Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday musings

Today, the Rhyming Family recreated itself into the Sukkah Crew. A. was on the power drill. I was hand-starting the screws. Z. was doling the screws out, in between dropping them all over the patio and calling a halt to the whole proceedings to gather them up again, with maternal help.

Only right now, Z. is napping (at last!) and A. is finishing up outside, and I am eating something before going to the pool, and rehydrating, and trying not to let another week-long gap emerge over here, blogside. I shudder to think of the state of my feed reader, though--I promise, I promise, I will catch up with everyone when things settle down!

This morning I went to the vet, and ran into a woman who I met at a two-year-old's birthday party at the beginning of the summer. She's another lesbian mom, and her kids are very distinctive looking and also not of her racial background, nor her partners. I was chatting about them, as one does, and when I asked what if they came to her as babies, she said that was private, which is fine, but she went on to say something about everyone wants to know, and it's enough that they are their kids and I thought, hunh, I wonder if she's reading me as straight? My hair is long, after all, and to most people, the wedding ring on my left hand implies a husband. My legs are hairier than is generally considered acceptable in a straight woman, it's true, but she didn't initially notice the dog who was with me, so she probably didn't take in that particular indicator.

I made sure to insert "My spouse, she..." into the conversation, but I'm just wondering, alla y'all out there who pass for something you're not, at least by accident, from time to time, how do you handle it?


susan said...

Why do you think she would have reacted differently if she'd known/remembered you're lesbian? I first read her as an adoptive parent (b/c I am), but in re-reading have realized there are a couple of other family-building scenarios that would result in a kid who might look pretty different than his/her mothers.

I've been thinking a lot about the notion of what's private and what's not about our children's stories--her particular answer to that particular question seems like one I might not want an older child to hear (since it sounds like the child's arrival is some big secret). But then, how to turn aside questioners who are asking about aspects of my child's earliest days is always an art-in-progress.

All of which rambling is to suggest that there might be some aspect of how she came to parent that might be driving the answer.

S. said...

Susan, fair question, and you may well be right and I was misreading. However, it wasn't the "that's private" part that made me wonder about whether she thought I was straight, but something about the piece that followed: "everyone wants to know" how their children came to them. Something about that "everyone" made me feel like she was assuming a different divide between us than adoptive parent vs. birth parent.

Also, the parents of the two-year-old whose birthday party we first met at are straight, as were most of the guests, so she may well have assumed it from that context.

On reflection, I realize I wouldn't ask a straight person the question I asked her about how old they were when they came home--that for me, that question was about both being lesbian parents, and wanting to know something of her path to it. Which she is also perfectly likely to consider private! But I asked it assuming a degree of shared experience that--if she thought I was straight--she wouldn't also assume.

kathy a. said...

i wondered if what she is really sensitive about is questions about the children's racial background. that is what i can imagine "everyone" asking about, since the children can't/don't really pass as biological offspring. [one biracial friend used to talk about how nobody believed her mom was her "real" mother when she was growing up -- she had african american features, and her mom was extremely white.]

obviously your acquaintance is concerned about things other people have said, suggesting they aren't "real" parents -- perhaps one of those comments was freshly on her mind that day.

niobe said...

As others have said, my guess it would have been that she disliked what she saw as a reference to the children being adopted. Though, of course, she and her partner might have chosen a donor of a different racial background or the kids might be from a previous relationship.

In any event, given the the fact that the kids don't look like the parents "everyone," gay and straight probably does ask what may feel like intrusive questions and even as questioning, as Kathy A said, their status as "real" parents.

And in answer to your actual question, when people assume I'm something I'm not, I rarely take the trouble to correct them. (I was going to say "to set them straight," but realized in time that that might be an infelicitous turn of phrase under the circumstances.)

Lo said...

It is true that the child could have come to them through any number of circumstances. Adoption is the most obvious, but she/her partner could have used a donor of a different race as well (I have a blogfriend in that situation). Or....the stork brought them.

I certainly am guilty of wanting to know how other lesbians "got" their kids, and I can see how if someone thought I was straight that that would read as prurient curiosity rather than "hey how'd you pull it off?"

At services last spring, the rabbi mentioned that one of the men was about to become a father. I read him as gay (okay, okay, big sterotype, just 'cause he has tattoos and piercing and generally seems like an alternative person, bad me) and Co had just gotten pregnant so I was steeped in alternative fertility options. I asked him in some incredibly convoluted way how the baby was coming to him, and the answer was that his wife was pregnant.


S. said...

kathy a., I hear what you're saying, and since two of my cousins are biracial--two for whom I am more of an aunt than a cousin--I've had a diluted experience of this myself.

Niobe, I do feel a political obligation to correct people when they assume I'm straight. But otherwise, I play it by ear.

Lo, laughing!

E. said...

My instinct is that the response was about race, though, as others have said, it could have been about any number of other things. But race is the visual marker that will certainly signify to "everyone" (as in "everyone wants to know"), whereas "lesbian parent" signified to you but might not to others. So, in other words, race is the thing she can't keep private and can't pass about, even if she wanted to, and for that reason alone it might be why she would want to keep it private. Or another way to think about it is that the race of her kids makes her sexual identity no longer private. To tell you how her children came to her would be sharing a coming out story. That might be something she wouldn't want to discuss--even if she read you as a lesbian--because she might feel she doesn't know you well enough yet. Just my two cents.