Sometimes it feels like my kids might know the inner me better than anyone. They may not know of the big things in my life — work achievements, what my degree is in, or what my personal life goals are — but they’ve seen me sick, and silly in the way that parents behave only in front of their young children. They’ve burst in on me in the bathroom many times, as children love to do to their mothers. (That’s a way that I’d prefer no one else gets to know me.) They’ve seen me get mad and apologize, and they’ve seen me cry. The older two have seen me after having the C-section of their younger sister, my physically weakest point. They’ve seen me go through the hurt and strain of divorce.
When I was ready to come out, it was a bit later than the norm — my late twenties. Friends and family had known me for decades without knowing this side of me, and many were shocked, confused, or even angry. Yet I didn’t think much about coming out to my kids (ages 2, 4, and 5), because to me, it felt like they already knew.
Their father and I were splitting up for other reasons and this was the time to finally be myself with a fresh start. When their dad started dating again, my kids started asking questions, innocently assuming that seeing Dad kiss a new partner meant he was married to her. Then they wondered if I would get married again.
This all came up one day while driving to the park with my kids and their friend. I overheard them talking. “Your dad has a girlfriend?” the friend asked. “Mine does too.” I felt relieved that they had this camaraderie. Their friend’s parents have been separated since he was a baby and it’s all that he’s known. He’s so well adjusted and comfortable talking about the split, which made my kids see that he’s okay. He told them about how he loves having two places to live and that his parents both love him and make him feel good.
Then the friend asked, “So is your mom going to date another man?” I heard my sons both giggle. My oldest son said, “No… I think my mom is going to have a girlfriend.” Even with my expectations that they knew the true me, I was taken aback by their intuitiveness. They had met my girlfriend, but I’d only introduced her as my friend and hadn’t showed any elevated level of affection, any more than I would with anyone else.
“Mom, do you have a girlfriend now?” my oldest yelled from the back seat.
“Yes, I do,” I said feeling a little surprised.
“SEE!” he said to his brother and friend.
“Who is it??” he yelled back. I told him and he said, “Oh that’s great. She’s great. I like her a lot.” And that was the end of it.
Coming out to the people that I love the most was the easiest. They know me and believe me and trust me. They are too pure to question me like some adults with regressive mindsets. There was no “Are you sure?” “Didn’t you marry a man?” “What if you change your mind again?” Kids don’t think that way. I told them who I am — even though they seemingly already knew — and they were good with that because they already love who I am. I’m still the mom who stays up until 2 o’clock in the morning sewing their Halloween costumes, invents silly games, and holds them when they feel scared. They don’t care who I love, they’re just happy that I’m loved.
Kids aren’t born with prejudice or homophobic thoughts. Some of the adults that I’ve told have had different ideas. They’ve questioned if I knew for sure who I am. They’ve insinuated that maybe I’m just bisexual. “Maybe you just don’t like your ex-husband. What if you like a different guy?” They presume they know my internal feelings better than I do. “But why didn’t you tell me before? I feel that I’ve been lied to,” one friend said. How could I tell them something that I wasn’t sure of myself until my mid-twenties? And by then it felt like it was too late, I was married with kids. I didn’t want to hurt anyone and at the time I felt guilt for not realizing this about myself sooner. But now I was trying to be my true self and being chastised for not being my true self sooner.
I married my ex-husband when I was 22. That’s younger than when the majority of LGBTQ women I know came out. I had no idea who I was then, especially when society told me it isn’t even an option. But now, I’ve never felt so sure. The responses of adult nay-sayers were hurtful, but healed by the unconditional love and trust of my kids.
Now, they get to see me be 100% myself. And this is the greatest gift that I could give them.