Lessons from my gay parents everyone can use

Each of us has to decide what from our childhood we will replicate when we have children of our own. What is it we want to bring along and what can be left behind? I was raised by a fabulous set of lesbians in the SF Bay Area, in the early eighties. There were a lot less kids of Gay parents then, even in San Francisco. Though it may have been an unusual childhood, it was a very happy one. Now that I am of an age to be having kids myself, I am reflective about the parenting practices that made my parents such successful caregivers. The attributes that stand out are not necessarily caused by their having been gay but they are things I associate with the community. And though I will most likely be parenting with a man in a more hetero-normative environment, I plan to implement some “ Queer “ parenting concepts. So I am slowly compiling a list of the wonderful ways my parents showed their care and some were so good, they’re worth sharing:
Appreciate Difference- My parents always focused on exposing my brother and I to a diversity of people and cultures, whether it be wheelchair basketball or checking out different religious services. One year we celebrated every holiday listed on our calendar after researching the customs.
Advocate for your children- When I was in elementary school my parents put a lot of effort into making sure my school met my needs. They held in-services so my teachers would know how to handle things like family trees and Father’s Day with respect to me. They lobbied the district to make sure there were books in the school library that represented me and reflected my experience.
Let them be themselves ( in terms of gender and otherwise…)-My parents let me wear mismatched all pink ensembles for years. They also let my, now rugby playing, younger brother put on make-up with my mom, Nina, in the morning and once wear a skirt to school. Now that I have fashion sense and my brother is proto-typically male, they support us wholeheartedly in our endeavors, encouraging me to go to Acting school and sending my brother cross-country to compete in martial arts.
Putting your children before your political ideals- Even though my mom might have preferred me to have played with Tonka trucks, and my brother to not refer to women as “ hoes” She puts us and who we are as people above what she thinks. She has never made us feel like who we are and how we express it would have any effect on her love for us. My parents have never pressured us towards being anyone other than who we were, regardless of how different it was from them.
Be Intentional- Perhaps because gay parenting does not, generally, come about quite so effortlessly, there tends to be a certain consciousness brought to things that might be otherwise taken for granted. Because they were working outside of tradition, there was an exploration of what exactly they wanted to pass along. They did the same work that I am now trying to approach, figuring out what they need to do to give their children the best life they can manifest. Take a minute to think about why you do what you do with your children? What routines do you take for granted?
Stand up for others- Perhaps because I was raised in a marginalized community, I was conscious early of the oppression of others. My parents taught me at a young age to stand up for those in need and ally myself with people fighting for social justice.
Celebrate Life: I was never without a feather boa in life, that’s for sure. All people benefit from more celebration in life regardless of occasion. So bring on the glitter and sequins for everybody.
Though I may be heterosexual, I plan to raise my children in a way that appreciates the many virtues of the Gay community.

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