We all know that queer compassion and mutual care is necessary for us to survive amongst the cishet society, and raising kids in queer(er) ways is an important part of that too – read our interview with three amazing queer parents!
Amidst the climate crisis, prevailing oppressive structures, police violence, and late capitalism, it is even more common to refrain from parenthood as a form of political statement of sorts, being queer or not. While it is great that there is more freedom to decide whether you actually want to have kids, instead of having to follow a set of normative expectations of what important life milestones should be, a certain prejudice towards those who choose to parent nevertheless has been on the rise, and queer community might as well be one of the most prevalent spaces for it.
Instead of perpetuating the anxiety-inducing discourse that claims that having children is “so irresponsible” in the current atmosphere, we at Kink have decided to present the exact opposite of this storyline: lived experience of three amazing and inspiring folks who manage to pull off being queer parents. We chatted to Xeno, dad of two, and Rhiannon, mom of one, both based in Berlin, and Prague-based mom of two Glynis, about the intricacies of the intersection of having kids and being queer.
Mutual care work and supportive community is essential for all queer survival. However, all three parents share their own stories of feeling excluded and isolated from the queer circles around them, simply because they are parents. Glynis, who is a Montessori teacher, yoga and circus teacher and dramatherapist runs Czech org, Queer & Trans Youth CZ, a support group for teens, addresses the issue of queer events being inaccessible to folks with kids: “When my children were much younger, I always felt as though I was being, or was perceived as, very pushy in requesting that meeting spaces and times be thoughtful with regards to my children. If my kids weren’t welcome, or if the timing did not take parents into consideration, then I couldn’t attend. I probably missed quite a lot of worthwhile events because there was no space for children, or the environment was not child-suitable, or the overall situation was just too complicated and exhausting, or expensive or otherwise would require too much of an extra effort for me.” On top of that, it can be equally challenging to find other queer parents to bond with, an issue all three parents confessed to dealing with.
Caretaking as Radical Compassion
Both Rhiannon, trans mom and artist, and Xeno, a trans dad, a DJ and VJ, note: it is interesting to see so much aversion towards parenting in queer community, when most of us get exiled from our own families and are forced to create our own, new families, to give us the support and care we need. Yet often, those families are made up of adults only, and kids are seldom involved. According to Xeno, “there is this idea that if you have children that you now enter this hetero fiction, hetero mainstream, which is really mean and very ignorant. And that not having kids is somehow benefitting the greater society, because the climate change and overpopulation is destroying our planet. Which is not even true, it’s actually capitalism and white supremacy that is behind this crisis, and if we dismantle those systems of oppression, that’s gonna solve it, but we cannot do that if we’re standing on a pedestal and shouting at people what they’re doing with their lives is wrong.”
Against the Norms
Being a queer parent is not all negative. You get to spend time with a cute, mini version of you. Rhiannon puts it, “guiding them to become who they want to be. I treat my child as a person, not as a kid or a baby, that’s been my parenting style,” she says. “I want her to be curious and question things, not to tell her something she later needs to unlearn. Kids aren’t born with any norms. I sometimes think of it as an artistic studio project, like what things can I bring in that will influence her, and what do I choose not to bring? Children aren’t born transphobic, homophobic, or racist. It’s the social norms we, or the society, impose on them.” Xeno confirms this: “Kids are actually really amazing beings, and given space, they actually do know how to make decisions for themselves, and they actually do have a lot to say about it too. I don’t lie to my children. I don’t tell them little white lies. They meet my friends, they’re involved in my life. I don’t lead a double life, which I think a lot of the mainstream society does, like this with kids and without them lifestyle. We’re very open, we talk about sex, about drugs, alcohol, masturbation, everything, that we should talk about. We are sexual beings and I’m not afraid to have these conversations with my kids.”
When you think of it, it is quite bizarre that the simple act of giving children agency, treating them like a person, allowing them to be critical of the society is considered such a radical queer act. Given how the mainstream society sees kids as mere dolls to dress up, to discipline, to not take seriously, it really is quite revolutionary. Queer parenting can in fact be done by anyone regardless of their identity because it is not about being a queer parent but about the act of queering parenthood: breaking away from normative expectations of what role parents constitute, which values should a child be taught, and how they should behave. Instead, queering parenthood allows both the parent(s) and the kid(s) to define it for themselves and gives everyone the freedom to respect each other equally.
Once a Parent, Always a Parent?
In our society, it is very common that upon becoming a parent, one is expected to give up all of their previous identity and lifestyle and turn into a whole new being whose only purpose and job is to be a parent. While our interviewed parents all mention this view being imposed on them too, both by the mainstream world and queer community, Xeno and Rhiannon specifically bring up desexualization of parents they face when dating: Rhiannon quips that the fact she is a mom is something she only shares on a second date. They all manage to keep their lives as independent, creative human beings on top of being parents. This might require some planning and a tad less spontaneity than childless queers might benefit from, but it is nevertheless doable, and very much important: “I am Xeno first, I am a whole human being, I am not one-dimensional, I am not just a dad. I actually have a life, a social life, I go out and have fun, and I should be able to do that without this projection of what I should do.” Acknowledging the significance of one’s own space and time for self-development, self-exploration, self-care, is yet another little act of queer revolutionizing of parenting.
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Text and photo: Anna Wim
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