What is a gay soldier, Mom?

This is the question my five-year-old asked me tonight, and I responded with my usual lack of finesse.  Does any parent really sound clever when explaining complex issues to their children? My wild guess is – probably not.  I started with the word, “gay” making sure she understood what that meant.  We’ve already discussed how girls can fall in love with girls before.  That particular revelation produced unbridled joy: “Does that mean I can marry my best friend?!”  “Sure honey, if that’s what you want when you grow up.” Meanwhile I’m thinking, good lord, that marriage will be hell on wheels!  They are the kind of bff’s that fight like cats and dogs over who is the lead princess in their make-believe world, and then make up about once an hour or so.  Anyway, the concept of girls liking girls and boys liking boys is familiar to her, but before I could get a word in edgewise to explain what it means to be a “gay soldier,” she chimed in with “So they are just American soldiers then?”  Oh the wisdom of a five-year-old.

Yes, my dear child, you said it better than anyone I’ve heard yet.  I did not take the time to explain what DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) stood for.  I admit, it is hard to explain bigoted policies to a five-year-old, especially at 10pm at night when she should be in bed already.  I’ll probably need to save that particular lesson in military policy for later when she has a bit more history under her belt.  My point in sharing this is to say: shame on those people in the GOP debate audience who booed a gay American soldier.  My five-year-old is more discerning, open minded and human than any of those sociopathic adults in that audience.  Also, I am thankful that when I do take the time to explain DADT and its historical context, I won’t have to explain why it is still in effect.  At least there is that.

On why I love Batwoman…

Aside from the fact that she knows how to kick some ass, Batwoman is a well-written character.  It’s not that she is prettier, stronger, or more heroic than other superheroes; it’s that she is normal!  She’s not over-sexualized.  She’s not moral perfection or bubbly, false personality.  She has problems in her personal life just like you and me.  She is beautiful but not in a traditional feminine way.  She is powerful but not infallible.  She makes mistakes, and I love her even more when she does.

Best of all, though, is the portrayal of Kate Kane’s lesbian relationships.  They are completely normal!  Surprise!  LGBT relationships are, in essence, the same as straight relationships.  Yes, dear, straight friends, our relationships are just as complicated, beautiful, and bittersweet as yours are.

So let’s visit a few of the myths about lesbian relationships. It has been said, incorrectly of course, that lesbians hate men.  Kate Kane has a strong bond with her Father.  Their relationship is based on mutual respect, trust and love.  She does not hate men.   She is friends with men without being sexually attracted to them.  Yes, guys, it is possible to have a girl friend who is not attracted to you.  I know.  Shocking for some of you.

It has also been said that lesbians want to be men.  Kate has no reason to want to be a man.   She is a complete person on her own merit.  She is both physically powerful and beautiful.  Yes, it is possible to be female AND gorgeous AND fiercely strong.  In fact, I know some women in real life who are all of that and much more.

Another myth:  lesbians are attracted to all women.  There are a lot of female characters in the new Batwoman comics, but she is not interested in most cases.  Why?  Because she has a certain type of woman she is attracted to, and most women don’t fit that type.  Lesbians are just as likely as anyone else to be picky and opinionated when it comes to deciding if someone is attractive.

Another common misconception is that you can spot a lesbian by how she looks.  Well, Kate is neither super butch or super femme.  She is sort of in between.  If you came across her in real life would you think she was a lesbian?  Hard to say.  Kudos to J.H. Williams, who did such a good job finding a balance.  She has a muscular body and yet remains graceful and agile – as befits a bat-like superhero.

And then there is the particularly disturbing myth that being a lesbian is a choice and Batwoman could be straightened out if the right man came along.  Thank you DC comics for helping debunk that myth.  No, Batwoman is undoubtedly hot, but sorry guys, she is completely unavailable to you.

Panic

There are times in my life that fear takes over and governs my actions completely.  Today is one of those times.  My parents are visiting for a few days, so you’d think this would be a happy or at least peaceful time for me and my daughters.  It is anything but that for me.  Terror grips my heart with its cold hands every time I have to interact with my parents face to face.  Why?  Because they believe that anyone who is not heterosexual is a depraved, sinful soul, and I’m not exaggerating or trying to be facetious.  They really do think that any deviation from the hetero-norm is evil.  So, while they are visiting, I try my best to be calm and gracious, but panic still engulfs me, sweeping me into a sea of irrationality.

Why not just be completely honest with them and tell them who I am?  Some could do it without hesitation, but I can’t seem to drum up the courage. Oddly, they are nice people, except for this awful bit of bigotry.  They are both kind, polite, generous and helpful.  They are, in fact, quite progressive in their stance on the civil rights of minorities and women.  My own childhood was a good one except for the constant pressure to fit into their model of Christianity.  The coercion never let up.  Day after day, I was reminded that unless I repented my sins, I was going to burn in hell forever.  To this day, I’m still unclear about the sin part.  My logical mind never could grasp the subtle nuances of sin’s definition.  All I knew for certain is that all of us, myself included, needed to keep asking for forgiveness.  Otherwise the risk of eternal damnation remained too high.  When I was a child, I would ask forgiveness for just about anything to cover all my bases.

So, as an adult, am I taking the cowardly way out?  Maybe.  I would never call anyone else a coward for hiding their sexuality from someone like my parents, but I accept that others would think that of me.  I just cannot bear the thought of life without my Mom and Dad.  It sends me to the brink of despair to even ponder it.  They are the only extended, biological family that I am still in constant contact with.  I have my wonderful husband, my daughters, my friends, all of whom I love dearly, but that part of me that is still a girl – the inner core of who I am – clings to the two souls who brought me into this world.  If they were to excise me from their life, it would be akin to ripping out my heart and taking out its center.  I’m not up to the task of revealing who I am to them, at least not yet.