Everywhere I go, I meet people who also have a lesbian daughter. I'm starting to think that my part of the planet is simply adrift with young lesbian women. They collect on street corners, in certain bars, you see them living in places like Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Austin and of course, Brooklyn. Being a lesbian means you're cool. I even have friends who used to be lesbian, but are now married and that makes them cooler than women who are just straight. I'm thankful for my few lesbian affairs in college which not only make me on the cool side but bond me with my lesbian daughter.
The coming out phase was easy. She announced her status in high school just after she'd started dating, and we quickly realized that we needed to re-evaluate the "sleepover girlfriends from the softball team." By that time, it was too late. There were simply too many softball players with lovely open smiles and a way of jumping into her bedroom to "change clothes," and emerging much later looking far more rumpled than before. Our family didn't miss a beat; we already had three sons, so the invasion of the active teen female population to our house simply took on a new force. There were more aggressive young women coming and going than before.
She graduated, went off to college, changed her name to Tobi, an androgynous name which suited her new self. She lived in the LGBT dorms at UCSB and found the love of her life with whom she got an apartment. We all swung into the normalcy of having a gay daughter. Then she moved to San Francisco to go to graduate school.
Up until that time, she could easily "pass for straight." She looked very much like me, a broad shouldered Swedish girl, with long straight blond hair that swung past her shoulders and light eyes. She wore eyeliner; plucked her eyebrows, had lovely thick arches. She sent me a succession of pictures soon after the move, her hair shorter in each one, culminating in a picture of her at the Folsom Street Fair. She was dressed in black leather and tall boots. She looked like a biker chick, but when I pointed that out, she quickly pointed out that she was a dyke on bike. She had claimed her identity. The broad shoulders, spiked hair and leather smiled back at me from the photo, and I knew that she would never pass for straight again.
We all took a breath and jumped in the deep end of the pool with her. Her father was pleased to see that she owned a large tool box and knew how to do handyman work. Her brother grew his hair longer till they looked like the queer sibs. She let the hair grow out on her legs and underarms. She began to walk down the street with a swagger; her girlfriend shook her head like, "Calm down! I see you think you're all that," but they never stop laughing at themselves. In the end, that's what we all want for our kids. That they love us and are close to us and that they're happy and enjoying their life.
It's easier to accept a gay child when it's a step instead of a leap. In My Almost Real Imaginary Jesus by Kelly Barth, just out from Arktoi Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, Barth writes of telling her parents and pastor that she wants to remain a Christian, but she is a lesbian. "That's Satan talking," the pastor tells her while her parents try to grasp the foreign concept of having a Christian lesbian daughter. Religion adds a whole new shade to the rainbow equation. But why not embrace your gay kid and walk into their world and find out what it's like there? Gay people have been moving around in a straight world for centuries, keeping the queer self on the down low, being undercover and careful, practicing guerrilla tactics to find others of their own kind. Isn't it great to walk in the sunlight? To know you're part of a tribe? Shouldn't everyone be able to swagger as they walk down the street?