As queer parents it’s hard not to feel like we are representing our community every moment. I often feel like I must put my best foot forward because I could be the only queer parent that this cashier/senior citizen/police officer/barista/nurse has encountered. I could shape their opinion of LGBT parents. I could affect their vote. I could affect my own rights – and the rights of all my LGBT brothers and sisters – just because I’m having a crappy day and I wasn’t at my best for a three minute interaction… Is that putting too much weight on a fleeting moment? Perhaps. But how many of us have seen people change their hearts and minds about LGBT people in an instant? My guess is that for those on the fence it’s a two-way street.
That’s a lot of responsibility to carry around. Especially when people aren’t as cordial as they could be. When people are outright rude, that’s difficult under any circumstance – but sometimes there’s that voice in your head that asks “Are they being hostile towards me because I’m gay?” On the other hand, even when people aren’t being malicious, there still seems to be a segment of the population that can ask intrusive questions or otherwise cross a line despite good intentions. Ideally we all want to react to these scenarios with love and understanding. We want to take advantage of these teaching moments and hopefully be the ambassadors our community deserves. Of course we are also human.
I know I’m guilty of occasionally responding with irritation and snark when I should be gently correcting misperceptions. Usually, I regret it. How do we as queer parents fight the teaching moment burnout? Spaces like this are a great start, certainly.
While it may be true that this sense of responsibility is heightened for queer parents, we aren’t alone. After all, what is parenting if not always trying to put your best foot forward? We are always modeling (hopefully good) behavior for our kids and we are choosing to live in the “teaching moment” for years and years on end. It’s exhausting. It should be; it’s hard work. Hopefully it’s work that’s paying off.