Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
When I first heard teachers in school talking about mothers and fathers, I started asking my moms who my father was.
My parents had made sure to educate me on different kinds of families. They sent me to an all-girls school where the principals were lesbians, hoping to protect me in a safe, non-homophobic environment. But homophobia is everywhere. Even though I was raised in an openly gay family and went to private school, I faced it.
My parents are social-justice activists, and I was surrounded by family and friends who believe in equality. I didn't understand that same-sex relationships weren't widely known or accepted. I remember in 2003 when same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario, my Mommy picked me up from school all excited and told me that she and my Mama were getting married. I was 7.
My instant reaction was: "I thought you got married before I was born like you're supposed to!" I wasn't aware of the views of marriage in the eyes of the law.
My Grade 3 teacher knew that I had two moms. Once, when we were doing a play about pioneers, she was fussing over the fact that there were no males to play the dad in the family. I remember saying, "So?" And she replied, "Everyone needs a man in the family."
I didn't think that such a small statement could leave such a big impact, but it did. She made me feel as if my family was wrong, as if we were less than everyone else.
When I was 7, my Mommy once dropped me off at a play jungle. The girl I wanted to play with asked me about my dad. I didn't want to explain that I had two moms and the whole rigmarole, so I just shrugged and told her my dad died in a car accident. I knew it was wrong to lie, and I felt guilty to some degree, but I saw it as a way of protecting myself.
Every time we had to make Father's Day cards in elementary school, my heart would start racing. I would think, "Gosh, I hope no one notices I'm making a card for my uncle and not my non-existent father." I would pray no one remembered the fact that I didn't have a dad.
My first brush with homophobia felt like a slap in the face. I was 10, and I had a friend whose mother was a pastor. My Mama is from Grenada, so I've always identified myself as half Grenadian, even though biologically I am half Trinidadian. My friend's mother loved me because I was cute and apparently half Grenadian, and she was Grenadian. But when she found out I had two moms, she treated me differently. On a class field trip, my friend told me she wasn't allowed to sit with me because I have two moms. I immediately started sobbing. It felt like a stab in the heart. I was sad for myself and sad for my parents. I hated when people frowned upon them.
When I went to public school for the first time in Grade 6, I was exposed to name-calling and bullying. For the first time, my classmates were meeting someone with lesbian parents who talked openly about it. Somebody had asked me about my father, and I'd casually replied, "Oh, I have two moms." It travelled instantly throughout the classroom and the entire school. I had kids telling me that their church says it's wrong, and that therefore I am wrong.
I called my Mommy in tears, and she set up a meeting with the principal to talk about the change that needed to happen for me to feel more accepted. But instead of telling the students they were wrong for calling me names, the principal told me I should watch the film Chocolat to gain an understanding of cultural differences. In other words, we would have to change to fit into the school culture.
I decided in middle school that I wasn't going to tell anyone any more. I'd always felt a push/pull between showing leadership and protecting myself, but there were times when I wanted to focus on something other than the oppression of homosexuality. I didn't let my moms know about my decision.
Later on, I remember my Mommy asking me, "Are you ashamed of us?"
I stopped and thought about it. I'd been raised in an environment where I was taught by example not to be ashamed of differences. And from that moment on, I stopped hiding my family situation.
Once, someone asked me: "Are you curious about your sperm donor? Don't you want to meet your dad?" A dad is a man who cares for someone as if they are his own. I have no connection with my sperm donor. I don't know his name or what he looks like, and nor do my parents.
I feel thankful to have been put in the hands of two incredible, resilient women. I have two moms, and that's more than enough.
Kalia Douglas-Micallef lives in Toronto.