Two 5-year-old boys who would rather play princess than prince, a 10-year-old out and proud lesbian, a 7-year-old boy who happily announces "I'm gay," and a little boy who at 5 years years old decides he wants to be Scooby-Doo's Daphne for Halloween.
All five are amazing kids who don't exactly meet the gender norms society defines. And all have moms who decided to write about their experiences and share them online.
I was curious. I knew why I was writing about my son (a naïvely posted blog that grew into something so much more), but what about some other writers? What got them writing, and what kept them going? How much would we really have have in common?
So I contacted some of them, and they were kind enough talk to me:
- Sarah Manley, aka Nerdy Apple
- "Queer Kid's Mom," author of the blog Raising Queer Kid
- Kelly Byrom, a writer for HLN
- "CJ's Mom," author of the blog Raising My Rainbow
Sarah, usually considered a "mommy blogger," had been writing about her family for years before her post "My Son Is Gay." She and I are the ones who stumbled into this. We both wrote blogs posts that went viral. Kelly was compelled to write because she felt fed up with "always seeing other people's views, but nothing that pertained to us. Nothing that talked about our kids." Queer Kid's Mom and CJ's Mom were more deliberate. They saw a lack of resources for families and kids like their own and wanted to fill that void and be the resource they didn't have.
It wasn't long before we discovered that we were as different from one another as our children were. We're stay-at-home parents, working moms, and breadwinners from all over the United States. Our families are different sizes, with different religions and backgrounds. Our education levels go from a little college all the way up to Ph.D.s.
But there were also some similarities, odd ones that surprised us. We are all middle- to lower-middle-class. We all consider ourselves feminists and, funnily enough, nerds. Four of us live in red states, and the one who doesn't lives in a very conservative part of hers. I can't help but think that last one is significant. When surrounded by people who look at our children and find something lacking, something wrong, maybe the mother in all of us felt more compelled to stand up against it.
We also all have solid relationships with our spouses and partners, who completely support our writing and our kids. This isn't a single-person effort for any of us. We have family and friends we depend on and value backing us up.
And not a single one of us considers herself a role model. We are all just parents. Sarah Manley expressed so clearly what I feel: "I mean, I don't feel I did anything at all special." We make mistakes, sometimes the same ones more than once. We are trying to parent the kids we have, the kids we love, the best way we know how. We don't have an agenda. "I don't know anything about raising a queer kid," said Queer Kid's Mom. "I am just going to do my best."
From the first moment we loved talking to one another. We all want to meet to have coffee and pie (or beer and cocktails). "What a relief it would be," said Queer Kid's Mom, "to chat face-to-face and know someone really gets it." Before our writing, most of us felt alone. With a lot of parenting issues, we could research or ask questions and advice of those around us. After all, everyone potty trains their toddlers and makes choices about schools. Not many have a son who want to dress up as a girl, whether that be for Halloween or regular playtime, or a young child who announces they're gay. In fact, none of us know any in our "real lives" that we didn't meet online.
By writing about our children and our families, we found others who thought the way we did or were dealing with the same issues. Families who looked familiar to us. "In my first year," said CJ's Mom, "I had 500,000-plus readers in 45 counties. I learned that this is a global issue." Other parents have made the decision to buy the pink shoes for their son. Parents have wondered how to handle sleepovers with their gay child. Just not everyone is talking about it.
And why not? Our society is changing its opinion of LGBT people (although not fast enough for any of us) and moving toward equal rights, but the discussion of children is still taboo. As long as issues of orientation and gender identity are seen as purely sexual issues, people won't feel right about adding our children to the conversation. But they are right there in the middle of it. Our kids could be the next generation of LGBT adults, but their stories will be very different from those that came before them.
So I think it past time to start talking about them. If we truly believe our children are wonderful and extraordinary and have nothing to hide, then we need to treat them that way. And the more parents who speak out, the more powerful and confident we all become -- and the more we can encourage change to make this world a better place for all our kids.