When I was 37, I came out as lesbian, which shocked the hell out of everyone who knew me, especially my then-husband. My 15-year marriage ended shortly thereafter, and I found myself a single mom trying to navigate my big gay life. Which, as it turns out, fit me infinitely better than my old one.
Though coming out later in life brought with it countless challenges, being a late bloomer did have an upside. It offered me the unique opportunity to live as both a straight, suburban mom and now, as an openly lesbian (still suburban) mom. I’ve noticed many of my mom friends out here in the ‘burbs don’t have a lot of opportunity to get to know LGBTQ folks in their everyday lives. Often, I am the token lesbian at work and at my children’s activities. As a result, I get asked lots of questions, which I never mind answering.
Maybe you are a straight mama who has questions about the gays, but you don’t have any LGBTQ friends to ask. No worries, love. I got you. I didn’t want to speak solely from my own experience, so I polled a bunch of my queer girlfriends (most of them moms) and asked: What is something you wish straight moms knew about you?
Here’s what they said:
We don’t bite.
If we are the first queer person you’ve had the opportunity to know, don’t be afraid to ask us questions. I am always happy to answer questions that come from a place of trying to educate yourself.
We don’t want to convert your children.
Contrary to popular belief, our “agenda” is the same as yours: to love and be loved, and to be accepted for who we are. That’s it. My wife and I joke with our kids that we will love them even if they turn out to be straight. The truth is, we celebrate all parts of their identities, whether they are the same as ours or not. And even if we wanted to, we could not “make” anyone gay, just as the parents who have tried conversion therapy have not been able to “make” their queer children straight.
We were born this way.
Most LGBTQ folks know from an early age who they are, while some, like me, come to understand and accept ourselves much later. No matter when a person comes out, trust that their identity and sexual orientation are not something they adopted on a whim. Saying “maybe you just haven’t met the right guy!” as one of my friends did when I came out, is hurtful. Yes, some of us have dated or even married men, but this is often due to a compulsion to conform to the expectations of our family, religion, or society.
We are human first, LGBTQ second.
Queer people run the gamut from liberal to conservative and believer to atheist. Each of us has a story and a unique way of being in the world. Don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes; take time to get to know us and you will probably find we have more in common than you thought.
Just because a woman looks masculine does not mean she wants to be a man.
Some lesbians identify as butch or androgynous and enjoy wearing men’s clothing. This does not mean they are transgender. They are simply presenting in the way that feels comfortable.
Sexuality and gender are two different things.
My sexuality describes who I am attracted to, whereas gender denotes whether I identify as male or female (or neither/both.) There is a spectrum of gender identity, with some people identifying as non-binary (which means they don’t feel they can easily check the M or F box.) Learn more about what it means to be non-binary in this resource from GLAAD. Extra credit challenge: start making a habit of asking people’s preferred pronouns and using them.
We don’t want to date you.
We aren’t attracted to all women, and most of us have healthy boundaries. When I first came out, one of my former roommates asked, “were you attracted to me when we lived together?” The truth is, I was not, but the question was so awkward there was no easy way to answer.
We don’t mind innocent personal questions from your children.
For example, they might say, “Why doesn’t Miles have a daddy?” Kids are naturally curious, and there is no need for you to correct them for fear of offending. By answering their questions, we take away the stigma surrounding our differences and normalize all types of families.
Neither of us is the man.
Sometimes we are rejected by our families, so we create new, “chosen” families.
Our kids may not always have traditional aunts, uncles, and grandparents in their lives, but you can bet they have lots of “guncles” and “aunties” who love them just as fiercely as if they were kin by blood.
Being LGBTQ doesn’t mean we are amoral and that anything goes in our homes.
My wife is a cop, and I am an educator; our kids learned from an early age not to pull any shenanigans in our house. We were the uncool parents who did not allow underage drinking, smoking, or other fun teenage pastimes.
Just as we appreciate your honoring our preferred pronouns, we also thank you for referring to our significant other in the correct way. I am legally married and introduce my spouse as my wife. Please follow our lead on this. Some of us still get referred to as “roommates” by those not affirming of our relationships. That stings.
Being gay is not a mental disorder.
However, higher rates of substance abuse and mental health diagnoses appear in our community. According to data gathered by the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ people are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as compared to the straight population. These can often be correlated to family rejection, institutional discrimination, and trauma that members of our community commonly encounter.
Lesbians don’t hate men.
Just because I don’t want to sleep with a man does not mean I don’t appreciate the men in my life. I have a son, father, and brothers whom I adore, and many of us have close guy friends. Men are awesome!
We love celebrating milestones just like you do.
When we get married or adopt/give birth, please throw us a shower like you would for a straight friend or colleague. A number of friends recounted stories of being left out of these types of celebrations, particularly in their workplaces. We appreciate being included, just like anyone else.
Still have questions? I suggest getting yourself a real-live queer friend at your earliest possible convenience. We may only make up about 10% of the population but you can find us everywhere, even in the suburbs. Trans activist Janet Mock said, “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another… is a revolutionary act.” I challenge you to seek out those people who do not look, live, or believe like you. Share your stories and listen to theirs. By doing this, you will help create a more inclusive and empathetic world for your children and grandchildren (some of whom may even turn out to be part of the LGBTQ community.) What could be more revolutionary than that?