Chapter 1 – My Story (Part 2)
I am the other mother.
(Read Part 1 here.)
I am the other mother.
For years, I have been trying to come up with a word to define, to label my situation so others would understand but I have not come up with anything. Many people want to tell me I am the stepmom. This bugs me for many reasons: First, I am not the stepmom, their dad’s wife is. I don’t think of myself as the stepmom because I have to deal with the stepmom, the one who has influence over the father’s decisions. Second, stepmom has a negative connotation and I don’t want to be labeled as something negative. Lastly, when I am introduced as the stepmom people automatically assume I am married to the dad, I am not. I realize I am obsessing over this label issue but it really has been a struggle for me.
Sometimes I try to identify with being a stepmom and do things like read Stepmom Magazine. The first line of the article I read today started with “Women who are in love with men who have children…” I didn’t finish reading the article. Although, I do like this quote, “It is imperative that we undergo a cultural shift that creates a new standard for stepmothers, ONE THAT IS LESS INFLUENCED BY DISNEY INSPIRED EVIL STEPMOTHER MYTHS and more reflective of the fantastic, loving women who are willing to … step into a ready made family with the man she loves.” (2013 Stepmom Magazine, November)
Being in a same-sex relationship in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and living in San Francisco placed us in the center of the marriage equality movement. We were always “out” about our relationship because we believed as parents, it was important to be honest and tell the truth. How could we raise children to be honest, proud human beings if we would have lied about our relationship to society? I understand in the past and in other places outside of San Francisco it can still be very dangerous to be out of the closet but here in San Francisco the main risk of being out of the closet is other people’s judgments, ignorant and hurtful remarks. You learn to grow a thick skin and a sense of humor.
When Gavin Newsome first allowed same-sex couples to get married in San Francisco our friends were calling us and pressuring us to go down to city hall to get married. We were completely overwhelmed with parenting, working full time and dealing with the family drama that often comes with divorced families. We didn’t have the time or the energy to be the leaders of the marriage equality movement. We were just trying to get through each day. I thank the many gay couples who were there, lining up at city hall making a statement. We did finally end up getting married, the weekend before Obama was elected President for his first term. Like Ellen, I didn’t have any intention of being a gay activist. However, being out since the 90s and being gay made me an activist by default. It also turned me into a teacher. I’ve learned over the years that being out and being honest has opened the minds and hearts of a lot of people who thought being gay was wrong, a sin or something disgusting. I remember when I decided to come out to the virtual community in 2006. I was in a small online business networking group. The group consisted of women from all over the US and a few from other countries.
There was a ‘getting to know you’ thread where we all shared about our personal lives. Things like our age, our marital status, how many kids we had, where we lived, etc. Many of the women in this group were proud Christians. You know the kind of Christians who bring up the words Jesus or the Lord randomly in conversations that have nothing to do with what you were talking about. Those type of Christians, the kind living in the south who had never met a gay person before. To say the least I was pretty much terrified when I saw that getting to know you thread. It flashed through my mind that I could ignore the thread but that would have stood out because there were less than 50 people in the group. I could have left the group. I could have answered the questions in a roundabout way. My heart started racing. It was going to be my first time coming out online. I typed up my answers: 3 kids, live in California, blah blah blah, when I got to the married question I put something like my partner is a woman and we have been together for X number of years. My hands literally trembled as I hit send. I even cried a few tears because I loved this group of women and I was afraid I was going to lose them. But what happened next was astounding, women started sending me private messages telling me they thought I was brave, saying they had never met a gay person but always wanted to, said their parents hated gay people but they didn’t, others told me about their sisters, brothers, cousins and even moms that were gay. What I realized is that what people really want is honesty. They want to be real. They want to feel connected. They want to be accepted. By me sharing my story, it opened a crack for them to share theirs. It was amazing. It was also very healing for me. I got to know some very conservative, Christian women that were more accepting and loving than some of my so called liberal friends. It blew my stereotypes to bits and opened my guarded heart to Christians again. I had been so deeply hurt by Christians in my family and society who had said hurtful things that I had built a wall around my heart and decided all Christians were bad. It wasn’t until I met these amazing women that I had a change of heart. I will forever be grateful to that small online networking group that was around for less than two years.