Our world is very heteronormative. It is not the world’s fault.
Heterosexuality IS the norm, and a spin off of such heterosexuality is parenthood.
However, what this means is that people do not think outside of the box of heterosexual parenthood. Thus far, this has not caused my partner and me too many problems, and when people have mistaken the nature of our relationship (both before and after children), we have generally gone along with it to save the blushes of the other person.
On occasions, we have HAD to correct someone, because the relationship to that person means it will be necessary for them to know we are partners (for example, a hospital consultant). This often results in awkwardness from the person who made the mistake, as we assure them it is fine and that we do not think they are homophobic because they didn’t guess (a common reaction).
Most recently, my partner was mistaken for my mother by someone who worked for a large rail company. Helpfully, the lady concerned was trying to seat our family so we were all together. She told me she had found my mother a place and I could go and join her and my children. Only my mother wasn’t with us, my partner was. I smiled, thanked her and went to join the others.
My partner is often mistaken for my mother, although there are just 13 years between us. She is also often thought to be a lot younger than her 49 years. Now, either I must look exceptionally youthful (my preferred explanation), or people see the closeness of our relationship and assume we are mother and daughter (my partner’s preferred explanation).
Whatever the reasoning behind people’s errors, we now have to start correcting them when our children are with us.
People often ask ‘when did you come out?’. Of course, they mean for the first time – not realising it is an ongoing process, and one which sometimes requires some iron gut and fortitude. And being in a same-sex parenting set-up means coming out all the more often – unless one of us is out alone with the children, in which case we are automatically assumed to be heterosexual. However, if I am out with my son and I am asked by a stranger about my husband, or my son is asked about Daddy, I can no longer invent a polite response. I will have to be brave and tell the truth.
Why must we be more direct? Simply because our children need to know that we are not ashamed of our family, and nor should they be. We will not tell untruths about it to save the embarrassment of others and awkward silences.
Our son currently yells ‘Mummy [first name]’ across any park or shopping centre without a care in the world, totally unaware that people out there would kill us without a moment’s hesitation, just for being who we are. It is adorable to see, but I am ashamed that we both worry that a two-year-old innocently yelling his parent’s name will provoke an adverse reaction in someone.
I would dearly love our children to grow up without people being cruel about our family, just because our children have two mums. I know that this is unlikely, but we will not endorse that cruelty and will hold our heads high.