We all have labels, right? Mum, career seeker, health conscious, OCD (I believe most of us have an element of OCD – a need for routine of some sort). I have many labels. Although I don’t like the labeling society seems to crave! Why should we be put into neat little boxes and filed into the consciousness of the many?
I hid my sexuality until I was nineteen. From that moment on, I have been “filed!” I have a label which has been an interesting one to wear. I met a very unsavoury female and traveled each month to meet up with her. Of course I felt liberated. I had waited my whole life to be me and here was a door to a world I had only dreamed of. It was unhealthy though. Far too many negatives surrounded this relationship. My mother was worried and used to ask what I was up to every time I went away. One day she shone lights in my eyes and checked my arms to see if I had been taking drugs. I snapped. “I’m gay!” I shouted. “I’m seeing someone.”
“Oh I always knew that.” Mum said. Nineteen years of hiding my “label” and worrying about how Mum would react and she was fine. She knew all along! Her only worry was the absence of grandchildren. Now Mum knew, the rest of the world could. I worked with young people with special needs and had done for some years. I went to my boss and explained my sexuality. I did this because some male members of staff can’t do personal care for the girls and I wanted to check I wasn’t going to be in that bracket. I wasn’t. My honesty was appreciated and I carried on as normal. I went through school with some of my colleagues and their only problem was that I hadn’t told them earlier. It turns out one, who was in my “friendship group” (I was always on the outskirts of any group) also wore the secret label. I am pleased to report that she is now happily married to her wife, has a steady job in the police force and is doing very well for herself.
I met my current partner , Cath, seven years ago when I was 24. Eight years older than me, she had only worn her label openly for a year. The response from her family was different. Her Mum took baby Abi out of her arms believing it was an infectious disease. She was told it was a phase. Something she would try out then leave behind. Her parents have always been nice to me after all “If I had the right equipment, I would be the best thing since sliced bread.” So I have been told. Cath drip fed the label to her family for fear of being disowned. Her Aunt was fine. Her Nonna knew all along. Her Brother and sister in law were also accepting and this was a huge relief for Cath. It took her five years from meeting me to inform the family. They know but it is not talked about. Cath’s parents have really come to terms with this in the last two years. Maybe I have proven my worth. I have been supportive, loving and providing and always will be. In return, they are supportive and hello’s and goodbyes now involve a kiss on the cheek. The first time this happened I was elated! I felt acceptance. Nothing beats that feeling.
The negative reactions are still present. At Abi’s fifth birthday party (she is now eight), one Mum told her children to say “thank you for inviting me” to Abi’s Mum. She pointed to me. I said “oh, no. This is Abi’s Mum,” and pointed to Cath. (This often confuses people because ironically Abi does look more like me!) The mother said “Oh.” Threw us a filthy look and promptly dragged her children away from the party. If our paths cross now, she still blanks us. We are not worried by this but we do worry about how Abi will feel. She is, thankfully, savvy and headstrong. She knows that she is happy, healthy, loved and safe and that is all that matters.
More recently, a drunk man unfortunate enough to be homeless yelled “lesbians” at us from across the street. Our previous neighbours would shout “dirty f***ing dyke” at Cath and another parent from Abi’s school has targeted us in some kind of witch hunt which has seen him banned from school grounds.
On the other side of the coin, school have been excellent. We have solid friends old and new and family around us. Abi is growing up with an open mind to different lifestyles. We are used to the “so which one are you?” when people try to figure out who is the Mum. We are used to the “I thought one was meant to be more masculine?” (neither of us are) We are used to the surprise when people realise we are in a long term forever relationship. Stereotype seems to label us as sexual deviants who flit from one person to the other. We are not.
We are also used to the “and who are you?” Which I often get.
Abi ended up in hospital with suspected meningitis when she was six. The doctor asked who “Mum” was. Cath verified it was her. She looked over her glasses and me and said “and who are you?!” I said I was Abi’s other mother. My name was scribbled into the margins of her paperwork. This happens often too. Hence the self made title “margin mother.”
We are no different to any other family! We do school runs and after school clubs, we deal with tantrums, illnesses and fads. We love to snuggle on the sofa and watch films or walk along the beaches to see what we can find. We bake, we read, we write, we love, we cry, we have routine and standards. It isn’t easy but where there is acceptance, it is accepted whole heartedly. We also have labels but we wear them proudly.