Raised by Lesbians
by Cody Curran
When people saw my mom, Mel, out and about with me or my brother when we were babies, Mel says the first question people always asked was, “Is it a boy or a girl?” Mel always answered, “It’s a healthy, happy baby.” We were raised by lesbians. I grew up assured that my moms were proud of me, at times for my accomplishments, but always because I am me. Our home was free from boundaries on gender and there were no expectations of sexual orientation; we were encouraged to explore ourselves and to express ourselves.
We were given androgynous names so that we could decide for ourselves who we are. Our moms changed the pronouns in storybooks they read us so that we would have role models that were fluid, creating infinite possibilities for what kinds of goals we could create for ourselves. Seeing illustrations of children with different lengths of hair, wearing different styles of clothing, sharing various emotions, and participating in a rainbow of activities made me feel like I was in every story, and that connection from story to self at such a young age built my self-esteem and created an environment of deep learning and self-awareness.
My mom, Mel, taught me that I could make almost anything. If I saw something at a store, in a book, or in my head, we would make it together at home; this taught me the power of manifesting reality by visualizing what you want and making it happen step by step. Did Mel teach me this because as a lesbian, she didn’t have any support from her biological family and had to make things for herself? Maybe. My moms taught me to make my own family, too. There was always a postcard taped to our bathroom door of a butch lesbian holding a sign that says, “Love makes a family; nothing more, nothing less.”
I didn’t know my family was any different than anyone else’s until I was pretty old. I just thought a family was people who loved one another. In first grade some kids were talking about a club of dads and daughters that danced together. This is the first time I realized I didn’t have a dad. I remember thinking to myself, “Hmm, would I bring my mom, both moms, my brother, borrow my male neighbor?” Then, as my reading developed, I started noticing that on every field trip form I had to cross out “father” and replace it with “mother.” I remember thinking, “Why don’t they change this to parental guardian(s) so no one feels left out?”
Being raised by lesbians made me aware of inequality and the ridiculousness of societal rules, roles, and expectations; my brother and I were encouraged to question authority and to stand up for what feels right. I know now that our white skin protected us from any real fear of authority, so we did what our moms taught us to do—we questioned our teachers, our peers, our principals, and our moms themselves. Wherever we went, we expanded our perspectives by just being ourselves and asking questions.
How can I explain the lesbian lifestyle, or culture, I grew up in? The culture our moms created in our home, which they modeled outside the home as well, accepted me for who I am, and others for who they are. Our moms modeled love for one another, love for themselves, love for the Earth, love for others, and love for us. There were no expectations of who anyone would become or who they would love. Family was defined by unconditional, reciprocal love, and not by blood.
My brother and I were raised with a firm knowing that we were wanted. We knew our parents went out of their way to make us real because they wanted children to love and support. We were raised with an open-minded perspective and good examples of adults being their authentic selves. Our world consisted of love; we were protected from the traumas our moms experienced growing up for just being their authentic selves. We were taught to question everything and to make our own rules based on our morals and values and to stick to them in all environments. We were taught to take action when we felt injustice targeted at ourselves or others. We were taught that we could change the world by being ourselves, loving ourselves, and choosing to make our own happiness. Our moms taught us this with their words and through their constant actions.
On my brother, Dana’s, first day of kindergarten, he saw a group of kids playing with Barbies and asked to play with them. The kids said Dana couldn’t play Barbies with them because he was a boy. This confused Dana, so at home that afternoon he asked Mel and Paula, our moms, why the kids wouldn’t play Barbies with him. “They called me a boy,” he said, “I thought I was a kid?” Mel and Paula then had to explain that a lot of people believe in boys and girls and have rules for how they can play and act. Then, they went to the thrift store and bought a bunch of Barbies for Dana to bring to school. The next day, everybody played Barbies with Dana.
A couple of months into my kindergarten year, my mom, Mel, dropped me off at school. As she walked out of the school building thinking to herself, “What a nice, sunshiny day,” she heard some sixth graders yell, “Dyke!!” from the second floor windows. In Mel’s head, she prompted to herself, “Slowly, I turn,” and she went upstairs and said calmly, “Okay, you just called me out, what do you want?” All the student’s mouths dropped to the floor. Then, Mel educated them. “You don’t yell anything out the window at someone’s mother; you don’t yell the n-word, dyke, you’re fat, nothing; you got it?” she said. She turned around to leave the three sixth grade teachers standing there in awe. One teacher said, “What she said!”
Even though children used derogatory words and made fun, my moms taught me that they weren’t trying to be mean, they just hadn’t been taught about difference. My moms also taught us that actions have consequences. Leading by example, and by having family discussions, my moms taught me to educate calmly and rationally through using my words and actions when faced with exclusion and discrimination, and so I did.
When I was five years old, my neighbor, China, became my first friend. China and I were in the same kindergarten classroom, where we wore colorful sweatpants outfits. One day in class, another classmate, Kelly, who lived down the street in a pink house, was whispering to a group of kids and laughing. China came over to me, tears welling up in her eyes, and explained that Kelly had started a club and that China wasn’t allowed to join it. I immediately started a club in response. I announced to the room, “I’m starting a club, and everyone is allowed to join.” Kids came over and I ceremoniously welcomed them to the club. Then Kelly came over, slowly, timidly, head tilted down. Kelly asked if she could join the club. I remember, as a five-year-old little me, knowing that I was teaching her, and the class, something important, and that I couldn’t be mean or else the lesson wouldn’t be learned. I answered, “Yes, Kelly, everyone is allowed to be in my club.” Her body language changed, she filled back up with energy, and my friend China was happy.
My moms taught me responsibility from a very young age. They taught me that it was my responsibility to protect and celebrate myself and everyone around me. They empowered me to educate myself and others and to actively change situations that didn’t feel just. I taught my classmates the consequences of using derogatory terms, and they stopped using them. If a five-year-old can turn a micro classroom environment of exclusivity and discrimination into an inclusive and equitable classroom environment, then macro realizations of equity are possible. Perhaps the people that have been excluded and discriminated against are the ones who need to be consulted to solve the problems that will, once solved, lead to a world where a five-year-old doesn’t need to be the one to make the changes.
I founded and run a school called The Sovereignty School For Love, where all family dynamics are celebrated, self-love is taught by teachers modeling self-loving behavior, children are given responsibility and sovereignty, and children are treated like humans, not boys or girls. I envision all schools becoming places of inclusivity and love, where children’s self-awareness and growth is supported by educators and pedagogies that are informed by the perspectives of lesbian lifestyles, Indigenous lifeways, and other under-represented cultures full of wisdom. I base my educational pedagogy on self-love and sovereignty; the self-love and sovereignty I learned because of being raised by lesbians. We can change the world by loving who we are and sharing that love with others; by authentically being ourselves; and by celebrating other people’s expressions of their own authentic selves.
Cody Curran (she/her) was raised by lesbians and is the founder of The Sovereignty School For Love, a nomadic school/community focused on developing self-love. She is a birth doula, family dynamic consultant, and menstrual empowerment artist. Cody's art helps menstruators track their cycles and develop self-awareness to create an authentic lifestyle. She's currently working on a master's degree in education aimed at validating self-love as a subject that needs to be woven into school curriculums. Reach out. Love Revolution. Follow Cody on Instagram @wolfnanny and visit her at www.codydoulacare.com