I’ve been thinking about this and I’d love to know your thoughts.
The other day, one of my daughters asked me a question: “Hey, Mom. If someone is a transgender woman who is attracted to other women, is she a lesbian?” And then the next day she asked, “Hey, Mom. If two bisexual girls are in a relationship with each other, is it a lesbian relationship?”
She wasn’t trying to be a smartass—they were honest questions. She’s at an age where sexual identities and relationship dynamics are becoming really important. I answered as best as I could.
But her questions got me thinking about labels.
One the one hand, why worry so much about what we call people? Labeling leads to stereotyping. It can place artificial limits on human beings. All of us are way too complicated to be summed up in a word or two. And when it comes to romantic relationships specifically, does it make any sense to classify them? What’s important is that people care for each other, right?
But. But I have degrees in psychology so I know that labeling seems to be an instinctive human trait. And labels can be empowering. They can be a source of pride and solidarity. Sometimes instead of dividing us, they can be a source of commonality, maybe even bringing us together with people who we might otherwise not notice. A label can even have profound legal consequences. For example, it matters in a lot of ways whether two people are domestic partners or spouses.
To what degree are you comfortable with labeling yourself and your relationships? What do you see as some of the risks and benefits? Do we try too hard to label people in our society? Does it make a difference when labels are self-imposed rather than placed on us by others?
I’ve been posting about some of the locations featured in my new novel, Motel. Pool. Today is the sixth and final stop: Route 66.
I’m not generally a huge fan of nostalgia, although I did own a ’55 Ford pickup (fire engine red!) until my second kid was born. And I have a special fondness for Route 66, maybe because it began in my birthdplace–Chicago–and ended in California, where I live now. Most of it’s gone now, replaced by interstate highways.
When Route 66 died, it left ghosts. Stretches of cracked, weed-choked asphalt. Abandoned gas stations, restaurants, and tourist traps. Entire towns gone to ruin.
Last year we took a family road trip to the Grand Canyon. Along the way we passed a former piece of Route 66. You could see where a motel and gas station had once stood, but all that was left were faded signs. I’m a little bit fascinated with abandoned places and the way they seem to reach out and promise you stories. This one reached out and gave me Jack Dayton, Tag Manning, and Motel. Pool. So, you know, I got my kicks.
I hope you do too.
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
I have two daughters–one is 14 and the other 11. They have their quirks. The older one can be incredibly lazy. Given her druthers, she’d spend all day in her bedroom, reading fanfic and texting with her friends. The younger one is a melodrama queen who can turn being forced to bathe and brush her teeth into a three-hour tragic opera. She’s also a picky eater who hates trying new foods. But they’re both bright and funny and creative. They adore reading and traveling, and they’re amazingly accepting of others. I love them.
What if one of them comes to me one of these days and says, “Hey, Mom. I’m gay [or bi or trans].” It wouldn’t change what an amazing person she is. It wouldn’t make her less lazy (or less melodramatic) or less smart or funny. It wouldn’t change the fact that the older one can spell better than I can (and I’m a university professor), or that the younger one can draw wonderfully detailed dragons (and I can barely do stick figures). Of course I wouldn’t love her one bit less.
How can any parent reject a child because the child is LGBTQ? I will never understand this. And yet some studies claim
that half of all LGBTQ kids are rejected by their families. Many of these kids end up homeless
. These kids are also more likely
to attempt suicide, to abuse drugs, or to engage in risky sex.
I hope things are getting better. I hope we reach a point soon when no kid hesitates to reveal their sexual or gender orientation to their parents. Where, when parents find out their kids are LGBTQ, they can say the same kind of thing I’d say to mine: “I’m glad you shared that with me. I love you very much. You’re wonderful. I want you to have a happy life, full of love. Now go clean your room.”
For a chance to win an e-copy of my latest novel, Motel. Pool. plus a $10 donation to the LGBTQ organization of your choice, comment here. Make sure to include your email so I can contact you if you win. If 20 or more people comment, I’ll give away two books and donations. I’ll choose a winner at noon Pacific time on May 25.