You know that Radiohead song? The one that goes, “I want you to notice when I am not around. You’re so f-cking special. I wish I was special.” Like Mr. Thom Yorke and most artists, I also fluctuate between an inflated sense of self-importance and abject insecurity. Like most people I struggle with how much to blame my parents for any of those character flaws. The only thing different might be my place in history. There I go sounding like I’m really special, but by place I mean context not conceit.
When I was born in 1981, not that many lesbians were having kids. Even in San Francisco. Separatism was strong, intentional child bearing was rare. Those lesbians that did have kids usually had them with men and then later came out.
What’s the difference between being born to people who are straight and then come out vs. being born to someone who is already gay? I’m pretty sure that study has yet to be done. Maybe there’s none at all. I’ve drawn the distinction in my mind though in terms of who counts in front of me in line in the queue of Queerspawn. Like, they don’t really count, only the other people born to “out-at-the-timers” are my competition for who’s first. Who is the firstborn of the Gays!
I am going to admit something. For quite awhile I thought it was me. It’s kind of strange really that I harbored some sense of being “the first” because there were always Queerspawn around and some were older. It was San Francisco in the eighties. There were enough kids like me in my elementary school to inspire our folks to found the Lesbian and Gay Parents Association. Maybe I always assumed they were the products of heterosexual marriages that failed? Maybe it was similar to the way other children think they are adopted, despite evidence to the contrary, another instance in which feeling special/different is at the heart of the matter. I am likely in the first one hundred if you’re using my method of determining who counts, just for the record…
Here’s another megalomaniacal homemade myth I’ve got going- that I grew up in lock-step with the growth of the gay community- see there wasn’t always a gayborhood (pre-dates me by twenty years though). There was a time before large institutions like GLAAD (founded in 1985) and HRC (1980-ish). Before Artificial Insemination even. When my moms decided to have me, it wasn’t nearly as common to pop over to the sperm bank as it is these days. There weren’t “Out” celebrities or Heather has two mommies. My folks had to break in my elementary school staff with in-services and extended parent-teacher conferences. When my godmother Helen left her husband in the 1960’s, it meant an abandonment of maternal ambitions in exchange for the freedom of personal expression. It was only as years passed, as the community grew that she had the chance to meet the people with whom she would parent. It was only as the variables of time, progress, and happenstance coalesced that my being became a reality.
Does all of this read like an essay secretly titled “Why I’m Special by Kellen Kaiser”? It’s weird how you can spend decades defending your normality only to then turn around and defend your difference. Life is funny that way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There were some normal things about my family and some weird ones. Who defines normal anyway?
What does special mean? It means “different” but with a positive spin put on it- think of the Special Olympics. That was a lot of what my childhood was about. I didn’t stand a chance at fitting in so instead it was more about learning to use difference to my advantage. There were two main sources that fed my quasi-narcissism. On one side, I had the world at large who insisted in both positive and negative ways that I was special. I was invited on news shows to defend my family; the attention told me that I was great but then grown adults publicly considered my future ability to function in society. Either way I’m special right? On the other side I had my four mothers who thought I was the best, most beautiful, intelligent girl to grace the planet. Their love for me is overwhelming on occasion.
There is a poem that I wrote when I was in eighth grade. I won’t torture you with the actual lines but the general gist was me wanting to be average, unremarkable, plain even. A million hipsters have wished in the opposite direction. It was only a moment, a day in which the minority burden of representing your demographic for the world seemed like more work than it was worth. I’ve got a lot more poems hoping for someone to take notice of how special I really am. Which is true for most of us, we would like to be appreciated if only we can stand to put ourselves out there.