To make a terribly long, complicated story a little shorter, I "came out of the closet" a little later than most. I was 27!!!!! After growing up in a super right-wing family (and I mean EXTREMELY conservative views), and constantly battling myself from within, I finally decided to just be me...and that includes being a lesbian. No, it doesn't define me, but it is a huge part of me. Of course, this affects my dating life, my civil rights, and to some extent, it involves my children. Anyway, my point is that when I was much younger, I went to great lengths to try and make myself be the person I thought I was supposed to be. I didn't realize that being gay was actually normal; I thought I was just having devilishly temptuous thoughts. So, I got married, and for reasons unrelated to my sexual orientation, I got divorced.
The divorce came seven and a half years after the marriage. In that time, I grew a lot in my mind and spirit, and pretty much overcame any "hang-ups" about going to hell, being sinful, etc. Oddly enough, I learned a lot about myself while getting my degrees in psychology (which, oddly enough, was intended to serve as training to help others). At any rate, upon divorce, I felt free to roll with nature, and to make decisions based on how I feel. Ever since then, in 2002, I can say my intuition has grown exponentially, and so many other doors to my existence opened.
At the time, my children were ages 3 and 5. It wasn't long before I found my first girlfriend, and we were definitely not meant to live our lives together. So...I'd see her at school, work, and on my "grown-up weekends." In the event she came around the kids, they had no idea we were more than friends. Thus, I didn't approach the issue with them. I still wasn't totally sure what to make of my new relationship let alone what to tell the kids about it.
The first girlfriend saga didn't even last a whole year. Yet, I was certain I was gay and not bisexual, and I knew that I'd continue to date women. I thought, for a while, about how I'd approach the issue with the children. I contemplated between two extremes. I figured on one hand, I could wait until I had a meaningful relationship, with partner-potential, to even bother discussing the issue. On the other hand, I thought the younger they are, the better.
After another relationship failed a year or so later, I knew it may be years (or never) before I actually settled with a partner. I thought about how the kids could actually be grown and moved away before I find this in my life. That would be absolutely terrible, to come out with something that late in life. And besides, I was out of the closet with all the adults in my life and I had grown comfortable with being a lesbian. So...one day, when the kids (ages 6 and 4 at the time) were playing with their Barbies and super heroes, they paired them up with each other and said they were "getting married." I noticed all "couples" were opposite sex, so I took the opportunity to say the following:
"You know kids...most boys have girlfriends and most girls have boyfriends, but some boys have boyfriends and some girls have girlfriends."
"Really?" they both responded.
"Yes," I confirmed.
And to that, they went on with their play session. They weren't so shocked by my statement. So, about a week or two later, I had another opening, and I asked the kids what they would think if Mommy had a girlfriend. Morghan's response was, "You do! It's (the name of ex-girlfriend #2)." My jaw dropped at the realization that Morghan already knew.
Fast-forwarding to the present day...Morghan is nearly 11 and begins middle school in August. Chandler will turn 9 over the summer and become a big bad 4th grader. Both have known for years that I'm a lesbian, and as the time progresses, my appearance "looks more gay." Haha! I'm completely open about this with everyone except for my students. Of course, most have picked up on it (Come on, most are street-wise alternative school students), and it's no big deal (even though sexual orientation is not included in the school system's EOE statement...different topic, different blog).
So, what's the problem? The kids very rarely feel comfortable being open with their friends about my "lesbionic ways." I mean, I know at their age, they probably won't. I've never encouraged them either way, I've only said it is completely up to them what they say to their friends. Before Kristin was shipped off overseas, they'd just say she was my friend. Some kids even mistook her for a guy. I don't know how, though. She's way too pretty (no offense to men, of course). In fact, she was in the top ten for Miss New York after being crowned the winner in two different beauty pageants. Anyway...some of the kids back in Augusta would ask my children if she was their dad. Hahahahaha!
Kristin has been away most of this school year, and I'm not totally sure if she's ever coming back to be with us, the way we were before. This actually saddens the kids as much as it does me. But, that's beside the point. The point is that the kids haven't seen me behave romantically with a woman since then, but they seem to have grown more sensitive to what their peers think...especially my soon-to-be 6th grader! At an informational meeting at her future middle school, I jokingly whispered something about admitting I'm gay, and she looked horrified, as if it would be the worst thing ever. I just looked at her and said, "You have to know I won't do that."
Later that evening, I had a discussion with Morghan. I told her my position on my "gayness" and hoped it helped:
It's still up to you what you say to your friends or what you don't say to them. I will never go out of my way to embarrass you. I will not walk into your school, announcing anyone is my partner or holding hands or kissing them. You never have to worry about that. At the same time, though, I'm not going to pretend that I'm someone I'm not. I will not grow my hair longer or try to be girly just to make myself look less gay. I already tried that, and I wasn't myself. You know I've always encouraged you and your brother to be yourselves and all I can be is myself.
So, that was it, and the topic hasn't come up since then. I feel very much loved by my children, and I know they feel loved and safe with me. My intentions were to relieve Morghan of any worries of embarrassment (because that is probably the worst thing that can happen to a middle schooler...to be embarrassed...like OMG or something...TOTALLY!). I also wanted her to realize she had control in what information she gave her friends...it's nobody's business anyway, and she doesn't owe them an explanation. At the same time, though, I feel the need to give her something I didn't have: an example of self-comfort. I was never encouraged to be myself, and looking back, I can see where my Nana (the woman whose home I grew up in) had ideas about how I was supposed to be...her ideas and my reality are very far apart.
I hope I have not compromised the gay rights movement by telling her it was okay not to acknowledge my sexual orientation. At the same time, I feel it's a comfort she must come to naturally. She's a very loving, tolerant person, who finds any type of discrimination appalling. I think right now, though, her need to avoid any potential teasing (because middle schoolers can be meaner than ex-girlfriends...haha) wins out over her belief in justice for all.