“Actually Sally, their family has two mommies”

I was recently looking through my facebook feed when I came upon a picture of Haley, whose wife Melissa writes at Permission to Live.

“Ooo, she’s pretty!” said Sally.

I smiled. Haley is a transgender woman, and I was pleased that Sally immediately identified her as female. I started flipping through Haley’s pictures, and Sally admired them and was excited to note whenever Haley’s children appeared in the pictures with her. And then, finally, I came to a picture of Haley with Melissa, smiling into the camera with one of their daughters sandwiched between them.

“That’s Haley’s daddy,” Sally said, pointing at Melissa.

(Sally doesn’t have a grasp on the terms “husband” and “wife” yet. Instead she is liberal in her use of the terms “mommy” and “daddy.” In other words, Sally was saying that Melissa was the daddy in Haley’s family, and Haley was the mommy.)

I frowned. Here I was feeling pleased that Sally had no trouble identifying Haley as female while not even realizing just how heteronormative Sally’s upbringing was making her. I scrambled mentally, wondering exactly how this could be. We live in a very liberal college town, after all, and Sean and I have numerous LGBTQ friends. It’s not like they’re never around when Sally’s around, either. Just the other evening we had a gay couple we’ve known for years over for the evening (Sally was quite taken with the chocolate pie they brought!). What I realized, though, is that none of the LGBTQ individuals Sally comes in contact with in her day to day life have children, and that, to my knowledge, the children she knows all have both a mommy and a daddy.

“Actually Sally, their family has two mommies.”

And with that, we went on flipping through Haley’s pictures. See, it’s not that Sally has a problem with a family having two mommies, or two daddies, it’s just that in her limited experience every family she’s known (every family with children, that is) has had a mommy and a daddy. So she (quite naturally) assumed that that’s how it is for everyone.

And now I think it’s time to head off to the library to check out Heather Has Two Mommies, And Tango Makes Three, In Our Mothers’ House, and King and King. Oh, and All Families Are Different and All Families Are Special. Sally and I have some reading to do.

Feel free to suggest additional resources!

Dear Adam: Being Gay Is Not Just about Sex
Mothers are NOT always right
Maintaining a Relationship with Difficult Parents
Evangelical Author Shaunti Feldhahn's Misleading Work on Marriage and Divorce
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.