When my son was 11 he wrote an email to our family coming out as gay. This was brave because he knew my parents as fundamentalist Christians would not embrace this reveal. In fact, my mom quickly reacted and accused me of making him gay by exposing him to movies with queer storylines and all other aspects of my queer life.
My daughter came out more quietly, as is her nature. She is bisexual, though her primary partners since age 14 have been women.
Contrary to my mom’s view, the gift my children gave me at my wedding two years ago was telling me how much they like themselves and appreciate the way I parented them. That is everything to me. I held space for them to unfold into who they are and supported every passion that emerged along the way. I didn’t think it was my place to tell my kids who they can be or how they can express themselves. Sovereignty begins at birth. As long as they didn’t cause harm, I wanted them to listen to the song of their souls. We had two rules – be respectful and contribute to the shared home. Everything else was up for negotiation.
Patriarchal culture believes that children are property or extensions of their parents until they reach adulthood. Parents can force their children into all sorts of experiences that don’t fit who they are without consequence as long as there isn’t physical abuse or neglect.
The Alive program’s definition of violence is to coerce and control. My mother controlled me and I suffered for it. I witnessed my friends and my children’s friends suffer from being coerced and controlled by parents. It’s actually so common that it’s a central component in our cultural stories that characters overcome the projections and manipulations of their parents/families to become themselves.
Until we can respect our own children and family members as sovereign beings, I don’t see how we will learn to treat everyone else as such.
Image – My kids at Humboldt Pride 1997