My three daughters didn't choose their lesbian mother—they weren't even born into a lesbian household. My three daughters "came out" as children of a lesbian woman when I came out myself—the girls were seven, nine, and 11—and I was 35. It is safe to say that the western suburbs of Portland are not known for great diversity, and my girls' previous exposure, knowledge, and contact with anyone gay was minimal to none; we had no gay relatives, no gay neighbors, and only one set of gay friends. Despite this obstacle, the girls accepted the news with ease and saw it through the innocent and nonjudgmental lens of modern young ladies.
Our collective coming-out experience did not happen overnight—it was gradual and natural with no drama or sudden realizations that required serious conversations or professional intervention. Only when I became serious about dating my now-wife did it seem appropriate to bring my sexuality into the forefront of their thinking. I would never hide who I was, and I didn't intend on hiding my relationship from my children or anyone else. And the timing was right.
One day, while driving them home from school, I explained to them that I wanted to start dating someone and asked them how they felt about this. I then asked how they would feel if the person I started dating was a woman. They all looked at me with a confused expression and my oldest daughter answered, "Why would we care about that?" This answer brought more relief than surprise; they needed no coaching—their united attitude was the ultimate example of teamwork.
My relationship grew and soon we discussed blending our family and building a life together—all five of us. My daughters again rose to the occasion, accepting and loving my partner as if she has always been a part of our lives, never once expressing anything but affection and admiration for her. Suddenly, over a short span of time, my children who were once part of a quintessential nuclear, suburban family were now the epitome of divergence.
The context of marriage for them was very normal and they referred to us in this way; I would explain to them that we aren't allowed to get married and why. When it looked as though we would be given the right to domestic partnership in Oregon we were all excited for this recognition of our union and our family. When that was ripped away from us at the 11th hour—we were all ready to stand up in protest.
The five of us trudged down to Terry Schrunk Plaza in the cold and in the rain on January 30, 2008 to Rally to Defend Equality. It was game time—and we were there to have our voices heard and our presence known. "My Family Deserves Basic Fairness," stated our signs; the girls carried them, holding them high and proud for everyone to see. They cheered for equality, they cheered for their lesbian mother, and they cheered for their family and other families like ours.
When our small town faced a middle school controversy—one involving a banned play, in which there was a character presumed to be gay—we were once again called into action. I honestly explained to them the reasons that certain people were bothered by the content. They answered, "That's just stupid." They watched as I did my duty to both of my communities—the suburban community in which I lived and the GLBTQ community to which I belonged. I wrote letters, fielded phone calls, and attended school board meetings in an attempt to bridge the two together.
I almost cried when my daughter, a student at the middle school, came home to tell me that she spoke to the school counselor and asked how she and a few of her friends could start a diversity group. Since then, support has come in from many organizations, including Portland Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and Oregon Safe Schools to help start a Gay-Straight Alliance in Sherwood. My daughter will have a lot of strength behind her when the time comes to fight the next battle.
It has never been my goal to turn my three daughters into activists, but it has always been my goal to teach them to think critically and stand up for the values of acceptance, kindness, justice, and equality. I attempt to guide them to information while acknowledging my bias in order to give them the opportunity to decide what their young minds are able to discern. Sometimes my bias is very heavy and very loud—but my respect for them and their individual thinking is just as fervent.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all examples to the next generation; they observe us and assimilate our teaching. They watch what we say and what we do, our tone and the manner in which we perform, our kindness to others and how we stand for what is just and what is right. They are being trained for the games that will be played in the next season.
We are coaching the cheerleaders of the future, and in their cheering us, we see a better world.