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Generation Gap: Normalizing Alternative Families

I want my kids to think of gay marriages as just marriages.

11/29/2016 09:03 am ET | Updated Nov 29, 2016
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I have lesbian parents. My biological mother and her partner were my primary Parental Units since I was in preschool. This means my kids have two grandmas.

Actually, because my biological father is remarried, and my sons’ father’s parents are divorced and remarried, technically my kids have 5 grandmothers, but that’s a topic for another day.

When my eldest son was a toddler, he was quite fond of a Richard Scary book called “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go.” I was less fond of it, because it was 72 pages long and bedtime could not come soon enough in my world.

So of course when my parents came to visit, I thrust the book and my toddler at them and went to wash the dishes. Washing dishes is not very appealing as a rule except as an alternative to putting a toddler to bed. Then it seems meditative and relaxing.

In the overly-long beloved book, there are cars shaped like hotdogs, cars shaped like animals, yes, there is a rainbow bus as well. I overheard my stepmother said something like, “And here’s the rainbow bus with all the gays and lesbians.” I wasn’t comfortable with that.

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It’s not that I didn’t want my son to learn the word lesbian at some point, or that I was ashamed of my parents’ sexuality. I wanted my kids to think of gay marriages as just marriages. I didn’t want to emphasize how our family was different, I wanted my kids to grow up feeling like we were just like everyone else, because basically, we are.

When gay marriage and the Chick-Fil-A boycott hit the news, we discussed how some women married women (like Nana and Grandma Pat) and some women married men (like Grandpa Clint and Grandma Tricia) and some men married men (like my friends Bruce and Jerry). Neither child thought it was a big deal.

And it wasn’t, even though we chose not to eat at Chick-Fil-A any longer. My kids willingly gave up the best fast food play area in town because they loved all of their friends no matter who they married.

To my kids, same-sex marriage is nothing to get excited about. It’s not particularly noteworthy among their classmates, either. Grandparents are beloved simply because they are grandparents.

Right or wrong, grandparents are desexualized by society, and that makes the idea even safer to think about when you are a prepubescent kid. Having lesbian parents raised a lot of questions for me as a child, but grandmas are just grandmas, and no one wants to picture anyone’s grandma having sex. Grandmas are therefore the perfect sneaky and unexpected ninjas of normalization.

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My children don’t have the pressure of keeping their family safe in the closet—they don’t have to tell lies about who their grandparents are. They don’t feel judged or different because of their grandparents’ lifestyle choices. What was the defining characteristic of my own childhood has zero effect on my kids today.

I’ve had some former classmates of my own tell me that my parents were the first same-sex couple they were exposed to. They didn’t necessarily connect the dots as children, but my family was their first example of gay people living normal lives—though I struggle to use the word normal in regard to my family for reasons that have nothing to do with sexual preference.

Again, that’s a topic for another blog, and normal is overrated.

But my parents likely were some of the first lesbians that my sons’ friends met or heard about as well. So far, no one has thought it was anything to get excited about. If my moms were actual ninjas, that definitely would have had a greater impact, because real ninja grandmas are way cooler than metaphoric ones.

I think time and exposure are the greatest weapons against prejudice. People meeting people of diverse backgrounds in real life and finding common ground—that’s the exposure part. But time, which feels like it moves at a crawl when it comes to social change—might be of even greater importance.

When I look at my generation, we were much less racist, homophobic, and sexist than our parents. When I look at my kids’ generation, they don’t even understand why the assorted -isms ever existed.

Oh, I know we still have a long way to go, but we will be led down the path by skipping children who care more about bugs and puddles than who is marrying whom.

No one wants to hear, “Oh, it’ll be better in 20 years, just hang out for a while and wait for these new kids to grow up.” But the truth is, time is going on regardless. We might as well have a little bit of hope that the ticking clock is also bringing acceptance.

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