A family with two queer mums and a trans grandmother, and a gay couple in an intergenerational relationship opened up to Jess Jones about their generation dynamics.
Author Jessica Walton’s family is diverse across the generations. She lives in Melbourne with her wife and two children, aged seven months and three years.
Her parent, Tina, is a trans woman.
Jessica also wanted books featuring characters with disabilities, as she has a disability herself, having had a leg amputated due to cancer when she was younger.
“We found some books with two mums,” Jessica said.
“We found not many with disabled characters, and there’s not many books with amputees in them. We did find one with a donkey who had a prosthetic leg.
“But we really had a lot of trouble finding picture books that looked at gender identity or had a trans character.”
With positive books for kids about trans characters in short supply, Jessica decided to write her own.
Introducing Teddy, the story of a trans teddy bear, was published last year.
Jessica hopes she can use the book as resource to help teach her kids about gender diversity and their own rainbow family, including their trans grandma.
“Tina’s a lovely grandma, and she was always a wonderful parent,” she said.
“She just adores the grandkids. She’s very loving with them, and very playful and sweet with them.”
After Tina’s transition, there was the matter of what she would be called by her own kids, who had always known her as Dad.
“We talked about it as a family, whether or not she wanted to be called Mum,” Jessica said.
“And that wasn’t something she wanted, because she’d been Dad for all those years. So we de-gendered that word in our family, and we still call her Dad—with the right pronouns, obviously.
“But she’s always been Grandma to my kids.”
Jessica says the relationship between her kids and Tina is just the same as with a cis grandmother.
“They just know she’s Grandma. I don’t think it makes any difference that she’s trans,” she said.
“The difference will be when they get older and they understand. We’ll be talking to our kids about the fact that Tina is trans, and that it’s great to be yourself, and that we have the kind of family where you can be whoever you are.
“We’ll talk to them about sexuality and gender identity, and make it clear that we support them in being themselves, whatever that means. It will be a wonderful thing—Tina is the best role model for being yourself.”
Jessica hopes that by the time her kids are old enough to learn about gender diversity, the world will be more accepting of trans people.
“We’ll be able to explain that back when Grandma transitioned there was a lot of stigma about it, and she risked a lot to come out and be herself. The history of the LGBTI community is something they’ll be able to talk to Grandma about,” she said.
As a queer cis woman, having a trans parent made Jessica re-evaluate what she thought she knew about the community.
She’s since educated herself about some of the forgotten letters in LGBTI to become a stronger ally for trans and intersex people in particular.
“There are issues like forced divorce, birth certificates and employment discrimination affecting people’s lives within the trans community that also need to be prioritised,” she said.
“A lot of cis people need to listen and become more aware. I’d like my kids to know more about what it means to be trans or intersex, and the issues bisexual people face.”
Jessica came out to her family when she was 17, long before Tina was out as trans.
“There must have been a part of her that would have loved to go to LGBTI community events with me, and be out and be herself,” she said.
“When I look back I wish I had known back then, because I think we could have supported one another.”
Dejay and Cameron are a couple who live in Sydney. Dejay is 37, while Cameron is in his late 50s.
They’ve just celebrated their fifteenth anniversary, and they’ve been engaged to be married for more than ten years.
“I was a baby, 22, when we got together,” Dejay said. “We met online and it all blossomed from there.
“I was originally attracted to him as someone who was older. I do like a partner who’s older.”
The guys both came from stigmatised career backgrounds.
“He’s a sex worker, and I was a drag performer. That was certainly one of the things that drew us together,” Dejay said. “We were both also HIV-positive.”
Cameron says he doesn’t usually go for much younger guys, but there was something special about Dejay.
“I’m not necessarily attracted to people that young,” he said.
“My preferred age was probably about ten to fifteen years above the age that Dejay was at that time, but there was something about him that I found really attractive.
“I used to work with a younger escort of about Dejay’s age. We got on really well together, but it was nothing more than a business relationship.
“I took a chance on Dejay because he was cute and attractive, and I’d had some good experiences with this other younger guy. It just progressed from there.”
“I’d call it incredibly good luck that we found each other,” Dejay added.
The couple say their age difference makes them a complementary couple.
“Cameron has been a fantastic pool of wisdom and source of support for me,” Dejay said.
“He’s shared a lot of education and history with me, and personal and professional advice.”
“On the other hand, for me, having Dejay and his younger friends around has been great for me not turning into an old man,” Cameron said.
He adds that he doesn’t have so many friends his own age these days.
“I’m part of a generation that was decimated by HIV,” he said. “All my friends literally died. Friendships I formed after that were people ten or fifteen years younger than me.”
The guys say their families have been mostly fine about their age difference, though Cameron’s mother has made the odd negative comment.
“I think they have more of a problem with the fact that it’s a same-sex relationship,” Cameron said.
“I have a good relationship with Cameron’s family,” Dejay said. “It’s all kind of normal in a lot of ways. I’m always welcome at events and they do ask after me.
“I guess it’s a bit of a generational thing for parents of someone Cameron’s age.”
Dejay’s family has also been quite accepting of their relationship.
“I have a kind of splintered family,” he said. “The ones I do have contact with are perfectly fine with Cameron, and nobody’s really mentioned age at any time.”
The guys don’t always see eye to eye on everything—while they both enjoy Lady Gaga, for instance, Cameron doesn’t share Dejay’s love for The Simpsons.
Their age difference does occasionally lead to awkward situations, such as the guys being mistaken for a father and son.
“We walked around Taronga Zoo once holding hands, and people were smiling at us because they obviously thought we were father and son,” Cameron said.
“That was in the early years of our relationship,” Dejay added. “Obviously now they’d see two grown men. I’ve got a bit of grey hair myself, so we’re starting to match up a little bit more.”