So happy to be included as part of this wonderful tradition begun by Dana Rudolph of Mombian, a fabulous site of news and resources for LGBT families.
In less than ten days my wife and I will become grandmothers. If I’m having trouble getting used to using the word “wife,” you can imagine how difficult it’s going to be to get used to the word “grandma.” But actually, I’m going to be “Grandma Cindy,” because in addition to Jenny and me, this child will have three other grandmothers—my ex and her wife, and my daughter-in-law’s mother—plus one grandfather. That’s a lot of people slipping the kid a five-dollar bill when the parents aren’t looking. Talk about a windfall.
The imminent birth of a little girl has me thinking about a lot of things. Of course, many of them have to do with presents and babysitting and guarding against sexism while still indulging a child who could very well present herself as a “girly girl.”
But it’s also got me thinking about the family that my granddaughter will be inheriting and about all the families we are creating.
Which brings me to the question of the impact of marriage equality on the LGBT family. You might not have seen that coming, so let me explain.
I’m both happily married and happy to be married. And yet, at the same time, as someone who came of age in the heady, radical era of 1970s lesbian feminism, I sit with some discomfort.
Most gay and lesbian couples will tell you that no matter how long they’ve been together, it all feels different once you are married. Heck, even Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer said that after 40 years! So it’s safe to conclude that marriage changes things for same-sex couples. But, the question I really wonder about is whether same-sex couples will change marriage.
So much of the discussion around equality has been about making sure straight people understand how much we are like them. In the heat of the various marriage fights, advocates have been able to get many straight people to testify that “the nice male couple down the street” mowed their lawn or shoveled their snow, or some such normal, neighborly thing. No orgies, no offensive activities, just regular folks. In other words, just like us.
And of course that is true in many ways. But what interests me, and where my hopes and dreams lie, is to identify the places where we are not just like them. Where our experiences as outsiders, as people who made the choice to live openly as true to ourselves sets us apart.
What can we do to change marriage and change The Family? How can the influx of out and proud queer families make things better. Or, is it really true? Are we just like them? Are we no better?
I’ve been obsessing over these questions since last summer when I saw the film Concussion, a story about a lesbian couple and their kids who live in the suburbs. After one of the moms gets hit in the head by accident and suffers a concussion, she makes some changes in her boring life and winds up as a prostitute for high-paying female clients. After her wife finds out, she gives it all up and goes back to her suburban spin classes, pedaling furiously among the straight housewives whose husbands are gone all day to jobs in the city. In other words, nothing changes. She is re-assimilated.
You have no idea how that movie depressed me. I walked out of the theater wondering, “Is this what we fought for, the right to live in suburbia and take spin classes next to other housewives?” Does our ability to get married and have kids just buy us a ticket into the same moribund life? Do we give up our Queer Card when we leave the city limits?
I really hope not. Because I want my granddaughter—the baby with five grandmothers—to grow up in a world that is about more than mere equality. I want her to know that that she can be different, and she can revel in and be adored for that difference. I want her to know that there is more to life than the kind of equality that means you can just fit in and be absorbed into the mainstream.
I know even now that she will be a gift to her five grandmas and her grandpa. And I want her queer grandmas to give her their own gift by showing her a world that holds an abundance of possibilities.