We first met Maddi Cook last year during Pride month when she shared her perspective on the topic of allyship. Since then, Maddi has taken on a leadership role with BYourself, Blue Yonder’s LGBTQ+ Associate Resource Group (ARG). This Pride, she shares on a new topic – parenting while queer.
If you read my allyship blog, you will remember that I shared that I am a bisexual woman and the mother to a now three-year-old child. Motherhood has been filled with incredible, exhausting, joyous, and miserable lessons, mostly learned through friends, family, teachers, and – when worst comes to worst – Professor Google.
However, talking openly about my queerness with my child is something that I still have no guidance on. There just doesn’t seem to be any literature or support, and it’s something that the wider LGBTQ+ community is coming to grips with in real time.
In addition to this, being bisexual is a bit of a contentious subject, and I have experienced biphobia and bi erasure both in the heterosexual and LGBTQ+ communities. When I was a child I was told that being bisexual just meant you were too afraid to admit you were gay, or that it was “just a phase” – even though I knew I was bi from a very young age, around 7 or 8. Now, I’m told things like labels shouldn’t matter as I am in a straight-presenting relationship, or people will physically cringe when I tell them that I am open and honest about my sexuality with my child.
Although this “othering” has always been present around me, I have had a very easy ride compared to some. I spent most of my youth being one of the only ‘out’ people amongst peers, widely accepted and approached with curiosity rather than vitriol. Of course, this came with the privilege of being a woman, and I didn’t have to face the same judgement and hostility as my male-presenting counterparts. This hesitant but broad acceptance allowed me such freedom from my early years onwards.
As I look to my little one’s future, coming out is a subject I am wary of. When you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, you know that coming out isn’t just a one-time thing. You come out every day, in a vast array of scenarios. For example, my friend came out to her postman the other week – not by choice, but because she had to sign for a package that her girlfriend had ordered.
Although there is a fear associated with coming out that ebbs with time once your inner circle has accepted you, it is still there in every interaction with strangers, every awkward chat with colleagues, and every small talk at a party with someone who you’d rather not be talking to. This is something I would have rather been spared of with my family, and the step that I see to remove that declaration is simple – we do not assume someone’s gender or their sexuality. Neither do we expect it to be given to us. We just take our loved one’s lead. This is why I will never expect my child to “come out” to me. My partner and I will just accept whoever they bring to our home (as long as they are age-appropriate and a good human, of course!).
As my toddler is only three, we have been exploring sexuality in developmentally appropriate ways. Explaining that our friends are getting married because they love each other, which can happen to any two consenting adults regardless of gender; reading age-appropriate books about gender and sexuality (Julian is a Mermaid, My Shadow is Pink and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding are firm favourites in our house!); and asking people their pronouns and wondering how toys might identify are other tools we use to explore. I believe open conversations as children learn about the world around them are vital to their development and allow them to approach almost any situation with inquisitiveness and kindness.
My partner is my number one supporter in this extracurricular education. He has also done the work: he will happily learn about anything that tells him a bit more about me and then go on to educate his peers with that knowledge. His patience is astounding, and his compassion even more so. He is my child’s companion in learning and my companion in teaching, and for that I am forever in his debt.
I want to impart the joy that knowing and being comfortable in my sexuality has brought me to my child – so that, when the time comes, they are afforded the same comfort and freedom of expression that I was. The goal of all of this is that my little one grows up to be unassuming and accepting of not just other people and how they live their lives; but that they also are kind and patient to themselves, allowing themselves to experience what they need to, and never giving shame a chance to silence or destabilise who they are.
To summarise, there is a terrific quote from the TV series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” that I often relay to my friends and family which I have found has imparted such a sense of pride and comfort in who and what I am: “Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.”
BYourself is open to all associates and provides education and celebration for diverse groups to feel comfortable being their true selves. BYourself is committed to being an avid participant in the LGBTQ+ community worldwide. Learn more about Blue Yonder’s DIVE initiative and BYourself ARG: blueyonder.com/about/diversity.