Growing Up Unconventionally: Having a Parent Who is a Gay Minority
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
When I was young, I never thought my family was different. I never realized being raised by two women could be seen as shameful and not how a child is “supposed” to be raised. I am of Asian descent, and the clash that brings when meshed with Western culture only created more cultural misunderstandings. For me, the line between tradition and progress was nonexistent. Yet, as I began to grow, I realized that these two differences meant a lot more. Gay culture and Asian culture aren’t synonymous with Western culture; they are not known to easily blend. The troubles with these aspects are more common than I ever thought in society; these differences are highlighted from the moment they are seen. Once someone has consumed this information and has set their opinion, it is often not easily changed. When I learned about these perspectives from society, my mindset changed.
Nothing was “wrong” when I was a kid; I made two Mother’s Day cards and one for Father’s Day. I knew I had parents that loved me more than anything in the world. Therefore, I could never imagine anyone hating them or even hating me just because I was their family. Inevitably, that assumption changed when I entered middle school. I heard the f-slur and people making fun of girls who loved girls and boys who loved boys. I was worried that people would find out how I was raised and immediately shun me from social circles. Silence seemed like my best option during this time. At this age, it seems that what others feel is how you should feel too so I swallowed my anger and went with the crowd.
As I matured, I began to learn my family’s stories. A traditional Asian upbringing does not have being gay on its agenda. Eventually, I learned that my grandparents had cast out my mother and wanted nothing to do with either me or my mother until they met me. When I learned this, I was shocked – I had only known that my grandparents absolutely loved me and would do anything for me. They are always so proud of me, so it hurt me to know that at one point they weren’t. This information made me rethink everything. It also made me feel for my mother. I can’t imagine my parents not loving me because of who I love. Finding this out made me more protective of all of my parents and made me feel closer to them. I wanted them to feel support and love from at least me if no one else. At the age of 11, I learned that most of the world did not see my family as one that deserved a place in society. As time went on, I also began to hear the slander against my parent of Asian descent. Racist comments disguised as jokes occur often, and assumptions are always implied. In one instance, we were out to eat at a Japanese restaurant, and my mother was holding the door for me to exit when another customer told her, “There will be three of us,” to which my mother replied, “Just because I look Asian doesn’t mean I work here.” These exchanges make me sad. It also makes me angry to know that some people just label as if it means nothing. All Asians are not the same. We don’t even come from the same countries, so how could we all have the same ideals? We all don’t look alike either. We also don’t always know each other. These small interactions and perspectives add up over time and make people tired. Stereotypes are exhausting when you answer the same questions multiple times.
Stereotypes are negative and often used to disguise prejudice. Most people do not enjoy being described as someone they are not, and stereotypes do just that. If you identify with a certain group or ethnicity, it doesn’t mean that everyone who identifies is the same. It is exhausting to constantly fight these small battles for your identity. Having to constantly prove that you are not the “negative” aspects of your group’s stereotype is an everyday struggle for most. Also, if people do happen to align with the stereotype, it can make them harshly analyze their every move. They may worry that they are making it worse for everyone or that they are trying to be someone they’re not. Having to fight these internal battles every day just because of someone’s assumption takes a toll. From trying to preserve your identity to constant personal questions, it can be too much.
My “favorite” LGBTQ+ related stereotypes that I get are, “If your parents are gay, are you too?” or “How is it possible that you’re not like them?” As for ethnicity-based ones, certain slurs have been passed in my direction, disguised as jokes that are never funny. Personally, I am tired of saying the same answer all of the time. The concept of my life is not difficult: I have parents like everyone else and I have an ethnic background like many. My lifestyle is not an experiment or something new. Even then, I am my own person — I am not either of my mothers or my father. Yet, they are a part of me and so is my Japanese heritage. I own that, and I am proud of it. The problem is that sometimes these questions make me feel like I need to question my identity. I know who I am, but when these questions arise, I feel like I have to prove something. I cannot begin to imagine what my mother has heard in her lifetime. This is the everyday reality for those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups. Being both makes it more difficult sometimes. There was a time I reached my breaking point and I no longer wanted to stay silent. I knew that I had to stand up for not only myself but others too because I knew that I was not the only child raised by same-sex minority parents. After hearing stories and seeing what all of my parents went through, I knew I had to advocate for them and those like them. I wanted to educate others on the differences so that they could understand without judgment. I also began to see how lucky I was to have these parents that loved and supported me because they wanted me to have a better life than they have. From this, I can teach others that love is neither clear-cut nor does it need to fit a perfect mold.
“Gay” parenting is no different than “straight” parenting, just as minority parenting is no different than non-minority parenting. Yes, there are cultural differences, but most parents have the same goal: for their children to be loved. Being raised by any of these parenting types also doesn’t mean that you will grow up to be just like them. Your parents’ sexualities will not always be yours. Taking the time to observe and possibly even take yourself out of a certain viewpoint can help. In my case, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I am loved, and I am happy. Yet, I know it took a lot of sacrifice and difficulty. Being raised the way I was is not bad because it is different. Although it sounds cheesy, those differences have made my life the best. Where I came from and whom I came from is a part of me that I am prideful of. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
By Kaylee Haas, Contributing Writer