Claire Pires drove across the country with her mother, Sheila Pires, and her mother’s partner, Kathy Lazear (far left) over the summer. / Photo courtesy of Claire Pires
HOST INTRO: There are more than 100,000 same-sex couples in America raising children. Commentator Claire Pires interviews her mother and her mother’s partner about raising her during a pivotal historical period for LGBT people.
My mother, Sheila Pires, was married to my father, Alex Pires, for twenty-five years. Then, they got divorced when I was five. A few years later, my mom fell in love with a woman, Kathy Lazear, and they’ve been together for nineteen years. My mom and Kathy sat down with me at our kitchen table in Washington, D.C. to talk about how difficult it was to raise me as a same-sex couple as I navigated my way through school. My mother remembered how hard it was to introduce Kathy at my conservative elementary school.
SHEILA PIRES: You know, I’d introduce Kath to somebody and say you know, “This is my partner, Kathy,” and they’d kind of do a double take, kind of look at me, look at Kathy and then they’d kind of recover and go, “Oh yeah, nice to meet you,” but you always see the double take. You always, you know, in those days.”
KATHY LAZEAR: And you used to come home and we’d say, “You know, it’ okay, you know, to be different.” And the one thing you used to say was, I know but I mean I don’t mind being different I don’t know if I want to be different because of that.
SHEILA PIRES: That’s what you used to say, yeah.
LAZEAR: And that was the fact that it was the two of us.
CLAIRE PIRES: Did it hurt that I referred to you as her work partner for years? How did that make you feel?
LAZEAR: Yeah, I mean it did, and at the same time, you were still coming to terms with it yourself.
SHEILA PIRES: And you remember, even in middle school, when the school decided this was going to be something we’re going to be very open about, there were still parents that were ‘No, my child’s too young. He shouldn’t be exposed to this.’ Well, that’s very hurtful to another family, that’s a gay family, that has a child and another parent who is a peer is saying that’s not something my child should be exposed to.
CLAIRE PIRES: Did it get easier in high school?
SHEILA PIRES: It got easier in high school for lots of reasons. One because the school itself was more open was very open at that point and that allowed faculty and students to feel more open and gay families and also because you were more, you were now an ally and a supporter and proactive around the issue so that all made it easier too.
CLAIRE PIRES: Do you think two moms raising a girl, do you ever hear any stereotypes about that or…’cause I definitely get the stereotype that I have two moms, Oh I’m so much more open, I love women, I’m so emotional. I get that.
LAZEAR: You’re smarter you’re…
SHEILA PIRES: (Laughing) You’re better looking.
LAZEAR: You follow the news. (Laughing)
SHEILA PIRES: It’s such a weird question because, you know, it’s not like both of us are emotional. You know what I’m saying? We’re different people.
CLAIRE PIRES: There’s a stereotype that if you’re raised by same-sex parents, you will become gay. What do you think about that?
SHEILA PIRES: So is that the same thing as if you’re raised by heterosexual parents, there’s no way you’ll be gay?
CLAIRE PIRES: I don’t know. That’s just a stereotype.
SHEILA PIRES: You see what I’m saying? It’s a stereotype. It makes absolutely no sense at all. We didn’t raise you any differently because we are two women who are gay raising you. You know, we raised you a lot also because of who you are. Many of the things we did in raising you is because of how you’re built.
CLAIRE PIRES: Do you have any wonderful memories of just the three of us?
SHEILA PIRES: None! (Laughing) No we have so many! Probably the funniest one was when you went to do that music competition.
LAZEAR: We felt like you were “Little Miss Sunshine.” You were there. You were going to do the Cabaret.
SHEILA PIRES: You were doing something out of Cabaret and everybody else was a classical pianist, or a classical violinist or an opera singer and you got up there and do Sally Boyles.
CLAIRE PIRES: And I was wearing like a white button-down shirt and no pants.
SHEILA PIRES: And we were going, Ok. We said you don’t really have to do this, Claire, if you don’t want to, and you said no, no I’m gonna do it and were like ok up there you get, at a judged show, and the judges all sat in the front, very serious watching you , and I don’t think they quite knew what hit them.
My mom and Kathy experienced a lot more adversity than I realized and that’s because they gave me the most positive upbringing that they could. Discrimination toward same-sex couples and their families is lessening as LGBT people become more accepted, which might make same-sex couples and their families not a topic of conversation in the future. They might just seem like normal families. Claire Pires, Columbia Radio News.
HOST LIVE BACK ANNOUNCE: Claire’s moms will watch her receive her graduate from journalism school next week. She won’t sing “Cabaret” this time.