Have you ever been meandering through your regular heterosexual life, not so worried about having The Kids because you’re too caught up in restaurants that serve small plates and a new lecture series offered by the local university, and then wake up one day to find yourself a big old lesbian who suddenly cares about the extracurricular hobbies of tweenagers? Sandy Boucher, an author living in Oakland, California, with her partner Martha Boesing, never thought her maternal instinct would kick in. And then, like being a 16-year-old desperate to appear on a MTV reality show, oops:
Sandy writes in Salon about her life as a gay grandma:
Even back when I was a straight married lady, I did not long to produce little creatures who looked like me. I had a womb and a husband with the requisite matching equipment, but I lacked the appetite for motherhood. Luckily he was more committed to grinding his way toward a Ph.D. than doing his bit for the future of the human race, and I preferred laboring over short stories to folding nappies and filling sippy cups. (Had those even been invented in those Dark Ages?)
Then, when I crossed the Great Divide, deserting heterosexual-land and becoming a dyke, I was relieved I had not indulged in motherhood so that I could enter unencumbered into the heightened world of Women’s Movement lesbian lifestyle. Nowadays lesbians live like heterosexuals, taking straight jobs, getting married to each other where possible, and bearing and raising children. But back then we survived on unemployment checks, agitated politically, wrote poetry, had serial and sometimes simultaneous love affairs, and danced in the bars till 2 a.m., after which we went for cheeseburgers at gay restaurants in the Castro. Busy with the revolution, passionate liaisons and other adventures, we left it to the heterosexuals to birth and raise the next generation.
Not once did I regret my decision. So imagine my surprise, three decades later, to find myself walking an 8-year-old home from school and then sitting with her as we draw cats — a baseball cat with cap and bat, wedding cats (her choice, obviously) in tux and long white dress, a yoga cat with her feet behind her neck. Then, listening to an 11-year-old towheaded boy practice his trumpet (having told him how I played trumpet in high school, and even demonstrated a few notes). Or creating a theatrical performance with the whimsical 6-year-old, who floats about like Isadora at the drop of a tutu. And finally, the 4-year-old boy who several years ago stood at my elbow, fixed me with a grave look, and announced, “You are a person, right?” Yes, I answered. And he said, touching his narrow chest, “And I am a person.” Yes, I agreed. He seemed relieved.
Totally a sweet story, right? Well not if you caught Sandy’s use of the words “lesbian lifestyle” as some big, offensive stereotype. Retorts a fellow lesbian woman
This story seems a lot less about you being a “gay grandma” and more about your surprising new connection with children late in the game. I was quite offended at the assertion that there is one certain “lesbian lifestyle” and that you chose such hedonistic behavior to assign as typical lesbian conduct. I have always resented the idea that queer people must follow a certain code of behavior to be accepted into the community. Being gay doesn’t change your personality. A person doesn’t write poetry, engage in simultaneous love affairs, and dance at bars until closing because she’s gay! She does those things because that’s the type of person she has chosen to be. It has nothing to do with her sexuality. It is really disturbing to me how so many people in the community, those very people who should have a basic understanding of how all this works, insist on becoming walking stereotypes. They reject the standard heterosexual mold, only to try to force themselves into an equal but opposite model. It’s reactionary and misses the point of living a genuine life, of being free to be exactly who you truly are. It’s a pity. Not everything in your life has to be qualified by the fact you’re gay. And in this case, this experience seems no different from any other step-parent or grandparent.