Happy Family & Feast Day!

It’s the official American holiday of gorging yourself on unrefined carbs (yay!) and gravy-laden proteins and gourd-related delicacies until you can’t move and falling asleep in front of the T.V. with your closest loved ones. Hooray!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has troubling roots–colonialism and whitewashing, to be specific. Native Americans are still fighting for basic protections and equal rights in this country and Thanksgiving can be a sad reminder of a bloody past. The cultural appropriation this time of year is a bit out of control. This week, little kids all over the country learned in school about how the Native Americans and pilgrims sat down to share some corn. They probably made construction paper pilgrim hats and feather headdresses. This story is kind of (not really) based in truth. What they didn’t learn is about the Trail of Tears, the displacement and mass genocide of indigenous people, and the stealing of people’s homes and land.

But putting aside the problematic “pilgrims and Indians” imagery that goes with the holiday, it is a day that many of us still celebrate for two important reasons:

  • Thankfulness: Being grateful for all the things we have and giving back to those that have less.
  • Family time: Spending quality time with the extended family over comfort food and lots of desserts.

Celebrating family and reflecting on who and what we are grateful for is a great reason to get together and to enjoy that part of the holiday every year. We celebrate with both our families every year and love the excuse to eat loads of food and hang out with our siblings and parents. We are grateful to have families that are awesome. Sometimes we have a separate gathering with our other family, our close friends.

On Saturday, we’ll celebrate with W’s family. Tonight, we ate with K’s parents. Or, rather, K’s parents cooked us an awesome (and deliciously vegan-inclusive for K) meal with all the fixings. As we posted pics from our dinner on Facebook, K realized that all four of us look totally different. Even though we are a 100% legally bound family, none of us are blood related (though we look fabulously cute together). Family is so much more than who is legally bound to each other or who shares genetics. It is the people who love us, who raised us, who supported us, at any point in our life.

Many queer and trans* folks struggle around the holidays because they are estranged from the families they were born or adopted into or far from their families. Many, especially those without supportive parents, create close friend relationships and community relationships that are just as valid and real (and just as drama-filled and ridiculous) as the families we were born or adopted into.

Today, some people are celebrating with their partner(s). Some with their furkids. Some with their human kids. Some with their huge extended families. Some with their partner’s family. Some with their parents and/or grandparents. Some with their siblings. Some with their closest friends and loved ones. Some with their communities. Some are alone. Some are working horrible hours at some Black Friday-related job. Some folks are having a challenging time today, having lost a loved one or spending the day caring for a sick loved one.

We hope that wherever you are, however you celebrated (or didn’t celebrate) this holiday, you know you are loved and that we are thankful for the amazing awesomeness you bring to the world!

W: I’m thankful for my best friend Jeter, K, the wiggles and buns, and…that’s probably it.

K: I’m thankful for stuffing, stretchy-pants, the furbabies, and W…in that order.

What are you thankful for today?

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There is no such thing as a “traditional family.”

K had a great IRL conversation with a friend recently about family, what a traditional family means, what queering a traditional family means. We realized that the idea of “shamelessly queering the traditional family” needed some…explanation. First of all, “traditional” should really have airquotes in our blog’s tagline. Why? Because there is no such thing. Families are diverse. Families are weird. Families are not static–they are always changing and growing. Families are unique–like special snowflakes. (Aww.) The idea of the “traditional family” is a myth and one that has no place here.

“Shamelessly queering the traditional family” is not meant as a dig towards two-parent households or heterosexual parents or anyone else. It’s a dig at the idea, and the perpetuation of the idea, that there is such thing as a traditional family, as “traditional family values,” any way of talking about family that leaves people feeling less-than. Our intention was never to leave our own peoples feeling less-than or not-queer-enough or not-liberal-enough.

Let’s consider this the companion piece to our very first post, What is a queer family?

This is an actual picture from the Stepford Wives website, an org devoted to “traditional family values.”

First of all, there is no such thing as a traditional family. It is not even a thing! It’s a buzzphrase that was, literally, made up for political gain by the GOP. So what is meant when we typically discuss traditional family or traditional family values (usually from right-wing, religious extremists)? Usually, what is meant is a 2-parent household with 2 cisgender parents–one male and one female–with 2.5 children and a male breadwinner and a subservient wife. Of course, this describes many families, including many very non-traditional families. What is different about the “traditional family values” rhetoric is that it implies that this family configuration is the only kind of family that matters, that it is the right kind of family. “Traditional family values” rhetoric tends to be anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-single parents, sexist, racist, classist, and based in dangerously conservative religious beliefs. In other words, traditional families are actually the minority–the very vocal minority. Most families couldn’t fit this rigorous moral standard if they even wanted to. This is the type of “traditional family” we want to “queer.”

The reality is that most families today (and always, really) are not “traditional.” We have no close friends that we would put in that category. Our friends are generally pro-feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ rights, and politically and socially progressive. Regardless of their family demographics, even if it is one cisgender dad and one cisgender mom with the 1.5 kids and picket fence, our friends are not “traditional families.” Not in the loaded, close-minded sense of the word anyhow.

Our families wouldn’t shame single parents. Our families wouldn’t shame poor people. Our families don’t look down on multiracial couples or multiracial kids. Our families wouldn’t shame our kids, relatives, or friends for coming out as gay, lesbian, bi and/or transgender. Our families think gender norms are meant to be broken. Our families work really hard to be inclusive and want our kids, nieces, and nephews to grow up in a world where folks are treated equally. When our families do seem to line up with the plastic picture of the “traditional family,” it is by choice or circumstance, not because it is the right way to have a family or the best way to have a family.

So to  readers who may not identify as a “queer family,” we by no means intended to imply that you are a traditional family, or that all families that are not super-progressive and super-queer are bad. Unless you are a bigot, you are welcome here.

We also didn’t mean to imply that family traditions are bad. We love family traditions. We love celebrating holidays with our families. We love the traditions around food and culture and the passing down of family things. We talk about the things we want to pass down to our future kid from our childhood. We talk about the family recipes that no one else can replicate. We love our non-traditional traditional families, both which fall into the 2-parent cisgender heterosexual category. W’s family that was welcoming of a lesbian and then trans offspring. K’s family that adopted two kids from the other side of the world. We both grew up with family values that racism and sexism are wrong, that you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up, and that we’ll be loved unconditionally forever.

In an ideal world, “traditional family” wouldn’t be a term co-opted by the religious right. Maybe there wouldn’t need to be a distinction at all. There would just be families.  Families would have their own traditions and values specific to their own beliefs and cultures. And wouldn’t try to press them on anyone else.

Honoring Trans* Families on Transgender Day of Remembrance

238 trans* people were killed in the past year, according to Transgender Europe’s 2013 report.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we mourn the beautiful people we have lost.

It is also a day to celebrate the lives of trans* people, to support each other, to demand that the rights and lives of trans* people be affirmed and treated with dignity, to acknowledge that trans* people are often multiply marginalized, to stand up and say that trans* communities are resilient.

Trans* folks know that relationships with their legal and biological families can be challenging. And wonderful. They know that the families that we create in trans* and trans*-inclusive queer communities are just as real as the families who raised us.

Here’s to all the beautiful queer and trans* families in this world. Here’s to a future world where all of our families are affirming of gender non-conforming people, where we can send our trans* kids out into the world without fearing for their safety, where we don’t have to worry about the legal system treating us differently because of our gender identity and gender expression, where everyone matters.

Props to Amelia for Giving Us the Feels…Again

You probably know “Amelia,” the pseudonym of the HuffPo blogger who has written extensively, and beautifully, and heart-breakingly, about supporting her gay son, who self-identified at a very young age and whose first crush was on Darren Criss from Glee. She became a blogger by chance, because she decided to speak out about her son and come out as a mother of a gay son, something many of our parents and loved ones can probably relate to.

Well, she knocked it out of the park again with her latest post, in which she addresses talking to her middle son–she has three sons–about being gay. Her middle son declared that he wants to be gay when he grows up, like his older brother is. 

A few months ago, it was one of those horribly disgusting summer days where the heat and humidity just won’t quit. As luck would have it, two of our very good friends, Sam and Toby, have a pool and invited us over to save us from the heat’s torture. Sam and Toby live in a very cool and expensive part of town not too far from us. They have a house that our kids refer to as “the castle,” and a carriage house that is bigger than our home. They boys love Sam and Toby and love visiting their place. We had been in the pool for a couple of hours, and all the manic energy that kids release in a body of water had dissipated. We were taking some time to just chill in the cool water.

My middle son was tired, so he was nestled against my chest as I floated on my back.

“Mom,” he said, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, baby?” I said sleepily.

“I want to be gay.”

That brought me to a halt. I brought him into my arms and put my feet safely on the bottom of the pool. Continue reading

A Kid Who Looks Like Me

This post is by K.

I’m adopted. I was born in South Korea and abandoned as a baby.  On my official adoption paperwork, they wrote that I was a “foundling,” which means I was neither abandoned by family or taken from my family. I was left somewhere and luckily, found by someone who took me to an orphanage. It’s kind of interesting to be a “foundling,” but I’ll save the birth story thing for another post.

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On June 15, 1984, I arrived via plane and was placed in my parents’ waiting arms. I was 17 months old with a thick head of hair pulled up into a topknot. My parents took me home to a small town in Western New York that was predominantly agricultural and rural. My parents were not farmers. They were public school teachers. They just wanted a country house, both hailing from a city.

When I was 4, we adopted my younger sister. She is also South Korean. She was 13 months when she arrived, so she is 3 years younger than me. Growing up, we were pretty much the only Asian kids in our neighborhood and at our school. My mom is a blond Swedish-German woman. My dad is 100% Italian. They are both 2nd generation Americans. My sister and I are technically immigrants. I have always felt very much like an American, whatever that means.

There’s the saying, “blood is thicker than water,” and I agree with the sentiment. I have uttered it myself before. Of course, our family is not drawn from blood. But my family is important to me.  We are a family, a close family, with all the things that come with family–both awesome and challenging. Love is unconditional in my family and I’m lucky to have two parents who very much wanted to have me–so much that they spent tons of moolah and went though lots of paperwork and stress and a home study in order to hold me in their arms. I value my family so much, even though none of us are blood related.

I have never felt that my family was any less because my sister and I are adopted. It was always and continues to be hurtful when well-meaning people ask if I know my “real parents.” My response is always that my real parents are my parents, my mom and dad, the parents who adopted and raised me, fed and sheltered me, clothed and spoiled me, angered and challenged me, loved me unconditionally. And no, I don’t know my biological relatives, nor do I plan to.

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After these messages…

afterthesemessages

we’ll be right back!

Sorry for the downtime in posts. Weekends are our family time a.k.a. the only daylight hours that we have together to run errands, (maybe) clean the house, catch up with friends together, visit family, etc.

We work opposite shifts during the week, so K goes to work in the morning before W gets up.  We don’t see each other until late at night when W gets home–10pm or later. It’s pretty normal for us–we’ve been on this schedule for over 6 years now. But it means our weekends are even more hectic and life-filled and there isn’t a lot of time to write or even think about blogging. If we’re lucky, we get to sleep in and have a few afternoons of laziness on a Saturday.

So we are back to posting now that the weekend is over. In fact, we have some posts ready to launch starting tonight. So stay tuned!

Privilege Check: The Right to Parent and Queer Communities

This post is by K.

W and I are both 100% in support of reproductive rights and health. I worked at Planned Parenthood for half  a decade. During my time there, I got into reproductive justice. I got in deep. I learned a lot from others in the movements. I also spent a lot of time helping others, especially those deeply rooted in pro-choice activism, to “get” what repro justice is. Pro-choice and repro justice aren’t synonyms. Here’s a definition of reproductive justice from SisterSong:

The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color.

It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.

Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.

Repro justice takes the conversation beyond birth control, abortion, and sex ed and makes us ask questions like:

  • How do class and race play a role in reproductive rights work?
  • How are trans* and gender non-conforming people accessing sexual and reproductive health care?
  • How do the issues of education, literacy, and language access play into sexual and reproductive health outcomes?
  • What are the points of connection between taking care of the environment and taking care of our bodies?
  • How can we repair tensions between the disability rights communities and the pro-choice/repro justice communities?

I could write a whole post about any of those topics. There are lots of questions to raise. The question I want to address is this one: Who has the right to parent?

We can go on for days about the right now to be a parent, the right to make a personal abortion decision. We don’t talk as much about the flip side. What about the right to be a parent? Is there such a thing? Many would emphatically say, “Yes. Of course. Everyone should have that right.” But let’s get real. We don’t all have access to that right. And if you add some other factors in, you may start to feel more unsure. Continue reading

Meet the W

This post is by W.

So, you have met the K and the furkids.  Well, I am the W.  K is the writer and she speaks for the furbabies…much like the Lorax speaks for the trees. She was a writing arts major in college and I don’t write or read often. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of both and I often rant on issues that perturb me on Facebook but it’s just not my jam in general. So why would I do a blog you ask?!? Well (aside from the pleading from K), I think this is an important issue. Not only the idea of parenting and families, but also the lack of resources out there for the T and Q in LGBTQ. After the initial shock when K told me she would be willing to do the baby thing, the first thing I did, like many other people, is to try to find applicable books or websites for me. That was less than successful.  It is great to see all the resources out there for gay and lesbian people. It shows me that the world is changing, but it also exemplifies the problems of inclusively of trans and queer people. So like many queer trans people I picked up a book on lesbian pregnancy  and “adjusted” the language and situations to fit my own. That makes this blog relevant and important for me. There needs to be more K and W stories in the world.

Another reason you have met the adorable furkids before me is simply because, although I love them, they are a bit of an open book. I on the other hand am that book-that-you-want-to-read-but-it-went-out-of-print-several-decades-ago-after-a-limited-print. I grew up in a family that didn’t communicate well or get along much at times. I am shy and guarded and hesitant to open up to people I don’t know. That carried over to my adult life, unfortunately. I get along great with my parents now and they have always accepted me for who I am, but looking back I had what would have been classified now as an abusive childhood. It fundamentally shaped my adult personality.

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Meet the Furkids

Growing up, we both had many beloved pets. Bless our parents for helping us care for all those critters. W’s first best kitty friend was Thomas. Thomas only loved W and hid from pretty much everyone else. Thomas was also a female cat–let’s not read too much into why W named her Thomas–he says it was because it sounded like “miss” to his little kid ears.

K grew up with dogs and cats, but her first pet that was all her own was Rosie the guinea pig. Rosie loved broccoli and kale and making adorable noises.

K and W have also been parents to hamsters, hermit crabs, tree frogs, fish, and fancy rats. We’ve loved many furkids over the years individually and together. Counting our current furkids, we have jointly owned 11 pets. Sadly, our little furry babes always leave us too soon. Here’s our current family zoo.

Meet our little boos/boobaloos/booberries!

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I really don’t want to be a mommy blogger. Even a queer one.

This post is by K.

I always thought if I started a blog, it’d be about sexual justice. Or rape culture. Or sex-positive sexuality. Or feminist rants. When I’ve dabbled in guest blogging, it’s been on those issues. I never ever, ever though it would be about parenting. In fact, the thought still kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Not because I’m not excited about being a parent, but because I have worked SO HARD to be seen as more than the stereotypes of my gender.

Children assigned female at birth are generally socially conditioned to care about things like weddings and babies and home-making. And pink. All things pink. Even those of us that don’t follow the social script know that we are supposed to. My parents never pushed that girly stuff on me, but I got the message anyway through TV, peers, and subtle social cues.

I remember my older cousin asking me once, when I was a pre-teen, what I imagined my wedding would be like. I had never really thought about it before. So I made up a scenario that sounded fun. My supposed “dream wedding” included a waterfall, silk bohemian skirts, black tank tops, and flip-flops. It sounded more like a trip to a fancy hotel pool than a wedding. Looking back, there was some truth in my made-up story. I did end up having a very casual, affordable, and unique wedding that involved flip-flops and non-traditional apparel. Sadly, there were no water features.

Fancy wedding stuff never appealed to me. Being someone’s wife never appealed to me. Being someone’s mom never appealed to me. When I was little, I couldn’t articulate why I wasn’t into these things. I just wasn’t.

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