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Denise Balkissoon (Kevin Gonsalves)

Denise Balkissoon

(Kevin Gonsalves)

The 7 habits of highly effective lesbian families Add to ...

“My mom wasn't active in the queer community,” Ms. Sutherland says. “I kept having to explain myself to people, figuring out a way to get involved.”

Late this past summer, the two young women and five friends decided to start a group called Through Our Roots. Their goal is to make a documentary, hold conferences and events and generally give offspring a voice.

They know the term queer spawn isn't to everyone's taste. “That's why I like it,” Ms. Epstein-Fine says. “I identify with a term that's provocative, rather than something like ‘rainbow children.' ”

As with any identity label, there will be those who don't identify with it: Brandon Gibson-Jones, a 15-year-old with two fathers who lives in Bowmanville, Ont., says he doesn't feel closer to his set of friends with two moms than he does to other peers.

And like every parent, gays and lesbians have to accept that their kids' affinities might be different than their own. Dedicated parents who chauffeur offspring to early-morning lessons will some day have to accept that playing hockey or dancing ballet might not be how their children see their own futures

7. Trust that they love you – even when you stress them out

Ms. Epstein-Fine was 10 when she testified in the 2005 court case that granted Ontario citizens the right to list two mothers on a birth certificate. Growing up, she felt like a “poster child,” unable to commiserate with friends about parent-child friction.

“You can't talk about anything in your family that could be negative,” she says. “It wasn't my moms saying I had to do that – it was me feeling that pressure.”

One of her mothers is Rachel Epstein, who heads up Toronto's Parenting Network and edited Who's Your Daddy, a 2009 collection of essays on queer-parented families. “What we find is that our kids are protective,” she says. “Sometimes they don't tell us because they don't want to hurt us.”

Prof. Hastings says adolescent children do sometimes pressure their parents to be less “out.” But, of course, the adolescent tendency to pull away from parents is well-documented in studies of child development, as tweens and teens establish individual identity and seek peer approval. Kids are mortified if dad or mom tries to adopt their slang. And queer spawn say choosing to be less open about their families, that doesn't mean they're ashamed.

“I don't feel like I'm keeping a secret. I feel that I'm discreet about my personal life,” says “Darius,” a 13-year-old who prefers not to use his real name because he is not telling his classmates that he has lesbian parents.

Darius was more open in his elementary school, and he feels he was ostracized because of it. “People were avoiding me,” he says. “I often had lunch alone. I used to find it very stressful.”

So when he started junior high, he chose not to tell anyone about his moms. He doesn't have friends over to his house – not even his closest friends know.

“I think I made the right choice,” he says. “It's been my best two school years.”

Even though Darius isn't fully open about his life, he's not upset. He's never wished that he had a different type of family. “I love them, and that's it,” he says of his moms. “I just love them.”

Denise Balkissoon is a writer based in Toronto.

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