26 July 2007

Who Are the People in Your Neighbourhood?

Having kids makes you out and come out all the time.

We're pretty out. We're pretty big activists within the queer community. Having children makes you out, everywhere, all of the time. It makes you out to that huge mainstream community of which we were often only peripherally a part of as a couple and are now part of daily because we have kids.

While I've never had an incident or experienced overtly hostile homophobia, I'm always a little fearful when having to disclose that I'm a big old homo to new people. Even more so now because I want to protect my kids from any possible negative reactions others may have. I recognize that this fear is mine and I have to own it.

Most often when I come out to someone new, I get to hear all about a gay aunt, uncle, sibling, distant relative, high school friend, college buddy, co-worker, neighbour or random acquaintance. For the record, telling a queer person that you know someone else who is queer as a way to show that you're okay with queers in general is really quite bizarre. Even more bizarre is when you tell me about a same-sex crush or the homosexual experience you had when you were a kid, in high school or university. I'm left wondering if you tell me because you also needed to feel a huge sense of relief in finally having disclosed this big, dark secret to the only other gay person you happen to know.

Driving the kids home from camp earlier this week, we drove past a neighbour on another street who has fabulous rose bushes edging her property. I like to drive by and ogle her garden. But this time, the roses were gone.

I commented on their absence and Bella filled us all in on all of the details.

She's a lesbian Bella told us. She also had dug up the plants and sold them.

When we asked how Bella knew she was a lesbian and how she knew about the plants, Bella let us know that she had been chatting with this neighbour and shared that she is going to a summer camp for kids with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans parents.

The lady then shared with her that she's also lesbian and a mother and two other gay guys live down the street from her. Not the same two gay postmen who live on our street.

While it's great to know that we live in queer central, we were more than a bit flabbergasted when we had to point out to Bella that the woman she was talking to was a stranger and she's not supposed to talk with strangers, and especially not share all the details of our lives.

Bella's come out about her family, we've been outed to a neighbour, the neighbour has been outed to us through our kid and has outed some other people in the process. Apparently, by fluke, we've purchased a house in Mr. Roger's very gay neighbourhood.


Pendullum said...

I worked in a bar in my early years...All the service staff with the exception of me, was gay...

It was a strange thing to be in the 'minority'...
And to feel like the odd duck was a strange experience for me...

And I must admit I would never trade that time I had for the world... And I met and still have a great deal of good friends from that time period...And as a result my daughter has been exposed to so many different families...That there is no looking at what a 'norm' is...

I think it is great that you have found Mr. Roger's Gay neighbourhood... And even better that Bella is comfortable in her own skin and with her family...

A wonderful family by all standards...

DrSpouse said...

Interesting. My current "minority" labels are - recurrent miscarrier, possible adopter, and I guess liberal Christian also puts me in the minority, even in the UK! In the past I've had - white (living in Africa), female (in science - now in a much more female friendly branch).

For some of these it is plain that you are what you are. But I know that some people in an ethnic minority are still greeted with "oh, my friend is X". Usually accompanied by "and she's so good at Y"
Overheard at dinner:
Diner - Oh, you're Polish
Waitress - yes, that's right
Diner - Our daughter in law is Polish, she's so beautiful

And I have also had African people tell me "I have a friend from England!" Of course I'll know them...

But for hidden characteristics, I wonder if people are also saying "yes, not everyone talks about that, do they, but you're not the first person I've met who..."

Obviously recurrent miscarriage is not a joy and a delight but people do say to us "oh, my friend had X miscarriages and now has a lovely family". But adoption/foster care should in many ways be delightful, but it still isn't talked about. I wonder if this "Oh, I know someone who..." is partly like that?

hw said...

Yes, Dr. Spouse, I agree.

I think people think relationally and certain things pop up recurrently throughout our lives and especially in friend/acquaintance circles.

As much as I have an internal laugh when I hear someone's gay story, I'm also equally as guilty of digging up a matching relational story.

Now when someone discloses an item that is not the social norm or is taboo, I try to focus on the sharing of said information and how that may, or may not, have been difficult for them. I use it as a point to deepen the conversation as opposed to quickly making a relational comment to show that I know about said issue and make an assumption that their experiences have been the same.

And, what I think is so fascinating in all of this, which you touched upon, is how minority labels contextually shift. IE, I used to work in HIV/AIDS where being straight was the minority and I often had to reassert a queer identity to show that I "got it." My partner works in the corporate world where she has to decide whether or not it is safe to come out and the possible career damage this could cause.