Social support networks are crucial for both parents and sexual minority groups. In the studies I’ve created and contributed to, over and over, we can see the detrimental effects of isolation and invisibility. We, as hyper-social beings, need to see ourselves reflected in the actions of others. We need that reverb to let us know we’re doing okay. Which is why it is so painful to be told that being who you are is wrong. The power of shame is very effective in manipulating our behaviors. Sex-negativity is rampant in our society on so many levels because it works to keep people in line. It keeps us quiet and dependent and ashamed. Which is why parenting can be so absolutely terrifying; there are so many conflicting messages on how to be a ‘good’ parent.
Being a parent is scary sometimes. Being a parent with an alternative sexuality can be down right terrifying. That’s what I’ve learned in the twelve years I’ve been a parent, the five years that I’ve identified as Queer and the two years that I researched Human Sexuality in graduate school. And it all happened in that order. The children came first, the realization of my sexual identity came second and the Social Scientist came third
I’ve seen people work through layers and layers of sexualized oppression- people who have come out as LGBTQ, or kinky or gender-fluid with support from a larger community but then they become parents and slowly lose touch. This does not need to be an either/or dichotomy, because we are not either/or dichotomous beings. We are parents, we love our kids, we care for them and prioritize them and keep them safe from harm AND we have a sexual identity.
As Kinky or Queer or Poly parents, just for examples, we’re balancing a whole batch of socially acceptable stigmas. Anyone who exists outside the constructed parental paradigm of the mainstream (ie: hetero, married, white, sexually conservative, middle-class) is starving for an image of themselves parenting and stories of other parents doing more than just a one time talk about sex with their teenage kids
I don’t see an over abundance of support for, nor recognition of, parents like me. So I’m using my combination of my real world parenting experience and formal training in Sexuality Studies to create a space for us. You and I can have nothing else in common- not age, not gender, not race, not sexual orientation but if we hit that same intersection as being a parent with an alternative sexuality, then we have a lot to learn from each other
How do we raise children who are not bigots when we live in such a bigoted society? How do we raise children to be sexually aware? What does a sexually literate young adult look like? How do we introduce our lived experiences of gender and sexuality when those experiences don’t appear on T
My experiences as both a parent and a sexuality researcher have led me to this conclusion: start with a firm foundation that consent is the basis for all sexual activity no matter what. This can be an age-appropriate message at every stage of development. From there you can go in so many directions to teach children about safety, pleasure, growth, reproduction, social expectations and gender roles. But that is what I’m here for!
From this post on, every month I’ll be here to answer your questions about how to be a Fearless Parent. Send me your parenting questions, challenges and observations, post replies to the articles and let’s get the conversation going! Topics can include finding age-appropriate sex ed materials, time management tips for scheduling play-dates and “play-dates”, examples of alternative family structures, how to deal with extended family members or your kids’ friends’ parents. All of that is on the table. I will do the research and also provide you with my insight.
I m currently in a relationship with a male and female partner who love together. I am a single, kinky (more or less queer) parent venturing forth into the world of poly again. My partners and I are arguing like mad over their boundaries, or lack their of. It’s getting intense and near breakup time. They feel that I am trying to “change them”, which is not the case. I simply require more boundaries for the safety and protection of my child.
I’m not sure to demonstrate this need of mine to them.
Thanks for writing in. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time, and I can totally relate. This is a great question and I’d like to answer it in depth for the next column in September, (August’s has already been written) if you can wait that long.
My first thought, though, is that one way to know how much we are cared for by our lovers is by the effort they put in to understanding our boundaries. As parents, our boundaries are exponential and anyone we become intimate with has to, at the minimum, respect that, and at the most, support us in discovering and maintaining them.
But, like you mention in your comment, we have to be able to communicate our needs first. In September’s post I’ll write about different ways parents can communicate and prioritize their needs- especially to intimate partners who are not also parents.
Thanks for reading!
I answered your question in my latest column. Hope it hasn’t been too long to be helpful! https://www.fearlesspress.com/2012/09/30/q-a-setting-boundaries-with-lovers/