"What about our life is quintessentially gay?" I asked my partner this morning. I haven't been an active part of the public LGBT movement in nearly eight years.
"Everything about our life is gay," she replied. "Gayness follows us."
I weighed her words. I walk our second grader to school with a cousinthe daughter of a lesbian couple who's known my daughter since babyhood and now happens to live one block away. Gay.
I grind the coffee, pour water into the pot, pet my dog, and every morning, I pour three vitamins into a sushi soy sauce tray. Gay.
At night, I pull my car into the garage, careful not to run over any bikes or scooters, and I gather my belongings from the day. Gay. Okay. We have a small house just outside Chicago which fits our family perfectly. Gay or not so gay?
By day, I'm a nonprofit communicator. Not so gay. By night, I alternate between multi-eyed couch potato and budding blogger. Always gay, public sometimes. It isn't that I spend any time in the closet, but there are full days now where being gay just never comes up. My life is consumed by other things: Soccer registration, playdates, homework.
Our eldest daughter, my partner's by birth and mine by love and assertion, has become a brilliant poet and an insightful advocate for safe and respectful education. She is a college junior in Madison. Our youngest daughter, the one still living happily at home, is an observer, a scientist, a humorous child who appreciates irony and sarcasm and doesn't much care for babies who aren't related to her. She likes Pokémon and Temple Run and B96 Radio, still goes to bed at 8 o'clock and never met an olive she didn't like. Gayness figures into their lives, too, of course. Some days more than others.
Recently, the second-grader wore a shirt to school that I thought she had outgrown. It's been hers since before she was born. "I [heart] my moms" it says on the front. "Fighting for our rights" it says on the back.
"People will know you have two moms if you wear that, won't they?" I asked her. "Although most of them already know." I didn't want to stir up trouble if there wasn't any brewing, but the shirt was a 4T. I never intended her to wear it on her own and I needed to know if she understood what she was doing.
I shouldn't have worried. She was ready to stand her ground. "Fighting for our rights," she read aloud before pulling the shirt on over her head. She seemed to ponder that a moment, and then come to a decision. "I can do that!" she exclaimed, throwing a couple mock karate kicks. "I can do karate, or guns."
"This doesn't require that kind of fighting."
"What kind of fighting, then?" She seemed genuinely surprised, tilting her head as if to take in my full response, but before I could conjure an explanation, she answered herself. "Fighting with words."
"That's right!" I said. "We've got to fight for what's right with our words." She remembered aloud how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us to fight with our words and not guns or fists, and then she came back to the shirt, to the parallel fight, the one she was suddenly wearing in purple across her chest.
"Is that because people think gay is bad?" she asked.
"Yes. People sometimes think gay is bad when they don't think they know any gay people. People have a lot of wrong ideas about things they don't understand." She nodded decisively and began brushing her teeth. This was not a new question in our house, and she'd heard this answer many times.
At the end of the day, she reported only one negative comment. "You can't have two moms," an older student apparently said. "Yes you can," my daughter replied. "No, you can't," insisted the girl. My daughter stopped, looked at the girl and said, "Well I do."
This is what I know: The more we tell our lives as they are, the more we create a world where it is safe to do so. Same-sex partners may soon be able to fill out joint U.S. customs forms when we travel, and the Defense of Marriage Act is on its way out. Who knew we'd see all this in our lifetimes? It's because of stories, advocacy and strategy, and LGBT people all around us who've decided to take up space. So let's take up space together.
I'll tell you my story. Will you tell yours?
RoiAnn Phillips tried the urban actor/activist thing for 15 years or so, and finally found her calling as a west suburban soccer mom. She has a partner, two daughtersone by adoption and one by falling in love with her momtwo dogs, two cars and two cats. And every Friday, she steals an hour or two for blogging at Are You the Babysitter? [http://areyouthebabysitter.wordpress.com]