Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Does that mean y'all are married?"

I have been in one of my more reflective moods lately and just today was thinking about how our lives have changed since we moved here last summer. We have always assumed that living in Texas would be different from Massachusetts, especially with the configuration of our family. C. and I are both highly politicized people (part of what brought us together.) Probably because of our teaching and counseling backgrounds, we have always given people the room they need to go through whatever process they might need to go through to make sense of us. We are passionate about issues of justice, equity, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on and we have many years experience in teaching folks of all ages about these issues. Because of all this we figured we would handle ourselves pretty well as we transitioned from a community where families somewhat like ours were visible (whether is was two moms, multiracial couple/family, adopted kids, bio baby, etc.) to one where we would be more of an oddity. And we have done a nice job of handling whatever comes our way.

Since I am originally from this state I knew that Texas hospitality and politeness would likely protect us from most of the potentially negative responses we might get. It has. However, we have dealt with a range of responses (not necessarily positive or negative) and mini-issues that remind us of how we are indeed in a "whole 'nother country!" Some examples:

  • When asked about her husband C. replied "I don't have a husband, I have a partner, she's a woman." Our neighbor stared at her blankly and asked if she owned a business so C. clarified and he said, "Oh, I've heard of those." We haven't seen him since that first week we arrived in Texas.

  • When asked about my husband I reply "I don't have a husband, I have a partner she's a woman." One neighbor, pushing her baby stroller, replied "I am sure that helps with four kids!" and then sent her unruly 9 year old to play the entire day at our house.

  • When asked about my husband, I reply "I don't have a husband, I have a partner, she's a woman." Three different people have begun to talk to me about the challenges of single motherhood and how they couldn't do it.

  • At my sons' school (one is in Pre-K and the other in 4th grade) the teachers have been warm and friendly. Weeks later the Pre-K teacher asked if I wanted to talk to the class about our family. I asked which part I should discuss (two moms, adopted kids, Puerto Rican or Salvadorian culture--my Pre-K son's background--) she said she thought it might be overwhelming and would get back to me. I am still waiting.

  • My 4th grader's teacher has been friendly as we discuss his various issues. At science fair night we waited in a small line of families greeting her. The two kids ahead of us were each encouraged to go in and "show your mom" and "show your mom and dad" their project. She greeted us and then as she started to say "show your..." she turned beet red, paused awkwardly and then said "show them your project." I waited long enough to hear her go back to the "mom" reference with the family behind us.

  • Twice now I have been in conversations with parents of my 4th grader's classmates who have walked away as I disclose that he has two moms. In both cases they literally walked away mid-conversation, without a single word.

  • When we took my daughter to try out for the gymnastics team at her new gym in January, C. and I both went. As we were giving her our basic contact information she noted that both C. and I have the same last name (C. added my surname to hers.) Since we have been here, we have had 6 or 7 people noticed this and we have been asked if we were sisters--she is white, I am not--so we both prepared for another one. She didn't say anything but as we were saying good she turned back and said, "hey, wait, Massachusetts right?" We nodded. She said "does that mean y'all are married?" Again, we nodded. Smiling as she walked away she said "that is soooo cool!"

Yes, it was "sooooo cool" that someone asked and knew that marriage for us was legal in MA. We also realized it was the first time in 6 months that we had told anyone we were married. Although, I suppose by Texas law, we aren't married since Texas doesn't recognize our marriage.

All of these conversations and encounters are part of our everyday lives and even the not-so-positive ones don't phase us much because we have been teaching about these things professionally for many years even before we were together. We never lose our cool. But the other day, C. went into the school to pick up our sons early because we were going out of town. I jokingly said "don't make trouble" for no particular reason since neither of us likes to make trouble. I should have kept my mouth shut. She went into the office and had a difficult time because her name wasn't "in the computer." She does drop-off for the boys most mornings and walks the preK one to his classroom. When we filled out the paperwork we made sure we were both listed as their parents and had to provide the adoption certificates to prove it. We spoke with the principal about our family (we don't yet know if they have other two mom families there but if they do we haven't seen/heard). We both attend all conferences, IEP meetings, etc. The woman in the office made her go back to the car and get her ID while she looked up a "hard copy" of our paperwork. By then, C. was visibly upset so I had offered to go instead or to go with her but she insisted she could handle it. She went back in to work with the woman who was trying to help her and who was explaining to another woman in the office what the problem was. She was doing it nicely, according to C., without using words like "two moms" but speaking about us as though we were a familiar case. C. lost her cool and said loudly "yes, we are those two moms; the lesbian moms!" She said there was such a hush that fell over that office that she had to break the silence by saying she didn't mind if her name was put in the computer as the father as long as it didn't happen again. And it hasn't. I can say that in the couple of weeks we have had to come in for two meeting and as we checked into the office to get our visitor passes we have had our passes (with our names/photo from the computer) printed and waiting. So much for staying under the radar screen...


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Oh no, "those lesbian moms!" lol. That's how you want to be known hey! I doubt people are any more accepting here in the north. My friends son lost a few of his friends after his 8th grade graduation when his divorced moms and each of their new partners (4 moms total) attended.
But the lady who sent her kid over for the whole day is hysterical!!! LMAO!

Lisa said...

C handled it much better than I would have. Sometimes peoples ignorance/attitudes/prejudices get the better of me.

Dia por Dia said...

Both C. and I have done so much teaching on equity issues in our professional lives that for the most part it doesn't "get" to us. It got to her that day I think because the "those" and "them" comments make us fully aware that we are fully immersed in a different world. We just got to get the kids ready for it. They have no qualms about spilling all our business(good thing we don't have much business to spill...) on day one. My 8 year old started day 1 at a new school in January and by way of introduction said, "Hi, my name is... my favorite thing about me is that I have two moms and they were married on...." Most of the kids thought she was kidding!

Essie, thanks for visiting. I am new to blogging and have "lurked" around your blog a few times but these kiddos keep me on my toes, and knees, and... you get the picture.

Christine said...

The lesbian's might, is big and bright


Deep in the heart of Texas!

Couldn't resist. Being a long-time Texan, now in northern Oklahoma, with a very uncommon family - I'd love to be a fly on your shoulder. :)

Found you through Lisa. So glad I did!

Dia por Dia said...

Thanks Christine,
Glad you found me. I have dropped by your blog and love it and your profile picture is priceless. I bet you fit right in in OK. :)

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