Playing the Queer Card
Photo: Bonnie Jacobs
When my wife and I were starting out as parents together, same-sex parenting was so rare, we’d have to spell it out to people—“We are both his moms, we had him together”—and they’d get this look on their faces and say “Oh!” or “oh…” depending on whether they’d decided they were for us or against us. Sometimes they didn’t get it at all and we’d have to say, “We’re les-bi-ans,” and it was so early in the Gayby Boom that seemingly intelligent people would ask us how we managed to get hold of a baby.
Now, of course, we’re ubiquitous. You can’t throw a rock in Portland without hitting a public park or a queer parent, but it’s still enough of a novelty that the powers that be don’t want to piss us off or be accused of prejudice. Which is where playing the queer card comes in.
I don’t like to, but sometimes, it’s worth it.
For example, when we were pushing for placement of our son in the autism program that happens to be in the school where his older siblings went (and accepts no transfers now), I mentioned how it would be a much easier transition because the school was comfortable with our kind of family, and we had a working rapport with the teachers there.
Our son is finishing his second year there now.
I made sure to whip out the queer card when helping our older son with his college and scholarship applications—diversity is good right?—because otherwise he’s just another straight, white, able-bodied science geek on paper. His advocacy, comfort around all orientations, and refusal to tolerate the words “that’s so gay” is as asset to any school.
Says his mom.
Our kids have been known to pull the queer card, too. There’s nothing that can stop a homophobic remark cold like saying “My moms are lesbians,” especially in a liberal environment, when half the class is likely to turn on the perpetrator in disapproval. And when guys are hitting on our teenage daughter—she’s a major babe—she can offer a glib “don’t assume I’m straight” which tends to splash cold water on hormonal heterosexual males who’re sure they’re hot.
Not that the queer card is as powerful as it once was, back when straight people who cared were so concerned about saying the wrong thing they’d trip over themselves to prove they weren’t prejudiced by naming all their gay relatives, friends and co-workers. Now that we are ubiquitous (and out, out, out) everyone knows just how many gay relatives, friends and co-workers they really have, and it isn’t a big deal.
Even arch-conservatives can’t deny our existence and participation in the PTA, even if they’d like to ban Heather Has Two Mommies. And their lesbian daughters (birthing babies right, left and center) and PFLAG wives can’t help but eat away at their arguments against us over time.
I foresee a time soon when playing the queer card will be about as effective as batting my eyelashes or attempting bribery among fundamentalist Mormons (or maybe this would be effective, I’ve never seen that TV show about a polygamous family with Chloe Sevigny—not that television writers don’t lie…). But in the meantime, once in a while, if the deck is otherwise stacked against me, it can be an ace in the hole.
Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)