Radio — Queerspawn speak out: Growing up in queer and trans families

Sadie Epstein-Fine and Makeda Zook are the editors of a new book called Spawning Generations: Rants and Reflections on Growing Up with LGBTQ+ Parents, published by Demeter Press. Scott Neigh interviews them about the importance of queerspawn (i.e. people with LGBTQ+ parents) having the space to tell their own stories, about the book, and about its launch on June 18 at Glad Day Books in Toronto.

There have always been people whose lives don’t fit within dominant gender and sexual norms, and some of those people have always had children. That is, families where the parents exist somewhere within the LGBTQ spectrum of identities are nothing new. What is relatively new is children of LGBTQ parents having the space to be sufficiently open about their lives to begin coming together to collectively recognize the distinct set of experiences and challenges they face, and to discuss, perhaps to organize, and to claim shared identities.

In North America, the most common term embraced by children of LGBTQ parents is “queerspawn” – a reclaiming in a tongue-in-cheek and rebellious vein of both the word “queer” and the idea of the kids of queer and trans people being “devil’s spawn.” That term is, of course, contested, and other people prefer to identify as “gaybies” or “queerlings” or “rainbow children” or something else entirely.

Not surprisingly, the kinds of experiences that queerspawn have of family, of growing up, of community, and of life in general vary a great deal. This reflects the great variety within the LGBTQ identities of their parents, and their own experiences of racialization, class, gender, sexuality, ability, culture, religion, geographical region, and all the rest. Also very relevant is the era in which kids in queer and trans families grew up, with the 1990s representing the beginning of a significant shift in safety and space to be open. At the same time, there are also enough commonalities to queerspawn experiences that there is growing interest in queerspawn-focused events, organizations, and publications.

Spawning Generations collects twenty-four pieces written by queerspawn talking about different aspects of their lives, covering at least some of this breadth of experience. Contributors range from 9 years old to over 60. Many are based in North America but not all. Though there are other books out there by and about queerspawn, this is the first anthology where all of the contributors and the editors are queerspawn themselves. Both Epstein-Fine and Zook grew up in families with two moms in Toronto in the 1990s, and in fact both were quite involved from a young age in advocacy for queer and trans families.

The pieces themselves range from the amusing to the inspiring to the heartbreaking. Themes of family and identity, of shame and pride and complicated ambivalence, of life and growth and loss, of community vitality and homophobic hostility weave through the book. Perhaps the most pervasive recurrent theme is the complex experiences that many queerspawn have of belonging (or not) across different kinds of contexts and different moments of their lives.

For Epstein-Fine and Zook, one of the most important things they wanted to bring to their work as editors was to create a space in which queerspawn could tell their stories in their ways. For all of the changes in the last three decades, queer and trans families continue to face hostility, judgement, and barriers, and given that context many queerspawn often feel that the safety and wellbeing of their families is best served by telling only a narrow range of kinds of stories. This collection, in contrast, is a space in which queerspawn are able to delve deeply into the messy complexity that is no less present in their lives and families than in any other. In so doing, it is able to make a substantial contribution to the growing public conversation among queerspawn, to give queerspawn new ways to see their lives reflected, and to be a springboard that hopefully will help a growing range of voices from the children in queer and trans families to articulate their own unique experiences.

Image: Book cover designed by Studio Le Burrow Inc. and used with permission of Sadie Epstein-Fine and Makeda Zook.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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