grandma? sister? cousin?
I can see the wheels turning. When my partner and I arrive with our two munchkins skipping along, they (cashiers, sales clerks, complete strangers on the street) watch us surreptitiously to see what exactly the connection is. It’s a far more common reaction in smaller towns like Huntsville or St Catharines, or even strange crossroads like Yonge and Eglinton. 🙂 We don’t notice it much downtown but every once in a while, bam! there it is, the “who exactly are you?” look that’s generally directed at me.
Until now, however the question was posed, we were able to ignore it and move on. After all, that’s not a question most people have to deal with. Imagine, walking up to the nearest heterosexual couple and their kids and saying, ‘so… exactly where do you fit into this picture?’ or perhaps ‘whose sperm did you use and how did you get it?’ Pick mom or dad, it’s all the same. You wouldn’t.
I was once asked by a work colleague whom I had never met before, “how did you have your kids?” This was in a busy, but definitely not big enough lunch room for several other co-workers to hear. My response was, ‘well how would you have kids?’
My point is that queer folk, particularly parents get asked incredibly personal questions in the most matter of fact way imaginable. We’re object d’art and the critics are busy measuring and deciphering and generally arriving at the wrong conclusion. And strangely enough, there’s not a hint of recognition or understanding on the part of the inquirer that anything is amiss. I try to take these moments in stride and chalk them up to ignorance of and curiosity about queer families. And sometimes I can even hope that they will lead to greater understanding of our lives and relationships.
Let me back up a bit. I am significantly older than my partner, my manner of dress is…not feminine, and I’m a woman of colour with no discernible accent to identify my country of birth or bloodline. My partner on the other hand, is tall with long beautiful dark hair – she’s a gorgeous mix of Italian and German. My ancestry? Well, just take every crayon in the mega box, toss in a bucket and voila! Our kids are beautiful, and even though we don’t share DNA, my girls seem to have a bit of me in them anyway.
So when I took my elder daughter to school a couple of days ago, I was surprised to hear her teacher say, “blablabla grand-mère?” She’s in French immersion and I usually only comprehend the simpler phrases, but even though I didn’t get the first part of his question, I know what grand-mère is.
Rosa didn’t want to interpret for me and she wouldn’t answer my partner when asked directly. So today I went around the question and admitted to Rosa that I just don’t understand everything that’s being said and could she help me by telling me what the words meant before grand-mère? And there the question was, ‘Did you come to school with your grandmother?’ Rosa didn’t answer him and he didn’t ask me. My dear little girl, who is way too young to educate her teacher on queer family dynamics, was standing face to face with the question — who exactly is she? meaning me. I had no idea he didn’t know, I mean, how couldn’t he?!
This is a question mommy or mummy will answer, that’s our responsibility and our privilege, to stand between our girls and the barrage of curiosity that will inevitably come their way. Hopefully, my Rosa’s teacher will be open to a little education, and for Rosa’s sake, please let him have an open mind. So far, public education hasn’t let this queer family down.