Parenting 101: Queer with Children
I’m kinky. Yep, queer to the core, and liking it. This is not a brand new thing for me, but it is relatively new to the whole of my life. There was a time when that was not even part of my vocabulary, and the notion of “sex positive” was more likely tied to some sort of test. Whips were TV props and chains were an essential part of winter. Oh yeah, and there were kids then too.
I spent a long time in the gopher hole, patiently (well, ok, sometimes impatiently) tending to their needs, reading stories, picking things up, going to the doctor – all the little devilish details of a conventional, straight married life. Honestly, I don’t have any regrets about that. They are good kids, and good people. They’re doing good work in the world, making it a better place for others. Neither, at least at this point in time, has a steady partner. And that leaves open the whole matter of sex and sexuality.
My divorce was not one of the man-hating, lawyer feasting affairs. It had bumps, certainly, but not the big ugly angry stuff. We parted company, got anxious, depressed, made the possessions list, divided things and went our separate ways. Our kids were “Triple G” (grown, gone, good) at that point. My first real post-marital-bliss challenge came when, one bright morning, my daughter arrived too early for a planned trip together and found my too-late departing partner, hair still damp from a shower, sitting and talking to me as I got things together. It was a painful moment. I felt terrible. My daughter was shocked and angry. My partner was embarrassed.
It took a year before my daughter really felt like she could communicate with me. We had those “how’s the weather” kind of conversations, her obvious withdrawal and my awkward sense of being a single person being not just one, but two elephants over the phone. My son, not oblivious, but not particularly concerned, was still as communicative as he had been – which is to say, not very much. But it left me with a really prickly dilemma: how does one be a sexual being, much less a queer, polyamorous, kinky sexual being, when one’s children are part of life?
One of my current partners is lucky. Her two kids are well aware of things, and are fine with it. Of course, there are lines, as in “Please, mom, DON’T share that!” And these in turn become a kind of humorous moment, one that unites instead of divides. I have no idea she pulled that off. I know her circumstances were very different from my own, of course. But my kids are, well, almost repelled by the whole notion that their own father can actually have sex. Never mind that he loves a queer liaison, or that he goes to and teaches all sorts of weird things at events around the country. It’s just… weird! At least, this is what I tell myself.
I’ve read and met and seen all sorts of ways that people navigate this process. Sometimes it’s easy (or reads that way). At other times, it’s really hard, painful. And honestly, I have no aversion to the painful part. I really do think that change happens through pain, that we grow when we push through it, not around it. But what’s really troubling for me is the hiding. I can’t help but feel I’m putting part of me in a dark corner when I strip off the nail polish, put on “regular” clothes, make sure the toys are put away, ensure that any stray papers or bits of my real life are safely out of sight prior to a visit, convinced that they would not react well to this. And it’s not all imaginary. I have close friends, also queer and kinky, that have lost, totally and completely lost, all contact with family and children simply because of who they choose to be in the world. It’s awful to see and hear. It is depressing to know that close friends cannot even get a phone call back from a child they raised. And I consider myself, and realize that as much as I cannot abide the hiding, worse still is the thought that I might not ever see them or talk to them at all if they really knew all about the real me.
I’ll be a parent until I die. I accept that. And I will also be a queer, kinky switch until I die too. I may slow and stop the play part, and might think twice before I go out and snag that hot new shirt or color. But I’ll always be that person. And I’ll always be there for my kids. There’s love, and there’s love.