My first time is now.
Even when she was a baby, she was cool. We named her Beezus Bedelia. She was wild. She was smart and she was funny. She was always the kind of kid who would say anything, do anything, talk to anyone. No fear. No shame. I remember her first time getting her photo taken with Santa at 2 1/2, and she just sashayed right up to him and remarked, "Santa, you work at Nordstrom," in a devilish drawl. Or at 3, when she got up to tell a joke on the microphone at a burlesque circus show. "What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence?" "Time to get a new fence."
I never questioned this coolness. It was always one of my favorite qualities, especially how she never acted stupid around boys or men. I attributed this to her next-level status, until I finally realized that this was because she did sometimes act very stupid around women and girls.
When she was 9, we were watching American Idol one night and she said, "Mom, I forgot the word, but what do you call it when you're a girl who wants to marry girls?"
She laughed. "Yeah, I'm a lesbian. I know from watching all those Victoria's Secret commercials!" It was my turn to laugh.
Having been socialized in such a heterosexist way, once my daughter was born, it didn't even occur to me that she wouldn't be straight. This is not to say that I, or her father, ever had an issue with her being gay, I just hadn't thought about it before. When she told us, I wondered if I would be sad about her not having boyfriends, and then about five minutes later I realized not having to worry about boyfriends is probably every mother's dream come true. I can't tell you how many people have made trite comments over the years to her father and me about all the boys who will be heartbroken over her—little did they know.
I worried that I would miss out on the shared experience of liking boys. Like, some silly idea of bonding over hot movie stars or boy bands, but what I really wanted was to find a way to stay connected.
Because I had already been a professional child-care provider for 15 years when I became a mom, I knew what kind of a parent I wanted to be—a mix of authentic and intentional. In being intentional about being the straight mother of a lesbian child, the first impulse for me was to pay attention to her clothes. I started making different style choices when shopping for her, a little edgier, a little more black. Haircuts seemed more important. When her underarm hair grew in last year, I didn't want her to feel like she had to conform to any particular or convoluted beauty ideals but also realized my body was the one she was most used to seeing naked, so I grew out my underarm hair for the first time since I started shaving in 1983. Now we have a lot of fun together flashing our hairy pits. It's a nice intersection for an aging feminist and a 13-year-old baby dyke.
Mostly, though, I just wanted to make sure that whomever my daughter might long-term partner up with someday, maybe marry and raise children with, is growing up in a supportive house and a safe community just like my daughter is. This is the part that chokes me up. I always tell my daughter that she was born in the best family, best city, and best time to grow up gay, but what if her future wife is growing up somewhere else, somewhere where people don't just laugh or shudder when they hear the evil-isms spouted by Mike Pence and his loony ilk?
Beezus thinks a lot about being gay, too. All the time, really. Sometimes when we have a quiet moment cuddling up reading or watching a show, she confides in me. She asks me theoretical questions about future girlfriends and sex.
The way she looks at adult gay women, really studies them, fascinates me. I've noticed her gaydar is on now, and I like it when she enters a party and makes a beeline to our lesbian friends first, always hugging them as if they were her aunties. I gently remind her what these aunties went through and how happy it makes them to see her live her life right out in the open. My lesbian neighbor who works as a therapist likes to joke about it: "Oh, I'm sorry," she says when she sees Beezus, "your daughter won't get to grow up with shame and guilt about her orientation."
I like to sass back that the way things are going, her services will no longer be needed. It's not true (yet), but Beezus gives me hope.