By Tara Theresa Hill (Gay Family Life)
As the debate continues to rage over The Marriage Equality bill in New York, I can’t help but feel a bit ticked off at the situation. I’m sure that many people feel that way and normally, I try not to emote during my blog sessions, but I just have to get this off of my chest. In my conversations and discussions with people on growing up with a gay parent, someone always points out to me that it is clear that I am advocating for gay people. They say that I am not proposing a debate on the issue so much as telling them why I am in support of equal rights for gay couples. Well, yeah, that is kind of the point of my whole presentation. In one session, I even had someone ask me if I was going to try to hide my gay mother and her wife from my children. I had to stop myself from losing my temper and instead calmly responded with, “If I was really going to ‘hide’ them from my children, would I be here talking to you about this right now?”
Of course, I am in support of marriage equality. My whole goal is to try to open people’s minds by talking to them about my life experiences being raised by a gay parent. I guess it is fair to say that I am I biased. I certainly should be. Not only was I raised by my two great moms, but I also have several close friends who are gay as well. To put it simply, I have grown up around a lot of gay people. Some of my best friends are gay.
Even though I don’t like it, I can understand how someone who has never met a gay person might not know how to react to them. I can also see why a person who was raised in a homophobic environment, a household with very specific gender roles, or even some strict religious families might not understand or even like gay people for that matter. I can comprehend this because I am human and have had my own reservations about things and cultures that I am unfamiliar with. I also know that I am blessed because I was raised to keep an open mind to everyone’s lifestyles and traditions, and that other people have not necessarily had this type of upbringing. However, I believe that everyone has the power to change and that most people are genuinely good and don’t want to see others suffer. I could be wrong. I could be naïve, but those are my beliefs. I have to hold on to the hope that everyone can change if given the chance, and that we can help make things better through educating people about the diverse society that surrounds them.
My mother taught me that one of the most important things is to have compassion. I have compassion for people who are against gay marriage because they are blind to how their actions and words are hurting others. Well, it is our job to open their eyes and help them see. Given my background, I feel that it is my responsibility to help in this fight. That is why I speak. This is not just about New York or even the United States. This is about reshaping our thinking as a society. I not only speak in defense of my mother and Elena, but also for all of the gay people that I know and love. Every time I get up to speak to a group of people or write this blog, I see their many faces swimming before me, and I know what I must do. I must keep sending out the message. Yes, I am for marriage equality. Yes, I am an advocate for gay rights. Yes, I am ‘biased’ as they say, but I have a right to be. Now I ask you to ask yourself, wouldn’t you be if you were me?
The Straight Spouse Network invites the perspectives of various individuals who wish to share their unique experiences. We wish to thank Tara for allowing us to reprint her blog post. She is the daughter of a mixed orientation marriage and was raised by her lesbian mom and stepmom. Her views represent one perspective of one adult child. As a resident of New York State she is very interested in all our families having visibility and speaks with college groups about her experiences growing up.
I grew up in an interesting household. I had a mom, a dad, a dog and a cat. Around age seven, a friend of my mother’s moved in with us. By eleven, I had discovered that my mother was gay and that this friend was actually her lover. I wasn’t oblivious; I could tell that my parents were unhappy with each other. The constant fighting was a great indicator of this fact.
My father is not a perfect man. He’s human. I know that he didn’t always fulfill what my mother expected in a husband and provider. But he is still my father, a truth which my step-mother did her best to make me feel bad about. Every time I did something that she didn’t like, she’d point it out in this way:
“You’re just like your stupid f__king father!”
It didn’t matter what it was. It could be anything from her belief that I had no common sense to a simple personality trait. She’d say that she didn’t want me to hate my father and then could never stop herself from proclaiming how much she despised me for being like him in any way. The worst thing was that my mother never stopped her. Often she’d join in on this with moans belittling me for upsetting my step-mother by not just giving into whatever she said or demanded that I do.
Funny enough, I found myself analyzing this and even sympathizing with their feelings a little. After all, my mother’s marriage to my father had kept her and her wife apart for a number of years. My mother had been unwilling to just take off with me without seeing if she could get the marriage to work. In the meantime though, she was sleeping with this woman inside our house. I woke up many a night in search of my mother to discover that she was not in bed with my father, but in bed with this woman who was supposed to be my ‘aunt.’
Before my dad left, he and I had a loving, close relationship. He always stayed up-to-date on what I was learning in school and would make up games to try to incorporate my developing interests and knowledge of the world. We also did a lot of arts and crafts projects together. I remember that when I was learning about the Native Americans in school, he went out with me to find sticks, leaves, bark, and other things and we made a miniature tee-pee together.
I don’t remember the exact day that my dad left. I think I’ve permanently blocked it from my memory, but I do remember the days and years that followed were not easy. My step-mother has always been abusive to the point that eventually I ended up distancing myself from her completely. I think she underestimated the bond that I had with my father. Yes, I could be pissed to hell with him, but when it comes down to it, he’s still my father. Nothing can change that.
I guess in some ways the separation has made my relationship with my father stronger. I have a more open, honest adult relationship with him than I do with my mother. I feel free to disagree with him and him with me. We’ve come to respect each others opinions of things and perhaps best of all is that he trusts me to be okay. He gives me a certain level of freedom that I have never gotten from my mother or her partner. He knows that I have a good head on my shoulders and that I will do just fine in the end.
My mother’s house is a world of lies. She used to tell me to just ‘yes’ her wife to death to keep the peace. I couldn’t do that. I am a terrible liar and then also, because it just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t believe that that is the real way to get on with people in life. I’m not saying that this happened overnight for me. It took many years and a lot of outside support from my husband’s family and our friends in order for me to reach this point.
I didn’t learn to tell my parents when I was unhappy with things until the middle of college. Both had very different outcomes. My mother and her partner had had a horrible fight which of course always ended up including me and anyone else that had the misfortune to be around at the moment. Desperate to find a sane parent to talk to, I called up my father. He hadn’t bothered to tell me that he had decided to go on a vacation across the country. I tore into that phone message saying everything that I had promised myself that I would never say. Up until that moment my father had had no idea how miserable I was living with my mother, how I had run away to the dorms to escape, and how I felt like I could never count on him for anything.
To his credit, he stood up and did something about it. We started discussing how things were going on at my mother’s house and while he couldn’t afford for me to come and live with him, he would support any decisions that I made. I told him that I was going to dorm at college year round and that is what I ended up doing. It wasn’t always easy, but I think I have come out the better for it both mentally and spiritually. Since that phone conversation, I have been able to be honest with my father. Whenever I have tried to do this with my mother, she runs back to the idea how her and her partner and I can still be a family if I would just learn to work around her. This is code for ‘lie to keep the peace that we all are pretending exists in the first place.’ Thankfully, life’s experiences have set me against this way of thinking.
I know that these are extreme circumstances. Not every step-mother or step-father is so abusive or stifling to their step-children. Some are very loving parental figures. My advice to anyone with a step-family set up, whether that be a gay or straight household, is not to forget that the children have come from two biological parents. To paint either parent in a totally negative way is to tell the child that half of them is no good. It hurts, plain and simple. It hurts the child and it will only serve to damage that child’s relationship with whoever is throwing stones in the first place.
The Straight Spouse Network invites the perspectives of various individuals who wish to share their unique experiences. We thank T.T.S. for being our Guest Blogger today and permitting us to print her article about her experience.