I'm going to admit right out front that I am not as savvy/informed/comfortable with the latest sex/gender labeling with which millennials can converse. Yes, I google and check Urban Dictionary, but I am very nervous about saying the wrong thing.
Luckily, my daughters have me covered. One was a Gender Studies major and the other one is the bride-to-be. They are very patient with me. As I was getting this blog going, I actually had the thought "does my daughter think of herself as a lesbian or as a queer?" (that's progress!) -- so I asked her. She readily said queer. Then my other daughter told me to use the language "my daughter, who is queer," rather than "queer daughter." Because it matters to some people, she said.
Apparently some think the "lesbian" moniker is a bit dated and therefore calls up cliches about women who love women. "Gay" is generic in a catch-all way, but it is typically reserved for men who love men. I personally like "queer" because it just means not straight. And if you agree that sexual orientation is on a continuum, as I do, then you can use "queer" and not have to get into the specifics. Unless you want to, of course.
I have an excellent relationship with my daughter. Which doesn't mean perfect -- it's sometimes messy the way the closest relationships can be.
I believe our relationship -- or more specifically, my relationship to our relationship -- took a huge turn for the better when my daughter came out to me when she was a sophomore in college. I have vivid memories of this conversation, which took place over the phone (sort of like having a serious conversation when in the car -- no eye contact required). Her dad and I had recently met a good friend of hers at a field hockey game, and I had noted our daughter was talking about this friend quite a bit.
We were on the phone, and I was driving at the time, and I said, "It seems you are spending a lot of time with X," and she said "Yeah, I am. Actually a lot of time. Actually I am staying at her place." I'm not slow on the uptake, but I can't remember now exactly what she said next, but it was something like "we're dating." Or maybe it was just complete silence, I don't remember. The reason I can't remember isn't because I was freaking out, it is because I started thinking "Be VERY careful what you say here, because this is a one-time thing."
"Are you happy?"
"Then I'm happy."
I meant it. I think there was an awkward silence then, and perhaps we carried on our conversation a bit, but there was no question in my mind what had been said, even if indirectly. I of course called her dad right after I got off the phone.
I can't say I was completely caught off guard. But like most parents, I had just assumed my daughter was heterosexual. I had never considered the possibility of anything else. Even though I had been a sex ed teacher and had talked to lots of parents about being mindful that maybe their eighth grader was gay. So one might say I was wearing blinders.
My first reaction was life was going to be harder for my child. That upset me. While I suppose that's true, what's harder, really? Isn't living a lie much harder than being true to oneself?
Once the "life is harder when you're gay" argument was vanquished, I was left with all the dreaming I had done about my daughter's future life, and within a short period of time (weeks, not months), I came to the [obvious] conclusion that my ideas about her life were just that -- my ideas. Her life was hers to live as she saw best. This was a liberating thought, and it's why I say our relationship took a turn for the better. I became a better parent when I fully accepted my daughter's life as her own.
Just the same way I'm going to be a better mother-of-the-bride because I have fully accepted my daughter's wedding as her own.
I started this blog during the early stages of my daughter, who is queer, doing her wedding planning. I acquired a wedding etiquette book, because I care about things like etiquette, but I was horrified at the hetero-normativity of it. And if *I* couldn't relate to what the book was telling me ("consult with your future son-in-law," "the groom's parents pay for," etc.), how on earth could my daughter relate to it?
I am a proud feminist, and my own wedding was custom-built by my husband and me nearly forty years ago. We thought we were really deconstructing old wedding ways by writing our own vows (and many people agreed with us), but we also clung to tired tropes like my father "giving me away" and other things that now make me wonder what we were thinking when we did our planning.
A queer wedding presents an opportunity to open discussion about what elements really matter in this milestone event. I think that's refreshing. A queer wedding also opens the eyes of the straight, middle-aged mother about what the world can be like for her daughter as she just goes about the business of being herself in a world that still assumes everyone is heterosexual. I think this is an opportunity for me to learn and I'm bringing you along with me. As Bette Davis said in "All About Eve": "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride." (Well. She actually said "night" so I'm paraphrasing. But you get the drift.)