and then ultimately, got divorced. Then they moved on, and began dating other people. My father had a series of girlfriends, some of whom lived with us and some that had other children. We spent every weekend with my father. My mother went on to have a series of girlfriends as well, though she rarely made any sort of declarative statements about her sexuality. Many of these girlfriends lived with us. We lived with my mother during the week.
Growing up in Provincetown, MA, I was exposed to a predominantly queer community from birth. Even before my mother started dating women, I spent much of my upbringing in drag queens’ dressing rooms, at commitment ceremonies, and surrounded by people who were unapologetically themselves. I grew up thinking that being gay was as normal as being straight, and having very few real cares about either – people loved whomever they loved, and that was that.
Last week, suddenly a flurry of articles were published about the Nanette Gartell’s study, published in Pediatrics, which concluded that the children of lesbian parents were psychologically healthy and have fewer behavioral problems than their peers. While this wasn’t a huge sample study, the findings did not surprise me. As a child raise part-time in a queer household, and full-time in a queer friendly environment, I have noticed that it played a significant role in my mental health, and in my ability to feel comfortably situated within my sexuality as an adult.
I remember being a child and being told by my mother that she fell in love with the person and not the gender. This made immediate sense to me, all people are different, and some are worth loving and some aren’t. It made sense to me that these qualities weren’t rigidly dependent upon biological gender roles. My mother often dated butch women, women whom I more fondly remember on Father’s Day than Mother’s Day, women whom were dependable and strong. It is no surprise to me that I grew to love similar women.
I have been given a hard time about my sexuality a lot in my life – but, strangely, mostly by the queer community themselves, I have felt as though I am a new breed of queer, one who grew up and and was encouraged to love whomever I fell in love with, without anger or fear. This is not to say I wasn’t surprised when I fell in love with my first girlfriend, because believe me I WAS SURPRISED. I thought we were just friends. I thought I was straight.
Since then, I have loved mostly women, but I have loved a few men too. I have found myself drawn to masculine energy, whether that be in a male or female body. Ultimately, I feel more comfortable when I am in a relationship with a woman. I like the way women relate to one another. I find female-female relationships to be more compelling. However, I rarely put myself within the box of “lesbian,” often preferring “queer” or nothing at all. I simply love who I love. I grew up in a household where love was held in higher regard than anything else, and I grew up in a community where a range of sexualities were accepted and nourished. I consider myself extremely fortunate for being able to have had these experiences.
I had to smile as I read these articles, not because I felt as though I needed them to validate my upbringing, but because I do believe that coverage of a story like that is an example of the fact that the world is changing. I hope that when I am ready to have children myself, they are fortunate enough to be raised with the amount of love, support, and respect that I received. I hope to have children that are psychologically healthy.
I also hope to raise children who can grow up in a world free of homophobia and hatred, or at least to be able to provide them a shelter and sanctuary from those aspects of the world. But I am hopeful that these things will be possible.