My Top Five Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

This post is by K.

Up until recently, I identified as childfree by choice. Even though my life circumstances and my personal decision have shifted, I have a lot of warm feelings and a deep understanding of the joys and principles of being childfree. I still contend that I wouldn’t do this on my own, that my relationship with W and his desire to actively parent, and the strength of our relationship are huge pieces of this decision.

Since I’m in my 30’s and this is the era of baby explosion for my generation, I’ve also watched a lot of my friends become parents and witnessed how their lives have changed. There’s a lot of fluffy mommy pieces on the internets about childfree folks vs. parents and, while it’s sometimes funny, it smacks of blatant sexism. Yeah, we need to build affinity with people like ourselves and absolutely, we all deserve respect, but we are battling this BS patriarchy together, whether that is by opting out of kid-having or raising awesome kids. So here’s my revised version of that top ten list. With a queer angle.


My Top 5 Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

1) I won’t ever ask why you don’t have kids or when you are going to have them.

For queer people, especially, this is a really loaded assumption. For one, even if we want kids, it is not as easy as hopping into bed for many of us. (Of course, that method does work for some queer folks!) Also, some of us grew up in times or places when having kids as a queer or trans* person just was not a thing you could do. Or we have kids from a previous relationship, before we came out, and they are no longer in our life. Compulsory marriage and kid-having is a thing of the heterosexual world. Let’s not conform to that BS in queer communities.

2) I will continue to include you in my life.

Sure, shared experience is helpful. It’s why community is so important. I will probably make some new friends that have the shared experience of child-raising with me, but I will still need and want my close friends who share other experiences and identities with me. I will still be the person who wants to talk about politics and feminisms and theory, about pop culture and reality TV, about work and life issues. I also don’t want to relegate you to some obsolete pod of non-parent-friends and only do baby stuff with my parent friends. I want you in my life, in every way. In fact, I’m going to need childfree people in my life more than ever that keep it queer and keep it real while navigating the very heteronormative world of “mom-ness.” Please come over and talk about non-baby stuff with me and baby stuff, too.

3) I won’t act like my life is way harder than yours. 

Because that is some ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s gonna’ be pretty challenging and there will be days I feel like it’s the hardest thing ever, keeping a kid alive and healthy. But that doesn’t mean that you have it easy or that your problems are not just as hard or hard in a different way. This is not a competition. This is not “the struggle is real” Olympics. Let’s support each other through the hard times, like we always have, OK?

4) I promise not to take it personally if you don’t invite me out.

I’m going to have a live human person who needs me 24/7. For a while, this may make it hard to hang like we used to. However, I know this is about my life, not yours. If you choose not to invite me to things (like bars or late-night hangs or last-minute movies) because it’s damn obvious that I won’t be able to come, I will not take offense. I will take it as a sign of respect that you get that my schedule has changed. If you do still invite me, that is really awesome, too. I’m going to assume best intentions all the way around. Let’s both assume best intentions all around.

5) I will still be there for you, even if my life and priorities have shifted.

My kid is going to be my #1, obviously, but that doesn’t mean you’re not my #2 (OK, my #3 if Waffle is still around, which he probably will be). Will I still be able to dash out of the house to bring you coffee? No, probably not. But it is 2015 and there is chat and texting and Skype and a million ways to connect. I may have more strains on my time and energy, but for my closest, bestest friends, I will always have time for you. I’ll make the time. Just be patient with me if I have to go check on a crying infant halfway through our conversation.


If we are successful in all this, we could have a babe at this time next year. And I imagine it will be absolutely ridiculously more hard than I could ever imagine. I bet it’ll be surprising in a lot of ways. I may fall off the face of the earth for a little while as I figure out how life works with this additional person in it. But I don’t think that means we have to forget about each other. I don’t plan to “close a chapter” on my childfree friends. I don’t plan to graduate into “true womanhood” vis a vis my uterus. Let’s not let the patriarchy tear us down like that, OK?

Advertisements

Getting Real, Real Fast

Oh, my. It’s been some time since we’ve published anything new. We actually have had some potential submissions and some ideas for content, but what really happened is that life got in the way. KaeLyn started writing for Autostraddle, where she gets to write about queer family stuff and also music and fashion and politics and art and life. KaeLyn also went back to grad school because her credits from earlier graduate work were about to expire and she didn’t want to start all over again. Plus she is still working her full-time job and another side job. Waffle is still working nights six days a week.

We both (but especially Waffle) got fixated on a fan blog for Sleep No More that we created about a year ago. And we went on a child-free bender, of sorts, becoming absolutely obsessed with an immersive theatre production in NYC and the international community of fans surrounding it. We have seen the show 35 times now over two years, mostly in the last year (which is actually not that much compared to some fans).

Just some adult kids in love with a building and giving no-fuks.

Just some adult kids in love with a building and giving no-fuks.

It cost an amount of fun-money that we are kind of embarrassed to fess up to. We like to think we were practicing for having kids a.k.a. throwing all our disposable income into a vast pit and burning it. (Current average cost of raising a child in the U.S. is $245,000!) But really we’ve just been having a great time being childfree adults who can jump into the car and drive to NYC on a whim. It’s been grand!

But we’ve finally decided to buckle down. We knew it would take us about two years to get it all together and it has. Financially, we have some money set aside and we’re realistic about what it might cost altogether and we’re prepared to deal with it. Emotionally, it took us a while to feel “ready” after we made the decision. We didn’t want to jump into it. We (especially KaeLyn) wanted to do the very queer work of over-processing, thinking about all the angles, discussing and debating what was important to us. This blog was an important part of that process. We met people online and IRL who had gone through these processes and many people who wanted to someday. We found the resources we were looking for. We wrote the words we felt we needed to write just to get them out. And we’re damn ready.

In fact, we had our first appointment at the fertility clinic exactly a week ago from today. Since then, KaeLyn has been back two times and will be going again tomorrow for tests. We’re getting ready for our first round of IUI in September. If we get knocked up, we plan to keep it hush-hush until we know for sure that it’s going to stick, but we are officially trying!

Our first appointments were efficient and helpful. The staff is phenomenal. They are trying to preauthorize her for coverage because KaeLyn actually has great infertility coverage through her health insurance. However, she has Cigna and we are fairly certain they won’t accept the preauthorization unless she is “medically infertile.” But we were prepared for that and we feel lucky to be able to afford this, even if it may involves racking up some more credit card debt once we run through our stash of savings.

We have (over)thought a lot about what we want, so we were fairly sure of ourselves going into the clinic. The info was helpful and thorough, but most of it wasn’t new to us. We had a very warm mandatory session with a fertility counselor and came out feeling reassured. We’d considered a lot of the questions already and we felt even more ready to do this damn thing. That said, the only thing we know for sure is that we know nothing. We won’t know how anything will be or feel until we get there and we both reserve the option to change our minds about the things we think we know, at any time.

All the paper we have accrued over the past week. It's getting real!

All the paper we have accrued over the past week. It’s getting real!

We plan to post a bit more now that we are coming back to earth from our year of irresponsible-but-really-really-fun-immersive-theatre-fandom life decisions. We have a couple more trips to the show planned, but it is slowing down. KaeLyn is about to go off of one of the boards she is on and will wrap up grad school after this semester (December 2015). She is quitting one of her three jobs this fall, too—one of her side gigs (but will still be writing for Autostraddle and keeping her full-time employment). Waffle is working his butt off, going in for overtime twice a week, when possible. We are holding off on any major purchases or home renovation projects. The time has come! We’ll make sure we keep ya’ll posted.

In the meantime, check out this post on baby-making questions KaeLyn wrote for Autostraddle. The post is similar to what you’ve already read here, but the comment section is really interesting and full of great stories and questions! She is hosting an AMA on queer parenting (with queer parents and parents-to-be) on Autostraddle very soon. We’ll let you know when that is happening, too!

Autostraddle is Looking for Queer Mama Writers! (Paid Gig)

I can think of some cool queer moms who should totally submit to do this. Deadline is 2/9. See call for submissions below:


http://www.autostraddle.com/call-for-submissions-brand-new-queer-mamas-275381

Call For Submissions: Brand New Queer Mamas

We’re growing up a lot around here and we want desperately for this site to grow up with us. In fact, Laneia and Riese have made this their #1 priority for 2015 — to get more stuff on this site geared towards gay ladies in their thirties, like them!

First up? We’re looking for a columnist in a same-sex relationship who is either currently pregnant with their first baby, or who has recently (within the last few years) birthed a brand new human into this glorious world and would like to write  ~1,500-2,500 words about it every other week or so. Basically you’ll be talking about the joys, trials and tribulations of becoming/being pregnant, getting ready for a baby, and being a new mom. We’ll want some of this to be about the period of time immediately after your human burst onto this planet, but that can be done in retrospect if it’s been a year or two since that time.

To apply, send an email to riese [at] autostraddle [dot] com and laneia [at] autostraddle [dot] com with:

  • YOUR MOM in the subject line.
  • A brief cover letter that tells us who you are, your writing experience and the kinds of things you imagine you could write about in this column.
  • Either a draft of what would be your first column (preferred, but we realize you’re probably very busy and might not be able to pull this off for an application) or links to examples of your writing online that will give us an idea of your writing style.
  • If you have a clever title idea, we’re all ears.

Please do not send us any word documents!

The main thing we’re looking for is a witty and intelligent writing voice and somebody we can count on to meet deadlines. Payment is $50/post. Deadline is Monday February 9th!

While you’re all here, we’re also interested in hearing from adoptive parents, step-parents, and parents whose babies aren’t really babies anymore! And we’ve had multiple requests for a story about sex after childbirth. If you can speak to any of these things, please hit up our submissions page!

Also, if you’re in your thirties and have requests for the types of stories you’d like to see, let us know in the comments!

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Library is Open – LGBTQ Picture Books for Kids

Seriously, who doesn’t love picture books?! If you were lucky enough to grow up in a home with books and an adult to read them to you–unfortunately not everyone is–you probably have a favorite picture book. K’s favorites, in no particular order, were:

kaefavbooks

It used to be that there were very few kids that featured queer or, really, any non-normative characters. Heather Has Two Mommies was revolutionary in its time–truly groundbreaking–and still shows up on Banned Book lists regularly. While we would kill to have a copy of the original print of Heather Has Two Mommies  (before they removed the artificial insemination section), there are thankfully many, many books for queer families now. The world of LGBTQ* kids’ literature is ever-expanding to include books about gay and lesbian parents, friends, children, and trans* and gender non-conforming kids. While not always readily available at your local book store, thanks to the handy dandy internet, you can have a little queer library with some disposable income and a few clicks. Here’s a round-up of queer and trans* picture book lists:

1. 40 LGBTQ-Friendly Picture Books for Ages 0-5 (Autostraddle)

2. LGBT Children’s Literature list (Goodreads)

3. Books for Kids in Gay Families (a little dated language, but a HUGE list)

4. Flamingo Rampant (not a list, but an exciting new micro press for feminist, LGBTQ-themed picture books for and about gender-independent kids and families)

Get to reading!

Here are a couple on our must-have list, if you’re looking to buy us a present or whatever–you know…

Look at that adorable sperm and egg hanging out together!
whatmakesababy

Love this concept as a way of normalizing gender nonconforming or gender-free kids!
backwardsday

We got this book for our niece because she likes penguins. We like them, too.
tangomakes3

Let them have it, kid!
fabulous

Um, obviously for the anthropomorphic guinea pigs. Duh.
unclebobby

Having three!
mommiescando

The main character, Bailey, is the cutest.
10000dresses

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:

“Mommy” and Me

This post is by K. I’m getting crushed at work lately. Just totally crushed. Doing awesome activist and progressive work that I’m proud of, but feeling like it’s hard to get back to center. Work/activism is my #1. As we keep moving down this path towards eventually trying to get knocked up (which should start late summer/early fall of this year), I get closer and closer to having to make work-life balance decisions that I’m sort of dreading. One of the reasons I planned to be childfree by choice is that I have created a life where work is my primary goal. Not just work, but work to advance goodness in the world–advocacy and activism. My mom used to say, “KaeLyn is always rooting for the underdog!” because I would try to reform the bad kids in my kindergarten class or help the loner kids that other kids made fun of. Helping others, serving needs greater than my own, is important to me. Up until recently, I didn’t see myself having kids because I didn’t see how that would fit with the other priorities in my life. I barely make time for myself. How could I make time for a kid? If I had to rank how I spend my time it’d be like this:

  1. Work – primary job
  2. W time
  3. Work – second job (seasonal)
  4. Family & Friends
  5. Volunteer work (3 nonprofit boards, mainly)
  6. Self time (tv & netflix, internet, coffee breaks)
  7. Sleep?
  8. Self time (meaningful stuff like creative writing and reading–that I rarely do)

I know I’m going to have to slow down for a bit. Even though W wants to be the daytime parent and will split the work evenly with me, if not slightly more (I proposed a 60/40 split. LOL.), I will have to back off. I am lucky to have a job where bringing a kid to work, on occasion, wouldn’t be a big deal. But right now, I often have an evening meeting every night of the week. And those aren’t social meetings. Those are work and volunteer work meetings. I am going to have to quit at least 1 board. I am going to have to scale back my 2nd job. But I’m unwilling to give it all up. I don’t believe that makes me selfish. I think I’ll be a better parent and role model because of it. I applaud stay-at-home parents and I think they are deeply undervalued in our society.  Personally, I would not be happy in that role. I have a lot of privilege and comfort in my life and I want to use that to make meaningful change, to amplify the voices of those who do not have the kind of safety and privilege I have, to make things a bit better for my future kid and everyone else.

A close friend who I hadn’t seen in a while recently asked me if I was getting more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy (see my previous post on my mommy issues). It’s a hard question for me to answer. I am becoming much more comfortable with the idea of having a kid with W, and the idea of being a parent. Forever. I am getting more and more excited about it every day. In fact, these days, I’m more worried that we won’t be able to conceive than anything else. I am meeting and talking to more queer parents who added kids to their families or are trying to in multiple ways. That is really exciting, too. I am imagining a future with a kid, with W, and it will be super fun. Do I feel like I’m more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy? Ugh. The word “mommy” still sounds heavy to me. Sound like gendered expectations. Sounds like people getting up in my business about pregnancy and parenting decisions that are no one else’s business. Sounds like people assuming things about W and me because we look like a heteronormative couple.

Like with all of my identities, being a mom is an identity that I get to own–nobody else gets to tell me what it means. Only I can decide that. I need to own it the way I own being bisexual, queer, Korean-American, adopted, a women, a feminist, a vegan, an activist. I can be all those things and also be a mom. I can be a mom without being a “mom.” There is power in that knowledge. I am trying to remember it. I also need to accept that the “mommy stuff” exists. I will be affected by it. People will try to define it for me. And sometimes, maybe I will even play into that stereotype. When I told another close friend, who is also childfree by choice, that W and I had made a decision to plan for a future kid, she jokingly said, “I can’t wait for the first time you get up at a rally or press conference for some progressive issue and say, ‘As a mother…'” I laughed because she is totes right. I am totally going to milk that sh*t when it makes sense to to advance one of my causes. So I’m bracing myself. I’m going to give up some of my work priorities to spend more time as a parent, as a mom. I’m going to make life decisions differently because I’m a mom. Having a kid will affect me in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine now. I know that and I’m thrilled to see what is ahead. Some people (who do not know me at all) will see this as the natural order of things–that I gave in to my maternal instinct, that I changed my mind, or whatever nonsense. I will know that’s not true for me, but I don’t need to feel silenced by other people’s assumptions. I know who I am. W knows who I am. Future kid will know who I am. And that is enough. So yes, I guess I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy.

Lesbians are Not Better Parents a.k.a. Put Down that (Racist, Classist) Study Right Now

Every time some new study (like this or this or this) comes out that praises lesbian parents for being the cream of the crop, we look at each other and groan. Inevitably, this study spawns many posts and articles, which then clog up our Facebook walls with self-righteous shares. Don’t get me wrong. Same-gender couples have a reason to want to prove themselves. There’s a lot of hate out there and, especially when it comes to the fight for marriage equality, the issue of same-gender couples not being acceptable or safe parents comes up over and over. The stereotype about predatory LGBTQ pedophiles is still out there, deeply rooted in some parts of the U.S. and world. We have reason to celebrate being declared not only fit to parent, but better at it.

Cue the music:

OK, I get it. But let’s shine a brighter light on those studies. As the researchers themselves will often assert, the study conclusions are more about the lack of difference between same-gender and different-gender parents than anything else. The success of lesbian parents is less about inherently being better people (Of course, we are, but you know…forget that for a second) and more about the kind of lesbian parents who are studied. For the 2010 study that got a lot of attention, the subjects were studied for 25 years. The study originated in 1986. If you were alive back then, think back to 1986. Remember where queer and trans* rights were in 1986. Or, rather, were not. 1986 is the year that the SCOTUS upheld Georgia’s sodomy laws, which banned oral or anal sex between “homosexuals.” It is the year that Surgeon General published the first government publication on AIDS and safer sex practices for gay men. It is the year after Rock Hudson died of AIDS and the year before ACT UP was founded. Yup, that’s 1986.

On top of this, the 2010 study only looked at a sample of parents who used artificial insemination to have kids. OK, now remember all we know about the cost of insemination procedures. Yeah, some of the parents may have used the turkey baster method, but more likely is that they were recruited for the study because they were inseminated by a fertility specialist. And that costs big bucks. It also means the couples were relatively young because they were able to conceive through insemination.

It also didn’t take into account the many same-gender couple who are raising kids from previous relationships, who got pregnant accidentally or on purpose through sex with a partner, or who are single and LGBTQ. Many of the folks I know who are LGBTQ parents have kids from previous relationships or partners–especially those who came out later in life. I only know a handful who conceived through fertility treatment. Those I do know have done so in the last decade or so, as LGBTQ rights have come a long way, as well as reproductive technology.

So who, in 1986, was able to, with their same-gender lesbian partner, have access to artificial insemination? Middle and upper class lesbians, mainly. Most likely, though I haven’t seen this data, they are probably college-educated and mostly white. The author of the study admits that the studied group was not geographically or socially diverse and suggests future studies try to correct this.

Studies like this are important to prove that queer and trans* parents are just as capable of raising kids as heterosexual couples. This info is necessary to combat the stereotype of the superior “traditional family.” However, writing a headline or status update that basically says that same-gender couples are better parents is not really true. Or at least, that hasn’t been proven. It ignores that these studies are looking at a small and very privileged few.

There-is-no-normal

From the awesome Strong Families Movement–Click on image to check them out!

What it may prove may have more implications for reproductive justice than lesbian and gay rights. It may show that families where pregnancies are planned and wanted have more successful parenting outcomes–even more reason we should support and fund the health care people need (contraception, abortion, fertility care, etc) to plan pregnancy. And even more reason we should support parenting options like adoption–especially for same-gender couples who want kids but can’t get pregnant (by choice or by chance). It may prove that talking openly with your kids about self-identity and issues like sexual orientation and gender identity result in better parenthood outcomes. It may prove that relying less on outdated gender stereotypes results in emotionally healthier kids. Of course, we need different studies to prove these things, but if we want to draw sweeping conclusions, these conclusions make more sense than “Hey Conservatives! Gays are better parents than you!

Even more troubling than making the sweeping conclusion is what it means when you create a higher standard of parenting for LGBTQI parents. Based on a standard set by very privileged LGB couples. The pressure to be perfect LGBTQI people and couples is already out there–the pressure to be normal, to have healthy relationships, to not make us look bad to the public or each other. But the reality is that our communities experience intimate partner violence at about the same rate as heterosexual couples. You can bet that child abuse, unfortunately, does happen in households with one or more LGBTQI parents. Let’s not sugarcoat the truth in the quest to be seen as valid and capable parents. Let’s not forget that there are many LGBTQI parents who live in poverty, who have children from previous relationships or partners, or who are single parents. Let’s not forget that class and race play a part in how we frame same-sex parenting…and how we make invisible members of our own community.