A Little Thank You from K&W

This post is by K.

It feels really weird to write about parenting when you are not a parent because really, we won’t know what we know until we know it. And we know that parenting will be a wild ride, take us to unexpected places, and generally challenge everything we think we know now. We don’t feel like we know everything…or anything…about parenting kids. Ask me about parenting our furkids and I can tell you exactly how I feel about the care, feeding, and loving of small critters. I have many opinions about everything from the best quality foods to alternative pet medicine to behavior modification techniques.

And I guess that is why this blog happened. W is pretty clear about why he wants a kid and, quite frankly, his feelings about having kids are pretty normative…meaning, he wants a kid for the reasons many people want children. He loves kids. He loves babies. When he imagines his future, he  imagines a family that includes children. He has a strong desire to be a parent. When we decided to go down this path, he ran out and got as many books on kid-making from a LGBT perspective he could find. In that process, we found there are pretty much only books for lesbian and gay parents. That was disappointing and it meant switching things up a bit in his head while reading those books (which he devoured faster than I’ve ever seen him read…anything…W is not much of a reader), but W could still read those books and find himself and his feelings reflected in them.

(The books he consulted were The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-Conception through Birth by Rachel Pepperand Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Moms Tell All by Harlyn Aizley, in case you’re wondering.)

W also bought me a book after we had this discussion. It was Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and HappinessThe fact that W got this book was for me was pretty insightful. It made me even more sure that we could do this together, because he gets it, where my hesitance comes from, and validates that my concerns are real. It was the perfect book for me at that moment, especially considering that Valenti’s argument was essentially that “mommy myths” are bullshit. She took on classism in breastfeeding politics, forced or coerced c-sections, the “having it all” debate, and feminist parenting. There were many parts that resonated for me. If you are a person who is interested in kids, but tired of the gender crap that comes with being a “mom,” this book is great. However, while I enjoyed the feminist take on parenting, the book was pretty heteronormative. Discussions about gender norms are often heteronormative and really only spoke to cis women as mothers.

As we continued on this path of learning and discussing and coming up with a plan to add a boobaloo to our family, I, especially, felt a big lack of community. A good number of my friends have kids. I know I could call on them for kid talk and kid advice. I’m sure I will. Many of my friends are queer and those that aren’t are obviously allies, but I didn’t know how to introduce the conversations I really needed to have, about negotiating the place between radical queer politics and culturally normative families–like us, this middle-class, queer married, monogamous, house-owning couple planning for a baby. I didn’t know how to talk about this stuff with our real-life friends without making it weird.

We also have radically queer friends who are probably kind-of a little weirded out by us having a kid. Or, rather, that is something they just totally can not identify with. I get that. I was there. I’m not going to barf my privilege all over them by making them work through my baby stuff with me.

Finally, we have childfree friends, who I strongly identify with. I know they would talk about it with me, but I also totally get why they are childfree and I enjoy talking about other things with them, like life, work, politics, music, etc. I felt weird approaching them with my baby-having issues.

So this blog happened. It’s been amazing. Friends who are we don’t really talk much about queer stuff with have reached out about their identities and experiences as queer parents. Acquaintances from our local queer and trans* communities have told us that they have also been trying and/or have been navigating some of these same issues as hopeful parents-to-be. Strangers from all over the place have commented or messaged us with their own stories. We’ve gotten a lot of support from friends all around and found other bloggers to follow and learn from. It’s all been really, really great.

So thank you for reading and for all the messages of support. We didn’t really know what this blog would look like when we started. We toyed with the idea of pitching a book, instead. But I’m so glad we created this blog. Looking back, what I really needed, more than anything, was affirmation that I could be queer and be a mother, be a feminist and be a mother, be an activist and a busy professional and still a parent. Thank you all for helping me process my feels, for making me feel even more confident about this decision. I’m ready and I’m excited and I know we’ve got this and it’s all because of ya’ll.

Pride and Parades: A Reflection on Queer Family

This post is by K.

This past June, most of the world celebrated pride month. In our city, the pride parade and celebration always happens in July. Pride is something special for many of us. It has gone pretty far off the path from its radical roots. Some question the co-opting of pride by corporations and the assimilation of LGBTQI people into the mainstream by participating in such events. Some have organized other subversive events for queer and trans* people who oppose the commercialization and commodification of pride.

1st Annual Gay Pride March 1970

First gay pride march in NYC, 1970

I certainly wonder what pride means in 2014, with ticketed entry and parade registration fees and a whole generation between Stonewall rioters and today’s glittered and rainbow-spackled parade. It is much more party and much less political. To some degree, this is a marker of success. As with many activist movements, radical dissent dies down once discrimination becomes more subtle. It’s easier to celebrate marriage equality than to deal with the real issues we still face. Health disparities, violence, homelessness, poverty, discrimination… Many would be surprised to know that the murder rate of LGBTQHI people is on the rise and 90% of LGBTQHI people murdered are people of color–not good material for a float.

I have lots of thoughts about pride.  However, W and I still enjoy pride because it still brings us together with our larger community. There is still a feeling of comradery when hundreds of folks take to the streets, a feeling of liberation in walking through the city in nothing but your sparkly underwear. There is value in honoring the legacy of gay and queer and trans* rights activists, for those of us who know our history, or lived it. It is important to celebrate what we have–in other countries, being queer or trans* is illegal and people are arrested and worse for being out.

Growing up in a rural area, I never could have imagined something like pride. Many queer & trans* folks remember their first pride fondly. Or their first trip to the gay bar. There is a startling, overwhelming sense of familiarity and excitement the first time you step into a crowd of people with whom you share a deeply personal identity. It’s like coming home, except you didn’t know it was home until you got there. It’s why we call our communities our “family.”

As in, “Oh, her? Yeah, she’s family.” Or to a newly out person, “Welcome to the family!”

We create real queer families, too. In college, W and his former long-term  partner were often referred to as “mom” and “dad” by younger queer friends. And they did “raise” many of those “kids,” counseled them through coming out, drove them to the gay bar, loaned them books and movies, listened to their breakup stories, gave fashion and drag tips. Queer families are kinship through love, not blood (something that makes sense to me as an adoptee). For many of us, our queer families kept us alive in our hardest times.

One of the things I miss most about being in college was that queer family was, literally, down the hall or across the quad. It was easy to find each other, if you wanted to be found. It is harder now, in our 30’s, to find and nurture queer fam relationships.

Queer family is at the core of gay and lesbian movements, historically, too. In the 60’s and 70’s, many gay and lesbian folks were abandoned by their bio/legal families when they came out. Or were not out to their bio/legal families at all. Folks flocked to San Francisco and NYC (and still do) to find queer family. Lesbian separatists created all-woman collectives that disrupted heteronormative family structures. During the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, gay men relied on their queer families when, quite literally, no one else was there to support them.

Today, though we have made huge strides in terms of social and cultural equity, there are many folks who are still left out. Within LGBTQI culture, white white-collar gay men have taken the lead, with white white-collar lesbian women right behind them, in terms of who gets the most representation and access to community. For people of color, for trans* people, for bi people, for poor queer & trans* people, and others who don’t fit the mainstream picture, there is a need to form queer families within the larger LGBTQI community. Queer family is ever-more important in a culture where we are being pushed to conform to a “safe” notion of what LGBT looks like.

As W and I embark on adding a kid to the mix, I think about what it means to look like a “traditional” family, in the most conservative context–a dad, a mom, a baby, two cars, and a mortgage. As it has been important to both Waffle and me to be openly queer in our relationship, it is important that our family is not “the new normal.” While some LGBTQI people want to be “normal,” I really do not. As I venture into the tricky world of parenting, I will need my queer family more than ever. It is the reason we started this blog. It has been a joy finding other queer parents and queer parents-to-be. It has also been amazing sharing this process with our current friends, including many who are childfree.

This year, at pride, I’ll be thinking about queer family, who has access to it and who does not, what it means. I’ll be thinking about my own queer family members who have nurtured me along the path to where I am today. I’ll be thinking about future-kid and our little queer family, the one they will be born into. And I’ll be thinking about the extended queer family I hope they will be exposed to and loved by, as we have been.

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

Here’s the reality. It’s been slightly over a year since W and K sat down and started talking about this baby plan. Since then, we have done a lot:

  • W read a poop-load of lesbian parenting books, pretty much immediately (leading us to realize that there are no queer parenting books yet);
  • K has, like, 85% come to terms with the fact that people are going to be weird and gender normative about all this;
  • K started fertility tracking, discovering that she is incredibly regular (yay?);
  • W & K decided on at least 1 possible gender-neutral name that we both do not hate;
  • We wrote lots of fun posts about stuff like debunking the “traditional family,” body love and parenting, and defining a queer fam;
  • We told our friends and family that we are heading down this path;
  • We started the blog because we felt isolated from other queer parents-to-be and because we felt there was very little out there for queer and/or trans* parenting issues.; and
  • We found amazing people IRL and in the blogosphere who get it, which made us feel embraced in a real way.

But it’s time.

make_the_donuts

We aren’t the type that typically sit back and take things slow. When we make a big decision, we usually find a way to bring it to fruition immediately. But here are the other things that have come up over the past year:

  • Money, money, money, money. We have lots of student loan and credit card debt that we want to reduce first, as we have a not-so-irrational fear that this might cost a lot;
  • K is going back to school in the fall to finish her Master’s degree, mainly because she found out that this is the last year she can transfer some of her credits from an earlier half-finished graduate program. So back to school, it is, because it is cheaper this way (see student loan and credit card debt, above);
  • We are really lazy about making doctor appointments and have been thinking about changing providers, anyway; and
  • We have been going on a lot of little vacations and trips and doodads, which is really counter-intuitive to saving money (see student loan and credit card debt, above), but we are kind of having an extended pre-baby fling. It’s just the truth.

It’s time, though. It’s time to take action. (Doo doo doo-doo! <–That’s a superhero theme diddy.) If we had the kind of parts that mash together in a reproductive way, we’d be doing this already. A little over a year in, we are fully realizing there isn’t ever really a good time. For some, there is never a time at all, because having kids in the way we want to do it is a privilege of us being comfortably middle class. The debt-laden, student loan-saddled, underemployed middle class, but still. So…by the end of 2014, we hope to be actually trying–like with the sperm and the egg salad. We’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, we hope to keep this blog more actively updated with posts about LGBTQI+ parenting issues and intersectional parenting issues, reach out to more guest bloggers (We keep finding awesome guest bloggers who are also super busy people.), and keep it fresh.

In the meantime, here is a very important video of a giant panda putting their baby panda back to bed: