Last week was National Coming Out Day and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about heterosexual privilege. Sadly, our society as a whole has not been accommodating to those who don’t fit the sexual stereotypes they enforce. I’m struck in my heterosexual privilege about what it means to be expecting the birth of a child. What’s the big question? Is it a boy or a girl? Do you know? Are you going to find out? Or are you going to wait and be surprised?
Because that little, tiny piece of information unlocks the entire future. Boy or Girl goes way beyond what color I am going to pain the nursery. It also tells me what clothes I am going to dress my child in, what toys I am going to buy for them, and how I am going to refer to them. It gives me a good idea of what kinds of activities they will be involved in, what kind of career they might follow, what life transitions they will face.
Perhaps most importantly, it tells me how I will relate to my child. What kind of relationship I can expect over the years and what role will I play in their life in the years to come. The sex of my child ultimately becomes something very personal about me – because my role is different if I am the mother or father of a boy than if I am the mother or father of a girl.
And usually – even though we are all unique and we all bring unique twists to our relationships – those assumptions play out pretty much the way we expect them to. That is heterosexual privilege.
Almost two months ago I got a call from a woman I knew from my work in the West Michigan Community. She was very upset and she couldn’t think of anyone else to call. She called me because she had heard me talk about my book Sacred Sex and thought I would be a safe person to talk to. Why was she so distressed? Her 16 year old grand daughter had just announced that she was a boy. She had never had anything like this happen to her before – and she was overwhelmed with the news.
I talked to her about three or four days later and she was doing better. She had talked to her grand *son* and knew that this person was the same person she had always loved. But she also knew she would have a lot of mourning to do because this grandchild was not the image of the grandchild she had carried with her for 16 years. Old expectations about this child and about grandma’s role in this child’s life had swept away and uncertainty and fear had come into the void.
An often overlooked segment of the population who suffers in the wake of anti-LGBT propaganda and misunderstanding are the allies, friends and family members. Particularly parents. So today, I am grateful for all of those parents who stand by their children through their “coming out” and who continue to love and cherish them unconditionally. Thank you for your testimony of love and humanity.