For my LGBTQA readers, I have an inspiring 4 part series by a brave, queer single mom of a 4-year-old. Her name is Sophia Loukaides. She will be telling her story of how she overcame societies norm and offering us a glimpse into her world exploring the many facets of raising a child in a queer community.
Part 1 – A Queer Story
Even though we know the majority of marriages end in divorce and being gay isn’t a disease, when I gave birth to my first child, Charlie, I still felt the pain of not living up to the myth of the hallmark heteronormative relationship.
I found myself in a loveless relationship with his father, who had become increasingly abusive throughout the pregnancy.
The deepest sadness I’ve ever felt hit me, like a ton of bricks, on the car ride from the hospital two days after giving birth.
I remember sitting in the back seat, staring, mesmerized at this beautiful child with tears dripping down my cheeks.
Yet I also simultaneously felt insurmountable joy and felt quite empowered by my experience of being able to give life.
When we got home, I looked at myself in the mirror daily unable to recognize my own face, which, at the time, I blamed on exhaustion.
However, it would take a couple of years and a lot of letting go before the nagging sadness would leave and I could recognize my own reflection again.
It wasn’t until after Charlie was born that I began to reflect on my sexuality in terms of liberation, previous to that, I considered myself bisexual and only identified when dating, promoting identity rights, or to close groups of friends.
I define myself now as a Queer single mother and I would like to share some lessons and challenges about being and parenting in and within the Queer community.
Table Of Contents
Discovering and Creating my “Big Queer Framily”
My underlying sadness and guilt increased post-childbirth.
I never had a problem with being a mother, but becoming a single mother with a 9-month old was tough.
It got worse after (an additional) 8 months when Charlie’s father came back into the picture.
Around that time, my little boy was hospitalized and diagnosed with a severe case of re-occurring croup.
For almost an entire year, Charlie was sick.
I had to sell my company, racked up almost $20,000 in hospital bills and was beyond exhausted.
During this period, a miracle happened: I met Derek, a young gay male that shared my love of politics and culture.
He moved into our little apartment to help us out with bills and introduced me to many of his friends.
Derek brought people and life back into mine for the first time since having a child.
I began to go out and slowly began reaching out to the lesbian and gender queer community.
I never felt comfortable calling myself a lesbian because of the stigma inside the lesbian community so I began to experiment with identification of dating apps.
The most important thing I began to discover, in my effort to seek out like-minded people in my community, or what we now call our “Big Queer Framily”, was a word.
It’s an identity that I believe reflected the reality of myself and the people to whom I am sexual, platonically, spiritually, and or intellectually attracted. It was the word, Queer.
For me, being Queer is a way of life, it’s the acknowledgment that we know there is more to the world and to ourselves than the binary roles, genders, and expressions which mainstream society expects.
It’s also an active and justifiable critique of it.
Parenting with a Queer identity frees me of feeling the need to ascribe to a dogma that doesn’t fit who I am, and helps me avoid alienation by my own contradictions.
As one of my favorite lesbian writers and mothers, Adrienne Rich, (who I will quote throughout this post) put it, “Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life. It is also a direct or indirect attack on the male right of access to women.”
A Space for Natural Healing
As part of rejecting ‘compulsory’ cultural values, I also came to find the dominant culture’s understanding of healing is very limited, and often times harmful.
I believe this is because western medicine only values a masculine approach to interpretation.
Pregnancy showed me how truly disconnected we are as a society–from the ritual of giving birth and the understanding of our own bodies.
Throughout my pregnancy, when the medical world could not give me answers, I gained a lot of strength and education from looking up indigenous cultures and their response to child rearing and health.
The emphasis on finding inner balance and freedom helped me understand that, in order to be a present parent and respond effectively to all the chaos of child-rearing, it’s important to understand one’s own inner imbalance and use the feminine force to heal, let go, and find balance again.
Both my son and I were plagued with medical issues during and post pregnancy.
It became obvious that trauma and stress caused a lot of the sickness we faced.
I began to seek alternative medicine and found meditation combined with scientific research to be very powerful tools in helping guide our healing process.
I studied biochemistry and native plants and by the end of the year, my son never had another croup attack.
However, part of becoming a responsible parent (and adult) was learning how to reach out and ask for help.
I was worn out, my health suffered from the pressure of ‘surviving’ and I needed support in the healing process.
I needed to seek out other people who could understand.
This is where the Queer community proved a powerful ally to my parenting.
In the loving presence of groups of women, who know the answers aren’t written on the wall, we found a way to heal through looking and responding to nature.
Having a community of women and people who are sensitive to struggle, I benefit greatly from the support of others that respect motherhood and both our feminine and masculine powers.
Tolerance and Diversity
There is something about the LGBTQA community that has made parenting, within it, a beautiful experience—particularly now—at this point in history what’s important to note, is there is as much fear and misunderstanding within our community, as there is from the outside looking in.
The world of trans men, boys, females, and cis-females etc. is one of the most marginalized in our society today—even more so, if you’re further marginalized by race or religion.
My experience and the way I choose to define myself is unique to me and may contradict how others in the community choose to identify themselves.
To learn more about the facts and complexity of LGBTQA identity check out the amazing resources PBS has compiled for teachers.
With public opinion changing dramatically in favor of support for the LGBTQA community and the adoption of same-sex marriage, the rigidity of identities within the community has also changed.
The younger generation is breaking away from once-liberating, now restrictive definitions, adding many letters on to the LGB spectrum.
The community, having suffered both collectively and individually, finds a way to support each other, even if many struggles to support themselves.
In supportive and safe environments, scars are transformed into beautiful song, conversation, food, rituals, and dance.
No matter how a person defines themselves, to include a space for the feminine – in its entirety – is magical and rare in a time of great imbalance. We understand that the world isn’t how it was presented to us—so it can now be anything. This is both tremendously liberating and causes tremendous suffering.
People suffer with the core idea of one’s existence–of home and belonging.
For me, parenting in the Queer community is a great opportunity to challenge those ideals first hand, but it doesn’t mean we stop at the Queer community.
For example, on Christmas day, instead of opening up presents, Charlie wanted to buy toiletries for the homeless and hand them out while wearing a Santa costume.
For Charlie, growing up with “tolerance” means he is not learning “tolerance” as an ideology but as a way of life.
This is because I have consciously provided an environment he can sit within throughout his life.
Learning how to be sensitive to letting people define themselves, means learning how to ask simple questions from a place of non-judgment.
Parenting in this way fosters a deep understanding that, no matter what his sexual preference in later years is, he will accept and love all humans judging by the quality of the person inside.
Although it may be unorthodox, I have and continue to mold him into a person that will not need to be taught how to love, because he is engulfed by it, by an entire community that is so strong because of the adversities we’ve faced, not only from the outside world but even inside our own families.
As a parent, I’m giving Charlie the right tools to change the world because he is not going to have to unlearn everything that society tries to mold us into nor will he need to be swayed or negatively affected by them.
He will not have to remove layer after layer of the masked faces he thought he should be, he can use that energy to re-envision his identity whenever balance is needed.
Radical Self-Acceptance of Oneself as a Human
“When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.”
– Adrienne Rich
Raising Charlie in such a community helps me teach my son to judge both himself and other humans from the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in.
A major cause of distress in my generation and previous ones is that the binary constructs most accepted in society, don’t recognize, and often react negatively, to the complexity we are as humans.
In the Queer community, the feeling of not being good enough or living up to society’s standards is an often painful experience.
Many people are rejected by their own families because of their sexual identity.
An astounding 40% of all young people experiencing homelessness are identified as members of the LGBT community, yet they only make up 7% of the population of youth.
For many of us, our survival depends on the secrets and lies we are able to effectively reproduce.
We put on masks at the expense of our sanity.
This leads to layering and guilt like most things do that are attached to stigma.
The brain doesn’t like secrets, particularly ones that stretch out for long periods of time.
The silence permeates our conscious and subconscious selves.
I can’t tell you the shame I used to feel for being attracted to women.
My high school journals were filled with symbols, next to boy’s names, which correlated to the girl’s names, I actually had a crush on.
I can’t tell you if my sexuality was defined by nature or nurture.
I do believe that human women are naturally supposed to grow up in communities to raise children and that sexuality and intimacy are closely linked.
However, I can tell you that I suffered tremendously from the silence of protecting a man that took advantage of my love and my body at the age my son is now.
I can tell you this because in that silence, society told me I was going to be characterized as a victim, broken, judged and rejected if I came out.
To begin to face my true reflection again I had to accept even the darkness and sadness that was eating me up inside.
What I was feeling in the car ride home with my newborn son that day wasn’t sadness I felt for his new joyous life, but the sadness I felt in my own inner child.
All parenthood is attached to a certain stigma that doesn’t reflect the existence we face.
When this stigma is left unchallenged, we suffer in silence.
We live in a world where parenthood is not embraced – we are punished socially and culturally, and marginalized economically for needing to be available to our children, particularly in the first few years of their lives.
We are expected to do more and survive on less.
Whether straight or Queer, the moment one is brought up in a culture that says self-worth is dependent on a myth of the happy nuclear hallmark family—our children and ourselves are set up for a lifetime of feeling inadequate.
We create a situation where we don’t leave much room for a new creative approach to resolving the issues of imbalance in parenthood.
When we let go of the idea of what the world “should” be, we are able to finally seek out what the world CAN be and begin to tell a new story.
The Art of Letting Go: Rituals and Celebrations
“Coming out” is a way of letting go of the old story and finding strength in your community to have the courage to create a new story, together – often times, in celebration.
For most of us, it’s a process that plays out throughout our lives.
As in childbirth, indigenous or pagan cultures have allowed me to continue to seek out the value systems, stories, and beliefs from cultures that recognize the existence of complexity in nature.
Many values I teach my son focus upon recognizing the power of nature in all life on Earth and in understanding the importance of balance within the self.
Through this lens, I can explain almost all complex concepts to my son, including Queer ones.
Throughout Charlie’s life, I have encouraged him to interact with others who are different, to judge someone based on their spirit rather than their outside, and to cultivate a respect for creative ways of relating to the world.
I have encouraged a relationship with nature, by introducing him to Mother Nature… I have encouraged a relationship with his past and history by teaching him and invoking the name of his ancestors, I have encouraged him to explore by introducing him to the Star people and grandmother moon and grandfather sky.
The purpose of holidays and rituals are so you can be joined with family and friends in a time of celebrating life and without family around my “Big Queer Framily” have been the ones that have made the holidays special.
image source: ada new media
A New Story
Looking around at Charlie’s 4th birthday party this past weekend, I felt incredibly lucky to have a home filled with love, exploration, and discovery.
I was surrounded by a troupe of characters from my own queer community, not all of the same sexual orientation, individuals who each chipped in to share an experience of their unique talents with the children and guests.
Fragments of my own family, close friends, and my Queer Framily were all there.
“Uncle Jesse” dressed up as a mad scientist and taught them how to make volcanoes.
Aunty Amanda buried “dinosaur eggs” into the ground for a treasure hunt.
Aunty Gen made the treasure map that led them into all sorts of adventures. Just as much as Charlie felt supported and loved, I did as well.
I remembered my four-year-old self and gave her a hug.
She wasn’t sad anymore, because she knew how to find the strength within to find love and if even if she couldn’t, she knew how to find the tools and the community support to heal.
My greatest accomplishment is having the spirit to want and give to my son a home that is filled with life.
Giving birth and honoring the life that I made, meant honoring my own life and my own inner child, it also meant looking back at what that means to me.
It helped me overcome the fears of being who I truly was and opened me up to a community that gave me the confidence and support to raise him the way I always wanted to raise a child.
When you let go of the idea of what you think the world should be, you are able to finally seek out what the world for what it can be and thus begin to tell a new story.
This is my “Queer Framily Story”.