I’m always excited to hear of any new publications on LGBTQ families, so when I was approached to be involved in the blog tour for Lara Lillibridge’s memoir Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home, I was pleased to be apart of it.
Girlish is unlike many LGBTQ stories out there, by telling the honest story of how her childhood has not only shaped Lara but it has also scarred her. “The story everyone wants to hear isn’t the story that I want to tell” says Lillibridge. Girlish tells the story of how Lara was less concerned with her mother’s sexuality and more with how she fits into a world both disturbed and obsessed with it, “The most interested thing about me is not about me at all; it is about my parent.”
1) Why did you want to write a book about your experience growing up with lesbian parents?
Everyone has been asking me to write a book since I was a child. People are fascinated by anything different. But for me, there are so very few books that are written by the children of the LGBTQIA community that I felt it important to give that perspective. As I wrote, I kept picturing some unknown person somewhere in the country who had never seen her or himself in a book and was waiting for me to write it.
2) What do you think LGBT parents of today can learn from reading your story?
I think what most LGBTQ parents take away from my story (that they tell me) is reassurance that the hardest part of my childhood was my not my parents’ sexuality but rather their mental illness, which is something that crosses all families.
3) Are there aspects of your story you think will resonate with other “queer spawn,” as you put it, and if so which ones?
The queer spawn experience is so under-represented in literature that when we see anything like our families on the page we get excited. For example, I read FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel (also a Broadway play by the same name) and even though her life was very different from mine—she wrote about having a gay father with mental illness—to see anything like my family in a book made me realize how much I felt that absence of that. As other adult children of the LGBTQIA community read my book and reach out to me I am startled and validated to hear how much they relate to my story. In many ways, it’s a multicultural experience—we are “culturally queer” even if we don’t identify as queer ourselves. Over and over I hear how much they appreciate someone talking about it, even if their home life was very different from mine.
4) Why do you think equal rights for LGBT families helps protect the children of those families?
One of the problems with growing up with lesbian parents in the 1970s/80s was that I couldn’t tell anyone. The culture of silence made it really difficult to seek help. The weight of the secret was devastating—if I had been able to be out about my parents’ sexuality without fear, we could have focused on the real problem—my stepmother’s mental illness. No child should have to worry that if they tell a teacher that their mother or father is queer that they might be taken away. Children need all the security we can give them in this uncertain world.
5) Is there any advice you have for gay parents that you wish someone had told your Moms when they were raising you?
I feel very strongly that being out of the closet is the best way to raise children. I do understand that this is still not an option for many families, but in my opinion it is the biggest thing that my parents could have done to improve my childhood. My family all wound up living in Key West—a very gay friendly city—when I was in my mid-twenties, and the relief to be able to talk about my parents without fear was incredibly healing for me. I hadn’t realized the weight I was still carrying until it was gone.