Stef Rozitis had a long journey to understanding and accepting her sexuality after marrying a man and having children. Here she shares her story.
When my eldest son was about one, someone mentioned to me that I would love him “no matter what, even if he was gay”.
Of course, I agreed. But in my own head I thought: “But he is NOT gay”.
I was reading a lot of feminist writers at the time and studying at uni, where they mentioned queer theory and the way that heterosexism is part of patriarchy. I was mixing with feminists; some of them were lesbians. There was a gay couple at my church – they just seemed like nicer than average middle-aged men. My best friend’s sister (someone I had known since we were kids) had a girlfriend.
I knew very normal and likeable people were not always heterosexual.
It was when I had two children that my husband and I discussed the idea that we couldn’t control their sexual orientation.
So we decided to take them to the Pride march. “Because you never know,” I explained solemnly.
“I wouldn’t want such a challenge for my boys, I hope they are normal. But if they are not I want that to be OK. I want them to know that whatever they have to be is OK – if they really have to be it.”
I could cringe at how I was – but I prefer to laugh. I have been on a journey, and it took me time to get to where I am now.
My children enjoyed the bright rainbow colours and the chanting, but possibly being under five, failed to appreciate the wider political dimensions of the event.
“I know a secret,” my eldest giggled.
“What secret?” I asked
“One of those girls dancing up there is really a boy dressed up. Is that allowed?” his eyes were almost popping out of his head and he was bouncing up and down.
“It is perfectly fine,” I reassured him
“I am going to do that one day!” he said. He couldn’t keep still with the excitement of it all.
Around the same time, I took part in a conference about women’s spiritualities and women’s experiences. One of the speakers talked about being a lesbian and I was overcome with jealousy. At the time, I couldn’t have explained why.
A decade and a half went by and I buried the vividness of those experiences and many others and focused on parenting. My children were very interested in drama, music, and dance and this kept us very busy and quite happy.
My marriage broke down as well as another (heterosexual) relationship.
I now had three children and no partner. At my children’s high school there were many, many assemblies and educations sessions that focused on eradicating homophobia and transphobia. I was studying at university again and a lecturer called me out on my passive heterosexism in a paper.
The same day my eldest son came home and told me he’d been in a fight.
As a pacifist parent I was horrified. He had a smug look on his face as if he knew I wasn’t going to be able to be really angry about it.
“It was because there was a gay boy and people were bullying him and so I held his hand until they decided to fight me,” he smirked.
“They’re being homophobes anyway so they got in trouble,” he continued. “My school views homophobia as very, very serious and does not condone it.”
He was quoting from something, but I figured at least there was one thing he had learned.
“I’m probably bisexual or something,” he said. “That is OK right?”
“Sure.” What else could I say? I had been nursing a secret myself.
“I think I am more attracted to women than men anyway” I said to him.
We had come out to each other.
“Yeah me too,” he conceded, “because all men are bastards.” He was making fun of me as usual.
In that sense it was my older children and their own questions about their identity, and my inclination to listen and withhold judgement on them that helped me finally understand something.
This something was what my subconscious had been screaming at me for so long. It was something I hadn’t allowed myself to hear.
My attempt at heterosexuality had been as painful as it had been long. Things had never been quite right. I had had some sort of radical unease and unhappiness in my own skin, and it was only when I realised I could be a lesbian that I was able to do the necessary work to learn to get along with myself.
My youngest was left in the position of growing up with this self-discovering “lesbian single mother”. I needed people, I needed community, so I joined a spirituality group for women-attracted women. I also joined a queer parenting group. Initially dubious about this new part of my life, my children came to accept how positive these friendships were in my life.
“I get it, I really do,” my middle son said to some of my new friends. “I am women-attracted too, it’s not something you can really change about yourself.” My youngest just gorged himself on all the chips and chocolates and cupcakes (perhaps that was the immoral lifestyle my mother had dreaded for me) and encouraged me to get season tickets to the roller derby.
Initially friends were a bit surprised at how I had decided to cope with this new self-discovery.
“Your kids know about this?” some people were incredulous, some even judgemental.
“They have a right to know, so they know they can be whoever they are too,” I answered.
I had told my children before I told anyone else. Sharing your identity with your own child is a big commitment that you can’t take back later. It becomes a “reality” rather than a “stage”.
I don’t think there has been any negative impact on my children having a lesbian for a mother, but it has warped their sense of humour. I will probably never stop laughing over the time I was giving a friend a lift home and the friend said, “Go straight at the roundabout” and my youngest son (about 11) piped up from the backseat:
“No, Mum tried going straight. She just can’t.”
For me when I stopped “othering” queer identities – firstly as something wrong, not normal or difficult, then as something strange and exotic – I made the first step in accepting myself. When I was able to align my family’s solidarity with justice and recognition for sexually diverse people, I found a significant missing piece of myself.
I recognise an irony here, because that is just what the fundamentalist right fear from us – that there is an unacknowledged tint of rainbow deep within a lot of people. Maybe everyone.
Having walked this path however, I know there is nothing to fear. This way of being is “right” for me and my family. I know this because if it were not then I would not have found it by being honest and listening.
Stef Rozitis is a single mother and an early childhood teacher. She finds the strength to go on from all the amazing, inspirational and affirming women in her life as well as a hint of reflexive humour at times. Her children ensure that spontaneous song and dance routines or open mic comedy in the kitchen are not out of the question. When she is not at work, Stef likes to hang around with the smart people, hoping that it rubs off on her and she gets a thesis idea.
This content is entirely funded by Flick, New Zealand’s fairest power deal. In the past year, their customers saved $489 on average, which would buy enough nappies for months… and months. Please support us by switching to them right now.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.