I’m Julia Heilrayne. I’m from Austin, Texas and I’m a sophomore in high school here.
So when I was 10 years old, the summer before my third, er, before my fourth grade year, my mom came out as gay and my parents got divorced. And at first, it was really hard for me. It was like “No!” but I got over that. It didn’t take that long. And I got a lot of questions from people at school and they’re like, “Wait. What’s gay? What does that mean?” Like, I wasn’t really equipped to answer the questions coming from other people and so I kind of, I didn’t, I was very uncomfortable through that whole thing.
Then I left that school and I switched to public school and, at first, I didn’t really tell anyone that my mom was gay because I sort of kept that hush hush. Because I didn’t know what the environment was like at this new school, I didn’t know how accepting people were, and slowly it became common knowledge. And it wasn’t really a very big deal until a few years ago, my mom got married to my stepmom. That’s when sort of the next wave of questions started to come and it was like, “Oh wait, so you have a stepmom and a dad and a mom? So is your dad remarried? Wait, I’m confused.”
So all my friends are – they’re well aware how my family works. But I have some people who are like acquaintances or not as good friends who are still confused several years after my moms have been married. So one day at lunch, I was eating lunch my friends, and this guy came up to me. And I mean I know him. We’re not close but I do know him.
He goes, “Are you gay?” Just out of the blue.
And I was like, “No.”
And he goes, But your mom is gay.”
I was like, “Yeah, they both are, actually.”
And he goes, “Wait, how are you not gay then?”
I was like “Well, she just – she produced a child. She didn’t produce a gay. She actually produce a straight.” And they get, like, very confused and like, “Wait, so it’s not like brown hair?” And eventually people started to sort of come to terms with “Okay, she has a stepmom and a mom and a dad, and they’re all family and I don’t quite know how but that’s how it works.”
And then 16 months ago, my baby sister was born. And so my stepmom gave birth to her but my biological mother is equally her mother. And that’s when sort of the next wave of questions came. And that – those questions haven’t stopped and it was, “Wait. Hold on. How did that happen?”
You know, there’s no – it was as if people thought there was no other way to acquire a child other than, you know, a man and a woman mashing their genitals together. Or adoption. Like, those are your two options. Which box do you want?”
Like, for instance, one day, I was walking down the hall and this girl walked up to me. And I’m following her on Instagram, I know her name, and that’s pretty much all I know about her. And she walks up to me, she goes, “You have a baby sister.”
And I was like, “That I do.”
And she was like, “I saw a picture of her on Instagram.”
I was like, “Cool.”
She’s like, “ But don’t you have two moms?
I was like, “Yes, I do.”
And she was like, “How did it happen?”
And I was like, “Uhhhhhh…” And that was the first time I had gotten, like, an explicit “your mothers’ sex lives” question.
I was just kind of like, “I’m really uncomfortable right now.” And I was with one of my friends who is very good at taking weird questions and making them funny. And he goes, “Yeah, pretty much,” and we will just walk away. It’s gotten to the point where I just think it’s funny and I find humor in it because otherwise I would just be mad all the time.
And so, you know, if someone says, “Well, where did your baby sister come from?”
“Target. We found on the shelf. She was by the cereal.”
Or like, “Wait, how did – how did that happen? Like I don’t – I don’t get it.”
“Well, imagine a turkey baster.” Makes people super uncomfortable.
Or when people are like, “Wait, but you have two moms? Like, I don’t understand how that happened.”
“Like, well, what position were your parents in when you were conceived?” And people’s, like, their eyes get really big and their face goes white and they just walk away.
I’m like, “Bye.” And so I’ve just gotten to a place where I do find humor in the whole – it’s just like it’s the, it’s the way that I deal with it.
So I think when my parents first got divorced, I was – I mean, I was mad at them a little bit. I didn’t know how to answer the questions. I didn’t know how to address – just even the questions about divorce. And as, you know, my mom got married and then Vivian, I mean the questions became more and more frequent and more and more personal.
I think for someone who has questions, it’s not a bad thing to be curious. You know, I mean, we’re all curious about things we don’t know about. I would say first ask the person if they’re okay answering questions. Be like, “Hey, can I ask you about your family?” Like, that feels awkward but that person will appreciate it.
I think if someone were in my position but, you know, maybe me six years ago or even me like three or four years ago, I would want them to know you’re going to get questions. Some of them are going to be super awkward and super weird. Just expect that. Just, like, learn to – learn how to answer them. Learn what you’re comfortable with.
Don’t think that your family is less of a family because of the structure or the dynamic there. You know, it’s still a family. It still works the same way. We still get up and eat breakfast and scream at each other and go to school and, you know, eat dinner and go to sleep. Repeat. It’s the, I mean, it’s the same basic thing, it’s just a lot of boobs.