My wife is bisexual and nonbinary, and my daughter is transgender. My queer family helped me better understand myself and my masculinity.
- First, my daughter came out as transgender; then my bisexual wife came out as nonbinary.
- As the only nonqueer person in the family, I often feel left out by their shared experience.
My 19-year-old daughter last month invited her mother to see the queer comedian Chris Fleming. My wife was thrilled. Our daughter still lives with us, but she often communicates in brief grunts as she scurries down to her basement lair, emerging only to let in friends and forage for chicken nuggets. She doesn't often include us in her social plans.
"You are hip and happening with the kids," I told my wife. She rolled her eyes, but I could tell she was pleased.
I was not invited on this excursion because I wasn't a fan of Fleming. My wife has tried to explain his appeal: "He's so funny!"
My wife and daughter's love for Fleming is rooted in another commonality: They're both queer.
My daughter is transgender, and my wife is bisexual and nonbinary. As the boring cisgender, straight guy in the family, I just don't get some aspects of queer culture. I try to take an interest, but your demographic destiny sometimes rears up and says, "Pfft."
But I'm grateful to be outnumbered in my family by the other demographics. When you share a family with queer people, your understanding of love becomes more expansive, as does your understanding of yourself.
My wife is a resource for our daughter
Our daughter came out as bisexual in middle school. In high school, she reassessed and came out as trans and lesbian.
Often when families — even supportive ones — discover their children are queer, they feel like it's a loss. There's a loss of the past because the child you thought you knew isn't who you thought they were. And there's a loss of the future because society is, in many ways, a homophobic garbage fire, and queer people face discrimination in many professions.
But we didn't view her coming out as a loss. Instead, we saw a lot of upsides. My wife was better positioned to appreciate those than some parents.
My wife has known she's bisexual since she was in middle school in northwestern Indiana, though she was heavily and miserably closeted until college. It's been a relief for her — and a validation — that our daughter felt comfortable coming out at home and school.
My daughter is confident. She's happy. She has queer friends who sometimes pass through on their way to the basement lair and stop to talk about Fleming, tattoos, the queer art they're making, or the queer anarchist collectives they're living in.
My wife was a queer young person, and now she's able to be a resource for other queer young people — especially our daughter. That's not a loss. That's a win.
My daughter coming out as trans also prompted my wife to think about her own gender. She's since come out as nonbinary, though she's retained she/her pronouns.
And then there's me, the only cishet person in the family
I'm living out the homophobic reactionary fever dream. The conservatives warned me that the queer people were taking over, and now I am outnumbered in my own home, forced to hear secondhand Fleming jokes and listen to Grimes and 100 Gecs — the horror!
I do feel slightly judged by my nearest and dearest for dressing badly and having the same predictable gender presentation I've always had. But I like my wife and I like my daughter, and it's pleasing to know they have common ground. They can gather to share experiences, see comedians, and/or mock me.
I wish I had someone to connect with like that when I was younger.
I attended a very homophobic high school in northeastern Pennsylvania, and failures to achieve perfect masculinity caused me some angst. I wasn't dating. I played what my daughter derisively calls "sports ball," but I wasn't any good at it. I looked Jewish — sort of funny-looking to my mostly Catholic peers. None of that made me miserable 24/7. But I certainly noticed I wasn't fitting into my gender role the way I was supposed to.
When you have a queer family, masculinity feels a lot less restrictive
These days aspects of my life that might have been considered mildly gender-nonconforming at some point in my existence are now things I get to share with the people I love the most.
I'm not queer, but there's nothing like having a queer family to teach you that straight and/or masculine honor is a burden that you can happily dispense.
Queer children can be a support for parents — queer and straight — if you let them be. When I appreciate my kid for being who she is, I can't help but be more comfortable with who I am. My wife and my daughter taught me that.
Maybe they'll even convince me one day that Chris Fleming is funny. I doubt it, but who knows? You shouldn't limit yourself.
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