I will sign this with a fake name because we have kids and they go to school. We have two boys, I gave birth to them when I was in an usual heterosexual marriage. Our marriage was happy in some ways and problematic in others. Probably, we were like the majority of families. We had been together for already seven years when I met Tania.
Tania and I were fighting our feelings for two years but then we understood that we just can’t live without each other. I initiated divorce. It happens: people get divorced even when they have kids.
The divorce process lasted for more than a year. Artem, my ex-husband, though he had always had liberal views, all of a sudden he started to blame me for ruining the kids’ lives, for not caring about them, for spoiling and traumatizing them. He made a motion, asking the court to leave our kids with him after the divorce. Despite the fact that caring about them when they were sick, solving their problems in a kindergarten and in school – these always were my responsibilities. I cooked and cleaned, did all the chores and earned no less money that he did. I had fine housing conditions. And all of a sudden, I found out that I was a bad mother, that I am not suited to raise children, and that lawyers and the board of guardians will decide whether I am capable to care about them. My life was filled with fear, from one court appearance to another. Artem was coming to our house without a warning and checking whether we properly dressed the kids, what we were making meatballs from, whether we cleaned the house often enough, and whether we helped the kids with their homework. The kids were still very little then, so we tried to keep them out of this dirt as much as possible. In their presence, I talked to Artem in a calm and relaxed manner. I was constantly stressing that they had a very nice dad. It was so difficult. If it wasn’t for Tania, who was always near me, I wouldn’t be able to bear this… We thought that all the world is against us. That we are like those characters from a Hollywood action movie, we are standing back to back, surrounded by enemies. If I had the most insignificant health problems or if I didn’t have a well-paying job or if I didn’t have my own place to live, the court would have taken away my parental rights.
Once this “staged peace” came to an end. Artem came when Tania was vacuuming. Walking through a room, he hit a vacuum with his leg and a pipe fell on his feet. Artem decided it was an attack on him and started to defend himself: he punched Tania in her face with so much force that she hit a wall with her head. The children saw everything. We called the police and the district police officer came. When he learned about our situation, however, he said that the situation is hopeless, there is no way to solve it, and that in the end we are to blame because we have an unusual family and “victim mentality.” Nobody investigated the case, of course.
Later Artem started to demand that I visit a psychologist because, allegedly, I have problems that hinder our children’ normal development. He thought that my love for a woman was a problem. He even told me which psychologist exactly I have to see. You can’t even imagine how scared I was that a psychologist would tell me the same thing – that I am ruining my kids’ lives. But I was lucky. A psychologist was a woman who heard me out and said that kids don’t care how many people there are in a family and of which sex these people are. Kids need love. You love your children, therefore you are good mothers. Her saying this was a breakthrough for me.
The kids, Tania and I are a family. We are together for already five years. What does our life look like? It is pretty much the same as a life of any other family that has kids who go to school. We wake up in the morning and shout “we overslept!” We fight who showers first, we make breakfast and lunch for kids, take them to school, arrive late for work, help kids with their homework, care about them when they get sick, iron school uniforms, help them pick up different natural materials for DIY things, learn solfeggio with them, tune a violin and a guitar, settle their disputes, separate them when they fight, hear them out when they are offended, cheer for them during competitions, cook borsch, play “Monopoly,” put band-aids on their wounded knees, keep them from playing video games too much, struggle to put them to bed at midnight. As you can see, our life is sheer licentiousness and perversity.
Kids love Tania. They also love their dad, whom they visit every two weeks. By the way, their dad got married again and stopped being too interested in our everyday life. He also stopped controlling us.
People from school know Tania. She often takes kids there, attends different school ceremonies and meetings for parents. Everybody thinks she’s my sister and so far we are okay with it. From time to time our children tell us that their classmates say homophobic things, so we are afraid that my relationship with Tania can cause problems at school.
Every year in September or October in the classes of English everybody has to learn the topic that I hate with all my heart. This topic is some kind of punishment – “My Family.” Textbooks have a standardized text about a “perfect” family: father, mother, sister, brother. When my elder son came home with an assignment to describe his family in an essay for the first time, he asked me whether he shall write the truth or not. There is nothing in my relationship with Tania that I am ashamed of – but I am very afraid that the truth will ruin my kids’ lives at school. Shall I tell my son to lie? Shall I teach him to be ashamed of his own family? Is this the way we raise our kids?
Homosexual families, divorced parents, a grandson living with his grandma – it’s like all these families don’t exist. But there are so many of them! But they are invisible and unrecognized. And you won’t hear about them in class.
Legalizing same sex marriages or civil unions won’t momentarily change homophobic tendencies in our society. But such families like ours will finally have recognition. We won’t have to teach children to lie or to be ashamed; we won’t be afraid of boards of guardians; we won’t have to hide and be silent about the violence. Family is people that love you.