French lesbian blogger Élie Chevillet asks how we can now be in 2023 yet queer families still have to justify raising children outside the traditional nuclear model. Our kids are all right—and it’s disturbing that so many still question that.
I never wanted kids. I am lesbian, so I couldn’t have provided the male role model that my hypothetical children might have needed anyway. That’s what I was thinking in my early twenties. When my former girlfriend told me that I was talking like a far-right voter, I was puzzled. I’d just had the first encounter with my internalized homophobia.
The house is burning
I never wanted kids, but my partner has two. Sometimes, life turns out unexpectedly, and the best way to handle it is to embrace it.
Now I live with two boys, their mom—who’s also my partner—and their dad. The more I spend time with children, the more I experience the huge responsibility that parents carry toward the queer community.
We cannot let 21st century kids internalize the bullshit that we heard ourselves. We cannot afford another queerphobic generation. We need to break the chain of pain. Hell yes, the house is still burning.
Offering a safe space
Kids believe what they hear at home. It’s their first source of truth, and they carry it through life. They don’t question hate speech: they take it as it is—until they have the tools to question it.
At our place, the kids don’t ask why their mother is in love with another woman. They don’t ask why their mother and father still live in the same house although they’re not a couple anymore. They don’t wonder how it can be that their dad and I like each other. It’s our reality, and it feels like the most natural thing to them.
But the world around us doesn’t share our normality. And we cannot protect our children against hate speech. We can only offer them a safe space to process their feelings toward it.
The other day, the kindergarten teacher showed the children a book including queer families. One of them was a lesbian couple with a kid. When my partner’s child saw it, his face lit up. “I have two moms, too!” he happily exclaimed although he’s a shy boy.
Another kid started to laugh at him. “It’s impossible to have two moms! You’re so stupid, and your mom’s stupid, too!”
It’s the same child who tells him he’s a girl each time that he wears nail polish, who makes fun of him when he chooses “girl colors”, and who bullies him if he does not do what boys are expected to.
We brainwash our kids
Boys don’t wear pink, makeup or dresses. Invented for the sake of marketing, these kinds of ideas don’t just arise in our children’s minds. Kids naturally don’t care about this stuff. They are spontaneous: they take people and situations just the way they are. It’s adults who brainwash them with their narrow-minded worldview. And whoever doesn’t fit in our box has a high chance to experience a great deal of suffering.
Queerphobia is everyone’s problem
We have a collective responsibility to unlearn our educational models—and to throw them in the trash if they inflict pain on others. Today, kids are increasingly aware of all kinds of discrimination, which is a good thing. But it’s not enough.
As long as teenagers commit suicide because they are not straight, it won’t be enough. As long as kids are put through hell because they are trans, it won’t be enough. As long as queer people aren’t safe everywhere, it will not be enough. None of us will be free until we are all free.
What if the kids turn queer?
During Pride month, my partner and I were called irresponsible because we took the boys to a dyke march—a demonstration for the rights and visibility of lesbians and queer women. I was particularly proud to be part of it with her and the kids.
“What is going to happen with my grandchildren!” my partner’s father burst out after seeing a picture of us at the march in the newspaper.
“What if they turn queer?” is actually what he meant.
“What if?” I asked. “Plus, was your daughter ever in touch with queer people as a child?”
“Never!” he answered.
“Well, it didn’t really keep her from being a lesbian, did it?”
We love you…
It’s pretty simple: Our kids will become who they are regardless of who we are. And that’s exactly what we want. They might turn out straight; they might turn out queer—it doesn’t matter.
Our love is unconditional. They should feel safe to explore who they are and to become who they want to be. Our role is to accompany them on their own way rather than projecting our version of success and happiness onto them.
… whoever you are, whomever you love
Queer people can’t carry the entire educational job by themselves. We need strong allies. It is every parent and caregiver’s responsibility to tell their kids that it’s okay to love whomever they love, to be whoever they are and that both apply to every human being.
Nothing to prove
It’s 2023. Queer kids should feel safe out there, and so should kids coming from queer families.
It’s 2023. We know by now that the mommy-daddy-children-model is a social construct that half of the time doesn’t resist reality. Patriarchy’s damages are everywhere in nuclear families. So why in the world should queer people be accountable for the mere existence of their own families? Why should we have to prove that we can raise happy children?
It’s 2023. The kids are all right—thank you for not asking.
Élie Chevillet is a French lesbian writer and activist. You can read her other blog posts for Ylva Publishing here.
Follow Élie on Instagram: @eliechevillet