To be queerspawn is different for each of us.
The one thing I consistently hear in our community is that when we meet each other there is a sense of deep understanding and camaraderie. For me, there’s something comfortable about meeting another person who understands my upbringing and family; someone who I don’t need to explain terminology to; someone who doesn’t have to ask several questions so they can categorize me.
At the same time, we can find ourselves surprised by how different our stories are. In the past year, as I’ve gotten more involved in writing and advocacy work, I’ve also met several more queerspawn. But for all the new connections I’ve made in this time, I’ve yet to meet one that has my same story.
I remember reading Zach Wahl’s book, My Two Moms. In his introduction he discussed the term ‘gay families’. He stated: “I find this label silly. My moms don’t live in a gay house, drive gay cars or have a gay dog.” While I respect Zach and his perspective, reading this line made me pause, because it wasn’t true for me. Personally, I identify strongly as being part of a gay family.
For the first twelve years of my life, I grew up in a stereotypical nuclear family: mom and dad who were still married, two kids, dogs, house with a big yard, etc. And then when I was twelve, everything changed. My dad came out to my immediate family.
As a judge on the Idaho State Court of Appeals, my dad was well regarded. I remember going out for a family dinner and him seeing others who worked in law. They would always approach him to say ‘hi’, refer to my dad as ‘Judge Perry’ and treat him with a high level of respect. Even as a child I knew my dad was important.
Things changed when my dad came out to us. He was still a judge-he was still important, but I realized the way people treated him was conditional. For many, his sexuality would define his character and their perception of his ability to do his job well.
Being told that we had to hide his sexuality and later our family structure when he met Jerry, was a defining moment in my life. While I may not have been able to put it into words at the time, I was consciously aware that I had gone from an ‘us’ to a ‘them’.
I’m close to my family and much of my identity is tied to them. But my personal identify is also a reflection of the part of me that I masked for so long. If you asked me today to define my family, I would use words like ‘supportive’ and ‘hysterical’, but not far behind those would be ‘gay’.
Yes, family is family. I understand the desire by many to not separate out gay families as something different. But in my experience, the reality was that we were treated differently. Because I was forced to bury that side of me, I think in some ways I became even more aware of that part of my identity.
The same way that some parts of Zach’s story didn’t speak to me, I know not every part of my book will personally resonate with all of the queerspawn who read it. At the same time, I believe this makes telling our narratives even more important. Every queerspawn has a unique story and each one should be encouraged to be told.