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Meri Perra blogs about the challenges she and her partner face in trying to raise their girls with feminist values

If you haven’t seen it, and don’t know the Big Thing that happens in this movie, here is your spoiler alert. Otherwise, read on!

In my early twenties, I lived for three things: weekends in Toronto’s LGBTQ village, drag kings and Tuesday afternoons in my women’s sexuality class. The subtext of all of these activities, of course, was the pursuit of sex with women. The times were good.

My group of friends back then had a re-occurring, inside joke. Because every sexuality class, every one, my professor would say the following: “Sexuality is fluid,” she’d say. “A woman may be heterosexual until, say, she reaches the age of 32 and then she may fall in love with a woman and become a lesbian.”

I’m hardly paraphrasing, despite the 12-odd years since that class. My favourite professor’s repetitiveness must have made something stick. Her lines were often repeated after a few on our Church Street weekend excursions. We were a bit enamoured. But we got it. Our professor’s theory mixed with personal experiences. Sexual identity is one thing, sexual behaviour is another. Some lesbians sleep with men, sometimes. Some straight women sleep with women. Deal with it.

It’s so late nineties to think that identities restrict behaviour. But crap like biphobia still lingers in our communities. It lingers along with the crap particular to queer women that we still deal with. Like the straight male pornification of our sexuality. Like how, despite the Ellen and Portias, the Rosies and the Melissas-who-keep-breaking-up-with-their-partners, things never seem to be about us. So whenever something is about us, we grasp for it. It’s our turn. Everybody watch.

Which brings us to the lesbian mom movie getting both Oscar and Independent Spirit Awards nods, The Kids are All Right. Both award ceremonies are happening this weekend. The movie, written and directed by mom dyke Lisa Cholodenko of High Art fame is superbly acted by Annette Bening, who is nominated for actress in a leading role, and Julianne Moore as the moms. Mark Ruffalo is sperm donor dad with Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as the kids. Ruffalo is up for supporting actor.

The premise is that the 15-year old son, Laser, wants his 18-year old sister, Joni, to contact their sperm donor. She does, and it turns out sperm donor dad is a local organic farmer, restaurateur, and all-around cool guy. When moms find out, they are less than thrilled, but invite sperm donor dad over for dinner. They serve passive aggressiveness along with the wine.

The real the story is about intimacy within families, and how years of “stuff” can take its toll on good people in good, but worn out, relationships. Laser is in a not-so great friendship and wants a male role model. Joni is off to university and hints that she has yet to lead a life of her own and not moms’ choosing. Moms’ relationship is dusty with boring sex, one un-fulfilled career and another’s over-filled wine glasses. When sperm donor dad gets mixed in, he falls in love with everyone except Bening’s character. He starts to hint at becoming a dad to the kids. Mom played by Moore falls in bed with him. They have lots of naked, multi-positional sex that Moore’s character seems to desperately need after 20 years of being with her female partner.

When everything comes out, goes to shit, and then starts to get better, the family rejects sperm donor dad, as though he was a punching bag for all the stuff they needed to work on.

Lesbian moms out there, in my opinion, this is not a date movie for you. (Unless on your too infrequent dates, you enjoy getting disturbed with images of “what’s one of the worst betrayals you can do to your partner.” Polyamorous and non-monagamous relationships included. I mean, come on, your sperm donor?)

It’s not that Moore’s character or Ruffalo’s come off as bad people. They are good people, making whacked choices. And there’s funny stuff mixed in between.

One line that brings me back to my women’s sexuality class days is where Moore is smoking in her garden, after the big confrontation with Benning’s character. Ruffalo calls to say he’s in love with her. She tells him, after having screwed him every which way, that’s she’s gay and hangs up.

It’s the identity versus behaviour thing we’re not supposed to be upset about anymore. Watching the movie, I went back and forth on how all the characters’reactions, fumbles and big screw-ups are true to the characters. But the political subtext of a lesbian movie involving hot man-woman sex and yucky lesbian sex just put a bad taste in my mouth. I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the movie, now matter how great it was. I found several queer movie reviewers who felt the same. It’s an excellent movie, but they wish the man-woman sex wasn’t in it.

Of course, others love it, including Toronto’s Diane Flacks, who thought it was a great date night movie for lesbian moms. Moore’s character is particularly nasty towards a Latin worker she employs, and then fires. The undertones of white, upper class racism and classism, while true, are un-easy. One review points out that all the characters of colour in the movie are: “dumped, fired or left behind in confusion.” It’s a good point.

For all you parents out there who never go out, the movie is on On Demand, which is how my partner and I ended up seeing it. Yikes. I promised Catherine I would never, ever, ever, sleep with our donor if our kids ever find him. And she vowed the same.

Meri Perra is a community worker-turned-journalist living in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood with her partner and two daughters

Image via Worthing Theatres on Flickr

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